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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-07-18 06:24pm
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Item 2: My Dreem [sic], by Ghuhalia Goldstein'ubabhe, aged 8. Annotated by her teacher, June Cleather




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the distraction process continues (in part because I've been having to actually work out the forces involved in CATO for the next chapter, and realising that, from previous statements, well, Project Herkunft has been busy.

Oh well. That's going to have some backlash, when the rest of the NEGA finds out that the SWD has permitted an Ashcroft Foundation to build up that level of military forces, quite apart from Project Evangelion (Project Engel doesn't count, as it's fully integrated with the NEGA).

I wonder who could have arranged that?

Anyway, may I present yet another in-universe document source. One in which I prove that I do, in fact, have the drawing skills of an eight year old.



And that Aeon War Syndrome can have many causes...



~'/|\'~



Item 3: "A Pikture [sic] of my Dreem [sic]", by Ghuhalia Goldstein'ubabhe, aged 8. Done in felt-tip pen, chalk and acrylic paint.



Image



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-09-01 04:38am
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Joined: 2008-09-25 02:54pm
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Location: London
Chapter 12

Blood-Dimmed Tides




~'/|\'~




3rd of November, 2091

13:22


Raguelle Goldstein sat outside in the chill breeze, on the roof of the building, gazing out to sea. Her scarf was pulled aside from her face, but the rest of her body was swathed in a thick overcoat and gloves, proof against the inclement climate. She chewed idly on a nutrient bar, the reprocessed kelp and fish fairly flavourless, but nevertheless a clear sign of the benevolence of the Holy Ones.

Her left hand sunk down to her stomach, the swelling barely showing. He was out there, she knew, the Holy One who had favoured her not once, not twice, but thrice. For that, she had been truly blessed, for few among such pitiful kind as hers could say that one of the Chosen of Great Dagon had chosen to come back. It was good, after all, as it would ensure that her children by him would have both a strong father and each other, long after they had left their flawed mother behind.

And, truly, what more could a caring parent desire?

Down, from the streets below, she could hear the market, the voices crying out. To an observer, both from the godless New Earth Government as well as an earlier time, it would have sounded strange. The language, or more accurately languages, spoken came from all around the globe, as the faithful had flocked to this place to avoid the persecution of the NEG and the genocide of the Migou. The dominant tongue, at least in this region, was a pidgin, linguistically approaching a creole, of post-Reformation English, a northern Brazilian dialect of Portugese, but underlying everything, and the source of what the unholy would have been perplexed by, was the sacred tongue of R'lyehan.

True, the mortals, even though they were of the Elect, were ill-equipped to speak the blessed tongue, their ape-like throats but poorly forcing out the inhuman syllables, warping and twisting them, but those born with the Blood could do better, a faculty which only improved with age. Nevertheless, the hollow, liquid sounds resonated off the walls, in both the shrill chatterings of uplifted apes as well as the guttural barkings of those who had almost become the Chosen, their parentage released to the world.

Her eyes skipped over to the nearest Eye, one of the heavily armoured domes which were speckled along the coastline. As a static defence, they were innately able to pump more power into their colossal lasers than a comparably-sized ship It was impossible to assault this area with ships, because they would be targeted and destroyed, but the Eyes were impregnable to anything lesser. That reminded her. They had another militia training session the day after tomorrow. No-one over the age of 15 was exempt from the militia; even the injured or crippled would be trained for supporting roles. And it may have been a holy duty, but it was also bitterly cold in the Icelandic autumn. Really, she did not need this now. Sighing, Raguelle went back inside.



~'/|\'~




The sea crashed against the coastal wall, long breakers rolling in from the Arctic. The late autumn wind blew too, up the Eyjafjörður Fjord, whistling through the packed tenements of the city of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr, literally, The Blessing of Highest Dagon. No building here dated back to before the glorious forces of truth had seized this land from the malevolent aliens who would work against the cause of faith and deny the Great of this planet his domain. No, the fungoid Yuggothians had erased the human habitation which had existed here before, replacing it with the high spires and deep bunkers so beloved of their kind. But the Chosen of Great Cthulhu, servants of Lord Dagon, and those humans who had seen their light had cleansed this island of their alien taint, restoring it to the species which owned this planet, despite the feeble claims of the upstart, unfaithful humans who would deny the elder species their rightful claim. Even the human-scaled buildings which the Loyalist Nazzadi, who had chosen to stay subservient to their creators, and the Blanks, who had been given no such choice through the technosorcery of the Migou, had been torn down. The profane marks of those aliens could not be permitted to stand.

And so now the Chosen had claimed this land for themselves, and permitted those loyal to them, the Elect, to dwell upon it. Iceland had never previously been so densely populated; even at the height of its settlement, before the First Arcanotech War, the population had never exceeded one million human beings. Now, however, sprawling tenements and apartments clustered around the coastal region, and temples reached up to the skies, gazing out to sea. The youthful population, their numbers swelling from a birth rate incomprehensible to those living in the moribund, sterile New Earth Government, clamoured and grew in these environs. Not for them the cold clinical arcologies, under the ever-watching eyes of a godless state that put more faith in machine than flesh and reduced people to decadent cogs in their attempts to keep their childlike populace under their control; no, this was life as humanity was meant to be exist.

Vibrant.

Youthful.

Under the leadership of the Chosen.

Interspaced with the thronging masses of the Elect, and closer to the interior of the mountainous island, the unfaithful were held, their bodies serving the faith. Factories, the menial operations carried out by drugged prisoners, churned out the gifts of industry. The pernicious effects of the nanofactory, corroding the value of work and leaving people weak were minimised. Good solid labour taught these unbelievers true faith, and with time, if they repented their ways, they too could join the coastal cities. It was even easier for the females among the blasphemers, for all that they had to do was bear the children of the Chosen and their sins would be forgiven. And these gifts from Lord Dagon and Lady Hydra only added to the masses which teemed on the island.

Iceland was the possession of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, and they would keep it.



~'/|\'~




Raguelle was greeted with Yhan's smirking face when she stepped back inside.

“Back from your smoke break already? You sure you wouldn't rather spend a little more time?”

She replied, “Oh, funny man. Did it take you all the time I was away to think that up? And I'm sure you know that I was just eating; it's bad for women to smoke.”

He stroked his scraggy beard (those with the Blood had problems with facial hair), tilting his head to the side slightly. “I'm going to have to give you a seven for that. Good comic timing, but you ruined it with the health message at the end.”

Raguelle nodded. “Thanks. Now, just step aside and I can get back to work before Khonatqa decides to check.”

“And we wouldn't want that, would we?” Yhan replied in a deadpan tone. “Why, she'd just love to eat your unBlooded flesh raw.” His face broke out into a grin. “Om nom nom!” he added, gesturing as if he were cramming food into his mouth with both hands.

She walked past him without a reply, flicking her head in irritation. Fortunately, she managed to make it back to her desk without any other delays, or being caught by Khonatqa. That woman was a terror; blessed heavily (she would probably be taking to the waters soon, despite only being in her thirties), but not a people-person. There was already a fair amount of office politicking going on to see who would take her position when she did ascend to the ranks of the Chosen.

As Raguelle sat down again, putting back on her reading glasses and staring at the cathode ray of the computer screen, Katrin leaned over from the other side of the desk, a slight twist to her features. She was one of the Nazzadi Elect; comparatively much rarer than those who were members of Homo sapiens sapiens. The population of the dark-skinned siblings of humanity were more arcologised than the natives, and the area around Nazza-Duhni (what had been Cuba before the Unification) was one of the few oceanic areas where the faithful of the Esoteric Order of Dagon could not swim. Those of them who had made it to be among the faithful had rejected their false, Yuggothian heritage in its entirety.

“Khonatqa hasn't poked her head around yet,” Katrin whispered.

Raguelle nodded. “I'd guessed. There wasn't a near-Chosen waiting by my desk to condemn me for my sloth.”

“Too true.” The other woman paused, twirling a strand of dyed aquamarine hair around one finger. “Why were you so hungry so soon after lunch?”

The brown-haired woman shrugged. “I always get hungry at odd times when pregnant. Doesn't matter if I've just eaten; you sometime just really need a protein bar.”

“Really? I never did?”

“Yes, but you've only had two so far.” The human paused. “And... um... I think you mentioned that the father hasn't been ever one of the Chosen. Just... um... one of the Blooded.”

The other woman's red eyes narrowed. “You mean...”

“Yep, this'll be another First Blood.” The Nazzadi made a squeak of joy; Raguelle put a finger to her lips, shushing her.

“Sorry. But another First Blood! That's really well done,” whispered the Nazzadi intensely. “I haven't even been blessed in that way once. My gulii'ywene's only a Third Blood, so my two are only Fourth Bloods. They probably won't even change fully,” she added, with a hint of sadness. “Why didn't you mention it before?”

She shrugged. “I don't know. Partly because it's bad luck to say so early. When you've been blessed by Mother Hyrda so much, you don't want her to think that you're taking the credit for her bounty.”

“Too true, too true. Hubris is always a sin. But I still don't see why you didn't...”

A message popped up on the screen of Raguelle's computer, with a faint 'bangley-boop' chime.

Code:
R. Goldstein.

See me in 14 minutes.

K. Smeef'ubabhe



“... what was that? Is is me?”

Raguelle shook her head. “It's from her. Honestly, she's like some school teacher or something. Really brief.”

Katrin ducked her head. “I heard typing is getting hard for her. Fingers are webbing up,” she whispered, letting the bulky monitors get in the way. “Really not long, if that's true.”

The human made a brief cutting motion across her throat, to silence her friend. It wasn't done to discuss this kind of thing in public.

Raguelle tried working on the latest production reports, but the nervousness as the clock ticked closer was making it hard to concentrate. She had a bad feeling about this.

There was the noise of another message.

Code:
Title: October Figures?

Hi Raguelle!

It's just Fjalar here.  Have you got teh October nums for 210x210x5 plating yet?  My supervisors' getting on my back about it!  Dman lazy unfaithful fell behind on their quotas in Sept; hope they cut their rations or something!

Fjalar

P.S.  See u at the militia training after work day after tomorrow.  Let's see if we can beat those gits at accunting (!) :D at it this time.  If we can get best fireteam, think of the bonus!


She smiled. Fjalar was a nice enough man, even if she did understand the gazes he'd give her sometimes, when he thought she wasn't looking. They were paired as a team in the militia; she was the loader for the 120mm missile launchers stationed around the fjord. If anything tried an amphibious assault up there, they'd be getting hit with a bunch of anti-mech warheads. Well, anti-tank warheads technically; the design the Esoteric Order of Dagon gave to militia troops actually dated all the way to back before the Second Cold War, like the rest of the militia gear, but they could send one of the unfaithful back into the cycle of reincarnation.

She replied.

Code:
Title: Re: October figures

Heya Fjalar

No, I don't have the figures yet.  They haven't been sent up from the work camps yet.  Dunno what the delay is.  I know they've been having problems with stupid NEG antinanofac nanites up in Industrial/  Maybe they're trying to control that/  I know the unfaithful have been making trouble.  I hope someday they can see the lovelyness of the osceans and understand the faith.

And now  Khonatqa wants to see me, and I dont think I've fallen behind.

Raguelle

PS  If I live through this (joke), I'll see you there.  It'd be nice to get the fireteam trophey back!

___________

Hi Raguelle!

It's just Fjalar here.  Have you got teh October nums for 210x210x5 plating yet?  My supervisors' getting on my back about it!  Dman lazy unfaithful fell behind on their quotas in Sept; hope they cut their rations or something!

Fjalar

P.S.  See u at the militia training after work day after tomorrow.  Let's see if we can beat those gits at accunting (!) :D at it this time.  If we can get best fireteam, think of the bonus!



She tried to continue working, but the digital timer kept on ticking, and far too soon it was time to see the boss. Her legs felt heavy and leaden as she stood up. She could hear, faintly, as if from a long way away, Wrupta say something. Well, she thought it was Wrupta. It might have been Qezpavawm. They sounded almost identical, despite the fact that they looked nothing alike.

Her chain of thought was interrupted by a sudden jolt of pain in her thigh. The woman stepped back, clutching at her leg, as she muffled a curse.

Stupid table corners! By Dagon, why don't they round these things off or something?!

There were sniggers from several parts of the office. She ignored them. Everyone did it occasionally.

Raguelle nervously stepped, limping slightly, through the door to the manager's office. The smell and humidity hit her like a hammer. Like it always did. It was indescribable, if you had not smelt it before, yet instantly recognisable if you had. There was dead fish in the scent, yes, and rotting seaweed, but there was also an undertone to it which sent your mind buzzing with invisible flies.

And it was not only impolite, but approaching sacrilege to show any sign that it affected you.

Naturally, as one of the Blooded, and a direct representative of the Branch of Fabrication, Khonatqa did not deign to note her presence, at least yet. All that could be done was to stand, gaze lowered and hands behind back, until the superior one graced her with her attention.

Finally the Blooded woman, in whose skin melanin was already being supplanted as the dominant pigment, removed her AR goggles, and stared unblinking at Raguelle, as if she didn't quite remember why this member of the Elect was standing in front of her. That was one of the things you noticed with the Blooded in their transformation into the Chosen; the eyes, even as they became wide and glassy, the skull itself shifting to contain the enlarged orbs, never lost the intelligence and sense that there was a someone, as opposed to a something, staring out from them. It merely shifted in nature.

She cleared her throat, with a wet gurgle. “Ah, yes. R. Goldstein.” The words were still understandable, despite the inhuman undertones that instinctively sent shivers down the human spine. “I wished to talk to you about the production results from last month. Or, rather, the fact that they have not all made their way to my office. And yours are some of the ones which I lack. Why would that be, r'yrpg-uhzna?”

Raguelle swallowed hard. “I haven't yet received the figures from the work camps, honoured qr'rcbar'uloevq-uhzna,” she managed to get the complex mass of constants and guttural sounds out correctly. It was a lot easier to understand Ry'lehan than it was to speak it, at least with human vocal cords.

“But, r'yrpg-uhzna, that was the same excuse you used last month,” her superior retorted. “Why did you not pass the news of their failure to the camps?”

Raguelle bowed again. “With respects, honoured one, I did. They have sent me no warning or message informing me that the production statistics would be late this month, even after I specifically requested that they do, after our last meeting.”

The Blooded woman made a neutral noise. “Perhaps.” She yawned widely, sharp teeth (pointed and serrated, not like the chisel-like Nazzadi dentures) flashing in the light. “I do not need to remind you of the need for correct organisation of the ha'snvgu'shy-uhzna labourers, do I? Not only do we risk their souls through an inability to use their bodies to our maximum advantage, but we also harm the cause of righteousness.”

“Of course,” Raguelle replied, with a bow.

“We are forced to maintain production lines from one factory to another, when the monsters that haunt our cause, both ha'snvgu'shy-uhzna and sha'tbvq-nyvra, can use nanofactories because they can neutralise the nanological agents which fill the air. We are reliant on the use of the ha'snvgu'shy-uhzna, much as we are loathe to admit it. That's why,” she snapped, “when I ask for figures at the start of every month, I receive them.”

There was a pause, as Raguelle tried to think of something, anything, to placate the hybrid which sat in front of her.

“So go get them,” Khonatqa ordered, bulbous eyes narrowed.

The human woman bowed, trying to slow her hyperventilating breath. “Right away, honoured qr'rcbar'uloevq-uhzna,” she said, backing away to leave as fast as possible.

She was stopped with a single word, right at the door.

“And, r'yrpg-Goldstein.”

She paused in her retreat. “Yes, honoured one?”

“Congratulations.”

“About what, honoured one.”

Khonatqa sighed, one human noise she seemed to be able to do very well. “About the most recent pregnancy. As one of the r'yrpg-uhzna, this is your ultimate and supreme purpose in life. Do you know the identity of the father?”

She nodded. “Yes, I do. Y'hu-thiyu'pth. I am afraid I do not know any other identifiers, although he has also sired two others upon me.”

She waited for the elder woman to dismiss her. It did not come immediately. A strange noise entered her ears.

Khonatqa was laughing, her too-wide mouth open. With a smile, she shook her head. “How amusing. What would he want with you, I wonder?”

“Honoured qr'rcbar'uloevq-uhzna? What do you mean by that?”

“Never mind,” was the response that came, as the superior one returned to her normal expression. “Go! Get me those figures by tomorrow!”

Raguelle made her way back to her desk. Her thigh was still hurting.

“Well, at least you're still alive, and haven't been moved to the camps yet,” Katrin whispered to her.

She shuddered. Gods, that's still a possibility. May Hydra keep me safe from that.

Out loud, she said, “Don't talk about that to me. About anything, actually. I'm going to have to make a lot of phone calls to the fynir'ynobhe-jbex'pnzcf, to find out what those idiots who only have to look after a bunch of unfaithful workers and stop them getting uppity... well, and keep them working, obvious, and find out why the fuck they haven't sent the figures yet.”



~'/|\'~




16:49


On her way home (she'd eventually got the numbers, although it took far too long), finally escaping the office, Raguelle remembered that they were running low on food... well, not quite yet, but it was amazing how fast two adults and five children got through it. It was cold, wet, and the sun was just setting, as winter rolled in and so did the extended darkness this far north.

Why couldn't Lord Dagon have conquered somewhere warmer? she thought wryly to herself, before mentally flinching for the blasphemy, and asking for forgiveness.

The streets were packed. The big festival celebration had only been three days ago, after all, and the parties were still continuing. Beneath her boots, discarded rubbish crunched, crushed up against the floor into a dense compact mess. People were dancing in the streets, waving gas-fired torches around, and considerable numbers were running around shirtless, despite the chill and the rain.

Raguelle smiled. It's so nice to see the young Blooded enjoying themselves. They're so lucky to not feel the rain or cold.

Nevertheless, the backpack she carried when she needed to shop was really heavy, and with bags in both hands, she made her way home, rather than watch the dancers. It was a shame, really; there was a live re-enactment of The Conjunctions of Dagon and Hydra going on, small children packed into the front rows of the crowd as they saw exactly where First Blooded came from. She smiled, in reminiscence; she had acted in such a role in public, almost nine years ago. That was, after all, where Ghuhalia had come from.

But the food was heavy, and she was cold. And she wasn't fourteen any more, after all.

The older children were packed in front of the television when their mother arrived home. She could hear the somewhat inane theme music from outside the front door to their second-floor flat.

Ohh...
Who lives in a city under the sea?
Great Cthulhu!
Squamous and greenish and holy is he
Great Cthulhu!
If to live when he wakes be something you wish
Great Cthulhu!
Then fall on your face and *crsh*

There was a wave of complaint when the cathode ray television was turned off, with a wave of static.

It kind of dilutes the majesty of the Great One, to make a show about him. Even if it is blessed by the priesthood.

Raguelle pulled off her damp outer layers, leaving it over the radiator in the main room, while simultaneously launching into a harassed rant.

“What are you all doing! None of you are dressed properly, and...”

Her eldest, Ghuhulia, raised her hand. “I am dressed too!”

Her mother ignored her. “...we have to be at the temple in fifteen minutes. Ghu, get dressed, then unpack the shopping.”

“I am dressed!”

“Fraenkis, where's your daddy? He should be taking care of this. What does he think he's doing?!”

The six year old stared up at his mother. “He's in the bath. He said his gels are hurting him.”

“They're called 'gills', Fraenkis.” The woman sighed, her palm colliding with her forehead with a notable clap. “We do not need this right now. Even though it is a sign he is being Chosen,” she added, as an afterthought. She scooped the five-year old Yhughui'ne up in her arms, giving her daughter a cuddle to ward off the tears which seemed to be coming from the TV being turned off. “It's all right, Yhughui, it's all right. Come on, let's get you changed into your temple clothes.” She looked down at her elder son. “Fraenkis. You can put your underrobes on yourself, right? Because you're a big boy.”

The six-year old smiled, a wide grin covering his face. “Uh huh. Because I'm bigger that Yhughui! You've got to have mummy do it!” he added, to his younger half-sister.

“Do not!”

“Do totally do!”

“Off you go, Fraenkis,” their mother interjected. “Now, Yhuguhi, do you want the green robe today? Or the blue one?”

The five-year old, a full sister of Ghuhulia, burrowed her head in her mother's shoulder.

“Do you want mummy to pick?” she asked, gently. “Ghu, have you changed yet?” was added, in a harsher tone of voice.

“I did it already,” the little girl called back, from the kitchen. “I already told you that. Because I knew that gulifr'kre wasn't going to be ready. Because I'm prepared!” she added, in a smug tone of voice.

“Don't you talk about daddy that way,” retorted Fraenkis, on his way up the stairs.

“He's not my daddy, uloevq'cn,” his older half-sister snapped back.

“Mummy, Ghu called me a uloeb'crn!” said the boy, his eyes welling up with tears. “And at least I don't have big ears!” he retorted, spitefully.

“No, I called you a uloevq'cn. Are you so stupid you can't even pronounce it right? I bet you are! I told you to get changed, so we could watch more TV when mummy got home, but no-one ever listens to me,” Ghuhulia called back, as she pushed a chair into position so she could stack the fish protein packets in the high up shelves. She added, blushing, “And I don't have big ears, small eyes!”

Yhuguhi'ne began to sob into her mother's shoulder, already damp from where her raincoat had leaked, as the older children began to insult each other.

“Ghu, Fraenkis! Stop it! Fraenkis, go and get changed! Ghu, don't call your brother a uloevq'cn!

“But he started...” started her daughter.

“But she started...” the little boy said simultaneously.

“Enough! Just... go. Please.” Raguelle paused. “Wguh'yului!” she called out, as she tried to get up the stairs while carrying Yhughui'ne. They grew up, and more importantly in these particular circumstances, got heavy, so quickly. “Wguh'yului! Are you out of the bath yet?” She staggered through the door, and put the five year old down on the bed.

“Yuh... almost,” he called back. His voice was not-quite-human any more, the barking liquid cadences of how the Chosen sounded when they had to communicate with lesser beings (like herself) already insinuating themselves into his speech. “Great Cthulhu, it hurts! It's like I pulled a muscle in my neck!”

“What do you want, Yhughui? Blue, or green?” Raguelle asked her daughter, holding both of the robes up. The little girl just made a sulky noise, and hid her large, liquid eyes (a sign of her parentage) in her hands. “Maybe you just pulled a muscle, and it isn't the gills,” she called to her gulii'ywene.

“Don't be an idiot, woman,” he responded angrily, a gurgle entering his voice. “I think I know what my body is doing! Pulled muscles feel different. Just what I'd expect from a fool like you. ”

She was silent for a moment, as she decided the blue looked better, and then tried to get the underrobe over the uncooperative girl's head. “Sorry.” She swallowed hard. “Va zl bja vasre'vbev'gl, z'lfrys znl unir b'ssraqrq lbh, fhcrev'be bar,” she added, the ritualistic words of apology not coming easily through a voicebox that they were not designed for.

“Well, don't say damn foolish things like that then, idiot!” was the response she got.

Yhughui'ne stared up at her mother, eyes wide open and still filled with tears. “Are mummy and gulifr'kre fighting?” she asked.

Her mother grimaced. “Only a little bit,” she said, measuring out a little distance with her fingers. “Now, raise your arms, so I can get the midrobe on, and then we just have the overrobe and cowel to...”

“Because I don't like it when mummy and gulifr'kre fight,” she whispered, as if confiding a deep secret.

“It's only because we're in a rush, Yhughui,” she explained to the five-year old “I got out of work late, and your gulifr'kre is in pain, and that puts both of us in a bad mood.” She paused “We'll try not to shout. Is that better?”

The little girl nodded.

“How was school?”

“'kay.”

“You aren't going to say any more?”

Yhughui'ne shook her head, pouting slightly.

“Spread your arms, Yhughui, please. That's good, yes,” she said, as she adjusted the underlayers so that they did not protrude from the sleeves. “Adorable.” She sighed. “It's only a small mercy that the little two are still with the care. I don't know how I'd manage, otherwise.”

“What do you mean, mummy?”

“Nothing. Go downstairs and wait with your brother and sister.”

The dirty-blond little girl stared up at her mother, not blinking for a little too long. “He's not really my brother,” she said. “He's only a half-brother.”

Raguelle sighed. “Well, you're all my children. And tell Ghuhalia not to talk to you like that.”

The little girl left. Her mother flopped down onto her bed, in the room that Yhughui'ne shared with Ghuhalia.

Children may be the best legacy I can hope for, and a gift from Hydra. But they're also really hard work!



~'/|\'~




21:00



“Good evening, and welcome to the Word of the Elect Evening News Update. I'm your host, Opuhgui Jeemes'ubabhe. Tonight's top stories.

Further atrocities committed by the New Earth Government against the faithful in Ireland. An undercover reporter shows the mass abductions and brainwashing carried out upon the Elect, and the ethnic cleansing against the Chosen. And will we ever have answers to what happened around Balleydehop? And in related news, New Earth Government forces have retreated from around Iceland, pulling their forces back, thus proving the efficiency of the Order's policy of 'Oceanic Restriction'.

Further attacks by Faithful forces against the intruding extraterrestrial Migou forces have met with success, with raids eliminating several forwards bases and intelligence outposts. It cannot be long before the Icelandic branches of the Esoteric Order of Dagon can liberate the Migou-held Scandinavia.

Production quotas from the unfaithful are up, year on year, by 3%. Economic specialists from the Branch of Fabrication put the success down to our increasing reliance on flesh-sourced labour, against the economic dampener of widespread use of nanological and micrological warfare against Order nanofactories.

A woman from the Elect has had quintuplets, all of them First Blooded. But our reporter asks, does the growing practice of fertility treatments to increase the chances of multiple births waste valuable medical resources and potentially harm the children?

And more, coming up. This is the news, at nine o'clock. Our main story tonight; the systematic genocidal policies of the NEG continue to grow in magnitude, despite the valiant efforts of Order forces to hold back the atrocities. The latest report comes from Ireland, where after the widespread successful attacks by our forces in April, the NEG propaganda machine has been zealous in wiping out any traces of our success. Luckily, a few brave citizen reporters have managed to smuggle this news footage out. Warning; this footage contains scenes of a graphic nature, including murder, mass disposal of bodies, and torture. Young viewers, or those of a sensitive nature, are advised to look away and turn off the volume.”

“I think you should take the girl to bed, Rag,” said Wguh'yului, somewhat roughly. “What are you doing, letting her stay up this late, anyway?”

“But I want to get to stay up and watch the news, like an adult,” Ghuhalia complained, staring at the pictures of bodies piled up on the screen with a morbid fascination. “You let Fraenkis stay up until half eight, and I'm over two years older than him.”

“Raguelle, do it now. I'm not looking for backchat from either of you.”

“But...” began the little girl, before her mother scooped her up, staggering a little.

“Sorry for my failure, Wguh,” her mother interjected. “Va zl bja vasre'vbev'gl, z'lfrys znl unir b'ssraqrq lbh, fhcrev'be bar,” she added.

The Blooded man only grunted, and settled down to take up more of the sofa.



~'/|\'~




22:07

Raguelle ran her fingers over her closed eyelids, pinching the flesh of the bridge of her nose. She was tired, she knew, but she had to read more of the Commentaries on the Apocryphia to the Book of Hydra. The words of the Great Old Ones had been lain down in the text, and the faithful could find the secret messages they sent as a test of their faith.

Through faith, all things were possible.

She looked down at Ulf, beside her. The one-year old was sleeping, thank Dagon, his tiny face screwed up. Carefully, she reached down, and brushed a lock of dirty brown hair away. It was so sweet when they were like this.

The child made a little noise in his sleep, and her heart melted a little.

Wguh'yului poked his head through the door, hair still dripping from his bath. That was a sign that the Blessing was coming in stronger, that he was getting closer to becoming one of the Chosen rather than a mere Child. He now had problems sleeping unless his skin was wet at the time. The ridges on his neck, sealed and useless because they were still covered over by flesh, lay as a testament to that fact.

“Rag?” he said, voice questioning. “Ghuhalia is upset, and she's refusing to talk to me. She's asking for you. She says it's something she wants to talk to you about.”

She shared a look with her uloevq'ybire. “Do you think...” she said, letting her voice trail off.

He nodded, the bulges under his neck flexing. “I think it might be.”

Raguelle sighed, and put down the book. “Ulf is asleep,” she said, her tone mock-threatening. “He'd better be like that when I get back.”

Wguh looked shocked. “I'm not stupid enough to wake him up. Honestly...”

“You've done it before. Need I remind you about the Incident when Yhu was little and you...”

He frowned. “Go see to Ghuhalia. Don't bring up things like that ever.”

She flinched slightly, instinctively. She knew it was a legacy of her childhood with the decadent godless scum of the NEG, but any anger from her husband (a man with the blood of the Chosen flowing through her veins, she reminded herself) still frightened her. But she was his inferior-by-blood, and so would obey.

It was dark in Ghuhalia's bedroom, a place barely large enough for the two beds and the cupboard. Her mother carefully negotiated her way over the toys and clothing on the floor. Raguelle made a note to get them to clean up this mess in the morning, before she had to go off to work. Dagon abhorred sloth, after all. The room should be like the ocean; clean and pure. Yhughui'ne, her younger sister and fellow child of the Chosen, was already asleep, curled up on a ball under her covers.

The eight-year old was sitting upright in the bed, arms wrapped around her knees, staring through her mother, out into the lit hallway. Her dirty blond hair fell like a veil in front of her eyes.

Raguelle sat down on the bed, beside her eldest daughter, wrapping her arms around her.

“It's all right, Ghu,” she said, ignorant of the hackneyed dialogue. “Mummy's here. You can talk to me.” She reached out and scooped the hair away from her daughter's face, so that she could see her wide staring eyes.”

There was silence.

“Ghu,” she began again. “I can't make things better if you don't tell me what's wrong.”

More silence. Then the girl spoke.

“You're going to die, mummy,” she said, softly.

Raguelle groaned inside. It was time for The Talk. This was the problem with a child who would become one of the Chosen, when you yourself would never become anything more than one of the Elect. It was necessary to face the facts that you were doomed to grow old and die, your body committed to the oceans to resume the circle of life and your soul freed to, perhaps, become one of the Chosen in your next life. Little Ghuhalia, by contrast, would at some point enter the seas, if the Gods smiled upon them and no malevolent forces prevented the course of nature, and swim eternally; a higher, better order of life.

But Raguelle was one of the Elect, and so she knew that the best thing she could hope for in this life was that a little bit of her would live on forever in her children. She was far more blessed than she could once have been, for potentially all her children, including the one which currently lay quiescent, growing in her womb, might be able to become Chosen; three of them certainly would.

She pulled Ghuhalia closer to herself, against her chest, and hugged the girl tight.

“I'm afraid so, Ghuh,” she said gently. She swallowed hard. “I'm not one of the Children of the Chosen, like you or Yhughui'ne or your little brother.” She rested the little girl's hand on her navel. It was too early to feel kicking, or even a prominent bulge, but she could remember doing this with her younger siblings and half-siblings. “I don't even have the Blood of the Chosen. I wasn't blessed by Dagon to be born in a Demesne of the Faithful.”

The little girl sighed. “I know that,” she said. “But why does that mean that you have to die?”

The mother hugged her daughter closer. “Because I don't have the Blood. Because where I was born, people with the Blood were taken away by the government and tortured and killed, just because they were one of the Chosen.”

Ghuhalia frowned, looking up at her mother with a confused face. “But...” she paused. “That doesn't make sense. Why would the government take away people with the Blood? The Chosen are the ones in charge of everything. The Gods put them in charge.”

Raguelle swallowed again, feeling her throat rub against her daughter.

How to explain...

“See, long ago,” she began.

Ghuhalia interrupted, “Great Cthulhu created life on the Earth and then he Chose his favourites and then Lord Dagon became a God, too, and then Lady Hydra did, too. I know that, mummy,” she said, repeating her teachings by rote.

Her mother paused. “Perhaps not so long ago. This is like human history long ago, not religion long ago. Well, it sort of relates. But,” she paused again, trying to remember her dates, “... some time ago, like sixty years ago...”

“That is long ago,” the eight-year old said solemnly.

“...well, people with the Blood were rare. And when they were found, they tended to get locked up for being mad, or imprisoned by the government.” She noted the confusion on her daughter's face. “See, back then, because there wasn't the Chosen, there were only humans, and not even the Elect, like me. No, these were nasty humans. They were split between the ones who didn't believe in any gods and the ones who believed in gods that weren't real.”

Ghuhalia got even more confused. “But... why can't you see that the Gods are real?” she asked. “They really exist. I've seen one of the Cthulhu'puvyqera, and they're his children.”

Raguelle winced. How to explain this?

“The people who don't live in the Demesnes don't believe in the Gods at all. In fact, they hate the Gods, because they're evil people. And because they're bad people, they're going to punished, and they'll learn to be better people from it. The evil space bugs are also bad things, but they came to Earth as a punishment for the bad people who don't believe in Great Cthulhu. That's why we were able to take this island from them and sanctify it as a Demesne.” A tone of wonder filled her voice. “They say that Lord Dagon himself came in person and killed the nasty space bugs. We have the Gods on our side. That's why we're going to win.”

She ruffled her daughter's hair, and relaxed a little. They sat in silence for a while, the mother looking at the rise and fall of her other daughter's chest, the five-year old still fast asleep.

Ghuhalia spoke. “Mummy?”

Raguelle made a noise of assent.

“You can let go of me, mummy.”

“I just want to make sure that my big girl is all right.”

Ghuhalia squirmed. “I'm fine. I am a big girl. And you're making me hot,” she said.

“Are you sure?” her mother asked gently.

“Yes! I'm sure I'm hot!”

Raguelle smiled, and tucked back the girl's hair, running her fingers through it. “No, I mean, are you sure that you're all right.”

The little girl nodded, her hair falling back in front of her face.

“Say it. I want to hear you say it.”

“Yes, mummy. I'm fine.” She turned to fix her wide eyes on her mother. “And I now know what I'm going to do as a job.”

“Don't you mean, what you're going to do when you're older?” her mother asked, an amused tone in her voice.

“No!” the little girl exclaimed. Raguelle put a finger to her lips, and pointed at Yhughui'ne, who was fortunately still asleep. “Sorry, sorry. But still, no. I'm not a baby. I'm going to become an adult earlier than other people.”

“Really?”

“Yes! I'm going to go and get rid of all the bad people and save them all.”

“Are you sure they'll let a little girl do that?” her mother asked, as she stood up.

“Yes! I know other little girls can do it. I've seen it. I'll make the bad people go away and then we can find a way so you won't stop being my mummy!”

Her mother smiled, benevolently. “Well, then I think you need lots of sleep, so you can become big and strong and clever. And you won't have any more bad dreams.” She stood in the doorway, and looked back. “'Night, Ghuhalia.”

“'Night.”

And as Raguelle Goldstein climbed back into bed with her gulii'ywene, she smiled at him. “I think everything's going to be all right with Ghuh,” she said, locking her warm lips onto his slightly bulbous and clammy ones.



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-09-01 04:39am
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~'/|\'~




The woman walked along an empty beach.

Crunch

Crunch
Crunch

Crunch

In front of her, an eternity of greyish sand, reaching out into the distance. The unmarred expanse contained nothing bar itself.

Crunch

Crunch
Crunch

Crunch

To her right, the ocean, mother of all life. It lapped slowly against the sands, the irregular beats a staccato counterpoint which accompanied her crunching footsteps.

Crunch

Crunch
Crunch

Crunch

To her left, the sand reached out, until the bluish-grey haze of the atmosphere obscured all. Were there mountain peaks right on the horizon, obscured by the immensity of the air?

Crunch

Crunch
Crunch

Crunch

It didn't matter. The waters were life; that was what the Esoteric Order of Dagon taught, and so it was true. All life had come from the immensity of the nascent ocean, and one day, only it would remain.

Crunch

Crunch
Crunch

Crunch

Behind her, another eternity of sand. One foot, then another, her human trail insignificant against the expanse, and somehow blasphemous in its pettiness.

Crunch

Crunch
Crunch

Crunch

How long had she been walking? Irrelevant. To walk beneath the sea was the greatest reward that one of the Elect could receive. Indeed, as the mother of children with the Blood, her function in life was that of a beach, a gently sloping gradient that led back to the sea.

From the sea, her ancestors had come. To the sea, her children would return.

Crunch

Crunch
Cru*


She paused, mid-step. There was a black protrusion from the sands, just in front of her; a pyramid-shaped spike from the wet sand. How she had failed to notice it before was a mystery.

No, it wasn't black, she realised, as she reached forwards, brushing the top layer, which turned out to be nothing more than a thin layer of soot, obscuring the blue-grey steel, concrete and glass below it.

Raguelle froze, instincts installed before human sapience screaming at her that something was wrong.

The light. That was it. There was that odd glow you got just before a storm, where the muted colours took on strange new undertones, neon tones insinuating themselves into your field of vision.

She scrabbled furiously at the object, covering herself in the black soot as she tried to find an entrance. This was no longer a holy place; the sky now was notable wrong. The air was thick and humid, full of static.

There was a flash of light in the distance, far out to sea, lightning in a cloudless sky, and the thunder arrived seconds later. Another one, and the thunder was closer. She was almost sobbing as her fingers felt, in this odd, soot-covered object, the sole object in this empty expanse, a hatch. The protruding edges were sharp to the touch; Raguelle quickly withdrew her hand, as blood swelled and ran from a straight red cut which ran across her fingertips.

The blood dripped down onto her palm and ran up her arm; defying all sense, it spelt out words in crimson. They were almost glowing in the noonstorm light.

And what it said was Träte der Erzengel jetzt, der gefährliche, hinter den Sternen eines Schrittes nur nieder und herwärts.

The words meant nothing to her, but the sheer amount of text, formed from her own blood, was making her feel faint just looking at it. It looked like German; a language which she knew nothing of. Indeed, the number of blasphemous histories written in it, which profaned the nature of the relationship between the Chosen and the Elect, which taught sorceries only permitted to the Chosen, and indeed had given the cold-hearted monsters who stood against the Cthulhu'puvyqera, the Spawn of the Great One, and vivisected the Chosen, the technology they used to persecute the real masters of the world, meant that knowledge of it was frowned upon.

Fangen die Engel wirklich nur Ihriges auf, ihnen Entströmtes, oder ist manchmal, wie aus Versehen, ein wenig unseres Wesens dabei? the thunder whispered to her.

They mentioned the monstrously sinful Engels; a sign of the depths of the depravity that the New Earth Government would descend to. She didn't want to know what the words meant; merely get away from this unnatural storm.

There was thumping inside the pyramid, buried in the sand, on the inside of the hatch. Raguelle froze, split between her fear of the lightning and whatever there was inside. There was now muffled shouting coming from inside the object.

Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich,” a child's voice screamed; faint yet paradoxically loud.

That was what did it. The woman, breath coming fast as a thin layer of sweat shone on her brow, wrapped her fingers around the handles on the latch.

She had to rescue the child. That was all she knew.

The hatch gave way.

A wave of red and copper and iron and salt and warm stickiness came flooding out. It soaked the sand. It soaked the seas. It soaked her. The vital tide hit with the force of a sledge hammer, but nothing moved.

Raguelle choked, as the flood continued. She couldn't breath! It was everywhere, filling her lungs, leaving her blinded, unable to move. Through her head, frantic prayers ran; to Great Cthulhu, Lord Dagon and even the Earth Mother her parents had taught her about, before they had been truly assumed by the Elect.

And the gods smiled upon her, the tide thinning, to merely rush against her legs. The pressure was there, a pain against her shins, and it was also meaningless, for she could move freely.

Raguelle bent in half, clutching at her knees, and threw up, emptying her stomach and lungs of the blood. It was already clotting, coating her face and hair in a visceral mask of death and pain.

But the terror was put out of her mind by another set of thunder booms. While she had been immersed in the flood, the cloudless storm and its thundernoon light had come closer. The flashes were near constant, casting the landscape in a staccato light of painful brightness.

I wish I was wearing my eyesguard, she thought, as her body, on autopilot, in one sense fought against the bloody tide from the object and in another walked calmly through the fluid, as if it were no more than a texture, painted at knee height.

The pyramid had somehow grown larger, except that wasn't quite true. No, it had always been large, even when she had been touching it. It had merely been far away; close enough that she could reach out and wipe off the soot,yet far enough away that she had underestimated its height a hundred fold. The woman risked a look back, just as she entered the structure.

The blood had continued to run into the sea, an unceasing torrent. The red taint was spreading, too, the grey-blue of the waters becoming a reddish orange, which glowed in the strange light. There were things floating, too, in the corrupted waters, as the blood consumed the mother of all life. Pale, gaunt and skeletal corpses, bobbing in the waves.

No, she realised.

They may have been pale, skin like paper and their flesh hanging off their bones in greasy rancid rivulets, but they were not dead. Or, at the very least, they had not stopped moving. For these... things, death posed no impediment. If dead they were.

Almost sobbing, face caked in now-dried blood as she half-ran, half-crawled into the glass, stone and steel structure, Raguelle fled from the polluted waters, even as she waded through that which had tainted them. There were handles on the inside of the hatch, which, with a yell of exertion, she pull shut, sealing herself in the unlit structure.

She waited in the darkness with her eyes squeezed shut, breath coming in shuddering gasps. Mindlessly, the woman rubbed her hands against her face, not seeing the cascade of flakes of dried viscera which fell off with each stroke. Finally, she felt that she could move again, even though the adrenaline which had flooded her system left her shaking.

She opened her eyes, revealing that a spotlight painted a circle of brightness in the middle of the darkness. In the middle was what looked like an altar, but cast in blue-steel, cold and hard, without the customary ornamentation. There was text engraved on it, but she was unable to read it from this distance. Around the altar, the floor was a clean sterile white, with no sign of the blood-flow which had erupted.

Cold white light. Blue-steel, glass and concrete. Sterility and inhuman precision.

This is like something that the heretics of the New Earth Government would build, Raguelle realised. Something like the buildings she had seen in her childhood, before her parents had escaped the lands of the unfaithful. Warily, she approached the altar, blood-caked shoes leaving no marks on the artificial cleanliness of the floor.

She leant close to the altar, breath misting on the cold metal, trying to read the letters on the steel cuboid. Carved deeply into the steel, the font elaborated seriffed, and yet readable, the words were in English; the precise, post-Reformation English spoken away from the Demesnes of the Chosen and the Elect. And what they said was;

THE DARKNESS DROPS AGAIN;
BUT NOW I KNOW
THAT TWENTY CENTURIES OF STONY SLEEP
WERE VEXED TO NIGHTMARE BY A ROCKING CRADLE


The word “cradle” reminded Raguelle of what she was doing. She had to find the child who had been trapped in here, especially since the structure looked like something built by the New Earth Government. Raguelle had to find the screaming child; it was not possible to conceive of doing anything else. She turned around, squinting into the darkness that surrounded this pool of light.

There were five dolls lying on the floor behind her, that had not been there beforehand. Four of them were old-fashioned ones, not even made of plastic, but instead of some kind of ceramic. And they were shattered, limbs splayed and broken, skulls broken open. Lying under them, the broken shapes a patch of colour against the cold white of the floor, was a larger cloth doll, crude in the extreme. The yellow wool stitched to its crudely smiling head was thick and frayed; its eyes were nothing more than buttons.

And then it screamed, falling through a void that suddenly opened in the floor. Down it fell, vanishing from sight as it dropped away, falling forever. But the wail was trapped and resonating and, in its own way, alive, growing and changing and rising and falling as it awoke from its nascent form.

And it would not stop.



~'/|\'~




4th of November, 2091

02:02



The wail continued when she opened her eyes, the infant beside her providing an alto choir to the baritone of the alert sirens. All she could do was lean forwards, clutching at her head and massaging her closed eyelids with her warm, sticky palms.

Slowly, with a feeling of growing dread, she lowered her hands, and stared at them as they glistened in the dim red glow of the emergency lights.

Just sweat. Nothing more. That was a weird nightmare.

It was then that her brain started working and she elbowed Wguh hard, in the ribcage.

He awoke, with a startled “Fhtagn!”

“Siren!” she said in an insistent tone, actual sentences beyond her current level of awareness.

“Bhuh?”

“Siren!”

Wguh groaned, swinging his legs out of the bed, hands already scrabbling blindly by his side of the bed for his gas mask. As he did that, his wife picked up the crying infant that lay between them in the bed, clutching him close to her breasts as she stumbled across to the enveloped cradle that lay on the other side of the room. Raguelle's fingers scrabbled at the lock, trying to open the clear casing that veiled the carrier.

Both the alien Migou and the monsters of the NEG made battlefield use of chemical, biological, micrological and nanological weapons, and if this wasn't just a practice drill, protection would be needed. And very young children couldn't wear even the basic masks, let alone the full suits needed to deal with some of the agents used.

The squall of the sirens woke the almost-three-year old Kair, still sleeping in a cot in their room, and Wguh's child added her cry to the noise.

There was a knock at the bedroom door, and then it opened, light streaming in from the hallway.

Ghuhalia stood there, fully dressed, with her face concealed by the filter mask. She had a firm grip on her younger sister, who stood behind her, clinging onto her arm. She stood there silently.

“Ghuh?” asked her mother, eyes puzzled even as she fastened her own, Elect-Type filter mask, before going to Kair. It was simpler in design than the ones that those with the Blood of the Chosen had to use, adapted as it was from 2020's military hardware. It did not need to cover the nascent gills, which were a favoured site for attack.

A muffled sob emerged from behind the girl's mask, which wrapped around her neck, forming a tight collar. She looked away from Raguelle, to her younger sister. “The mother's woken up,” she said, with a sniff.

“What's going on, mummy?” asked the younger one,

The elder sister pointed at Kair, “The infant's crying,” she said, her voice very muffled by the mask; so much that her mother wasn't quite sure that had been what she had said.

“Ghuh, come over here and help me get Kair into her suit. I need to then check your mask; it sounds too tight,” Raguelle commanded. “ Yhughui, everything's fine. We're just going to have to go down to the bomb shelter, and then mummy and gulifr'kre are going to have to go to their militia stations. Everything's going to be okay.”

The small girl's face screwed up. “But it doesn't sound like okay,” she said, voice quavering behind the hum of the filtration system. “It sounds like bad.”

Wguh'yului took a few steps over, and scooped up the five-year old, prying her fingers from her sister's fingers. “It's okay,” he said, in his slightly barking voice, trying as he could to be reassuring. “We're just going to get Fraenkis suited up, and then we can go.” He shot a glance at Raguelle. She nodded, frowning as she stripped the crying two year old, putting her into an sealed suit.

There was a deep thud, felt more in the gut than heard, running through the building. A fraction of a a second later, the thunderous noise arrived, the glass in the window cracking, but not breaking. Through the gaps in the blackout curtains, an orange flare of light cast the dim room into stark relief.

Raguelle froze for a moment, Kair still squirming with her sealed suit only done half-way up. “By Dagon,” she muttered softly, brain temporarily frozen by the implications, before springing into action.

There was a second thud, followed by an explosive roar of noise, even as the sirens wailed louder. There was noise above and below them in the cramped apartment; the pounding of feet and the terrified calls of small children.

This didn't look like a drill.



~'/|\'~




Orjner. Orjner. Orjner. Gur pbzov'arq g'bgnyvgl bs gur znf'frf ner gb qba gurve fnsro'ernguref. Ubfgvyr'anavgr cynthr qr'gr'pgrq.

Alert. Alert. Alert. All the faithful are to put on their filter masks. Nanological weapons detected.

Orjner. Orjner. Orjner. Gur pbzov'arq g'bgnyvgl bs gur znf'frf ner gb qba gurve fnsro'ernguref. Ubfgvyr'zvpebznp'uvar qrngu'guvat qr'gr'pgrq.

Alert. Alert. Alert. All the faithful are to put on their filter masks. Micrological weapons detected.

Orjner. Orjner. Orjner. Gur pbzov'arq g'bgnyvgl bs gur znf'frf ner gb qba gurve fnsro'ernguref. Ivehfrf naq onpgrevn sebz gur sbr qr'gr'pgrq.

Alert. Alert. Alert. All the faithful are to put on their filter masks. Biological weapons detected.

Va Dagon'anzr, fgnaq ernql! Nyy zvyvgvn'crbcyr tb gb jurer lbh zhfg or sbe evtugrbhf'arff. Hayvx'r gur pnx'r, guvf vf abg n yvr! Jr ner haqre guerng'qrngu fbheprq sebz New Earf Guddermount oy'nfcurzref. Gurl zhfg or erchyfrq, fb gung nyy zhfg or jryy. Jr'qb guvf nyy sbe gur ibqf.

In the Name of Dagon, stand ready! All members of the militia are to report to their stations. This is not a drill! The blasphemers of the New Earth Government are attacking. Stand ready to ward off the faithless. The Gods fight with us.

Va Hydra'anzr, ceb'grpg gur lbhat! Nyy gubf'r gbb byq, l'bhat, be punat'rq sbe gur zvyvgvn ner gb tb gb'n cebkvzvgl furygre'jneq. One snfg gur tngrf gb xrrc nyy fnsr j'vguva sebz z'bafgref. Gurer vf ab jnl jr pna ybfr!

In the Name of Hydra, protect the young! All individuals not in the militia are to go to their nearest security shelter. Ward fast the doors so that the blasphemers do not find you. We shall prevail!

Orjner. Orjner. Orjner. Gur pbzov'arq g'bgnyvgl bs gur znf'frf ner gb qba gurve fnsro'ernguref. Ubfgvyr'anavgr cynthr qr'gr'pgrq.

Alert. Alert. Alert. All the faithful are to put on their filter masks. Nanological weapons detected...



~'/|\'~




02:17


After the explosions had thrown everything into a sharp relief, everything had become easier. The children went down to the shelters, deep under their apartment complex, dug into the volcanic rock, with a minimum of protest, and with one last hug, Raguelle and Wguh'yului went their separate ways. He was a powered armour pilot; his eyesight had not deteriorated enough (as the vision of all the Blooded did, as the inhuman side of their ancestry won out) that he was incapable of using the longer ranged weapons which they mounted, and so served as rapid response to fill any holes which may have opened. She, by contrast, was not a full member of the military; only a member of them militia, like almost every faithful adult on the island, and an Elect member of it at that. As a consequences, her main role was to lay down her life at a static heavy weapon, keeping it firing as long as possible.

To put things simply, the fjord was designed to be a killing zone. The stubby, armoured domes of the Eyes provided a phalanx of coherent light which would require a major naval effort to break. They were protected by lesser defences; fixed turrets, and roaming squads of mecha and powered armour, ready to be deployed to anywhere there looked like there might be a break. The waterside buildings and apartments were actually uninhabited; heavily reinforced and turned into pillboxes camouflaged among the other buildings. Both the militia, which mostly consisted of the Elect, equipped with pre-Second Cold War equipment, and the regular forces, who were armed with the more modern equipment from the Order's heavily limited number of nanofactories were stationed in these bunkers, with large amounts of heavy weapons to overcome their relative deficit of vehicles. Anti-air positions bristled the rooftops, hoping through weight of fire to overcome the sophisticated NEG and Migou craft that might try to attack. The fjord itself was a veritable minefield; only the Chosen knew the safe routes through the chained munitions.

It was acknowledged that the New Earth Government could probably break these lines, as could the Migou. But the really heavy defences were in Cthulhu'ybeq Ahefrel, not here. The cost of an assault on this city would be high; the strategic balance was set up so that it would require forces which both of the other two major forces could not spare, or the other would take advantage of it.

Raguelle Goldstein huddled down in the ground floor of one of the armoured apartment complexes, her eyesguard and filter mask on under a helmet, wearing a ballistic vest. The out-vent of the filter mask, strapped to the system on her back, steamed. It was all coloured in this odd grey-white-black-blue crosshatched pattern, broken shapes made of of more broken shapes. That was meant to make it harder to see at night.

What it was wasn't, in her very certain opinion, was warm enough. The rain earlier had frozen solid; The frost glimmered in the still night air. This was all visible; the eyesguard was currently in “Enhance” mode, and so the photosensitive front plate picked up the ambient light and gave a colour-boosted image of the night. In battle, where the directed energy weapons could blind (laser weaponry could burn out a retina, merely from looking at the focal point), it would clamp down, cutting down the light to safe levels, but for now, the frozen night was somewhat beautiful.

And bloody cold. That was one of the problems when the high ranks of the Branch of Defence were entirely made out of the Chosen and the eldest among the unchanged Blooded. They didn't really feel the chill, unlike the inferior mammals who served and worshipped them. That meant that the equipment issued often failed to take into account fully the requirements of warm-blooded creatures.

“In Cthulhu's name, it's cold,” remarked Fjalar, squatting by the launcher, his voice muffled by the mask. They had been told to keep their headset radios off; it was said that the New Earth Government had sensor technologies so good that it could lob a missile right through a window of a building if it detected the use of military frequencies with invalid encryption. That didn't help one bit against the Migou, who (it was hypothesised) communicated by some kind of pseudotelepathic machinery built into their mecha, but it was feared greatly by the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

“Too true,” she replied, huddling close to the wall, trying to trap the waste heat from the filter system.

“I hope it warms up later,” he added, in a pessimistic voice. “I bet we're sticking out like hot stuff in heat-seeing gear.”

“Not likely though.”

They squatted in silence for a while, Raguelle staring out over the bay. One of the members of the true armed forces of the Order passed by, dressed in the fish scale-like modern armour, checking that everyone was in place, and that there was no unauthorised radio communication.

The silence continued. In the background, though it was not quiet. The repeated warnings in both English and R'lyehan and the sirens were interspaced with explosions, as the streaks of orange, only briefly visible when they cut down through the clouds, delivered their payloads. And it was the missiles that didn't exploded that were the worry; it was astonishing how many individuals nano-and-micromachines could fit inside a warhead, to be dispersed across the area. It certainly wasn't safe to breath the air now, and it wouldn't be safe for the civilians to emerge until the entire city had been cleared with EM zappers and cleansers.

And now shouldering could be heard from down the corridor-which-was-actually-a-trench, the clarity of the voices making it obvious that the two individuals were wearing modern armour, with a built in speaker-system. Well, that and the fact they were talking in R'lyehan, with a speed and precision that no fully-human mouth could manage. Raguelle strained her ears to listen, trying to catch what she could.

“Crbcyr ner qrprn'frq. Crbcyr'gbgny ner qrprn'frq. Va gur anzr bs oy'rffrq Cthulhu, nyy gur vafvqr bs gur Bp'phyne Tybor vf yvxr na noongb've.”

They're dead! They're all dead! By Cthulhu, it's like a slaughter-place.

Raguelle frowned under the mask. It was hard to understand, from the speed, and she was sure that she was missing things, but...that didn't sound good.

Another voice spoke, deeper, and less human; the cadences of the tongue of the Chosen more filling to its manner of speech.

“Jung! Bs jung gu'vatf qb lbh oy'noore ba nob'hg? Z'nxr l'bhe cre'fbany'vgl pnyz, naq gnyx, be lbh funy'y or chavf'urq!”

Huh! What are talking about? Calm down and explain it, or I will be angry.

“Vzz'ngrevny gu'vatf y'vxr gur qrnq, nf zheqr'eref! Rir'elbar gurl sb'haq unf prn'frq gb or. Naq gurl oebx'r gur z'npuvarf. Gur pra-geny pbageby flfg'rzf gb gur sver pn'cnovy'vgvrf bs gur Bp'phyne Tybor ner aba-sha'pgvb'any. Gurl'ir gnxra qbja bar bs bhe znva qr'sraprf. Naq jvgu gur zbgure sh'pxvat NEG wnzz'vat bhe enq'vb va-bhg, jr pna'g rira ercbeg vg. Gur onf'gneqf fubhyq tb shpx nyy gurve fvfg'ref hag'vy gurl trg cert'anag!”

They were like, Raguelle frowned, “ghosts”, maybe, or “dead things”. Maybe “shadows”. They're killers. And the... she lost the rest, as technical jargon. Something about breakages. And something about radar, or radio, perhaps.

There was a pause.

“Vf guvf-n pregn'vagl?” asked the deep-voiced one, with care evident even through the inhuman langauge.

Are you sure?, Raguelle mentally translated.

“Nssvezngvir! Z'lfrys fnj bar bs...” he paused, as if to think for the right word, “...gur no'bzvang'vbaf, nf z'lfrys neevi'rq gb purpx jul pbzzha-vpng'vbaf unq fgbc'crq.” His voice began to break then, breaths coming patchily through the external speakers. “Vg jnf nxva gb n uhzna va funcr naq f'vmr, ohg uh'znaf qb abg whzc be eha yvx'r gung. Gur rlrf bs gur guvat tybj'rq jvgu gur erq bs oy'bbq, gur fxva jnf yvxr gur av'tug'f fxl, ohg jvgu terl fp-nyrf, naq gurer jrer gjb guvatf, yvxr jv'atf ba vgf onpx. Ohg vg jnf vaivfv'oyr jvgu ur'kntb'af bs pby-bhe, f'cnexrq ry'rpgev'pvgl jura punatvat, snq'rq va naq bhg, npgv'ir pnzb z'nlor.”

The younger one hissed his certainty. I saw one of them, over a dead body, when I checked. It looked like a man, but wasn't one. It... it was getting really hard to understand now, especially since the pair seemed to be walking away, had... red eyes... which glowed? Its skin was like pitch? It had grey, was the word “scales”, or “plates”? And protrusions up from its back, like wings? Raguelle was sure that she was wrong here; they were under attack from the NEG, and that thing certainly wasn't human; maybe some kind of bound servant of the Gods. Perhaps the people... they were talking about an Eye, weren't they; “Bp'phyne Tybor” was the term for an Eye.

“It was was made out of coloured hexagons, and sparks of lightning and faded in and out of being?” muttered Fjalar, beside her.

“What?” she whispered back.

“What I caught from the end bit. He really made no sense at the end, but he was talking really quickly. I didn't catch most of it, but I paid attention when he started breathing like that.” He paused. “I'm really bad at sentence structure in R'lyehan,” he admitted.

“Someone is dead,” Raguelle replied softly, a thoughtful tone competing with the rising panic in her voice. “Many someones. And it's something to do with the Eyes.”

Fjalar shook his head. “I'm sure it's nothing that important. He sounded very young and weak in the Blood. That means that he is less divine, and more fallible, like us.”

She nodded. “You're right.” She was still worried, though, so responded in the best way possible. “We should pray though, because faith solves all problems, and so the Great Old Ones will show a way through whatever that panic was.

And so they bowed their heads, and said a brief prayer, to the glory of the Gods, and victory everlasting.



~'/|\'~




02:24


A dark shape moved up the fjord, unnaturally strong legs beating. The surface of the water, reflecting the fire-lit clouds, rippled and bulged as the hidden monster pushed its way along, walking along the bottom of the deep-water channel. Blue-green light flared around it, muffled blasts of water exploding upwards; always in front of it, never quite where it was.

A second shape followed it.

And a third.

The Eyes were silent. They had already been blinded. The technicians and soldiers stationed within, those who would have controlled the blessed implements that guarded the faithful from such abominations against all things which were right were all dead. The implements of righteousness were charnel houses, painted with blood and broken-stringed marionettes.

A head broke the surface of the waters, four eyes aflame with viridian light.

Raguelle, gripping onto the missile box, legs weak from the terrors which her mind had been inventing, ever since overhearing that conversation, fell to her knees.

“We're saved,” she breathed, barely subvocalising the words. “We're... we're actually saved.” She felt her eyes begin to water, behind the mask. She stood up then, shouting loudly, “We're saved. Lord Dagon... he has called for his... for his,” she swallowed hard, voice filled with religious awe, “for his eldest children.”

From all around the frontline fortifications, masses of concrete protruding up against the cold waters of the Atlantic, a ragged cheer arose. These were surely the Dagon'puvyqera; the spawn of Dagon. His first generation children, the most ancient and powerful among the Deep Ones, grown massive and among their kind, only inferior to their father. He had granted them some of his powers, to act as the givers of his laws, and serve as his eyes and ears where he could not be. Great and powerful, they would fight off the infidels of the New Earth Government; show them the strength of true faith.

Unless...

No, that was impossible. Could it be? Could Great Cthulhu himself have sent dreams to the Cthulhu'puvyqera, telling them to aid the servants of his highest servant; the faithful who lives and died for him? It was unlikely, true, although the R'lyeh Texts (Authorised Elect Translation) did mention that, before he woke, he would send his own eldest children, who were foretold in Norse mythology through dark whispers in the night as the Ægirsdóttir, out to reward the faithful. They would come in a time of great need, when comets bloomed in the skies overhead and the old crumbled and fell. And as explosions blossomed across the city as missiles streaked across the sky, smart submutions cutting down anyone not under cover and the invisible plague of NMB warfare making the air unsafe, it seemed to be appropriate.

If it were true, then this was a momentous occasion. The blasphemers who denied his glory would even deserve thanks, for through their sins they had unintentionally bought salvation for all.

The figure was by now half-way out of the water, water cascading off its flanks. It was not well lit; its shape was a darker patch against the sky, with only those four eyes, awesome in the traditional sense, giving off light. Even night-vision goggles worked imperfectly, somehow skipping slightly away from it. In the light of the fires than now spread across the city, from the missiles that the NEG were now lobbing against the innocent civilians of the Elect, it was barely visible. It carried something, though, but what it was could not be determined.

Another head emerged from behind it, and two harsh, actinic white eyes joined its sibling in staring over the city of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr. They both continued their inexorable march, though, and the third sibling, one crimson Cyclopean orb atop its head, joined them.

By now, religious ecstasy had overcome many of the Elect and those with the Blood of the Chosen who manned the defences. They were in the presence of the holy of holy. What could stand and stare those so favoured by the Gods in the eye?

And that was when the lead figure; all four of its eyes now filled with a terrible emotion, illuminated the area with death.

It did not love them. It did not even hate them. No, it held them in contempt; as scum, inferior beings that had to be removed. And that was far more terrible, because at least hate would have implied emotional parity. A foe that hates you recognises your existence, if only because it lives to see you dead.

Contempt was cold and sterile.

The raw material of suns washed over the fortifications. Vomited forth from the thing it carried, it left slagged twisted remains, vaporising the buildings behind them and the inhabitants within with equal prejudice. The reaper moved back and forwards, scything through the protections and crippling their defences.

Burning, always burning.

Slowly and methodically excising what it saw as a cancer.



~'/|\'~




Raguelle! Raguelle!

She had never understood. For all she had thought she had been so wise, she had been as a child, knowing nothing, seeing only what her parents would let her, hearing only what they had said.

The Gods had seemed close. That she had borne two children to one of their Chosen had been the greatest gift in her life, the purpose for which she had been put upon this earth.

Now, nothing matters. Nothing. The Gods have rejected us and chosen instead the... the monsters of the New Earth Government.

Why? Why? Why have you forsaken us?


She opened her eyes.

Nothing. Well, not quite nothing. There were glimmers of light, but they were blurred; smeared refractions over her vision. Just these tiny twinkles pained her, tears welling up out of her squinting eyes.

She coughed twice, her body twisting up as she did it. It hurt to breath, Raguelle realised, as she returned to full consciousness; the coughs were thus agony.

“No, don't talk,” the voice said softly, trying to sound reassuring. Even in the blurred state in which she existed, it wasn't working. Beneath the placating tone, there were strong undercurrents of terror and stress. “You've got to be okay, Raguelle, you've got to!”

She tried to open her eyes wider, even though the light pained her. And it was dim light; some kind of emergency lighting, judging from the red nature of it. “Wguh?” she asked, her voice an odd rasp.

There was movement above her, a dark shape moving through the red light. “No,” it ('it' was certainly a 'he', she was pretty sure) said. “It's Fjalar. You remember me, don't you?” he asked, in what she thought was a hopeful tone of voice. “How much can you remember? Where do you know me from, for example?”

She thought for a moment. There was a blurred veil over her memories, true, just as there was a blurred veil over her eyes, but it was torn in places, and she could see through in places.

Raguelle licked her lips, and swallowed hard. “Work,” she croaked, not feeling up to the task of coherent sentences. “Militia miss... missile launcher?” she added, in a questioning tone.

The dark shape (head; it was his head, she realised) moved again. “Good,” he said, in a relived tone. “You at least remember something this time. Thank you, Lady Hydra, who watches over kin and those who are sick.” He removed his head from her field of vision, a small white light appearing briefly. “Okay,” Fjalar then said, taking a deep breath. “Right. What does it say I should do next, now that you're conscious again?”

There was a pause, where Raguelle could only focus on the pain of breathing in and out, in and out, while the white light flicked around in the periphery of her vision.

“Note down the time of awakening,” a blue-green light flashed into existence, before vanishing just as rapidly as it appeared. “Twenty-three past six in the morning. And then I need to talk to you,” he said finally. “I need to keep you conscious, keep on talking to you, to prevent you from going into shock.”

Groaning and coughing, spasms of agony running through her body, the woman tried to sit up, only to be pushed back down, firmly but gently, by a hand to the chest. She glared as best she could with this blurred vision at what she hoped was his face.

“What happened?” she rasped.

“Well...”



~'/|\'~




02:26

In that one, blinding moment of betrayal, everything changed. The burning, terrible white of the jet of high-energy plasma illuminated the area in stark brightness, and cast rigid shadows where it did not illuminate. Even the clouds above them, previously lit by the fires and the near perfect half-moon shining through, were thrown into relief; a grey veil that hid the darkness of the night's sky. The second behemoth joined in the volley of fire, though it did not chose to give the death it bore in one single jet. No, it spat out a near continuous stream of suns; burning plasma which only added to this false daylight which the leviathans which emerged from the waters had willed into being.

Fjalar only stared at the terror before him, eyes wide behind the flash-visor, which had darkened to its maximum setting.

It's horrible. Why. Why. Why.

Belatedly, he remembered why he was here. Why the sanctified forces of justice had placed him here, and blessed his gear. He was here to protect the Gods themselves, protect them from the blasphemers; protect the Chosen, the Blooded and the Elect alike. He spun the launcher towards the lead figure, and then threw himself to the ground, as the stream of suns from the maw of the device that the second figure swept around.

It passed over his head; far over his head, slamming into the dead monolith that had once been one of the Eyes. Even from that far away, the wash of heat, as so many new-born stars were born and then extinguished themselves against the metal and ceramics of the stilled Eye, licked at his back. The interior of his eyesguard pulsed into waves of colour, as the magnetic fields forced a shutdown of the systems.

The noise was horrific. It had ceased to be noise long ago, and was now some physical pain in the ears. Fjalar was wearing ear protection; the equipment issued to the militia came with it, despite the age of the designs, dating back to before even the Second Cold War. It still hurt; the roaring hiss of gas flame, magnified uncounted times.

He pulled himself to his feet. There was dust everywhere, both the fine grains of shredded concrete and ceramics, and glowing white-hot globules of metal, splashed all over the place. To the left and right there were people face-down in the fortifications. The metal drops had burned their way through the armoured roof of the building, designed to ward off missile strikes. The helmet radios were filled with nothing but static. They'd probably been fried by the plasma weapons, the sensitive Old American equipment not designed for a battlefield where directed energy weapons, and their attendant magnetic and electric fields, were thrown around in this way.

They're cooling even now, he thought, idly, though the blur that filled his head, staring at the white hot globules as they faded to orange. Shock, betrayal, terror (gut clenching terror, which had already had its effect); these were the aerosol which made up the fog that clouded his every thought.

Fjalar fell back to one knee, as he realised what he should be doing. Squinting even behind the nearly opaque eyesguard, as the stream of suns swept away, he sighted back down the targeting computer for the launcher.

Someone yelled something. He looked to his right, then left. It looked like it was Katrin under the armour, but she was almost unrecognisable with the opacity of the eyesguard.

“What!” he yelled back.

She yelled something again, then the air itself screamed. From behind her, there was a massive explosion, which tore through another one of the dead Eyes. Just for a moment, in painful flares against the back of his eyeballs, eve through the eyesguard and his reflexively closed eyelids, there was the blue-green afterglow of the trail of a relativistic charged particle weapon; a charge beam.

He pulled off his filter mask, and sucked in a breath reflexively. It hurt like hell. The air was hot, like an oven, so rapidly changed from before, and filled with dust. Fjalar realised belatedly that the filter mask was far more than a simple filtration system; it held the air and cooled it, as well as removing hostile agents, like nan... nanites...

Fuck, he thought. Fuck, fuck, fuck. There'd been that NMB warning, hadn't there? I know there was. I heard it. Everyone knew the NEG used gratuitous amounts of that kind of thing in their major assaults.

I've done it now. I'm a dead man walking. I'll be back into the Cycle of Reincarnation soon.


All that could be done was to sell his life as dearly as possible.



~'/|\'~




Raguelle stared up at the face of the man.

“You're dying?” she asked, in little more than a whisper.

“Probably,” he replied. “I took my mask off in an area without a zapper. We both know what that means.”

She felt a fresh rush of tears run from her blurry eyes. “Dagon. I'm so sorry, Fjalar.”

“You don't need to apologise for anything,” he said, voice tightly controlled. He wasn't about to tell her that the same had happened to her, that this area under the slagged mess of the Eye wasn't NMB safed. “It's not your fault.

They were silent for a few moments.

“What happened later means that I'm a dead man walking, anyway.”

“Keep on talking, please,” Raguelle said, with a shuddering intake of breath. “By the Gods! It hurts!”



~'/|\'~




“What. Are. You. Saying?” he mouthed as an exaggerated fashion at the figure, who he thought was almost certainly Katrin.

He saw her pause, obviously split over what to do. There were a few moments of stillness in this hell. Then she pulled off their filter mask.

It was Katrin, her night-dark face shining with sweat. She mouthed back at him, similarly exaggerated.

The electronics on the launchers are jammed, she was telling him. Probably won't guide. Fire them dumb.

“What. About. The. Missiles?” he yelled back, choking on a fresh wave of dust.

The woman's mouth opened, and then closed again. Good point, she mouthed. Might have fried the electronics. Load a fresh one.

He nodded, an exaggerated jerk up and down of the head, and belatedly refastened his filter mask. At least it gave him cooler, dust-free air, even if he was probably infected with something by now

Fjalar removed his hands from the launcher, and hugged them tight to his chest, shaking. He took several rapid breaths of the cooler air, whimpering, until he felt that he could actually move without shaking. He poked his head up above the ceramic defences, out of the darkness and into the harsh light cast by the things that those... that those abominations were doing. There were flights of missiles filling the air now, from both sides. High above, punching through the veil of clouds, were the streaks of a long-range bombardment; yellow-orange streaks which passed through the field of vision almost too rapid to see, before adding to the thuds and booms of the explosions which were marching their way through the city of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr. The three figures that it almost hurt to look at, so bright were they, were wading out of the waters, the lead two methodically harvesting everything they saw that was larger than an infantryman. The third one, which gave off the green-blue after-glow of relativistic particle beams when it bought annihilation, was precisely wrecking the Eyes, removing any possibility that the anti-ship defences could be put back online. And they were spewing out even more death and destruction, from the smaller armaments (still equivalent to anything that a mech which the faithful could use carried), which covered their surfaces.

There was still only static on the helmet radio, pulsing as the monstrosities violated the atmosphere. With this amount of energy being thrown around in the air, metallic surfaces were building up a charge, earthing themselves with a static spark when they were touched. There were winds blowing, fanning and fanned by the fires that now devoured the city, and the four-eyed figure was in the middle of a gale, as it consumed the atmosphere only to send it back out from its weapon, torn apart to a stellar plasma. There was even lightning earthing itself around the figures, never quite touching them, as if it were afraid of them.

Dagon knew, Fjalar was.

The forces of the faithful were firing back, of course. But instead of the synchronised barrages of 120mm missiles that they had drilled to do, they were disparate and scatted, the electronics in the launchers fried, and forcing the weapons into dumb mode. And the leviathans of death that strode ashore, destroying and killing, were fast, moving somewhat erratically specifically to avoid the rain of what should have been their doom, blurred shapes dancing through the rain of exploding missiles that filled the air.

Wait a moment.

These were contact-detonated anti-armour warheads. They shouldn't be...

Son of a bitch!

“Pass me a new missile, Rag!” he yelled, as he tried to strip off the main viewfinder to get to the iron sights underneath. The LCD screen was fried; half of it was just black, and the rest gave a blurred mess of pixels and blobs of colour. “I said, new missile!” he repeated again, when he didn't feel the nudge.

He turned to face his loader (and he loved her, he knew that really, but she was married), already half expecting what he'd see.

He was wrong. She hadn't been hit by one of the globules of molten metal which had fallen through the metal shield above them. Instead, she was just sitting there, in the harsh shadows cast by the plasma fire, huddled up on the floor in a foetal position. Her flash goggles were off, although the filter mask remained on. The bloodshot eyes, wide open despite the dust, were contracted to pin pricks.

Fjalar's heart fell. “By Dagon, Rag!” he yelled. “You had to be an idiot and take them off, didn't you. You wanted to get a look at the Dagon'puvyqera... whatever those things are. They're not Lord Dagon's children; he wouldn't do this to us!” His voice, already yelling over the noise, cracked. “Dagon, Lord! Why?” Gently, he pushed the flash-goggles back on her face.

He unscrewed the back of the launcher, carefully easing out the possibly ruined missile, which he (very carefully) placed in the grenade trench, outside the fortifications. If you could call them fortifications. If the things in the fjord called them anything, they would probably have called them stuff to stand on. Taking her key, he opened the missile box. The case was insulated, a Faraday cage built into the structure, exactly to prevent stray currents setting off or damaging the contents.



~'/|\'~




“I... I looked at the things?” Raguelle asked.

The man made an annoyed noise. “Yes! Yes you did! And you took off your flash goggles to do it. Those things also protect your eyes from NMB stuff,” he shouted. There was a silence. “Sorry, sorry. I'm not one to talk.”

“So... the blurred vision,” she said, hesitantly. “It's not just flash-blindness.”

The silhouette against the red light that was Fjalar's head moved. “No. Well, probably not only. But I looked at your eyes last time you were awake. It's in the handbook, in the,” he broke into a fit of coughing, “in the first aid. You've got the blood in your eyes... you know, in that jelly stuff inside the eye; that means they're... um... attacking the thingies at the back of your eye that allow you to see. And the whites are almost completely red now.”

The woman began to hyperventilate, painfully. “Oh Hydra. Hydra.”

“At least you don't have it tearing apart your lungs, as well as whatever else it does when it's breathed in,” he responded, a slightly wry note in the midst of the fatalism.

It would be better to not tell her. She doesn't need to know any more.

“I think I do,” she said, faintly. “It hurts to breathe. It hurts to talk.” She drew in a shuddering gasp. “How can a person do that to another person?” she asked, tears running down her face, leaving tracks in the dust. “They might be unfaithful monsters, but who can sit down and just decide to do that!?”

“It gets worse,” Fjalar replied.



~'/|\'~




He carefully loaded the missile into the tube, after rotating the dials on the surface which told it that it was being fired from a launcher with a non-functional guidance system. It was another problem with the ancient gear; the warhead relied on guidance information from the launcher. He should probably be thankful to Great Cthulhu that the ignorant fools who had designed this equipment had given him such a dumb-fire option.

Squinting down the iron sights, he spun the launcher towards the lead figure. It was really difficult. Not only did it hurt to look at the terrible brightness of the jet of plasma it was using to slaughter the faithful (there, a squad of powered armour evaporated, nothing left after the jet had moved on but the glassed area where they had stood; there, a brief sweep tore through an apartment building, the slagged wreckage crumbling like wet sand as the bottom floors vaporised), but he was having problems even staring at the monstrosity. His eyes couldn't focus on the blurred shape properly; his vision sliding off it. There were incredible winds blowing out in the fjord, which had come from seemingly nowhere, and flashes of light and booms which may have been the discharge of lightning cannons, but might have been genuine thunder and lightning. Almost weeping, he judged the best he could through this apocalyptic landscape, and pushed the ignition trigger. There was the pop of the initial charge kicking the missile out of the tube, then the main booster igniting, and a new comet joined the solar system of the warzone around the bay.

It missed.

Fjalar slumped to the ground, hyperventilating. It should have hit; it was right that it would have hit. A world where that desperate attempt failed was a cruel and uncaring one. Slowly, the urge to flee almost unbearable, he crawled over to the box, to grab another launch. He would have fled, actually, fallen back to a place where he could fight properly against human blasphemers, not these monstrous leviathans that he could do nothing against, but one thing kept him here.

Rag. I can't leave her like this.

By now, too much of his home city lay in ruins. The offshore missile bombardment was raking its way through the tightly packed buildings, choking the streets with rubble and demolishing power plants and the desalination buildings. And the things were just killing as they saw fit. The Eyes were the only things that could have hurt them, but they had all be blinded before the attack. And to prevent them from being put back online, they had been systematically eradicated by the things that they would have been needed to kill.

I see. Everything. They just plan to kill us all. They have their own Gods, but they aren't like ours. They're just... things. Idols.

Suddenly, Fjalar had no energy left to even crawl to the box. He lay in the harsh shadows cast by the stellar fire being thrown around around the water, ears filled with the cataclysmic noise outside, and prayed. He closed his eyes and tried to calm his mind, but all he could see, burned into the inside of his eyelids, were the figures, burning their way through everything he knew. He began to whimper.

From above, he heard the flapping of wings, massive, powerful beats which forced air aside through brute force. The noise of battle dimmed for a second, as they passed overhead, before returning in full.

And then the wave of burning heat hit him. Even under the armour and the cooled air of the filter mask, it burned. The rad-counters screamed, the elevated background of the modern battlefield, where, after all, plasma weaponry saw use, running to lethal levels. Fjalar didn't see this, of course; he was facedown, eyes screwed shut, but he could hear, somehow, the fact that the Geiger counters were telling him that he was doomed.

He stayed face down for a very long time.



~'/|\'~




“What were the wings?” Raguelle asked, her almost useless-eyes now perpetually wide open from the tale of horrors which was being recounted.

“I didn't see,” he replied. “It...” he began to cough, “it's beyond people. Everything. It's just not people. No people, never.”

“What happened next?” she asked. From what she could hear of his voice, tear-filled and shaky, Fjalar was about to fall apart. And not just mentally (which he was justified to do, given what he'd seen), but biologically as well. The best he could hope for was that the lethal dose of radiation had fried the nanites infecting his lungs.

All in all, that wasn't a particularly good hope. She'd been exposed to the same, after all.

And in a hollow voice, he told her. The words were vague, incoherent, compared to his previous story; a patchwork tatter of something which had torn while living through the events. He could hold the pieces together when distracted by other things, but exposure to the same forces shredded them again.

He spoke of the blinding, fractured white light, that sparkled and shifted like a cut diamond made out of everything that it touched. How it had reached out and the wings had stopped. How it had illuminated the world for him, and shown him that nothing cared for anything, that everything was a purposeless mess, with no rules or goals behind it. That the Gods had Gods of their own, and that those Gods cared nothing for them. That the universe didn't even have the decency to hate them. Of how he had broken and run, leaving the faithful to save himself and her, dragging her rigid body behind him.

He spoke of the things that had emerged from the water, from metal boxes which had been invisible, and had used the attack of those three great leviathans to land themselves, without the faithful noticing. How they were not the Chosen, yet they had come from the water, not to pillage and claim the land in their name of their Gods, but merely to kill everything. How he had seen Katrin nailed to the back wall of the fortifications with a single rod-like projectile that protruded out from her forehead, her body dangling limply. Of the flash of blue which had taken out one of the towers, where the non-militia troops were, fired by a man-sized thing with four glowing yellow eyes on its face. Of the way that the enemy were completely silent, entire squads, seen from the cover of the wreckage of the Eye when he dragged Raguelle to relative safety, moving in perfect unison.

He spoke, and Raguelle listened, the world slowly growing dimmer as tailored nanomachines and micromachines tore apart the rods and cones on her retina, only attacking that particular cell type, filling the world with darkness and the vitreous humour with blood, just as the micromachines in her lungs activated an autoimmune response, slowly filling them with mucus and her body slowly fell apart at the cellular level from the lethal dose of radiation.

And there was silence, as he stopped speaking.

Raguelle began to laugh, a panting, hysterical giggle which hurt with each hurried gasp of breath.

“What... what can we do?” she wheezed, through the bloody tears that ran down her face. “We can sit here, and wait for the end.”

She coughed, a splash of blood smearing itself across the faceplate of the man, trapped down here beneath the melted slag of what had once been a defence laser. All things had come to nothing. The crawling darkness that filled her eyes was waiting, and she could do nothing to hold it off.

“We... we,” she gasped, as a fresh jolt of pain ran through her body, “we wait until they find us. And kill us. That's all we can do. Nothing more. We're only men. And they're monsters.”



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-09-30 07:05am
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Chapter 13

CATOclysm: Inception




~'/|\'~




1st November, 2091

The sterile white hallways echoed to footsteps, as the Project Engel representative paced up and down. The woman with skin so dark she could almost pass for a Nazzadi, the Deputy Director of Project Engel, looked like she was getting annoyed.

“Where is Doctor Akagi?” Dr Malia Robinson finally blurted out. “Why would she just happen to be late today, of all days, when she's been turning up on time all the time before?”

Maya blushed slightly. “I did mention it at the start,” the Magi technician said. “She's dealing with a new recruit for Project Magi.” There was a look of sadness on her face as she said, “We've lost several operators recently, analysing the Herald data.” Maya tapped her head. “You know how similar this is to the Engel Synthesis Interface.”

The other woman winced. “I'm sorry,” she said, idly rubbing the badge on her arm. “You have my condolences.” There was a moment of silence. “Uh... do you know how long she'll be?”

Maya shook her head. “I'm afraid not.” She paused, as an idea struck her. “We could go wait in the same anteroom as the pilots,” she suggested brightly. “It'll both make us easier to find, and at least there'll be somewhere to sit. You haven't met any of them before, have you?”

Dr Robinson shook her head. “There hasn't been much time. It's been an autocensored Grade Omega environment for most of the refit, and I've been cooped up with both design teams and your maintenance crews for most of the time.” She shook her head. “They're a... you have sufficient clearance for technical discussions, don't you,” the woman asked. After receiving an affirmative, she continued, “... yeah, they're a biological nightmare.” She rolled her eyes. “And I'm comparing them to the various Engel organisms here. I'm speaking from experience. And they're difficult in different ways.”

“I've heard complaints from the 01 engineering team,” Maya confirmed. She smiled demurely. “I only have to deal with the Magi,” her tone of voice giving lie to her expression. “But... all of them?

“Yes.”

I thought that 02 was fine, last time I was briefed on it.”

The Mass Production Model you have has regions of its body with worrying amorphous, unstructured regions,” the doctor said, as they walked turned left, to avoid a corridor that had been sealed off with “Wet Floor” markings. “Where are we now?”

“We're just passing one of the legal sections,” Maya said. “The access routes to the Evangelion bays are sort of limited. You have to come up and then down again.”

“Figures. Architects are crazy people,” said the Deputy Director of Project Engel. “Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Those bits of the Mass Production Model. Yes, if anything, they resemble cancers in conventional lifeforms.” She glanced at the look on Maya's face. “Yes. An ACXB construct with cancer. The MP team is trying to keep it under control, and they're generally managing.”

“I don't think Zero-One or Zero-Zero have the same problems... uh, and a right turn here.” She cleared her throat. “But, um...”

“No, we... that's an Engel “we”, that is, we think it's because of the immunosuppressants you're keeping those things on. Not that there's much choice, when you look at their natural regeneration rate. We've engineered the Engels to not reject the cybernetics, but Anton told me that they'd never worked out how to do that with the Evas.”

Maya was getting out of breath. This woman walked far too fast for how much she was talking. And she kept on doing it.

No. It wasn't that she was getting out of breath from the walking.

Oh, not again...

A spike of pure pain hammered itself into the back of her head, straight into her limbic core, making her let out a sharp gasp.

Maya opened her eyes. She was leaning against a wall, a sudden sense of deja-vu flooding her mind. There was a fading white noise hum in her ears, as bursts of sugar and iron and bitter painted themselves across her tongue.

The Engel woman was standing about ten metres in front of her, with a look of concern in her eyes. “Are you all right?”

Maya smiled weakly. “Just a headache and synaesthesia,” she said, the colours briefly inverting themselves so the white figure before her stood in front of a dark background. “Feedback from the DMI. It happens sometimes.”

Malia nodded sympathetically. “The ESI causes the same things, especially right after implantation. Not surprising. They are related technologies, after all.”

“Really?”

“Actually, I think Anton helped design them both. He started off as an AMMI specialist, after all.” The other woman paused. “Sorry, sorry. People have said that I'm a bit talkative. Come on, show me to the other room, and then I think you'll want to go lie down in a dark room, if my experience with ESI implantees holds true.”

Maya nodded, conscious of the way that her head felt too heavy for her neck. “It does, yes.”



~'/|\'~




“They could have at least showed up on time,” said Asuka, a sullen tone in her voice. “If they're taking us out of school and still not letting us down to the Evangelion bays, where they're keeping my Unit, then they could at least take us down when they said they'd do it.”

“It's only been like ten minutes,” protested Shinji. “Give them some time. You know how complicated this place is. And if it's Misato who's taking us,” he added, a somewhat jaded tone entering his voice, “she'll have got lost again. Because that's what she does.”

“Eighteen, actually,” interjected Asuka, acerbically. “It's been eighteen... no,” she corrected herself, with a glance at her wrist, “nineteen. Nineteen minutes late, now. Anyway, Misato has no excuse for getting lost. She has a peek, like everyone else. She can just check a map.”

“Maybe she won't use a map, and just insists on asking for directions.” Shinji wilted under the intensity of the Second Child's gaze. “Sorry.”

“As you should be, idiot.”

Rei said nothing, sitting as she was in the corner, reading. Asuka glanced over at her, before curiosity overcame the redhead. “What are you doing, First Child?”

The white-haired girl looked up, and stared straight at Asuka, her focal point slightly behind the other girl's eyes. “Reading,” she said simply, before the gaze snapped off with a suddenness which was almost mechanical, returning to the book.

Asuka sighed audibly. “She's as bad as you are for unhelpfulness,” she said loudly to Shinji.

Rei looked up again, fixing the same gaze at Asuka. “What was unhelpful?” she asked, in a tone which, slight though the inflexion was, might have been genuinely confused. “I provided information which resolved the query.”

Asuka met that glance with her own glare. “It might technically have answered the question, but it wasn't useful. There's a large difference.”

“Asuka,” said Shinji wearily. “We're all bored here. No need to go picking fights.”

“All information is useful,” stated the white-haired girl, ignoring Shinji. “Can you not see that?”

“Trivial information is not useful,” snapped back the Second Child. “I could see that you were reading. The implied question was 'What are you reading?'. Or maybe, “Maybe you could try talking to us, for a change?'. There isn't a tax on words, you know.”

“Yes,” said Rei calmly. “It is for the best.”

“What's that supposed to mean?” said Asuka, eyes narrowing.

“I thought you liked the use of implications,” was the reply, after a slight pause.

Shinji sighed. The First Child and the Second Child were like ice and steam; one cold, hard and fixed, the other hot-headed, expansive and volatile. This seemed to happen whenever they spent time together. The fact that Rei had trounced Asuka in every single attempt the red-head had made to beat her at swimming had not helped. Especially since that put her in a state of mind not inclined to aid him with school-work. The belittling of his ability was usually worth the free time he won by asking her for aid. It might technically be viewed as a form of cheating, but he was helping to protect the entire city from massive creatures that were trying to kill everyone. He felt that sort of offset such minor misdemeanours.

Asuka switched her glare to Shinji. “Don't sigh like that, Third Child. Stop being so wet and back me up here.”

Rei smiled faintly.

“Is there something funny?” Asuka demanded.

“You would not understand it,” was the response she got.

“Okay, can we just go back to everyone sitting in quiet, please?” asked Shinji.

“Was that a rhetorical question?” said Asuka. “And, by the way, don't say 'Was that a rhetorical question?' to my question. No, don't deny it,” she said, ignoring his protests, “you were obviously thinking it.”

“No, it wasn't rhetorical,” said Shinji, who had actually been about to say exactly that. She was far too good at pre-empting him. “I'd rather be bored waiting for them to show up than have the excitement of an argument, actually.”

Rei cocked her head slightly, eyes widening. “There is no need for concern,” she said. “They will be arriving in two minutes and forty-nine seconds as of the start of this sentence.”

That put an end to the conversation. Apart from some spluttering from Asuka, the next two minutes and forty-three seconds were spent in quite uncomfortable silence, the red-head hunched over the clock function on her PCPU counting it to the second.

Because the precognition was the thing about the pale girl that most annoyed, and, if she were to be fully honest, scared Asuka. Throughout her childhood, she had far more parapsychics than anyone her age would have normally; the Army was the single largest employer of those intuitive wielders of cosmic energies. Those classified as “Environmental” or “Somatic” were no worries; they were merely people who could manipulate natural forces, making fire or electricity dance to their whims, or enhance their own faculties beyond what human biology was capable of. They were just people with extra tools at their disposal; they thought the same way. Those which were deemed “Manipulative” worried everyone, almost without exception. No-one felt entirely safe around someone who might be able to read your mind, or, worse, rewrite it, even building a new personality to inhabit your body while your self was crushed into non-existence. But it was the “Sensory” ones which scared her the most. For as long as she could remember, she had always known that they were not to be trusted. It was not any specific thing that they did; it was something deeper, almost instinctual. They lived in a subtly different world from the rest of humanity; one where their extra senses alienated them from the rest of the species. How much does someone who sees the immediate past of an object merely through skin contact think like someone who cannot, after all? You might as well ask someone who is blind from birth how much of their perceptions of the world the sighted possess.

And someone who saw the future? Who could know what you were going to do before you had decided yourself? Asuka suspected, especially at moments like this, that Rei saw the rest of them as meat puppets, stringed dolls who played out their roles without departing from the script.

She didn't like that. Not one bit.

It isn't true, anyway. It can't be!

As a result, the reception that Dr Malia Robinson received when she showed up at exactly 11:32.19 was not the most welcoming that she could have received. Only two of the three teenagers in the room even acknowledged her presence, and Acedia... no, she mentally reminded herself, she wasn't to think of them with their codenames... and Lieutenant Soryu was gazing at her with what appeared almost to be thinly veiled disdain. That was gone in a second, though, replaced with a polite smile.

She cleared her throat. “Uh... hello.” She turned her head, to her companion. “Thank you, Lieutenant Ibuki. Looks like they're all here.”

Maya smiled weakly. “It was fine, really,” she said, poking her head through the door. “Uh, this is Dr Malia Robinson; she's the Deputy Director of Project Engel, and she's been leading the redesign team. Um...if you excuse me, I'll just be off to sickbay,” she added. “It was a pleasure, Doctor Robinson.”

“Likewise,” said Malia. “Do you think you can make it there?” she added, a look of concern on her face. “Should I call for someone to walk with you?”

Maya shook her head. “No. It's passing, and this one was purely visual. I'll be fine in a while, and if it gets worse, I've got an emergency button for exactly that.” She left.

“Well, uh, yes.” Dr Robinson cleared her throat. “Well, I've already been introduced, but yes, I'm the Deputy Director of Project Engel. We're... well, you probably know this already, but we're another Ashcroft Project, likewise focussed on research into and weaponisation of ACXB... that's arcanocyberxenobiological, another one of the tediously long compound words that are so common in our profession...”

Asuka shrugged. “I'm German. I'm used to compound nouns.”

Malia laughed. “Yes. It's even worse than English in that regard; it's a plague on the Germanic languages.” She looked at their faces. “Latin-descended languages are much nicer and easier to learn. Proper Latin-based ones, that is, not ones like English which have just pillaged their way across the vocabulary.” She paused. “Where was I?”

There was a silence among the Children, before Shinji raised his hand slightly, and said, “You were, uh, explaining about Project Engel.”

“Yes, we produce ACXB synthorgs; the Engels which the Project Group is named after. They're notably better than conventional mecha, although at the moment they're quite a lot more expensive, and have certain...” she looked at the teenagers, “...restrictions on pilots. Not like the ones that Project Evangelion seems to have, I hasten to add. Um... not that that's meant as an insult.”

Asuka still noted the tone of voice in which it was said, and chose to interpret it as such, albeit a minor one.

“We have a few other Projects in our Group, there's Klinge, and Nephilim, and a few others, but they're all fundamentally ways of expanding what we can do with the Engels. That means we have a lot of experience with lots of different ACXB bases, and have done a lot on the R&D into new ways to mesh the alien biologies with human technology.” She glanced at Rei. “Uh... I'm using human to refer to all Homo sapiens sub-species here. I hope you don't mind.”

“I do not.”

“Well, uh, that's good.” She cleared her throat. “Yes,” she said, as she subtly took a step away from Rei. “We're the people best suited to assisting with the Evangelions. I mean, all of the Projects in the Engel Group can be viewed as a spin-off from Project Evangelion.”

“Yes,” said Asuka. “I met Dr Miyakame over in Chicago-2, during the Daeva demonstration. He mentioned it, but I'd sort of forgotten about that,” she lied, she had actually thought about it quite a bit, “as that was the same day as I killed the Sixth Herald.”

“Uh, we both did,” added Shinji. “That is,” he clarified, feeling a surge of irrational anger as Asuka locked a laser-guided gaze on his jugular, “we both met Dr Miyakame.”

“I did not meet Dr Miyakame,” said Rei.

“Okay. Um, yes. Thank you,” said Dr Robinson, taking another step away from Rei. She cleared her throat. “He mentioned you two. I believe it was part of what persuaded him to offer his assistance.” She glanced at at Shinji for a second, holding it a little too long, before looking away. “And I, well, I was also one of Professor Fuyutsuki's students, just like your mother. The Professor was the entire reason I took up the field of metabiology.”

“Professor Fuyutsuki?” said Shinji, a questioning tone in his voice.

Asuka sighed. “The Deputy Representative?” she said wearily. “The second-in-command?

“Ah, okay.”

“Brown suit...”

“Okay! I get it.”

“... white hair?” she finished. She actually felt slightly guilty about that. Only slightly, but it was still there. The Deputy Representative was rather forgettable, after all, especially when he had Gendo Ikari standing next to him. Which was almost always, in her experience. The red-head glanced at Shinji; the boy actually looked slightly disgruntled. She shrugged mentally.

If he gets upset about something that small, he deserves to be needled until he grows a tougher skin. Such a shame that I'll have to fulfil that onerous task.

But her heart wasn't quite in it.

“Anyway, yes,” said the doctor, a slightly bemused look on her face after that exchange, “we should probably be heading down to the Eva bays... wait a moment.” She pulled out a PCPU, her fingers dancing a quick series of presses on the touchscreen that covered the entire front of the device. “No, no messages from Dr Akagi. She could have at least told me that she was busy.” She shook her head. “Never mind. Yes, we'll head on down to the Eva bays. Uh... let me just get a map...”

Rei stood up, turning off her book. “I know the way,” she said, calmly. “It is not necessary.”

The older woman smiled nervously. “Thank you,” she said. “Lead on, then.”

The group set off on their way, the pale figure of Rei, still clad in her school uniform, leading the way. Seriously, thought Asuka. Doesn't she have anything else to wear? Her fingers itched slightly, at the sheer unnaturalness of a teenage girl who only chose to wear her school uniform. It was like she didn't get the point of... no, Asuka corrected herself. It was almost certainly that she didn't get the point of fashion. It wasn't fully her fault, the girl admitted; it wasn't as if she had chosen to be a sidoci, but she could at least make an effort.

She felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning her head, she saw the Third Child, still looking disgruntled. Oh, great. Now she'd gone and upset his feelings, and he'd go and compound it by apologising to her when, objectively speaking, the only fault he had in it was being too wet to stand up for himself. She checked herself. Actually, he looked puzzled and upset.

He didn't say anything.

“What is it?” she snapped.

“What?” he said softly. “Oh, no. I was just thinking...”

“...and you wanted to have such a momentous event noted down?” Asuka rolled her eyes at the delay. “Finish your sentences. Don't tail off.”

She got a glare in return. “Well, no... never mind. I'm sorry. It's just that... well,” Shinji said softly, picking his words with care as he looked forwards at the Deputy Director of Project Engel, who was talking on her PCPU, “... it seems like every single adult I meet, sometimes, knew my mother. And you know what? I don't even have any pictures of her.” The boy fell silent.

Asuka found herself entirely devoid of any response to that. “What, none?” she eventually managed. “As in, nothing at all? Isn't that a bit odd?”

He shrugged. “Apparently so. Yuki and Gany couldn't find any, and, well,” a stress entered his voice, “my father hasn't shown me any. And I couldn't find any, even on the metanet.”

Asuka's eyes narrowed. “That's really odd,” she said. Inside her head, thoughts swirled and fought for dominance. That's not just odd. That's almost impossible. No pictures on the metanet?

What are they trying to hide? An Outsider-Taint in the genetics? Hybridisation? Some other change in appearance? It can't just be a security precautions for a high ranking scientist. I have pictures of Mama.

Or, most likely, he's just bad with computers and hasn't been looking in the right places. That makes most sense. There's no way someone Tainted would be allowed in an Ashcroft Project, except as a test subject.


Shinji shrugged. “I can remember her a bit, but... look, it's not important. I didn't mean to start talking about it anyway.” He began to walk a little faster, the pair of them having fallen behind Rei and the elder woman.

A sudden wave of... sympathy, yes, that was it, struck Asuka. “Listen,” she said, catching up with him, “I'll look through the archives my mother left me. Dr Miyakame said they worked together on the Project, right? There might be pictures.”

The boy stopped dead in his tracks, leaving her to almost walk into him. The reflexive snap was stopped dead in her throat by the wide smile on his face. “Thanks, Asuka,” he said, in an obvious tone of gratitude. “That... well, it really means a lot.” He swallowed. “Really, thanks for offering.”

Asuka could feel her face begin to heat, and looked away. “Don't start blubbering over me, Third Child,” she said, somewhat harshly. “Come on. We're falling behind. I want to see what they've been doing to my Evangelion!”

Nevertheless, she did continue on her way with a slight smile of self-satisfaction on her face. Even the brief level gaze that the First Child threw back at her, which seemed to drill right through her skull and leave her feeling cold, failed to remove it, nor the slight bounce in her steps.



~'/|\'~




Major Katsuragi was waiting for them at the entrance to the bays, with a look of pronounced irritation on her face.

“Finally,” she said. “What took you so long? And where's Ritsuko?”

“What? We were waiting in the anteroom that you told us to, this morning,” said Asuka. “You said you'd collect us, once you'd done some work.”

“I finished that ages ago. Rits said she'd send one of the team to get you, rather than make me go all the way out and back again.” Misato rolled her eyes. “She made some rather hurtful comments about my ability to find my way around, too.”

Both Asuka and Shinji quite specifically did not say anything.

“Uh... Dr Robbisson, wasn't it,” she continued, turning her attention to the Project Engel representative.

“Robinson, actually.”

“Oh right, sorry. Yes, I'm Major Katsuragi, Operations Manager for Project Evangelion.”

“Yes, I know. We've have met several times. And you raised several issues that the Type-D designs, which we took into account.”

Misato momentarily looked blank, then something inside her head clicked. “Oh, okay. Sorry. I just couldn't place you.” She smiled. “Thank you for bringing the children down here.”

The other woman did the same. “Actually, it seems that this morning has been rather misunderstandingful. I only went there because one of Dr Akagi's assistants suggested I go there because she hadn't shown up.” Malia paused. “Did you receive any messages from her?”

Misato shook her head. “No. I haven't received anything all morning...” her voice trailed away. “Of course. She was doing Magi stuff today, wasn't she?” She checked on her PCPU. “Yep. It's on my peek from yesterday.” Slowly, her palm collided with her forehead. “I always forget that.”

“I'm sorry.”

“When they're doing work on the Magi, it screws everything up, as they steal computing power from all over the Geocity to keep several important functions running,” she said in a weary voice. “So nothing works. It's really annoying. Especially when you've got some food being made, and it doesn't fab the packet properly because they've ''borrowed'' the factory's handler.”

The doctor looked rather impressed. “You have the entire Geocity wired up as a computing grid? That's quite impressive. C-2 only has limited areas wired like that.”

“Oh, not me personally.” The woman from Engel looked vaguely annoyed at that. “I know, I know. It's just a bit of an irritation, as far as I'm concerned.”

“So, is Dr Akagi coming?” asked Shinji, who hadn't really been following the discussion.

For some reason, Dr Robinson glanced at Rei for a moment, before looking back to the boy, and shrugging. “I don't know. If the grid is still being leached, if what Major Katsuragi says is true, then they're still busy.”

“Well, in that case,” stated the Major, “we don't have time to waste. There is limited time for the exercises as it is; we can't waste any more standing around. You will proceed to show the Type-D armour immediately.”

The other woman shrugged. “Okay, then; let's go on in. Please put on these autocensors; if something does happen, it's protection, and they're also AR goggles. Are you ready?” She smirked. “Please don't drool over them.”

“You're very confident,” said Asuka, staring at the older woman with narrowed eyes.

“It's not egotism when you know that you're one of the best,” was the response, which prompted a twitch of the mouth from the red-head. That was an attitude she could get behind.

The lights flicked on, shining brightly on the Evangelion bays.

Asuka took one look at the colossal figures that stood there, gantries and suspension cables still criss-crossing the figures like Liliputian restrains, and turned on Dr Akagi.

“What have you done to my Evangelion?!” she asked, eyes alight with an emotion even she wasn't sure that she could identify.

Shinji was pretty sure that it was a mixture of rage (that someone make such changes without consulting her) and elation (because, certainly, what had been done was most impressive), though. Mainly because he was feeling pretty similar. He suddenly felt slightly annoyed that he was feeling so attached to a thing which he only piloted because his father had bullied, blackmailed, extorted and bribed him into doing so, but it was true.

He glanced over at Rei. She was merely staring, pale face unchanged in expression, at the changed bulk of Unit 00. There was something in those grey eyes, true, but he couldn't read it. No-one ever could.

The original Type-A armour had been sleek, and almost form fitting, if the entity under the layers of plating was shaped anything like a human. It had very much been a suit of traditional armour; with no integral weaponry and only carrying space for a DF-knife. The Type-B and Type-C had followed generally the same design paradigm; they had been bulked out, and built in weapon systems installed, but they retained the same profile; you could see that they were evolutions of the original (indeed, the first) synthorg. But both the Type-B and the Type-C had been designed by the original Evangelion production team, without any true battlefield experience, while they were still handling the completely unknown problems of arcanocyberxenobiological engineering. And then the team had collapsed, with the deaths and madness of several key members, and the only changes to the armour, while the project had been mothballed and cut of funding, had been minuscule and iterative.

The Type-D armour had been designed in collaboration with the Engel Group; the wayward children of Project Evangelion, led by one of the original team, and with over ten years of experience, both theoretical and practical, on the unique problems of ACXB research,building off the original, revolutionary Evangelion design.

Technically, the same basic structure still lay underneath the Type-D, interfacing with the organism below, retraining and controlling it. You wouldn't have guessed it from the appearance of the machines that stood in the Evangelion cradles.

Previously, the Evangelions had a certain organic elegance about them. Sleek, curved lines, which mimicked the shape of human body, a naturalism which was slightly disconcerting to the onlooker when they moved, the limbs not-quite-human, but very natural. That was gone. The Type-D armour was very clearly a machine of war. Veiled in angled plating, armaments and sensors and odd, seemingly purposeless protrusions extruded like boils from every surface. Gone was the vast majority of the difference between the machines, all painted in an oddly repellent camouflage scheme. The sheer chaos of the random patterns drove the eye away, or else it got caught; endlessly searching for meaning in pointlessness so that the greater perception of the thing was lost. The only identifier; the heads, which retained their distinctive eyes, gazed forth from beneath armoured cowels, used as a further mount for more pointless chaos.

Over all, the impression was that of a grotesque cacophony of incipient violence.

The woman who had seemingly designed this mad vision of military technology began to explain. From the carcass of Project Daeva, the Evangelion Group had somehow managed to seize first rights to the mD/D Engine that the failed group had pioneered. The problems with the Evangelions had been that they had been too large for mecha-grade D-Engines, even the largest ones used in Behemoth-class ones, but too small for the capital-grade ones used in ships or static power plants. They had tried to make up for it by using multiple D-Engines, but the laws of arcane physics meant that... undesirably things happened when too many dimensional rifts were bought together. As a result, the Evangelions had actually always been underarmed for their size; had it not been for the AT-Field, they would not have stood a chance against anything in their weight category, whether Migou, Heraldic or even those rare monstrosities that the Rapine Storm fielded.

But now, the revolutionary mD/D-Engine, in which the D-Rift was spread over a volume, rather than (as far as could be determined) a point charge, reducing the overall pressure on local spacetime and allowing a much greater energy density to be extracted, was available. The prototypes engines had been gutted from the biohazardous Daeva and attached to the Evangelions. And that meant that the designers could arm an Eva as they would a capital ship, not a precariously scaled up mecha.

The words washed over Shinji's head, as Malia, forgetting her audience, rattled off facts and figures about arcane theory that he had absolutely no clue about; not having even learned the lie-to-children that was quantum theory. He glanced around, his gaze flicking to the titanic bulk of Unit 01, before the patterns got too much and he had to look away. To his left, Asuka was getting slightly bored, and annoyed at her lack of understanding; he just instinctively knew that she was itching to try out what they had done to Unit 02. Rei, of course, was listening intently, with every sign (insofar as such emotions could be read from her) that she understood it. Perhaps she did. Perhaps her brain had shut down from listening to this woman talk on and on about things that he did not understand and suspected he probably never would.

“... and the surface blue-green laser point-defence grid can acquire, target and eliminate a heat-emitting target with a temperature difference from background of 4.9 K, which is then further improved with the addition of a visible-light component...”

Misato felt that she could make a contribution at this point, from her own experience as a pilot. “So you solved the problem that older systems had with heat, both distinguishing and their own overheating?”

The woman nodded. “It's, as usual, a scaling issue. Due to the size difference, we can cycle between active lasers, give them time to cool between firing. Even a Blizzard or a Claymore could only mount two or three, and that typically meant that, with the problems with targeting, it might be able to get the first few in a salvo, but then the rest would hit.”

“I had that problem when they were testing them, back in China in '86,” Misato nodded, with her eyes narrowed. “You lost your own rocket system for the laser mount, and then the bastards found that if they got a mob of cultists to carry burning torches, and set fires all over the place, they confused the acquisition system half the time. Enough for them to whack you with their own mecha or RPGs from the mob.”

Malia raised her eyebrows. “You were in China in '86?” she said, with a note of respect in her voice.

“I'd rather not talk about it. I lost several good friends in the... withdrawal.” The bitterness in the Major's voice was evident. “But you've solved that?”

“Yes, with help from the Achtzig Group. Anton and Calvin are... well, they were on the original Evangelion team together. We've been working on our own LAI-run laser defence systems for the Engels with them.” She laughed. “Actually, the work we had to do on adapting them for the Evangelions has really put us ahead. We got to see how a scaled up model worked, which means that we got to work through a lot of the problems in greater detail. The humanoid form is... not ideal in so many ways. Sadly, though, we haven't found an arcanoxenobiological organism which is a perfectly reflective sphere, so we have to make workarounds.” She snapped her fingers. “That reminds me, on the subject of the Achtzig Group. Lieutenant Soryu, the Director of the Group, Dr Sylveste, asked me to send his regards.”

Asuka immediately stiffened. “Why?” she asked, bluntly. “I have no idea who you're talking about.”

The older woman looked just as puzzled. “I'm sorry. I just thought that... he asked me that I... he acted like you would know him.”

Asuka shook her head. “I don't recall any Dr Sylveste, but you can thank him for it. Mind you,” she added, as an afterthought, “most of the people with the ''Doctor'' title I met when I was younger have sort of blurred together. There always seemed to be an endless stream of people, talking about things I didn't understand then. No offence meant, of course, Dr Robinson.”

Malia flicked a tight braid away from her eyes. “None taken. It was just that he said he was a close friend of your mother's. He seemed sure that you'd remember him.” She shrugged. “Oh well.”

I think I can now see why the Third Child was getting irritated about all these people who seem to have known his mother. And mine, too.

It
is annoying.

“So, what have you done with the weapon systems?” asked Misato, breaking the detour. She was beginning to see that the doctor was remarkably scatter-brained, her thoughts jumping from subject to subject when something interested her. The creativity was probably useful, but the black-haired woman couldn't understand how someone could have such a short effective attention span while apparently being some kind of scientific genius. It didn't seem fair, somehow.

“Right. We've kept the main ones from the Type-C; they were fully integrated and field tested; all that was needed was a slight shift in their position to accommodate the thicker armour. No, the special ones are the new, hand-held ones, which are designed to handle all the power the mD/D-Engine can throw at them and then come back for more.”

“Will not the Evangelion shut down if you 'throw all the power' at the weapon?” asked Rei, her tone clinical.

Malia nodded. “Yes, it would. That's why there are four auxiliary D-Engines, mounted in the chassis. If for some reason the mD/D-Engine failed, they can keep it moving and contained, although they won't be able to run most of the weapons. At least for a short while, before the entire system shuts down as it depletes the capacitors, as 4 D-Engines isn't enough to keep the entire system running with the extra mass of the armour.” She paused. “Not to worry, Miss Ayanami! The possibility of a resonance cascade scenario is extremely unlikely!” she added.

Rei just stared back at her.

Shinji and Asuka, meanwhile, their gaze synchronised, changed the focus of the attention to Misato. They were strapping a more experimental engine to the Evangelions (which were already neither the most stable nor mature technology), which had a possibility of failing catastrophically. Nothing good could possibly come as the result of “a resonance cascade scenario”. And, on top of that, if the prototype engine failed, the entire snythorg would shut down

Misato coughed once. “Yes. You were about to explain why you needed all the extra power, weren't you?” she asked the other woman. She didn't like the way that her two flatmates were staring at her; she could see the nascent outbursts building behind both their eyes.

Malia nodded. “Yes, indeed. The weapons are configured to the intended role of the Units in the upcoming...”

“They haven't been fully briefed on that yet,” interrupted the Major, “and this location is not secure. Do not mention specifics.”

“Ah. Right. Let me start again. The weapons are designed for different purposes. Unit 00; long range heavy support. Unit 01; suppression and weight of fire. Unit 02; close range massive area damage.”

“So what are they, actually?” asked Asuka, who liked the sound of “massive area damage”.

“Well, actually, in your case, you remember the issues that plasmathrower had? We had the same problems when we tried to fit an even more miniaturised version onto the Seraph. We gave up; there's too much of a problem with the miniaturisation. Manufacturing defects, even when produced in nanofactories, cause greater and greater instability in the containment field which prevents the plasma from frying the weapon. Well, we decided that, by making it hand-held rather than armed mounted, we could scale it up. Enough to make it a viable weapon.” She pressed a few buttons on her wrist-mounted PCPU, bringing an accurately-scaled AR model into being in the air of the bays. The plasmathrower was a good thirty metres long; bulky and heavy even for the armoured leviathan that would be carrying it. “And with the power-rating of the mD/D-Engine, you can slag cities.” There was a pause. “Uh, not in one shot, obviously. Nevertheless, its enough that we had to armour Unit 02 even more, to prevent it from melting itself when firing the weapon.”

Eyes ablaze with the future reflections of what she would do with it, Asuka could only let out a muffled giggle.

“I am glad to see that you are happy,” said Rei. Even that comment couldn't stir the other girl from her reverie, although it drew Malia's attention to the White.

“For you, we've simply scaled up and reinforced the Eva-sized charge beam. That was remarkably easy; the older model had been cut down, to run off an internal D-Engine. We just had to remove some of the limits in the design, and add extra superconducting magnets and the coolant for them, then run superconducting cables from the weapon to the umbilical ports on the Evangelion. It's very much a heavy fire support weapon; indeed, it would actually be possible to connect it up to the other Units to increase its rate of fire. It will kill anything it hits that isn't a heavily armoured capital ship. Or a Herald.”

Rei nodded. “Do not worry. I shall have a plan to kill anything I meet.”

Misato snorted. “I say we should rename this weapon the ''Rei Gun''!” she said, looking slyly at the others. “Oh, come on. You know you were all thinking it.”

There were smiles all around. Except from the individual whose name it was. “But it is not a ray gun,” Rei said, a puzzled tone in her voice. “It does not emit coherent electromagnetic radiation.”

“Rei, it's a j...”

“It instead magnetically accelerates protons to an appreciable fraction of the speed of light in a vacuum, sheathing them in a arcanomagnetic field which prevents them from dispersing before they collide with the intended target.”

Asuka looked on at the girl with a sort of pitying contempt. “It was a joke.”

“Oh.” The girl paused. “But it still does not emit electromagentic radiation, except as a byproduct of the intended function.”

“Jokes are allowed to be wrong if they're funny. You should read up on them,” the red-head said.

Rei nodded. “I will.” She paused, cocking her head to the side slightly. “So you have an plasmasuka, then?”

Misato shook her head. “No, that would only be appropriate if it were some kind of missile launcher, because the word sounds like ''bazooka''. They are both puns. A form of humour,” she added after a pause, as if explaining to a child.

Rei nodded seriously. “I shall endeavour to remember that. Any projectile weapon fired by the Second Child which continues to accelerate after it leaves the weapon and does damage through an explosive mechanism of superheated ionised gas is called a ''Plasmasuka''.”

Dr Robinson, who had been looking on at this with increasing worry, felt it was perhaps time that she start talking again rather than let the conversation continue. “Moving swiftly on, finally, Unit 01 retains the MBAMCIGA basic design, but now, instead of requiring D-Engines to be built into the weapon itself, it runs off the main engine of the Unit. This means that the weapon design, overall, has a superior rate of fire, a higher exit velocity and maintains its arcanomagnetic containment field over much longer ranges. Compared to the other two weapons, the improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary, but that's because the idea of using a multi-barrelled weapon to overcome some of the limits of conventional single-barrelled plasma cannons... you know, the name is a bit of a misnomer. The kinetic energy of the plasma does most of the damage against hard targets, rather than the thermal effects. It's more like a particle beam than what a ''plasma weapon'' would imply.” She coughed. “Anyway, it's a rather good idea. We're going to look into the prospects of a scaled down version, for the Seraph or the Chashmal.”

Misato looked rather smug at the praise for the concept of the “plasma minigun”.

“What do you mean, arcanomagnetic containment field?” asked Shinji, who was feeling rather lost again, and this time it mattered, as they were talking about the thing that he had to carry.

“Arcanomagnetic containment field? Well, the traditional issue with plasma weapons was always that the heated ionised gas dispersed in the atmosphere really quickly. And you couldn't contain it easily, because you'd need a way of making the containment field travel with the bolt. Now, with something like Lieutenant Soryu's plasma thrower, that matters less, because it's designed as a cone-like weapon. But for one where you are trying to have the plasma bolts act like bullets, basically, it's a massive problem.” She squinted at Shinji. “Do you have a degree which covers Arcane Theory?” The response from the sixteen-year old was,unsurprisingly, negative. “In that case, I can't really explain what's happening really. Think of it as a sort of projected tunnel which the plasma can't escape from, so it's forced into a straight line. Does that make you feel better?”

Shinji pulled a face. “Slightly,” he said.

“Shinji,” said Misato, “in my experience, all you need to know is that someone understands it, and that it works. Blissful ignorance of these kind of things is much easier on the mind.”

“And blissful ignorance is something that he does especially well,” added Asuka, with a smirk. “A minigun, saturation-fire weapon? Perfect for him. Even he can't miss.”

“You may think you can outsmart me, Asuka,” retorted the boy. “Maybe. I'd like to see someone who can outsmart the plasma.”

“I can outsmart you,” was her glared response. “That's not really in debate here, unless you never want help with your easy homework again, idiot. What I'd like to know is what possessed you to...”

“Quiet,” said the Major wearily, “such an argument is pointless, and just wastes valuable time. Is that everything, Dr Robinson?”

The answer was in the affirmative, as Malia could see that Misato's patience with the lengthy explanations and frequent distractions was beginning to wear thin.

“In that case, let's get you three suited up. We're going to have to run as much practice in the new armour as we can, because we leave tomorrow.”



~'/|\'~




2nd November, 2091

The next day, after a somewhat hurried pack of the essentials for up to a week away from home, the three Children and Misato were on a dull flight up to the staging grounds, in the north of Scotland. Dull, and somewhat cramped. The secrecy of the operation mandated that as few flights be used as possible, the rest being transported by maglev and ground transport. As a result, the squadron of what in an earlier era would have been helicopters, but were now transport, A-Pod equipped hovercraft, was packed with various military individuals. Behind the transport section, slung like grotesque dolls, were multiple Engels, encased in matt-green tubes which to Shinji's eyes looked strangely like entry plugs. He contented himself with his PCPU, and tried to avoid the eyes of any of the older men and women that surrounded him.

He was also getting somewhat airsick, and the anti-nausea tablets weren't working properly. It always happened; not as bad as that traumatic trip in Misato's car, but always present. Not that there were many things that were as bad as that woman's driving, of course. Being on the receiving end of a Rapine Storm attack, perhaps. Maybe.

It would have been easier to tolerate if anyone else had been with him, as a distraction from the nausea. Even Asuka would have made it less boring, though he would have had to tolerate a low-to-moderate level of antagonism, and insults directed towards his intellect. She didn't take boredom well, at least if there wasn't anything to lose by showing that side of her personality. Meanwhile, he just knew that Rei would be sitting and reading; perfectly content.

The Evangelion project members had been split up, each on a separate hovercraft to avoid one unexpected, lucky hit from enemy forces taking out the entire party (although even one loss would have been terrible). Misato had remarked before they had left, with an seemingly carefree grin, that she was the most expendable of the Eva operatives who were on the 'crafts; the Evangelion technicians were travelling with the refitted synthorgs themselves, each taking two engine cars to transport their bulk by maglev. Dr Akagi, though, was staying in London-2; her presence needed for other work, and she was keeping all the trained Magi operators with her. They would still be supervising the operation, with use of one of the few satellites that the NEG could keep operational in the face of Migou orbital supremacy specifically granted for the mission.

From the air, the staging area appeared to be a normal New Earth Government Army and Navy forwards base. The dull greens, browns, greys and blues of the armed forces of unified humanity were in full force, the buildings themselves textured as to break out their outlines. The open spaces, textured with synthetic grass, had the outline of aerial launch chutes and missile silos; both fighter aeroplanes and warheads launched in the same style as the Evangelion. More conventional VTOL pads were present, ready to retract into the ground when the craft had landed. A single frigate, its blue-gray shell merging into the dark waters, was docked. Shinji frowned. He wasn't perfectly sure, given the state that he'd seen the last one of their kind in, but he was pretty sure that it was the same model as the one which had been cannibalised for the combat against Mot.

The place certainly didn't look like the staging ground for the assault on the largest single Esoteric Order of Dagon terrestrial holding. He guessed that was probably the point.

They landed, the pads immediately retracting underground, and as the back door lowered, Shinji took a deep breath of the cooler air. It tasted of arcologies here; slight hints of metal and human sweat blended in. He stumbled out, his bodyguards cutting ahead of him to clear a path, and sat down. The chair was blessedly unmoving beneath him; it felt good to just sit there for, hands in head.

How is it that I can end up feeling worse after a simple flight than after a fully training session in Unit 01, he thought, self-pity creeping into his inner voice.

“Get up, Shinji,” he heard Misato say. “Come on, it was only a little trip.”

Grudgingly, he pulled himself to his feet. “I hate flying,” he said to no-one in particular.

“I don't remember you getting so ill on the trip to C2,” she said. “This one was only an hour or so.”

“Yes, but that was a proper plane. Couldn't you feel it throb and sway as the A-Pods moved around?”

Misato's face darkened for a second, before returning to normal. “No, I can't,” she said. “Former mecha jockey, remember? Now, come on. We've been assigned quarters for the night, and we need to get you changed for the meeting. Asuka, did you remember your uniform?”

“Of course,” the red-head said. “Why would I forget that?”

“Good. Well, let's head down through this secret underground layer,” she said jokingly.

Of course, things weren't that easy.

“What do you mean there aren't enough rooms?” exploded Misato down the phone.

There was a lengthy explanation, which didn't make much sense to her, but seemed to be based around the fact that Lieutenant Soryu had been given temporary accommodation with the Engel pilots (as a NEGA pilot of a synthorg), and it had been cancelled by the system LAI because they had no records of an Engel pilot with that name. Once again, the Limited Artificial Intelligence had lived up to its name.

“Well, can't you just, I don't know, kick one of the journalists or the other hangers-on out of their rooms?” was her suggestion.

Apparently, they could not. Misato put down the phone with a frustrated grunt.

“Okay. Sorry about this Asuka, but they're useless here. You'll just have to share with Rei, I guess.”

Rei nodded. “That is acceptable. We are currently in the state known as 'friendship'.”

Asuka flicked a glance at the other girl. “Can't I just sleep in your room instead?” she said to the older woman, trying to keep a whine out of her voice.

“No. As part of CATO's StratCom, I'm not actually getting any sleep for quite a while,” Misato said, a tone of complaint entering her own voice. “I'm going to be up on EOE for the next few days. They didn't even give me a room; just a locker to keep my stuff in.” She snorted. “I know why they do it; there's a lot more time in the day when you don't need sleep. It's just that I like sleep. It doesn't ask anything of you. In fact, it's the second most fun thing you can do in a bed.”

“And what is the most fun thing you can do?” asked Rei.

There was an uncomfortable silence, as three minds tried to parse the sentence, and wondered how she could possibly not understand the implications of the sentence in the highly liberated society of the NEG .

“Well, um...” began Misato.

“That was a joke,” Rei added. “A form of humour. I checked.”

There was a collective sigh of relief at the fact that they did not need to give The Talk to a sixteen-year old.

“Well, it wasn't very funny,” managed Asuka weakly.

Shinji mentally agreed. The problem with Rei was that it was almost impossible to tell what she meant when there were ambiguous statements, or if she was being serious; the profound lack of body cues made it really hard. He had heard somewhere that 90% of all communication was non-verbal; a statistic he hadn't really believed, as it didn't make much sense. He still didn't think that they were accurate, but he was willing to accede that, after dealing with Rei, non-verbal communication was important.

“Now, come on. We need to get changed. The briefing begins at midday, and you three aren't ready yet.”



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-09-30 07:06am
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~'/|\'~




“Ladies and gentlemen, I hope everyone is seated. Ensure that all your devices have a hard-wired link to the Alpha CPU, and that all potentially wireless devices are set to autistic mode. This includes implanted communication devices, hard contact lenses and even topical icons on clothing. All individuals are to wear AR-visors during this briefing; however, these must be the ones provided, which have been deemed security-compliant, and not any other ones (including implants). All sorcerers should have no active procedures upon their person, with the exception of those permitted by Section 119/a of the Applied Arcane Physics Control Act, 2086. Likewise, all individuals with parapsychic abilities should be wearing brainwave monitors, to ensure that any abilities are not activated during this meeting. Security will shortly be going around to ensure that all these criteria are fulfilled and protocols are in place. Breaches of these instructions will see prosecution under both military law and the Official State Secrets Act, 2089.”

Shinji stretched inside the too-stiff uniform they had him wearing for this. Well, technically, it wasn't actually a uniform, as (as Asuka often reminded him), he was only a Test Pilot, and thus it merely looked a lot like one. As the Evangelions were strategic assets, along the level of a capital ship (especially with the new refits), it was important that they attend this briefing session, much as the captains of the ships to be used or the high ranking army officers had to. However, Misato, sitting on his right, in full military dress, had been quite clear to all three pilots that they were not to draw attention to themselves in this, due to quibbling little things that people would raise objections to, and so Rei and him were dressed so that they passed under the casual gaze as junior naval officers.

Very junior, in fact.

Well, actually, legally under-age officers. Asuka had received a special exemption from the Minister of War to receive her commission, and it really wasn't wanted that it become public knowledge that the NEG was using sixteen-year olds as frontline pilots. Hence, the fact was that the Ashcroft Foundation would really prefer that as few people as possible noticed anything amiss. If it had been possible, they would have tried to arrange it so that the pilots could just have watched from a video link, but the effort of securing permission to broadcast from an electromagnetically dead zone would have drawn more attention than sneaking the two civilian pilots into the room in clothes which looked almost like they were uniforms.

“Is everyone ready? Yes? Good. As of 12:02 GMT, on the second of November, 2091, the unified strategic briefing session of the New Earth Government military Operation, codenamed CATO, is now in order. We will begin with a look at the relevent history, before moving onto a wide strategic view of the actual Operation, followed by closer examinations of the individual Task Forces involved.”

The man cleared his throat.

“As you all know, the territory formerly identified as the nation-state of Iceland, prior to the Unification, was seized by the Migou in their second wave of assaults at the start of the Second Arcanotech War; the Fall of Iceland officially recorded as occurring in 2077.” A vast AR three-dimensional map of Iceland appeared in the centre of the amphitheatre-like room, accurate from pre-AW2 satellite images. Before the watchers' eyes, the overlay (green, the colour of unified humanity) shifted to the red assigned to the alien Migou. Those sitting at the front with really good eyesight could even see the tiny Swarm ships and a few of their larger cousins move into the cities. Tiny plumes of smoke arose from the model.

“If we observe, the Migou proceeded to demolish the former human cities, and replace them with their own dwellings. Moreover, as the weather was more temperate than many other Migou holdings, they ended up with a sizeable population of both Blanks and Loyalists, who built their own settlements. With their typical thoroughness, the Migou and their subordinate forces built up their usual layered defences; mining the countryside and installing their biomechanical gun emplacements. Strategic Command, at that time, decided that any attack was not worth the inevitable losses we would take from attacking such a fortified territory, especially since the island remains relatively valueless. Iceland was deemed Low Priority for Reclamation, and the response tailored to prevent the Migou using it as a jumping-off point for further attacks.”

The map changed, updating in a much lower resolution which showed the lack of information about a non-NEG territory. The speaker took a sip from a glass of water which sat on a table which, to onlookers, protruded out of the waters around Iceland.

“We now advance to March, 2082. Surprising both the GIA and, we believe, the Migou themselves, the Esoteric Order of Dagon launched a direct assault on Iceland. Casualty estimates were horrific, both among cultists and the large number of Deep One deployed, many of them wielding obsolete equipment, believed to have been what the species used to wage war before they stole arcanotechnology from humanity. However, we have had reports of multiple extra-normal lifeforms aiding the Order in their invasion, including at least nine different and independently verifiable instances of the exceedingly dangerous arcanobiological lifeforms classified as “Star-Spawn”. This would at least in part explain the success of the Dagonites; the Star-Spawn are incredibly intelligent, often accomplished at sorcery (up to and including Yog-Sothothian Guards), and occupy a role in Dagonite theology akin to that of angels in Christian or Judaic mythology. Moreover, the attack, again if newly unclassified GIA reports are correct, was led by Dagon.” There were gasps around the hall. “Yes, as in ''Esoteric Order of'' Dagon. To put this, again in mythological terms; as perceived by the cultists and Deep Ones of the Order, the attack was led by Jesus and accompanied by many of the major angels in Christian mythology.”

Shinji shivered. From what he knew of the Christian legends, angels were meant to be incredibly destructive beings, often horribly alien looking (although some could pass for human), used to bring plagues and kill populations. He really didn't want to fight anything that could be compared to an angel.

A sudden wave of deja vu struck him; something buzzing on the tip of his tongue. He shrugged it off, tuning back into the briefing.

It's almost certainly nothing.

“Evidently Iceland was important to the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Strategic Command shifted up the priority for Reclamation, and there was indeed serious considerations of launching our own attack if only because they wanted it so much it couldn't be good, but in 2082, we were occupied in pre-Fall Russia and China, and indeed preparing our own assaults on Siberia from pre-Fall Alaska. The opportunity was missed, and the Dagonites,” the map overlay changed to the light blue assigned to the Esoteric Order of Dagon, “dug in. They've been using it as their single largest on-land holding; Iceland is now more populated than it has been at any other time in history. Intelligence reports put the population at somewhere in the 20 to 30 million region, 85% of that clustered around the heavily populated pseudo-arcology of what was once the location of the city of Reykjavik. For the remainder of this briefing, we shall use the former, Icelandic names of locations, using our own code-names for places which had no equivalent, rather than use the Ry'lehan names that the Order has given to its conquests.”

The map zoomed out, to include the surrounding waters. The landmass and the seas around the island were all the same shade of light blue, indicating uncontested control by one faction.

“This brings us to the current day, and Operation CATO. Now that this brief summary of recent history is complete (more information is available on your CPUs), we can continue to the main briefing. Operation CATO, as you have been informed, has as its goal nothing less than the Reclamation of the entirety of Iceland, with the liberation of the enslaved human population, and the systematic extermination of all elements possessing partially or completely inhuman ancestry. To these ends, we have four key operational areas determined; a task force from the forces present shall be assigned to each of these zones.” Translucent boxes appeared on the map as he spoke.

“Task Force Scipio is tasked with the assault on the Reykjavik pseudo-arcology, which spreads out into the water as a submersed, Deep One city. This part has been deemed no use to humanity, and so will be demolished before the direct assault. Task Force Nero is attacking the northern urban area which we have named ''Tartessos'; the second largest population centre after the Reykjavak pseudo-arcology'. Certain activities which shall be conducted in this attack are classified even beyond the SANDALPHON classification of CATO; all those in Task Force Nero are to stay behind, for further details. Task Force Maximus will sail with Nero; however, their target is even further north. They will be conducting a direct assault on a Deep One city; we believe this is the nearest one to Iceland, barring the pseudo-arcology, and so its destruction will handicap any attempts to retake the island. Finally, Task Force Marcellus has the dual role of maintaining NEG air supremacy, and crippling infrastructure in the rest of the island, to prevent any attempts to move more forces to reinforce the targets Scipio and Nero are attacking. They will also be responsible for our deployment of nanological and micrological agents. Standard rebroadcast nanites will see use, as we know the band of frequencies their infantry use. In combination with the fact that we will be using MNB weapons, communications at the infantry and power armoured level should be crippled, giving our forces a notable tactical advantage.”

He took another sip of water.

“Task Force Scipio is the largest of the battle groups by far; as it has to be to attack an entire pseudo-arcology. The attack will be headed by the 4th Mecha Corp and Battlegroup Legionary; as a heavy Engel-and-conventional formation and an amphibious naval capital assault force, their purpose will be to smash the defences and open up the area for the 21st and the 23rd Mecha Corps who will hold the beachhead and expand further into the pseudo-arcology, ensuring that no capital-grade stationary defences remain. When that has been accomplished, the troopships can be moved up. If you observe the AR projection...”



~'/|\'~




Meanwhile, elsewhere in the building, a specially selected group of the press corps were seated in somewhat spartan hall (in fact, it appeared to be a spare mess hall), waiting for their names to be called out to be briefed on why exactly they had been given an hour's notice to pack before they had been collected, to be taken to this area.

Under these circumstances, the only journalists who would be accompanying CATO would be the ones from Worldwide Broadcasting Organisation, the government-funded state media group. No private companies had been asked to provide reporters, on the advice of the GIA; even the higher echelons of the WBO had not been informed. Only those whose presence was actually required were had received high priority phone calls yesterday evening telling them to bring overnight bags.

Apparently in the past, right up to the First Arcanotech War, journalists were accorded status under international law which meant that they were not targeted by hostile forces. They could provide impartial coverage of the events of a conflict, even reporting news that was bad for the side which they were a citizen. Once, there were the glories of the free press, which could hold governments to account. Well, if they had once aimed for that ideal, they could not do so now. One of the more important skills for a modern war correspondent was knowing how to pilot powered armour, because neither the Migou, nor the Dagonites respected such conventions, and the Rapine Storm would not have, either, if anyone had been stupid enough to willingly report from those front lines. Another one was having the strength of will to avoid fleeing in terror or gibbering in a corner when a ten metre high abomination tore through a wall and tried to eat the unit you were attached to.

Whole.

Journalists in the past had it easy, it was commonly agreed.

“Huh. Heya, Manapy. Haven't seen you since... Santander, wasn't it?” Antonio de Nebrija, from WBO Channel 2, said to the woman sitting opposite to him. He paused. “I think it was, anyway. Or were you covering the Eastern Front?”

She shook her head. “Nope. I haven't been doing any frontlines reporting since then.” Her face took on a expression of remembered pain. “The fishmen had littered the place with mines. Proper anti-structure charges, too, not the old stuff they mostly used. Collapsed a building on us. Abany died; I lost an arm.”

“Abany's dead?” said Varuata, Antonio's cameraman, shock in his voice. “Damn. By seley hut ab werenti,” he added, slipping into Nazzadi. Her soul will move on, the words mean.

Ra ibitry,” Manapy replied. “It... wasn't pleasant.” That was all that was said on the topic. “I then had three months in rehab getting used to the new arm.” She pulled up her sleeve, flexing her fingers. “Took me almost a month to relearn how to do this properly.”

“We've been lucky,” said Varuata. “Nothing major; Antonio almost got his stupid head melted by an HPM, but it's not like it would have harmed him too much. Not much brain matter up there,” he added with a smirk, tapping his head. “Well, apart from ruining his image.”

Antonio waved his cameraman's comments off. “We had to get footage of the engineers setting up. It wasn't tagged as an active combat zone, after all.” He nodded to the other reporter. “You know how it is.”

“Oh yeah. I know far too well.” Manapy added, “By the way, this is Tuwawa,” gesturing to the whippet-thin man who sat beside her, reading quietly. He looked up, and waved, before returning back to it. “He's a photographer.”

The man shrugged. “Yep. The WBO keeps quite a lot of us on staff, for something like this. Most of my stuff from this will end up being sold to the other media groups, though.” He smiled. “I'm here to help us make a profit from the private groups, basically.”

Manapy snorted. “I don't think any of us object to that.” She cocked her head. “Hey, speaking of profits, did you hear? Luci Sougate is with Paradigm News, now.”

Varuta nodded. “Yes, I've seen her. Guess the frontlines were getting too much for her.”

“That's not quite fair,” objected Antonio. “She quit frontlines a while ago. I kept in touch, though. They offered her a post as a senior commentator; I'd take it if Paradigm had offered it to me.”

His cameraman raised his hands in mock shock. “And leave me out of work, on the streets, my children starving?”

Antonio sighed. “Varuta, your husband earns more than you do.”

“That may be true,” he chuckled, “but it hurts my case, so I demand that it be ignored!”

Manapy smiled. “No, it makes sense. Antonio can go work in safety, and you... you can become a lawyer.”

“Oh, ha ha.”

“I found it quite amusing myself, yes.”

“Like I'd stoop that low, degrade myself that much.”

A man, prominent white facial tattoos a stark contrast to his neat uniform, poked his head through the door. “WBO Channel 2, Group 3... uh... de Nebrija and Varuta. Please follow me for your briefing and assignation of combat zone.”

The two men got up. “Well, it was nice seeing you again, Manapy. I'm sorry about Abany, though,” said Antonio.

“Likewise.” A bitter smile twisted her lips. “Especially the latter part.”

Varuta added “It was nice meeting you...uh, Tuwawa, wasn't it?” The other man nodded. “Well, yes. Manapy, let's see if we can meet up after this is over and compare notes.” He turned to his reporter. “Well, let's see what story they want to tell, and how we can best sell it.”

“Yeh. None of us want another Juneau.”



~'/|\'~




The strategic briefing had been going on for several hours now, and Shinji was struggling to retain interest. He was sure that Ken would have been enjoying this thoroughly (indeed, perhaps a little too much for it to be healthy), but he was not. Even the relevant parts of the strategic briefing, on Nero, were deathly boring, filled with military jargon which left him on the CPU before him trying to find what the words actually meant. He suspected that even Ken would have been bored by the minutiae of the tactics that the troops from the SWD (who were going to be supporting the Evangelions in their assault) would be carrying out. As far as he was aware, the role given to the Evangelions was simple; they were to march through the hole in the defences opened by the special operations troops, and a preliminary bombardment, and kill everything they saw that was shooting at them.

While it seemed to be something that he could handle, he couldn't really see the need for the Evangelions, as opposed to a conventional capital ship. Apparently, they had just given up on the pretence that he was merely a “Test Pilot”, and were using him as a frontline asset. If that was the case, he was going to have another look at that contract that his father had him sign. He was pretty sure that they weren't allowed to do that.

Also, weren't you meant to have legal representatives or your guardian with you when you signed a contract? Shinji was pretty sure that you were meant to, especially when you were still below the age of 18.

Oh. Right. My father was there. The bastard.

I wonder if he feels proud about tricking his own son into something that allows him to be used as a soldier.


He zoned back in. The briefing was coming to an ending, as the impenetrable morass of military terminology thinned. The questions from the floor had been especially bad; he hadn't even understood the questions, let alone the answers, although the green arrows which had appeared on the map in response were at least intelligible. It wasn't like how it was in films, at all.

“This concludes the strategic briefing for Operation CATO. All those not involved in the operations of Task Force Nero are now released. Please return all devices to the bins by the door, and do not reactivate wireless devices until you have left the EM Dead Zone.”

The vast majority of the officers in the room filed out, now that they had received their briefing. A buzz of communication filled the air, the lack of an echo in the sound-proofed room altering the acoustics oddly; giving an almost metallic hum to the sussuration of voices. Misato could see the eyes of many of the passing members of the military flick to the ground of seats where the Evangelion members sat, the buzz intensifying as they passed the group. The black-haired woman winced internally, even as she kept her face professional and calm.

Damn. I told them that the Children would be noticed if we took them into a proper briefing. Did they listen? No. The Project may have gone public, but everything about it is classified. Like the fact that we're using, there were no two ways about it, using teenagers as front-line soldiers. She sighed. I just hope they can run a proper damage control about it. It wouldn't be fair on Shinji to have to put up with the publicity. Much as Asuka might like it. I don't know what Rei would think about it; I think she understands the concept of “like”.

That's not quite fair. She does have a personality. It's just not one that I understand.

Her eyes scanned the rapidly emptying room. Who else was staying? About a quarter of the group from the NEGN; those would be the naval units that would be providing fire support, plus the air units operating from those ships. Oddly, hardly anyone from the Army. That was very strange. Quite a lot of the representatives from the GIA; that didn't surprise her. The New Earth Government's intelligence service was one of the groups that had been pushing for CATO the hardest, according to the rumours she had heard. They were worried that too much attention on the Migou was permitting the Dagonites too much time to build up their numbers of Hybrids. After all, Hybrids took anywhere from thirty to seventy years to fully enter the water, so their “supply-lines” (it hurt to describe the atrocities which were the rape camps in that manner) were very vulnerable to disruption. Most of the representatives from the Ministry of War had left; only what looked like the highest ranking ones remained. And the Engel staff had left, too. What was going on?

And then she saw him, high balding forehead and short black hair over a set of thin, somewhat aristocratic features. The brainwave monitors which they had made all the parapsychics in the room wear was clutched around his skull like a metallic insect.

He was looking straight at her, and indeed gave a little smile of acknowledgement.

Oh no. No. No. No.

What's
he doing here?!

Misato felt her pulse quicken. Whether out of terror, anger, or something else, she wasn't sure. What she was sure of was that she didn't want to be in the same building as him.

Sitting on her left, Shinji noticed the change in his guardian's expression. Her face was locked into a mask of something unrecognisable; horrifically atavistic in the raw emotions that flash across it. His eyes flicked down to her hands. Even in the somewhat dimly lit auditorium, he could see blood swelling up from her palms, where her nails were digging into her balled fists.

“Uh...Misato?” he said, softly. This was worrying. He hadn't seen her this angry since... well, since Kaji had shown up for that meeting at Chicago-2. And even then, the emotions hadn't quite been this raw. That had been a human rage. This was something more primitive, deeper rooted. “Misato!” he said, a little louder. She still didn't respond.

The boy looked to his left. “Rei?” he said. “Uh, Misato's...” He trailed off. The white-haired girl was locked still; the muscles in her neck straining and her head actually shaking slightly with each pulse of blood through her arteries. He leant forwards, genuinely worried; a worry which only increased when he saw that her eyes were dilated to their maximum, her grey irises almost non-existent. “Rei!” he said loudly, getting glances from all around the auditorium.

The sidoci turned her head, eyes shrinking back down as she focussed at him with one of her characteristic stares. “I am fine,” she said, in a monotone which, if possible, was even more dead that usual.

Shinji paused. “Okay,” he said eventually.

From behind him, he heard Asuka say, “Misato? Are you all right?”

Rei leant forwards. “She is fine. She is merely experiencing a series of extremely strong emotions. These include anger, regret, lust, existential terror, nostalgia...”

The emotionless words served, somehow, to break the woman's behaviour. Her hands relaxed, the blood from the cut palms oozing out onto her trousers, and she closed her eyes, eyelids still.

Suddenly, with incredible swiftness, she swirled to face the First Child, leaning forwards past Shinji to meet Rei's cold gaze with her own anger-filled stare.

“Get. Out. Of. My. Mind,” hissed the Major, face reddening, fingers twitching as she slotted each word into place.

“I used no parapsychic abilities,” replied Rei, in what approached a conversational tone. “It was merely observation. In addition, as you are aware, Major, I lack the ability to read thoughts. You have full access to this,” she added, tapping the spider-like device that wrapped around her skull, “should you wish to confirm it, either way. ”

There was an uncomfortable silence as Misato looked away first. Both Asuka and Shinji shuddered simultaneously, as they, only by its absence, did they notice that an odd static had been building in the air.

The sides of the mouth of the man, who had promoted that emotional response in Misato, inched upwards . He did not care that Rei had locked gazes with him; he met her stare and held it. The smile faded, his face becoming as impassive as hers.

A cough echoed around the amphitheatre-like room, amplified by loud-speakers. “Is this thing working... apparently so.” A woman stood on the stage at the minute, a dark figure even in the light. She was an exceptionally dark-skinned Nazzadi, clad in an immaculately pressed black suit. The cut was such that almost no skin was exposed; the collar high and tight around the neck, a pair of white gloves poking out from her sleeves. She had no facial tattoos, no visible piercings, and her undyed black hair was the natural colour of her sub-species. Even with her straight in front of him, Shinji would have been hard pressed to describe her, so devoid was she of identifying characteristics.

“I am Director Khoury, of Special Services.” That was all the identity she gave herself. That was all that was needed.

Special Services did not exist. It was not the penultimate branch of NEG authority, a black-books agency which was assigned to threats of a cosmic and/or metaphysical level. Their field agents were not almost, to a man, sorcerers and parapsychics, and they were not expressly given permission to ignore the NEG laws on summoning and binding extra-normal entities, consorting with Outsiders, use of parapsychic abilities on innocents, and registering their powers. They were not granted latitude to break the laws that even the OIS had to follow. The agency did not largely recruit from individuals arrested by the OIS, from among those who dabbled in the otherworldly and managed to remain both human and sane, and certainly did not subject them to extensive neuromodification, genetherapy and other illegal techniques developed in collaboration with top-secret Ashcroft Groups to ensure that they were both loyal and the best that they could be.

After all, Special Services did not exist.

They were, however, the men-in-black who conspiracy theorists whispered about and cultists dreaded.

“Operation CATO does not exist to reclaim Iceland,” she stated, simply. “The island is not worth the resources we are committing here, especially since the Migou will, if our estimates are correct, reconquer the territory from us in three years, assuming median predictions. Neither is it worth the resources that the Esoteric Order of Dagon committed in 2082 when we look at what use they have made of the territory. They may have transformed it into a mature breeding colony, but the assets produced, with their thirty-to-seventy year maturation period, are not worth the costs they suffer from holding a territory so close to the Migou-controlled Arctic and our European territories. This has proven a long-standing mystery in GIA long-term predictions, and so our attention was drawn to it.”

She took a deep breath.

“In 2089, we found our answer. We planted false evidence in Santander about Iceland, and leaked it to a local cult we knew was controlled by the Dagonites. The response was immediate and unexpected. The Order launched a full assault on the enclave, overwhelming the local defences. Only the fact that the aerial insertion specialist task force, Valkyrie, were undergoing repairs in the Barcelona Arcology, prevented the loss of the location. During the fight for the city, our agents managed to capture a number of high-ranking Deep One priests, including one of the direct subordinates of the Star-Spawn leading the assault. When the subject was... well, subjected, to neurovivisection, we found that the Esoteric Order of Dagon believes that there is an exceptionally powerful entity under either bound or sleeping under Iceland. If the mythological and esoteric correspondences are correct (and we believe them to be so, with a high degree of certainty), the Order is correct. And they are attempting to either bind or summon this entity, which we have, under the Andrianov Protocols, code-named ''Moloch''.”

The map in the middle of the room reactivated, but the focus was different this time. It was not centred on Iceland, but instead under Iceland, thousands of kilometres below the surface.

“To be blunt, we believe we have found the resting place of an example of the sub-group of entities, which, also under the Protocols, are referred to as ''Heralds''. You are reminded that the Andrianov terminology is to be used consistently in any discussion of this operation.”

Shinji gasped. He was not alone in doing so, although he did note that the lack of reaction from Misato suggested that she had already known.

They've... actually found one when it's not trying to kill us.

Well, I suppose that's why they wanted the Evangelions. They want us to kill it. But it looks like it's living in molten rock! That's impossible! Nothing could live down there!


He belatedly remembered that Heralds laughed at little things like “impossible”, and went far beyond it. And groaned as a terrible thought struck him.

... they're going to want us to go swimming in lava, aren't they? He frowned. Could you even swim in lava? Wasn't there some kind of problem? Beyond the obvious, that it was molten rock, something about densities?

He wasn't sure.

The black-suited woman at the front continued. “When we knew where to look, examination of old records, back from just after the discovery of A-Theory, showed an oddity roughly 2900 kilometres down, right at the base of the Icelandic Plume. With modern Arcane Theory, and knowledge of the performance of the extra-normal phenomenon known as the AT-Field in empirical conditions, it was found that it matched the theoretical description of a low strength AT-Field, with a maximum, roughly circular, cross-sectional area of around 8000 square kilometres, or, to put it another way, a circle with a radius of about 50 kilometres.” The woman paused, red eyes scanning the on-lookers in the mostly emptied auditorium. “The interaction between this AT-Field and the boundary between the core and the mantle is, we believe may be what produces the Icelandic Plume. It matches several prophecies, even through they're veiled in primitivist mythology. To put it another way, Iceland only exists because of the target's presence”

There was utter silence in the room. This was a high level briefing. Most of the individuals present knew a little of the extra-normal history of the Earth in vague terms; that wars more suited for science fiction had been fought between non-terrestrial beings before the most recent common ancestor of the mammals and the reptiles had lived. But such a scale; that there was an ancient, inhuman being up against the very core of the planet, whose presence had shifted geology, was extremely disconcerting. Compared to the constancy of such a thing, asleep for hundreds of millions of years, the surface of the Earth flowed like water, mountains growing and eroding like ripples of water on a lake.

It made humanity look very unimportant. Short-lived and unimportant.

“Despite the magnitude of these finding, it still remained low priority, because none of the prophecy-deduced criteria for its awakening had been fulfilled. Assuming it was the cause of the plume, it has remained in its current location for between 58 and 66 million years.” The woman sighed, a somewhat forced, almost mechanical noise. “And, no, we do not believe that it came to Earth in the KT meteorite, before anyone asks. It is possible, however, that it may have chosen to hibernate in the aftermath of that event and the mass extinction that had followed. Perhaps it can only maintain activity while it has worshippers which permit its higher dimensional body to cause a projection into the World of Elements. Perhaps the asteroid was the work of non-terrestrial intelligences, in a targeted strike against it. We are merely speculating here. The point is, there is a Herald-class entity down there. And with the recent appearances of other such beings; the one identified as Asherah on the 19th of August, Kathirat on the 25th of September, Mot on the 5th of October, Yam (that one appeared to attack Chicago-2 itself) on the 12th of October, and Shalim-Shachar on the 18th of October, it has been felt that we can not tolerate the possibility of it waking. Especially since it appears that the Order of Dagon is attempting to either control or ally themselves with it. Bluntly, that is unacceptable.

And so we in Special Services managed to persuade High Command that our worries about the Esoteric Order of Dagon were founded. From occult calculations, the next lesser conjunction which would permit the release or awakening of this entity at full strength is at 07:29 GMT, on the 13th of November, although it is possible, that it could be summoned within up to two weeks, either side of the date, with a corresponding lack of awareness and power. It would be still potent, but much reduced; almost half-dead, were the ritual to be carried out then.”

The Director left a suitably melodramatic pause.

“So that's exactly what we are going to do. Task Force Nero exists to punch a hole through the Dagonite lines, doing as much damage as possible while the Evangelions move to secure the ritual site. We intend to take the Herald alive. Such an achievement would be, in the long run, a potential turning point in the Aeon War. Quite apart from the fact that we would have subverted the Dagonites plan and stolen it for ourselves, the things that could potentially be learned from such a being are, quite frankly, astounding. Where they're coming from. What they want. A way to kill them all.”

A sussuration arose among the audience, from those who had not been informed of this beforehand.

“Special Services will deploy specialised sorcerers, once the site of the ritual is found, and carry it out as soon as possible, to ensure that the creature is as weak as possible when it wakes. Should that fail, the Evangelion Units will be on hand to terminate the target, as they have all previous such beings. Should that fail, Special Services has the authority to deploy unlimited-yield nuclear weapons in order to see the destruction of a Herald-type entity.”

The AR projection disappeared.

“CATO is just a cover-up for Nero. We will succeed in this, or the damage done to our strategic, global position, will be cataclysmic.”



~'/|\'~




The four friends were back in Major Bikija's quarters. There was silence, until the door was closed.

“You saw them?” asked Bikija, running a hand over his shaven scalp.

Captain Jolery, of the Wuveni, nodded, her once jet-black hair now an iron grey. Her destroyer was named after one of the vessels, originally of the Nazzadi invasion fleet, which had been destroyed in the desperate battles at the start of the Second Arcanotech War, where the Navy had almost been completely destroyed in its failed attempts to maintain orbital supremacy. “It's... disgusting,” she said, finally, in a thick Nazzadi accent. “They looked to be in their mid-teens, iyol dwa destrayi,” she swore. “It is not right.”

“Very much,” interjected Lieutenant Colonel Natasha Putin. She snorted. “I'm just glad that they've been assigned to one of the secondary assaults. I wouldn't want a teenager in charge of a capital-grade unit, full stop. I really don't want a teenager in charge of a capital-grade unit right behind my battalion.” There was a collective shudder all around.

Bikija winced. “At least your troops have a chance of surviving if they panic and shots go stray. You think my boys' powered armour is going to hold up to the lightest weapon that something that size is armed with? What the hell are they thinking, putting children in that kind of situation?”

“That's actually a point,” Jolery said, her eyes narrowing. “How exactly are they packing capital grade firepower into something that small? I've made my way up, and I've commanded frigates.” There was a pause, in which the others looked at her, waiting for the woman to make her point. She sighed. “Frigates which couldn't throw out that grade of firepower. Frigates which were 170m long. What I'd like to know is, dwa jerunta are they fitting in that kind of weaponry into a forty metre tall mech?”

The final and youngest woman in the room, the missile officer on the Unity, finally spoke. “That's actually a real problem,” said Yukwiny. “How are they getting the power?”

“It's got to be some kind of improvement in the D-Engine. It's got to be,” said Natasha. “They can't be just devoting more mass to engines, because there's some kind of problem that happens when too many get too close together.” She frowned. “I wish we had an arcanotechnician here who could explain it. I'm not sure I remember it right.”

“No, there's some kind of problem,” confirmed Bikija. “Not I understand it, but there's some reason.” He smiled wryly. “I'm neither smart nor insane enough to understand it, though.”

There were snickers.

“But did you see the other problem. I think it's maybe more disgusting, if it's happening”, continued Yukwiny. “The only reason I'm not considering resigning is I don't think it could be true. I mean, they wouldn't let them do it. There are laws.”

Jolery frowned. “I know. Those things are much bigger than normal Engels. What are they using underneath?”

The only human in the room, a survivor of the Fall of Russia, nodded. “I've worked with Engel formations before. The things they use would only come up to those things knees. The largest ones, too.”

Yukwiny sucked in air through her chisel-like teeth. “Actually, not that.” She paused. “Listen to yourself. You're worrying about the smaller stuff. None of you are asking yourself how the fuck the SWD got its hands on an entire Corps of troops trained to a high level and fully proficient in powered armour and those “Heavy Armour” units that they mentioned.”

There was silence.

“A Corp?” said Bikija, finally, breaking the hush. “Might it just be an experimental training unit?”

“Yeah, I bet that's what they want us to think. But, an entire Corps? Not likely. That's far too big for a 'training unit'. ”

There were noises of discontent from around the room, as they thought it over.

“Maybe the troops don't really exist,” suggested Natasha. “That's the most logical suggestion. They're a cover for a GIA op; some kind of special forces thing.”

Jolery nodded. “That's sensible, yeah. I could see that happening. If they're doing something big... and it'd have to be big, if they're using prototype things like those Eva-Engels things, then,” he shrugged, “maybe it's higher clearance than even the rest of the operation.”

“Higher clearance than Code SANDALPHON?” asked Bikija, doubt in his voice. “I don't think that really exists. That was just an excuse to get the other Task Forces out of the room.”

“They just don't tell us grunts... well, us fairly high-ranking officers, nothing,” joked Natasha.

Jolery continued, “Or maybe they just didn't want everyone to know exactly how powerful the Eva-Engels they're using are. If three of them can take down a place like that on their own, they're some kind of superweapon. I mean, dwa jerunta, my destroyer would get slagged by the number of capital-grade lasers they've got packed into the bay before I could get a shot off. I think they'd be a problem even for an Invictus-class. Not that they've even finished one yet.”

Yukwiny's eyes remained narrow. “It makes sense, yes. I just don't like it. I don't trust the Ashcroft Foundation. And now they've got Engels and those Eva things; a proper heavy strike force. I don't like the fact that they're like some kind of major part of government, when they're just a private company. They shouldn't be able to have their own army.”

Natasha shrugged. “That's just paranoia. If the NEG suffers, they suffer too. That's just common sense; they're not some evil group secretly trying to hold the world for ransom. We have enough of them in real life without making up more, although they mostly want to have us all worshipping extra-normal entities.” She paused, her stomach rumbling. “Come on. If we stay cramped up in here, throwing ideas at each other, we'll go crazy. And I'm hungry. Let's find if there's a place in this damn base that does food that doesn't leave you feeling worse than before you ate it.”

“There's always the default ration packs, you know.”

The human raised her hands in protest. “It may be all right for you Navy types, with your fancy meals. Me, I'm not that desperate.”



~'/|\'~



The clock on the PCPU on his wrist said that it was 23:27. He sighed, and let the arm flop back down.

Shinji lay on his back, staring up at the unfamiliar ceiling. The overhead light was still on, though turned down low. It was too dark in the room, otherwise. The darkness was everywhere, reminding him of how everything was just a paper thin layer over the... no! He wasn't to think like that! The world was real.

He yawned. Every time it looked like he was about to get to sleep, those thoughts, unbidden, began to creep back into his head. And so he had no choice but to stare up at the unfamiliar ceiling, the smooth surface identical to so many others in the vast base, hidden underground beneath a normal forwards position. There were so many people here; the three Children, left alone apart from the omnipresent guards, had found their way through their explanation of the underground coiling labyrinth, a spiral built around a central core (from which the capital ships would emerge when it came to move out). He, at least, had felt very young and small among this mass of soldiers and sailors and pilots. And there had been whispers, too; he had been sure of it, the quiet sussuration of hundreds of voices drawn towards something unusual and rare.

Misato had mentioned that they were trying to keep the Children's identities concealed. He was sure that was going to fail, that after this, any hope of a normal life would be gone.

If you can call this a normal life he thought. This time tomorrow, I'm going to be already drowning in something that tastes too much like blood for comfort, inside an arcanocyber... arcanomechabiological... part-flesh, part-machine robot, to kill cultists and fish-men, so that we can stop the fish-men from summoning an ancient creature that lives up against the planet's core. And we're stopping them from doing it so we can summon it ourselves. So we can capture/kill/kill with nuclear weapons it.

When he put it like this, the whole thing sounded insane. By past precedent, though, plans which sounded insane actually had a remarkably good success rate when the Evangelions were involved.

Shinji was fairly sure that he wasn't usually this cynical.

Wow. This might be how Dr Akagi feels all the time.

But less crazy.


And, eventually, just as the clock bleeped quarter to midnight, he drifted off to sleep.



~'/|\'~




3rd November, 2091


The thundering of the train beat out a staccato rhythm in the dark tunnel.

And that in itself was unusual, as Shinji had only ever seen old-fashioned trains in films. The noise he associate with a train was the quiet hum of an A-Pod propelling it over the magnetic rails, and that only if you were near the engine.

The inside of the train, despite the anachronistic method of movement, was perfectly modern, a duplicate of an ArcTransit carriage, the mainstay of the mass transit systems of the arcologies. Well, lit, with comfortable seats. This one was clean too, the pale blue floor and white walls spotless.

He looked through the window. Outside, it was pitch black. No, he thought. Pitch wasn't like this. This was too dark, a Stygian night which filled all around the train like an oil made of the concentrate essence of the night sky, that utter darkness that was only given by gazing into eternity.

The wall of the tunnel was less than a metre away. Who could have known that eternity could be encompassed in such a small length?

He did. He was sure that he'd seen it before.
Instinctively, Shinji knew that the darkness... the dark walls were malevolent. No, that was not the right word. Malevolence implied intent, a care for what might be done. Malevolence required sapience.

Call it anathema, then, if you were to apply the futility of human labels to such a thing. But no label, no tag could truly describe that which ran less than a metre from the glass against which Shinji Ikari had pressed his face, the beat of the tracks a pounding rhythm that filled his head and matched his heart.

He pulled his face away from the glass. No breath marks were left on the glass, despite the temperature on the train, akin to that of a cool autumnal day. Curiously, he reached out one blue-grey hand and and poked a finger through the glass, which proved to be nothing of the kind, a fractured network of arachnid threads that shone like illuminated diamond. With one clean movement he tore through the shining lattice, and tensed his legs, ready to throw himself out into the darkness.

He blinked twice, a haunting sense of deja vu pressing against the back of his skull. His hand rested flat against the glass, pale skin the only point of contrast against a dark background.

What is going on? he thought, with a strange lucidity that overlay the rising panic. What is going on? What is going on? With the hand... and the window... and everything. Why I am I here?

He had to keep away from the dark. The dark was evil... strange... wrong, in every possible way. And he'd seen it before.

He looked up and down the carriage. At one end, to his left, the number '25' was illuminated in scarlet. At the other end, its twin read '26'.

The staccato beat of the train grew louder and louder, faster and faster, synchronised with his heartbeat so that he could not tell where one began and the other ended. As the train sped up, his heart thumped louder and louder, for such speed merely took him faster and faster into the unknown (and, indeed,unknowable), rushing through an eternity of void-wrapped tunnels with no way of seeing what lay ahead.

Or was the train speeding up as he grew more afraid, the terror that now gripped his body and mind empowering this strange place?

Or was there no difference? Was he the train, running into darkness, no clue of what lay ahead?

No. He wasn't. This was that dream again, he realised, a sudden moment of clarity rushing into his head. Every time he'd done this before, every time he'd woken screaming silently, every panic-stricken mindless flight came back to him. He was never going to repeat this cycle of fear and darkness, if he could stop it.

In fact, it meant he was making progress, according to the Ashcroft psychotherapist. One of the important steps in ridding yourself of recurring nightmares was realising that they were recurring nightmares, and thus escape from the script. They couldn't hurt you, after all.

It was probably for the best, all in all, that Shinji hadn't been told that there were indeed nightmares that hurt kill you, where the goetic nocturnal wanderings became lethal when the mind strayed into the devoured remnants of the Dreamlands. But in this case, ignorance was bliss, and indeed safety, as knowledge of such things increased the chance of their occurrence.

He had made up his mind, though. He was going to stay here, in this carriage, until the dream stopped. He wasn't going to flee through the doors, through an endless repetition of 25 and 26, because he knew where that ended. Shinji noted too, that as he calmed down, the train slowed. Carefully, controlling his breathing, he sat down in the middle of the floor, and waited.

The boy wasn't sure how long it was before the whispering started. There was no way to keep track of time, and it seemed he wasn't wearing his peek. The words were indistinct, hushed resonances which echoed in a way that, if the dream had been internally consistent, they really shouldn't have. The cadences were unfamiliar, soft, and, he was pretty sure, female.

He closed his eyes and tried to stay calm. Perhaps if he could get calm enough, it would stop, and he could get off.

To where? a voice in his head asked. To the darkness outside? At least the train is safe, even if it isn't real. With a shock, he realised it was his own, from his own mouth, and the realisation sped the clattering beat up again.

And the door behind him, the one marked “26” hummed open, red light spilling out, so that his body cast a long, dark shadow in the crimson illumination.

His heart beat sped up again, and the train ran ever faster. He wasn't going to look, though. This was obviously the dream trying to get back on track, forcing him to flee.

Shinji concentrated on breathing, one deep breath followed by another; in and out, in and out.

He heard a soft footstep from behind him, a pause, then another; the flap of skin on solid ground. Another one. Then another. Getting closer and closer as they did, accompanied by the whispers, the female voice remaining indistinct even as it got louder.

A shadow emerged over the shoulder of his own shadow, hair hanging loose around an unseen face. Hyperventilating, Shinji began to whimper, the terror almost overwhelming. But he would not look! Ignorance was better! He wouldn't be having the nightmares if he hadn't seen that terrible coruscating blackness, which writhed in its stillness and painted the dark shades of an imaginary and non-existent rainbow over the back of his retina.

He would not look!

A cold hand touched him on the shoulder...

... and gave him a moderately hard push, rolling him over to the side. The boy curled up into a foetal ball, too scared to even scream, and then realised that he was lying down. On a bed. In a room that most certainly wasn't a train carriage.

The bed bounced, as someone else climbed in beside him, cold legs brushing up against his. When he shivered and flinched away, they were expansionist in their imperialism, claiming the newly vacated territories for their own. The hot breath against his neck, rapidly slowing and becoming the regular breaths of the unconscious, was a contrast to that, and yet annoying in its own way. It would have woken him up, if it hadn't been for the nightly terrors it had interrupted, and for that, he was almost pathetically grateful. It was worth a few minor inconveniences to be freed from the terrors of his own sleeping mind.

But he remained scared; irrationally so. The adrenaline and sweat from the nightmare did not go away that easily, and morbid thoughts continued to pass through his mind. What exactly had climbed into bed with him? Uh, he meant 'Who?'. Not 'What?'. Because of course it had to be a person.

He turned, eyes clamped almost shut.

Asuka's face, one eye half-open was what faced him. He looked down. Asuka, in what looked like a very lose shirt, which showed a remarkable amount of cleavage, had climbed into his bed.

Shinji froze.

She didn't look like she was awake, despite the fact that an eye was open. He waved a hand in front of her face; she didn't track it. Okay, she slept with an eye partially open. That didn't make sense. That had not been what he was expecting. He wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but that hadn't been it. Come to think of it, he hadn't been expecting anyone to climb into bed at all.

Oh. That made sense. He hadn't woken up. He'd just managed to break the nightmare. This must still be a dream, right?

Right?

He looked back at her face. In the greyness of the dimly lit room (had she turned down his lights?), she looked different. Softer in repose, perhaps. Oddly unAsuka-like. Her hair was loose, trailing down over her shoulders, one strand, a darker shade of grey in the night, hanging down across her face.

She really was attractive, Shinji thought. Oh, he was aware of it normally, but this was different. Removed of her force of personality, the beauty because more vulnerable, and somehow much younger.

Those lips looked very tempting.

Shinji blinked and swallowed, unconsciously running his tongue over his lips. She mimicked the action, leaving her own lips glinting in the traces of light in the room. He ached to lean in and kiss her, the body overriding the reluctances in his mind.

He closed his eyes, and leant forwards.

He would have done it, too, had Asuka not whispered, softly, “Mama.”

The words, so soft in cadence, nevertheless chilled him, and he pulled back; a Caesar afraid of the Rubicon. Stupid, stupid, stupid! What had he been about to do?”

Mama! Wer ist das andere Mädchen, Mama? Wie heißt sie?

Shinji rolled over, staring at the blank wall.

She's just the same, he thought, as the bitter vitriol of self-loathing transmuted into anger which kept him awake for too long. Just another Child.

By the time he woke up in the morning, she was gone.



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-09-30 07:08am
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~'/|\'~




Gendo Ikari climbed down the ladder, down to the ORACLE chamber, for its morning check. He was dressed only in an undyed cotton jumpsuit; an anonymous garment which would be destroyed as soon as it was removed. Even his characteristic glasses were gone.

The need for electromagnetic isolation for the ORACLE was that great. All the power came from within, from the Class “A” D-Engine, most commonly used in capital ships; waste heat was disposed of through a carefully designed thermal superconductor which dumped the energy into the planet's mantle. Nothing could else be permitted to leave or enter the triple layer of insulating shells which lay underneath the Geocity. Not under that bit of the subterranean arcology, of course; the security precautions there were even greater. But, nevertheless, the other product of Project Magi, was both vulnerable and dangerous, for what it could know and what it was.

Only two people ever entered this room. Ritsuko did not know that this place existed; it had been designed by her mother, and Gendo had never felt it necessary to tell the younger Doctor Akagi about it. Even Fuyutsuki never came here, although that was more from personal fear than an actual prohibition. The old man was terrified of the ORACLE; he had made that abundantly clear to Gendo. Though he would use the data that it produced, he wanted nothing to do with the actual device.

The mistake that the Deputy Representative made was in assuming that the senior Ikari was not terrified by the ORACLE as well.

Who could not be?

The place was not lit in the actinic white of most of the other high security places. The blue lighting, almost painful in the way that it flickered at the edge of vision, shone down on unpainted metal tubes and wiring, all against the mirrored interior of the sphere. The shining white walls were absent entirely. The air stank of hot metal and gunpowder, that odour of utter, micromachine-enforced sterility.

The prohibition against sharp angles was still there, of course. For the ORACLE, such a restriction was particularly important. It was one of the most threatened by the things that would have used such an entry as a passageway into what the monkey-brain laughably called reality.

Gendo reached the bottom, and stepped away from the bars, flexing his shoulders as he undid the harness. He slumped down onto one of the hard chairs, and reached up, reflexively moving to sweep his hair to the right. He stopped when his hand hit the hard, waxy covering which had been sprayed on in the first airlock. Loose hair would have broken the sterility policies. Instead, he rubbed his head against one shoulder, breathing heavily. Although he wasn't in the same shape as he had been in his twenties (although, hells, who was once you got to this age?), he wasn't that unfit as to need a rest after such a short climb.

No, it was the burns. They were spreading, after another accident with ... with the object. The first thing to go had been the freshly grown skin, transplanted after the accident with Unit 00 back in August. It seemed so long ago, now.

He smiled faintly, irony twisting his features into a self-mocking grimace. A lot had happened since then.

It was more severe on his left arm than his right. On the right, it had only fully covered his hand, the surges of things that man was not meant to play with leaving streaks of necrotic flesh, like claw marks, running up his arm. The left was worse. He had looked at it this morning, and had thrown up as the scent of rotting flesh and... other things clawed at his nostrils.

I'm sorry, Yui. I cannot keep it like this. I will have to rest for a while to recover. Graft more flesh on. You might have been able to keep on. I can't.

Sometimes he liked to think that she talked back to him, in the ORACLE room. He knew that was only a self-delusion. Yui Ikari had not even known about ORACLE, although she had provided some of its vital components. No, the real reason he came down here, sometimes, Gendo admitted to himself, was for the silence. And the guarantee that no-one was listening in.

He had been so lonely. For twelve years. There had been other women, yes (and a lot of them, if he were to admit it to himself); they had talked about it before... it had happened. She had given him her permission, just as he had given her his.

But they hadn't been her. They hadn't been his Yui.

He sat for a while, his heavy, pained breathing the only noise. The D-Engine was silent, and the conventional processors in the ORACLE were swathed in superfluidic helium, kept only a few microkelvin above absolute zero, within the innermost sphere in the centre of the room. The platform on which he currently sat ran around the equator of the sphere.

And then, widely dispersed around the circumference, were the Nodes. Labelled from 003 to 024, they were the reason for the isolation. The core, at the centre, was similar to the conventional parts of 'just' another Magi-type supercomputer, which was to say, a machine less lethal and uncontrollable than an Evangelion. That was a bit of a relief for Project Group Evangelion. They were still dangerous, but the danger was more of a potentiality; what others (less responsible or well-intentioned than himself, Gendo thought, with only a trace of irony) could do with them, and their raw computing power.

But the Nodes. The Nodes were special.

Dangerous.

Unique.

And useful. So very useful.

Of course, the masses of useless text generated by the Nodes, flicking through hideous amounts of data fed to them, was fed into the Magi-like component of the ORACLE

But this cycle had been different. All twenty-two Nodes had only produced three words. Three identical words.

THE MOTHER STIRS

Gendo stared at the words, as if they would disappear if he looked away. Perhaps they would. He tried it, as an experiment; they remained visible and consistent.

This was worrying. Such a degree of correlation had never been seen before on the ORACLE.

But what does it mean? There are far too many entities that could be described as “the mother” for any single action to be taken.

And so he began to prepare for the worst, even as he hoped for the best.



~'/|\'~




Shinji sat, nursing a cup of caffeinated tea. Actually, the tea was surprisingly not-bad, which wasn't, by any means, the same as being good. He took a sip. English was rather odd in those regards, as a language. You would have thought that “not-bad” was the same as good. Yet this tea most certainly proved that this was not the case.

He still took another sip, though, and glanced over at Asuka.

He hadn't said anything to her yet. Well, he hadn't really had the chance. It was only breakfast, after all; a fairly late one at that. The Children were not needed for anything in this final run up, and so merely had to report to the place that Misato had told them when she sent the message. Rei was not here, and so it was only him and Asuka, sat alone at a table while the stream of other adults through the feeding hall packed themselves onto crammed benches.

He could feel the eyes on him, by the way that the hair in the back of his neck stood up. It was putting him off his food, the attention from those individuals who could see that they were too young-looking. Especially him.

It was enough to induce a case of severe paranoia.

Putting down the cup, he poked at the porridge. It was a carefully engineered meal, designed to provide a perfectly balanced diet for individuals subjected to combat-levels of stress. It was also, because he hadn't been eating it fast enough, cold, with roughly the same consistency as mucus. Shinji forced himself to take a spoonful, and swallow, rejecting the gag reflex.

Why did I get this, anyway? I don't even like porridge!

Asuka fixed him with a stare. “Go ahead, eat it. You'll let it get cold.”

“It's already cold,” he said, wincing.

“Well, that's because you're an idiot and didn't eat it fast enough,” she said heartlessly. “Honestly, you should make it more at home. It's proper food.”

“But it's so bland.”

“Blandness has its place. Unless you're some kind of overstimulated fool who can't tolerate things which aren't brightly coloured.”

“Just wait a moment,” he retorted. “You've said my clothing is boring before.”

“Well it is. Pretty much everything is black, white, or some shade of blue, and you don't even have much with topicals on them.”

“And you don't see any kind of... well, contradiction between the two statements?”

Asuka shook her head. “Nope. Because this is me, and that is you.”

The unashamed hypocrisy left Shinji somewhat breathless. And entirely impossible to come up with a response which didn't sound ridiculous.

Why wouldn't she chose how she wanted to treat him? They could get along passably, and then he'd do something, or say something, and she'd start belittling him. Were all girls this complicated to be around?

Nevertheless he was going to push his luck, in pursuit of information. “Asuka?”

“Yes?”

“Why did you...” he coughed, “um... come through to my room last night?”

He saw her freeze. “What are you talking about?” she said cautiously,which in itself was a dead give-away.

“You woke me up when you pushed me over,” he said, staring at her face for the subtle cues. This wouldn't work on Rei, he idly thought, before he brought his mind back to the subject at hand. “Why did you get into bed with me?”

“Don't say it like that!” she hissed back at him, looking around for anyone who might be listening.

“But it's true.”

“Not in that tone of voice, it isn't!”

“Fine.” He thought. “Why did you come though?” he hazarded.

Asuka looked away, blushing slightly, before staring back at him. “If you must know, it was because I couldn't sleep. It's that... well... Rei snores. Really loudly.”

Shinji dropped his spoon. It landed with a splat. He worked his mouth a few times. “Really?” he finally managed, incredulously. “That's it?”

Asuka nodded. “Yes,” she lied.



~'/|\'~




“Ah, Malia. You're back. How was the experience?”

“Oh, very interesting, Anton. Very interesting indeed. I can definitely see why you wanted me for that.”

“You saw her?”

“Yes. The resemblance is uncanny. Although where that man is involved, I think I've ceased to be surprised. Do you think there is anything he hasn't considered in pursuit of his goals?”

“You have the samples.”

It was not a question.

“Oh yes.”

“Good. We'll see what they show.”

“From my observations, I don't think that the thing we feared has happened. Yet.”

“That, at least, is something.”



~'/|\'~




Director Alice Wade, of Project Group Herkunft, stood, staring out over the deployment chamber. From above, it resembled nothing more than a giant circuit board, a hierarchical network of interlinked components. And perhaps that was what it was.

The lesser components were in place. Now it was time for the... comparatively risky part. Not that anything was going to go wrong, she reminded herself; the trinary kill-switches were in place. In case of an emergency, the Secondary Commander could be cut from the network, the command protocols they were implementing routed through the other Secondary Commanders and the Primary Commander, Subject Perseus himself. And if that failed to remove the components functionality and they moved to a cascade incident, or, even worse, a synchronicity incident, the kill-switch would become literal.

“Director Wade,” the man beside her asked, licking his lips, “we require your authorisation to initialise the Secondary Commander Components.”

Almost absent-mindedly, her gaze drifted to his slicked-back hair. It wasn't natural hair, she could see; the man had obviously had a scalp transplant to get it that shade of red. Especially when she took his Hispanic ethnicity into account. Unless he dyed it, of course, but it looked too natural, too good for that to have happened. It was funny the way the overhead lights, dimmed as they were looking through a one-way mirror, shimmered as he shifted.

Alice realised what she was doing, and removed the AR glasses she was wearing, massaging the bridge of her noise with sweat-slicked fingers. She had been wearing these glasses for too long, through this entire set-up procedure, and now negative images were dancing in front of her eyes, of the data-files and system linkages of the floor below in superposed red and blue.

Some people were able to wear AR glasses all the time, without eventually getting distracted and getting headaches from the immaterial solids that they displayed. She wasn't one of them. It was an annoyance.

“Are the spinal PT-diodes all functioning?” she asked, for the fourth time today.

The man nodded. “They're all green.”

“And there are no immune responses to the most recent additions? No inflammation or fall in transmittance for C1, C2 or C6?”

There was another nod, this time with perhaps a hint of exasperation. “No. Remember, these five subjects have already had more spinal PT-diodes fitted than any of the other candidates. If they were going to have had an immune response, it would have happened before now.”

“Yes, but we can't be certain,” she snapped back. “Are you aware... of course you are, Barriso. You know damn well what would happen if one of them died in TAC start-up.” She paused, realising that she was almost shouting. “I'm sorry. I'm a little tense, especially with that,” she looked around, “that harpy from the SWD nagging on and on.”

One of the individuals seated at the computers around the room raised their head. “The Perseus team requests a status update,” he said. “They want to know why there hasn't been Paragon authorisation yet.”

There was a grimace, as he ignored the interruption. “I think everyone is a little stressed out, Director,” he replied. “Yes, to pre-empt your next question, the cerebral enhancements also remain stable. The refined neural implants from Project Group Achtzig are actually much smaller than the old Magi-type ones; we actually had to pad them out. Dr Sylveste has done a wonderful job with them. We're probably near the limit of what we can fit into a skull with modern electronics, without a specialised heat dissipation system. We could fit more in, but they'd just cook the brain.”

A younger woman, stress-related streaks of white through her fizzy light brown hair, poked her head in the door. “Are you talking about the DTAIN?” she asked.

Barriso nodded his head. “Yes,” he said to the Deputy Director of one of the subordinate projects in Project Group Herkunft. Of course, the term “subordinate” only referred to their status compared to the titular project, Herkunft; Project Harbinger was still of great importance. He lowered his voice. “Dr Schapira's been gushing over them for a fortnight,” he added to the Director, in a lowered voice. “I'm getting a little sick of it.”

“Well, you don't have to listen, then,” she called out, coming into the room properly. “I'm allowed to gush over them. They are amazing.” She paused, folding her arms in front of her body. “Anyway, I've come to, well, sort of off-the-record, suggest something to Dr Wade.”

Barriso glared at her. “Yes, and we're in the middle of start-up for the first mass combat deployment of the Project Eidelon troops. Can't it wait?”

The Deputy-Director of Project Harbinger stared at the Director of Project Eidelon. “Well, it's actually about one of our best animaneurobiologists being stolen...” she paused, “sorry, I meant, transferred to Project Schicksal. It's widely know that we're almost totally dependent on ANBs to find Harbinger candidates, and Project Harbinger as a whole certainly objects to the removal of such an asset. Especially when Jakaya won't even be moved to another pure Herkunft group, but instead isn't going to be available at all, thanks to the damn necromancers at the Amunet Group and their secrecy!”

Dr Esther Schapira paused, panting. She'd probably gone over the line there, but she didn't care. Harbinger may be getting overlooked due to the recent (eventual) success of Paragon, Eidelon and Perseus, but it was Harbinger which could reliably produce stable parapsychics, who were starting to be rolled out everywhere in very limited numbers, from the Task Forces to Ashcroft Public Relations and Legal.

“Another time,” snapped Dr Barriso. “We're in the middle of something. And,” he retorted, “don't think I've forgotten when your superior poached one of my best nanite programmers.”

Dr Wade sighed. It was like dealing with infants, really.

Ironic, that, she though, with a sight twist in her mouth as she stared, back turned to the fuss behind her, out over the deployment chamber.

But, really, that was always the way with scientists. She knew; she was one. Get a bunch of very intelligent people together, most of whom had doctorates, and make them fight over scarce resources (which in the Ashcroft Groups took mostly the form of high end researchers and arcanoengineers, rather than money), fray their sanity through exposure to things that man was not meant to know, add in a few more people who saw that as a challenge, and they suddenly have all the viciousness of the school ground sand-pit.

It was such a small, closed group, the really high-end research and development in the Ashcroft Projects, that it probably numbered around the size of the human monkey-sphere. About a hundred and fifty individuals, all competing for the same resources as each other, and all potentially able to carry grudges.

And once again, human evolutionary psychology plays against us, Alice thought, bringing up a list of names and checking the numbers beside them on her PCPU. She glanced over her shoulder, where it had degenerated to the man and woman throwing past grudges at each other. It was made worse by the fact that those two had never got on; it was a generational gap, between the old school of Eidelon, started when parapsychics were exceptionally rare and it was all about making the Eidelon subjects cheaper and easier to control, and the younger Harbinger project, which saw less need for such things, able as it was to induce such powers in sensitive candidates.

“Enough!” she finally snapped. She'd been having this occasions more and more, recently; zoning out, trapped in her own thoughts so it almost seemed to others that she was in a fugue state. It was probably time to see if her PychEval counsellor thought it was time to up the dosage of the S-Kar blockers and antipsyanimics. There'd be time after CATO, certainly. Not now, not yet.

There she was again. They were both staring at her. “Esther, I'll consider your request, but Dr Pinda chose to take the position, as it would mean that he would get to lead his own team in a Project that has a fair chance, if they can get a success, in becoming a Group. Remember what all the Herkunft and Herkuft-derivatives are reliant on; we'd really like to find an alternative, even if it requires recourse to arcanoxenobiology. And we've been taking specialists from Projects Icarus and Eidelon; indeed, even some from the projects of the Engel Group.” She paused. “We need to stop some of this petty rivalry between Groups.” Of course, she thought, it would be nice if, oh, say, not pointing any fingers, Evangelion, would return the favour occasionally. Ritsuko. Out loud, she said, “You are dismissed, unless you want to watch the activation, of course.”

Esther indicated that she wanted to stay, and stepped closer to the viewing window.

“Philipe, I believe we were about to turn on the Secondary Commander TACs. I reviewed their LAAM and EMSS score, and I feel that I can safely authorise a TAC authorisation. If you feel that the Eidelons are ready.”

Dr Barriso spared a smirk at Dr Schapira, before turning back to the Director of Project Group Herkunft and its titular Project. “Yes, Director Wade. I feel that they are. We have had repeated successes in the small scale tests after all, and we have performed successful large scale tests, before after all. Now we move onto full practical field testing.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, if we were to pull out now, the government and army would be exceptionally displeased with us.”

“Understatement of the century, I'd say.” He paused. “Well, actually, people have probably said worse things. Like, oh, anything to do with anything looking bad.” He shrugged. “Well, here goes.”

Director Wade coughed. “Do you want to say anything more... portentous? Or perhaps laugh evilly?”

He shook his head, an expression of slight offence appearing on his face. “I'd rather not. I do recognise that this isn't a good thing; it's just a necessary thing. And, anyway, I'd rather not be put a PsychEval high priority watch-list ... as I know I would, if I started doing things like that.” A sour noted entered his voice. “And, on a more pragmatic note, we really don't want strong emotions anywhere near a TAC start-up. It might draw... unwanted attention.”

Alice nodded approvingly. “Good. Go ahead, then.”

The authorisation signal was given.

And the five Telesthetic Attunement Chambers in the chamber below activated, one by one; the amplifying components spinning in more ways than were visible, as they resonated in higher dimensional spaces.

“EM Double-Ess scores are skyrocketing,” called out one of the staff on the main desks. “Fourth stage... fifth stage... sixth stage... seventh stage! We have seventh stage! LAAM are stable; 68 to 75... maintaining current rate.”

“We have boot up from Eidelon,” one of the Project liasons reported. “Brainwave activity from all groups.”

“Running scans. ANB reports are showing a clean run.”

“Eighth stage! Eighth stage!” A note of panic filled the operator's voice. “Subjects Orpheus and Jason are spiking! The wavepacket is being subsumed!” Above them, the lights flickered once, then again.

“Jason has stabilised back down at seven. Looks like it was a random fluctuation.”

“Orpheus is borderline ninth... but falling.”

“Please repeat, Eidelon. I did not receive. There's heavy static on the line.”

“Get Orpehus back down! We can't support eighth stage!”

“Should we pull the kill-switch?” queried Philipe, his heart beating like a drum inside his chest.

“Stabilising! Stabilising! Keep those ratios under 1:1!”

“How are the LAAM scores?” shouted Alice Wade, clutching her head as a corona of red painted itself onto her eyeballs. All around the room, others were clutching their heads, as, above, the lights flickered.

“LAAM are stabilised... Orpheus is at 87, others are safe...”

“Orpheus is falling... 83... 80... 78...”

“Orpheus is back down to seventh stage... no, sixth... no, back up to seventh.”

“Running stable, within normal parameters. Lowing TAC attenuation, now that the connection is made. Running in passive mode.”

The babble of the operators died away, as everyone took a breath, and rubbed sleeves against sweat-slick foreheads. They were still alive.

Dr Esther Schapira was the first to speak. “Fuck. That was close.” The Deputy-Director of Project Harbinger took a deep, shuddering breath. “If I'd known that you were going to almost have a cascade incident, I'd have left when I had the chance,” she said, weakly; the poor humour a release in the stress-filled environment.

“Do you... is the subject displaying teratogenic characteristics?” asked Dr Barriso, somewhat more urgently.

A greater-than-life-size simulation of the test subject was bought up.

“Eyes remain normal, heart-rate is highly stressed, but within human limits, no changes to the epidermal layer. Uh... the TAC is interfering with normal animacerbral scans, so that can't be checked. We aren't getting the rapid fluctuations to neural morphology that Ayes suffer, though.” The technician paused. “No obvious signs of any changes to the subject's biology. They're clean of Lilitu effects.”

There were sighs of relief all around.

“If we deactivated the TAC, we could run a proper animaneural scan, properly check the soul for contamination,” added the technician.

Dr Barrisso cocked his head. “Alice?”

She winced. “It's tempting. We know that the Sub-Commanders have always had elevated LAAMs, and I don't like the fact that she spiked up to almost a 1:1, and held it for a few seconds.” The woman massaged the bridge of her nose. “It's going to probably add a few permanent points to the subject's LAAM. That's not good. Orpheus was already high.”

“I'm surprised, I have to admit,” added Esther. “We've had abominations most times we've spiked like that. It's really annoying when you lose a good candidate like that. I'd recommend, from my experience with Harbinger, that you disconnect that subject and run a full scan.”

Philipe ran his hands across an AR display, putting a fresh overlay over the model of the subject. “Look. The scan from just before the activation; there isn't any change... well, beyond the elevated stress levels, but that's to be expected after a TAC activation. Yes, in the best world,” he said, tucking an errant hair from out of his field of vision, “we'd do that. But the problem is that the activation is the riskiest part. It's where we lose people. At Harbinger, you just put them through the TAC once. We run them under attunement for extended periods, multiple times. We also really want to keep activations to a minimum; they're stressful to the subjects.” He paused. “Has there been any response from Eidelon?” he asked his subordinate.

“Yes, Director,” the younger man replied promptly. “It was a near perfect start-up. Even from the Hades group. Seems the spike wasn't transmitted down. We have full boot from... uh,” he checked the datapad before him, “996 Icarus models. Three didn't respond; they're being checked... one died at Stage Aleph ASI.”

“And the main Replica units?”

“We've... yes... we've got responses back. We haven't run a unit-by-unit check; these are just the biomonitor readings.” He licked his lips. “I'm putting the numbers up on mainscreen.”

The numbers were up there, clear, concrete, and amazing. And terrible, in the truest sense of the word.

Code:
Summary of Replica Start up:

Of 28, 215 Type VII Replica Units;
Did not respond: 1,801
Failed at Stage Aleph ASI:  110 (52 deceased)
Failed at Stage Beth ASI: 907  ( 103 deceased)
Failed at Stage Gimel ASI: 2,996 (993 deceased)
Successful: 24,202 Replicas have achieved pseudosapience

Of 8,916 Type VI Replica Units:
Did not respond: 202
Failed at Stage Aleph ASI: 42 (14 deceased)
Failed at Stage Beth ASI: 19 (6 deceased)
Failed at Stage Gimel ASI: 3 (3 deceased)
Successful: 8,649 Replicas have achieved pseudosapience

Of 1000 Icarus “Assassin” Replicas:
Did not respond: 3
Failed at Stage Aleph ASI: 1 (1 deceased)
Failed at Stage Beth ASI: 0 (0 deceased)
Failed at Stage Gimel ASI: 0 (0 deceased)
Successful: 996 Replicas have achieved pseudosapience


A cheer arose from the crowd, the staff of Project Group Herkunft proud in that which they had accomplished.

Alice Wade, however, made a small tutting noise. The Type VIIs were experiencing much higher fatality and failure rates than expected; they were meant to be more stable, for goodness sake. All those deaths in Stage Gimel, which was the activation of the higher brain functions and of the pseudo-consciousness instilled by the animasapience infusion; that was unlike every single model beforehand. The Type VIs were showing a rate and pattern of failure within a standard deviation of expectations; a little on the high side, but tolerable.

The Type VIIs were not. She shared a look with Dr Barriso.

Perhaps the spike had done more damage to their vat-grown, flash imprinted brains than they had thought.



~'/|\'~




Die erste Elegie
it hurts so much. pain is her existence, now. for a subjective eternity.
Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel
she floats, in darkness.
Ordnungen? und gesetzt selbst, es nähme
abomination! abomination!
einer mich plötzlich ans Herz: ich verginge von seinem
she sits on a swing, back and forwards, back and forwards. it is the last time she sees the real sky.
stärkeren Dasein. Denn das Schöne ist nichts
she screams as it happens, water and fire and pain and death and abomination and horror and fear and terror and panic and screaming and confusion and agony and cessation all brushing against her mind.
als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch grade ertragen,
my baby! give him back!
und wir bewundern es so, weil es gelassen verschmäht,
my babies! give them back!
uns zu zerstören. Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich.
all the death. so much death. over six times ten hundred hundred hundred hundred die, and she feels every one.
Und so verhalt ich mich denn und verschlucke den Lockruf
every one becomes part of her memories of pain
dunkelen Schluchzens. Ach, wen vermögen
and they keep on happening.
wir denn zu brauchen? Engel nicht, Menschen nicht,
they pulled the life support, eight years ago.
und die findigen Tiere merken es schon,
their pain is nothing compared to hers
daß wir nicht sehr verläßlich zu Haus sind
she will not die. she cannot die.
in der gedeuteten Welt....
why won't you touch me?


~'/|\'~




“Colonel Rury, we have activity in the assets for the Ulysses mission.”

The Nazzadi woman cocked her head. “Stable?”

The man nodded. “Yes. Three failed to respond, one dead.” He paused for a moment. “Start-up confirmation for the rest of the subjects... start-up successes are still being counted, but it looks like it should be sufficient.”

The woman sighed. “It took them long enough. I was afraid I was going to have to ask questions,” she said. “I assume that the non-functional assets are being removed from the launch devices?”

The man looked slightly offended. “Of course, Colonel. The 3 non-responsive units were in a single batch; we're just redistributing the assets to ensure that Ulysses has its full complement. We're making up the short-fall from the Type-VI groups, as per standing instructions.”

“Excellent.” She gestured up at the projector in the centre of the room, the LAI monitoring all movement in the room interpreting the device as a specific activation code. “Switch to launch monitor,” she commanded the room, which obliged, bringing up an AR projection of the fleet. It sat heavy on the water, a truly astounding concentration of force. There were other regions that would be suffering from the way that these assets were committed; forces across the southern hemisphere were being pulled back from the Migou and their incursions from Antarctica. There was always a price; always an opportunity cost. Everything was an exercise in choosing the least bad option.

And in this case, the assets provided by Project Herkunft were very valuable indeed. The troop ships were pregnant and bulbous compared to the knife-like warships, filled with their deadly cargo. Updated figures were coming through for successful activations. Accounting for the necessary reorganisations for squads that had to be merged due to unsuccessful reactivations, her subordinates were telling her that she had 996 Replica Assassins, 24,200 Type VII Replicas (9,880 in Heavy Armour, 8,720 in Powered Armour) and 8,640 Type VI Replicas (2,080 in Heavy Armour, 4,820 in Powered Armour).

It was truly astonishing. She had an entire Corp of superhuman soldiers under her command. They would not flee; they would only retreat if ordered to. They would not panic; the horrors that walked the Earth would not phase their pseudosapient minds. They had no mercy; they killed on command and the very concept of defection would not occur to them. And that was quite apart from the more terrifying Assassins, whose very existence, as infantry stealthed through technological means, was paradigm-breaking; even before their superlative abilities, even compared to their kin, were taken into account.

The Nazzadi was well aware the irony that she now supervised the deployment of a force better designed for the systematic genocide of another sapient species than her parents (whoever they had had been). And the systematic genocide of another sapient species was something that she intended to carry out to the best of her abilities as a military officer of the New Earth Government Army. She knew some of the lengths that had been gone through to produce these biological constructs.

That did not bother her.

She could not conceive how it could.

She opened a comms channel to CATO Command. “Colonel Rury of the NEGA SWD authorising launch of Ulysses assets from Fleet Erat. I repeat, I have confirmation that the Ulysses assets are loaded into their infiltration craft and are ready to launch in preparation for Operation CATO. The Special Weapons Division is removing the seal on tactical deployment.” She began to rattle off her personal authorisation code.

“Launch as per operational instructions.”

It was time to blind Polyphemus.



~'/|\'~




There was no great commotion as the Strix infiltration craft were launched. The one-engined, stealthed transports were fired from within the bulbous hulls of the troopships, accelerated along the rails (in a manner almost identical to the deployment method used by the Evangelions, back in London-2) until the fliers met the open air and the glider-like wings spread. For just a moment, they hung in the air, before their own A-Pods activated and the stealth fields flicked on. And against the early darkness, this far north, the slight distortions from the invisible fliers were almost negligible. They would drop their cargo just outside Target Delta, the city the Order called Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr, and then return back to the staging ground in the north of Scotland, the LAI pilot system taking no risks once the cargo was delivered.

Strix were fairly expensive, after all.

But as the products of Group Herkunft left without a notice, the Engels on board were being prepared for their own drop. The arcanocyberxenobiological organisms, and their arcanocyberneticly-linked pilots, on this flotilla were assigned to Task Force Maximus. Their role in CATO was simple; it was to be a deliberate frontal assault on a Deep One city, supported by Norn-class Frigates, and backed up by conventional mecha, power armour and submersible craft.

Right now, one of the many launch bays, just above the waterline of the ship, was frantic with activity. The prodigious numbers of arcanotechnicians were running final checks on the crouched biomechanical monstrosities; ensuring that the weapons were functional and that the beasts were fully fed from the intravenous feeding tubes. The Engel systems did recycle their waste (as the D-Engine made a mockery of the thermodynamic restrictions on that), but it had been found that the organisms did not enjoy extended recycling, and tended to prompt their pilots to consume their foes. That was unnecessarily traumatising for the Engel pilots. It was just generally easier to make sure that the Engels were properly fed before a mission.

Standing around, fully clad in their plug suits, were the pilots. They were instantly recognisable, both from the thousand-metre gaze that so many of them had, and, more prominently, from the fact that the preliminary stage of the Engel Synthesis Implant interface had already been attached to their plug suit. The cables ran from the back of their necks and from their spines, through the suit, ready to be hooked up to the Engel itself. One of the walls of this area was partially blocked off, a bright yellow memomorph curtain warning of biohazardous contamination of nine bays (an all too common phenomenon when handling Engels), but if that phased either the pilots or the arcanotechnicians, then, apart from a few nervous glances, they didn't let it show.

Now Embarking: Group 2. All pilots to entry ports. Group 2 to entry ports.

“It's us up next,” said Captain Su Koru, wiping back sweat-slick hair from his face. “Remember the briefing. We're hitting them hard and fast. This is Deep Ops, so if your capsule gets breached, you're getting crushed. Of course, the 'Bots,” the somewhat elitist term for conventional mecha, as opposed to the arcanocyberxenobiological Engels, “won't be able to use escape pods this deep, so they're in the same boat as we're in all the time. Try not to die, I don't want to have to write the letters back to your wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, or other people who chose not to fit into classical gender roles.” He coughed. “I think the group can be described as “people you fuck in your spare time”, really.”

Zuly grinned. “Sir, yes sir! Even though I am not aware of a concept known as ''spare time'' in which I can fuck, I shall endeavour to ascertain the possible existence of such a thing and provide you with a full mission report. Sir!”

There was a snort from Miguel. “I doubt Kary would appreciate it if you took Azrael on a reconnaissance mission into your bedroom.”

She grinned broadly in response. “Oh, I don't know. It could be interesting.”

“I don't want to know.”

“One word. And eight letters. It might be nine letters, actually. T. E. N. T. A. C. L. E. S. Yep, nine.”

“I said, I didn't want to know! Too much information.”

“Zuly, stop tormenting Miguel,” chided Su. “Do unto others and all that.” He saw the grin on her face broaden, and a wicked glint appear. “And I think we've hit my personal limit for 'Too Much Information', too.”

“Ooooh, sir!” she said, in an exaggerated whine. “You're oppressing my cultural heritage!”

“Your cultural heritage involves making dirty jokes and telling people things about your sex life that they'd rather not hear?”

“Well, there's nothing that says that a cultural heritage has to be old, right. You humans are all the same,” she added, with a sigh, tempered by the wicked grin.

There was a pause.

“I think this is about when Pecna makes a joke in Nazzadi which I don't understand,” said Sam, taking off her AR glasses and carefully putting them in a sealed pocket on the side of her armour. “We've had the bit where Zuly... well, is herself, we had some jokey subspecism... yeah, I think it's time. Pecna?”

The Nazzadi blinked, his gaze breaking away from his Ish. “Oh, I'm sorry. I'm breaking routine... uh. Okay. Hruk hruk.

Da vehen iben?” countered Zuly.

Vu huma ibi.

Kwa vu huma ibi?” she asked.

Vu huma ibity opuli na!

It barely raised a chuckle among the group, even among those who could actually speak Nazzadi.

Miguel opened and closed his mouth a few times. “That was a knock-knock joke, wasn't it?” he finally hazarded.

“... yeah,” Pecna admitted

“Thought so. It's tragic how the depravities of human culture has infected the purity of the Nazzadi way of life.”

“Now you're just taking the piss.”

“... yeah.”

There was another silence.

“So, do you think we've done enough macho posturing to show that we're not afraid of death?” asked Zuly, with a wide grin.

“I'd say so, yes. Maybe for the next one, we can come up with a pseudo-scientific formula to calculate the perfect amount of time before it starts becoming uncomfortable for everyone.”

“But I like macho posturing.”

Su coughed. “Just remember, people, I'm serious about not wanting to have to write those letters. Don't get yourself killed if you can possibly avoid it.”

Now Embarking: Group 3. All pilots to entry ports. Group 3 to entry ports.

“That's us,” said Sma, speaking for the first time. Zuly worried about Sma, she really did. He'd had been taken off active duty for three months, after what had happened in South Africa (not that she blamed him at all; it had been horrible for all of them), and the spark of life was very dim indeed, now.

Samantha went around, and gave each of them in turn a hug and a whispered, “If I don't make it back, don't steal my stuff.”

Then, with a nod to each other, the Engel pilots were off to their beasts of war. Zuly looked up at Azrael, as she waited for the lift to the gantry level. As an Aqautic Assault Engel; the Hamshall was a main battle unit, and so, while still large compared to conventional mecha, at 12 metres still remained smaller than the Behemoth-class Chasmal or Seraph, who, when fully extended, reached 18 metres. The Hamshall Engel was encased in blue-green plating, the bulbous chest a contrast to the limbs, which were oddly spindly if one were to look at it with an eye which expected human proportions. She knew that part of the bulk of the torso was the housing for the tail,which retracted while on land, and stretched longer than the main body of the unit, the word “tail” not quite appropriate for something which resembled an appendage of the mythological Kraken. Likewise, the necessity to conceal what was under the armour meant that the feeder tendrils, which it could sprout at fill from its faceplate, were also retracted. But, ugly or not (and she preferred to think of it as “efficient”), Azrael was her Engel.

The technicians escorted her along the gantry, repeating the standard warning about the abort procedure should anything go wrong or she start suffering mental contamination beyond those which contact induced. The uterine control capsule protruded from under the stomach (or, at least, where the stomach would have been if it were human) of the beast; she connected the air-hose to her helmet, checking that the neck-seal to the plug suit was tight before she climbed in, feet first, into the viscous, clear, impact fluid. The hatch sealed behind her, and and she took a great deal of care in linking the cables that extruded from the back of her suit up to their appropriate ports. You heard rumours of what happened if you didn't take care; the consequences were typically those which resulted when anything went wrong with Engels. Zuly took a deep breath of the clean, tasteless air, held it, then released it slowly before she indicated her readiness on the control console.

And then it happened. Human vocabulary failed to describe properly what it was like. If you had ever had your central nervous system connected up to the control schema of an alien form of life, you knew what it was. If you hadn't, you didn't. There were qualia which you experienced; the feeling of being the higher awareness of the wrong body with a set of base instincts completely different to your own, which a tiny minority of the population would ever feel.

It set you apart.

“We have communion. Waveforms are locked. Move the Engel's left arm, please,” said a voice over the headset. Zuly moved the arm, simultaneously moving her arm on the controls and flexing her blue-green coated arm. “Okay, good. Looks stable.”

Stable. Hah, thought Zuly, as she felt Azrael's mind stir from the slumber of the state they were kept in for storage. A surge of irritation flashed briefly across her mind, as the feeding tubes retracted from her... his head, the flow of nutrients ceasing. Azrael was feeling skittish, she knew; he longed to get in the water. The instincts were nagging that it would be more comfortable there. There was a sort of nervousness there was well, a form of nervous terror which left her skin tingling just from the after-feelings that were transmitted down to her body.

Shush, she thought (or did she emote it?) to him. Water soon. Kill things, make me happy. Good, yes?

She felt the Engel pause, and calm down.

hunger it thought, the mental image of how it felt to consume tiny figures which writhed and thrashed before being torn apart filling her mind. satisfaction.

She would have vomited, were it not for the fact she was familiar with Azrael. She hadn't named him that (such a name! So unimaginative; she would have gone for something out of those amusing Aztec myths, rather than yet another Angel of Death). There had been two others attuned to Azrael that she knew of. One had burned out, the other had been hit by a charge beam which had punched through the control capsule and kept going. And Engels developed quirks the older they got; they could learn and change, albeit more at the level of a particularly vicious dog than a human being (the Project Engel scientists assured the pilots). The Hamshalliam were among the brighter breeds, and picked up quirks the fastest.

And what Azrael really liked was eating Deep Ones; grabbing them and pulling their legs off with its feeder tendrils before stuffing them into its maw. It appeared to have developed, on its own, the concept of nagging; if it looked like there was a chance that it might get to do it, it would prompt it as a solution in any combat situation.

The thing was, thought it was shameful to admit it, and the psychologist had gone quiet and made a note of it when she had raised it with the woman, it did feel good. Rather than think of that, though, she busied herself with a full check of the systems onboard, while the support staff removed the gantries and restraints which bound the Engel.

She was just about finished, when a sudden wave of panic pulsed through the ESI and directly into her central nervous system, leaving her coated with cold sweat.

fear

“What's going on?” a voice barked in her ear. “You're hyperventilating, and you're suffering an elevated heart-rate.” She could hear more of a commotion through the comms.

“Azrael,” she gasped to the support crew, “he's... terrified. Fear... lots of it.”

“You're still in communion. Are you still in control? Do you want to cut the link?”

She forced herself to breath properly, reasserting control of an usually autonomous function. “No... I'm... I'm still in control. Let me just...”

Calm, she thought at him, trying to push the emotion into him. Calm. Safe now, not-hurt until later.

fear she received back, but the emotion was dimmed, reduced.

Calm. No-enemy here.

One of the Hamshalliam further down the line let out a gurgling keen, tearing free of the mostly undone restrains. The freed monster collapsed, legs folding as it fell first to its knees, tearing apart the deck, before beginning to slam its head into the floor, over and over again, feeder tendrils extruded fully and darting wildly around.

Calm Zuly thought at Azrael, over and over again, beating down fresh waves of fear. It was contagious, she thought, or perhaps it was affecting all the Hamshalliam.

The prostrate monster finally stopped beating its skull into the armoured floor, as someone managed to authorise a lock-down. That was already one Engel lost for the mission, as the creature would be furious for several days; they were utterly uncontrollable, even through the ESI, after a forced lockdown. A second succumbed to the wave of fear, or perhaps the pilot lost control. This time, the support teams acted faster, and locked it down before it could damage the floor or itself too much.

And then, just as suddenly, the Hamshalliam were calm again, just as the Ish, the support Engels in this operation, had been all along.

The sudden silence held for only a few seconds, before people started shouting and frantic messages started coming in from the rest of the ship, demanding to know precisely what the fuck was going on.

Zuly shuddered, within the fluid-filled uterine control capsule in the hollowed-out torso of a monster. This is a really bad omen for CATO, she thought.

fear thought Azrael. fear

reverence

and fear




~'/|\'~




Icarus-Daleth-0861 tensed the muscles that ran along its shoulders, carbon nanofibre doing what sarcomere could not, anchored to composite bones both lighter and stronger than that of anything that lived within what had previously been called nature, and crushed the man's trachea. There was a sick, muted bubbling, as the dying man tried to scream though lungs already filling with blood and the pressure of 0861's arm still wrapped around his throat.

0861 felt the man's heart stop, and the involuntary contractions in the rest of his muscular system, with the cessation of the flow of oxygenated blood, begin to slow. It relaxed its grasp on the neck, and leapt sideways, back into the shadows, taking its prey with it. Red-lensed eyes scanned the area, the HUD providing information that even its enhanced senses could not normally perceive. Almost casually, the dark figure casually disembowelled the dead man, and, with a leap, shifted to the ceiling. The body was already starting to cool, it could see, and so it would pass unnoticed in the darkness of the pipes that ran across the ceiling, bound up their with its own guts. No-one would spot it until it and its kin had begun their true work, and by then, they would have more pressing concerns.

It was a weapon of both infiltration and terror.

But it had a task; something equivalent to and synonymous with life to 0861, and so it would perform it to the best of its abilities. Had it other options, it would not have killed the man standing guard on the roof of the target structure, but the target had been standing in a position, right under the overhang where it might possibly have alerted the foe when it and its kin entered the ducting system.

So the target's death was necessary. Daleth-0861 was satisfied it had fulfilled the criteria for a kill and thus had followed its directives.

That was good. Behind its eyes, the tiny shard of amplified soul sighed in contentment.

With a few blows from the hyperedged blades on its forearms, it cut away the plate that covered the ducting, and entered the system. It was in. And three more of its kin, all given pseudosapience by fragments of the same soul, followed it.

Underground, in the fortifications of the Eye that watched so valiantly over the seas, protecting the Chosen and Blooded, and their Elect servants from the malevolence of their foes, the air filtration system reported a failure in System 12bb, the fourth in the series of the zappers which, through intense EM radiation, denatured any nanites or micromachines which might be taken in. It was necessary that the air remain pure and clean. The Blooded responsible for watching the sector switched immediately to the camera which watched the device, and displaying on a second screen what was being shown when the alarm had happened.

Lurching over at the alarm, his supervisor harshly said, “Jung vf unc-cra'vat, lbh jrnx-oyb'bq'rq vqvb'g?!” What happened, you idiot?!

“Gure'r vf ab guvat ba gur f'vtug bs urng, abe va gur f'vtug bs gung ju-vpu uhznaf frr,” he replied. Nothing on IR, nothing on human-visible. “Gur c'bff-vovyvgl rkvf'gf gung 'vg jnf cher-yl pbva-pvq'rapr.” Maybe it's just broken.

The warning alarm ceased, as the device started back up again. With mutual shrugs, the supervisor left, and the Blooded resumed his vigil. What was to happen was directly their fault for not checking the scrubber, but what were they to do? It was not infrequent that they overheated, hence the fact that there were five of them in series, each ensuring that any air that entered from the outside was free of nanites and micromachines, quite separate from the chemical and biological scrubbers. The behaviour of that failure was almost identical to one which failed and then rebooted itself almost instantly.

Inside the secure facility, a faint blurred shape crawled along, sticking to the shadows, weaving in and out of the pipes that lined the military installation. Above it, figures rushed and bustled, babbling and chattering in a notably inhuman tongue. The shape understood them, of course; it had been fitted with voice recognition technology which translated the Ry'lehan words into something that the shard of projected soul behind its eyes was capable of understanding.

With a flick, it pushed off onto the wall to its right, continuing its crawl.

A sixth sense flickered and it froze, before the wandering eyes of one of the targets could note its movement. The active camouflage settled into the wall, making it almost completely invisible in the nested piping and rough textures of the subterranean bunker. Better yet, the staff of this facility were exclusively those with inhuman ancestry; only they were trusted enough to man such a vital defence. Though that meant that they developed the ability to see in the infra-red as they aged and their blood transmuted them, it also meant that their eyesight deteriorated.

Code:
Internal Power Reserves:
Primary D-Cell  – 72.3%
Secondary D-Cell A – 99.8 %
Secondary D-Cell B – 98.1%


Because, after all, Icarus-Daleth-0861 was not truly sapient. Sentient, yes, and exceptionally so; its senses were engineered to beyond peak human, as well as the addition of several which its genetic source material did not have. It could feel the flow of electric currents in the cables nestled in the walls, taste the scent of ruach as it was expended by sorcerers. But there normally was no awareness, no consciousness, no sense of self. It was a weapon, a tool, only motive while a fragment of a greater, more complete being was nested behinds its eyes, making it more than a fleshy doll. It was the golem who only was active while emet was written on its forehead. It was merely that, instead of being empowered by kabalistic mysticism, it was instead given its mind by science that had gone so far into empiricism that it had taken on a terrible mysticism of its own; one which was more dreadful than past models because the why could now be explained.

It was not scared of the lurching amphibians below it, even as it entered the target room, because fear would have required the capability for that emotion. It did not find them unnatural, because the innate revulsion and sense that they should not be would have required a sense for that which was natural. It did not object to killing, because that was what it was designed for. And so it waited, completely devoid of boredom, hanging upside-down with its knees hooked around a pipe.

The mission clock on the HUD projected against its hard lenses ticked to the start of operations, at 01:50, on the 4th of November, 2091. It loosened its grip on the ceiling, and fell, down into the chamber. 0860, 0862 and 0863 were with it.

And so the killing started.

No, that wasn't quite true. The Nanite-Enhanced Retro-Viral agent that they had released into the ventilation system, right after the final nanite scrubber, was already acting. The Esoteric Order of Dagon insisted that only Deep Ones and the eldest and most changed among their Hybrid offspring man their defence lasers; humans were not thought to be reliable enough for such a vital task. And so every individual in this facility, with the exception of the Replica Assassins, had the blood vessel-rich area of skin around their neck which was already, or was developing into gills as their lungs atrophied.

Gills over which all their air passed, providing immediate passage into the bloodstream. The mammalian lungs of humans were safe in the body, shielded by the mucus-lined trachea and the own defences of the lungs. They may have evolved to protect themselves against the dust and grit so common on land, but it worked equally well to dilute the concentration of nanological and micrological agents.

The aquatic Deep Ones, and their heavily changed half-human hybrids had no such defence.

Some had already choked to death, the tailored virus (a modified version of a common disease found in vivisected Deep Ones) replicating with almost unnatural speed, and no opposition. The nanites had already done their work on the immune systems of the targets. Gills were squeezed shut, as secretions from the diseased flesh gummed them shut. Even the ones who had been in filtered armour, such as the powered armour which patrolled the corridors, were dying, because the NERV agent had been introduced more than one shift cycle ago.

The killing didn't start. But the bloodshed most certainly did, as the Assassins emotionlessly dispatched the crippled figures lying on the ground; Daleth-0863 sealing the door with a single punch to the lock mechanism, the electrical burst frying the systems. It was trivial to disable the capital-grade D-Engines, the Replica Assassins fully aware of what was necessary to destroy a design which had been stolen from humanity in the first place and equipped with the necessary tools to force an emergency shutdown.

By the time the four clone-siblings left the place, through the same way they had entered, the floor was slick with blood; their footprints leaving a visceral record of their movements. The gantries in the D-Engine room were cleared too, and the targets used to make a bloody warning of their activities. Even if the Dagonites could break down the door (even assuming that there was anyone alive in this place), they would need to take apart the arcanotechnology and manually reconfigure it, the forced shutdown having normalised the local spacetime. That was a task which required specialist arcanoengineers and a great deal of time. And time was one thing that the local Esoteric Order of Dagon did not have. In fact, now that the Eyes were being disabled, their time had just run out.

There was a message, painted in blood, in the D-Engine rooms of every single Eye along this coastline. It (a trite little rhyme, perhaps, but SWD propagandists had decided that something this clear was needed) went like this;

We now return,
Deep Ones will learn,
New kinds of fear,
While we are here.

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam


And now it was time to show the monsters just what the collection of human sub-species would do.

For survival.

For their planet.

To get what they wanted.



~'/|\'~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Chapter 14, Part 1 PostPosted: 2009-12-13 01:05pm
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Chapter 14

CATOcylsm: Execution




~'/|\'~




The dark shape of the lead Evangelion took another step, a cloud of particulate matter erupting from the bed of the deepwater channel from the force of its foot. Even from this depth, with the amplification of the filters in the sensory package it could be seen that the surface of the water, many tens of meters above, was lit in a way which it should not have been; reds and oranges seeping into what should have been the lunar illumination of the night. Behind it, its siblings followed, through the smoke-like clouds of silt which they merely added to.

A barrage of blue-green lasers lashed out from the new surface mounts on the lead figure. They may have been of power armour grade, woefully inadequate for anything the size of a proper mecha, let alone a Herald or a capital ship, but that wasn't their role. The muted thud and pressure wave from the mine which a dedicated LAI system had detected, and then eliminated, spoke of their true purpose. Neither the mines that littered the area in truly gratuitous amounts, nor the barrage of obsolete missiles which was expected as soon as they left the water, would be able to touch the monstrous bipeds, the laser point defence easily able to reach out and shield its mount.

And if they could still kill a man or a Deep One with ease, especially in the cold of Iceland (which meant that the difference between body temperature and the ambient temperature was enough to trip the thermal sensors, without having to rely on image recognition), well... that was merely an added bonus. Progress marched ever on, and those who could not keep ahead would be ground underfoot.

Another step; another cloud of silt. It was fortunate, perhaps, that the seabed around here had been deepened until it hit the volcanic rock of Iceland, meaning that the silt and sand layered upon it was thin. Had this been the cold, dark abyssal planes of the ocean, far from human influence or the mutative effects of plate tectonics, it would have been eminently possible that the humanoid figures would have sunk had they tried to walk on it; an end which would have been entirely inappropriate, albeit amusing.

Shinji, in the second Evangelion (its eyes actinic headlights through the depths compared to the four viridian flares of Unit 01, or the red searchlight of Unit 00), looked around and shivered. They were very close now; the HUD was counting worryingly fast. That island, Hrísey, the one covered in anti-capital unit defence, was just in front of them, the deep-water shipping channel which the Evangelions were walking down just skirting around it. If the defences hadn't been shut down, they were going to get shot at by naval grade lasers. And if only some of them had been shut down, they were still going to get lasered. Wasn't it likely that at least one of the sabotage missions had failed? After all, wasn't it really improbable that they had all worked? What if the guards at one place had caught the GIA commandos? They'd have raised the alarm, and then the others would have been much more difficult. Or what if they had hidden some. What if there were some underwater, sitting there, lurking, which the NEG hadn't known about? The Evangelions could walk right into them without noticing.

As all these prospects ran through his head, he began to breath faster, sucking in gulps of LCL. He could feel the viscous liquid rolling in his throat, coating the walls as it was forced in and out by his breaths, and he gagged; something he hadn't done in a while.

“You are exhibiting signs of pre-combat stress,” informed his LAI, in its bland voice. “Your heart-rate is elevated, you are hyperventilating,” and here the tone of the voice shifted slightly, “and your synchronisation ratio is dropping. Please, Shinji, stay calm.”

He spluttered into the LCL, trying to resist the urge to throw up. Why was he getting so nervous now?

Well, yes, he knew exactly why he was getting nervous now. He was about to go into a real, proper, battle, where the enemy had things that could kill him if they hadn't been shut down, and face things which included real people, even if they were cultists. You'd have to be stupid not to be worried. But couldn't he have had the panic attack back on the ship, where things could have been managed, and he could have been reassured?

Out here, beneath the sea, with enforced radio silence, there was only the terrible claustrophobia of the inside of his own head, and the darkness of the depths with enveloped and wrapped their way around his Evangelion, the glare of the eyes not enough to alleviate the all-encompassing liquid night.

Shinji gave a weak chuckle, more of a gurgle with his fluid-filled lungs, and reached out to one of the auxiliary panels.

Of course...

With the thermal vision turned on, the false colour of the far-infrared painting the world in colours which did not match to the real qualia of the human brain, the darkness was banished. Even in cold areas, the blue-black was better than the black-black of the depths. Just the extra light was enough to banish any thought of the night-dark hallways which echoed on forever to the beating of a heart-train.

He was vaguely aware of the presence of an active comms window.

“What is it, Asuka?” he asked without looking.

“You are not playing enough attention in an active combat zone if you believe that I am the Second Child,” stated Rei, her hair waving loose, like seaweed, in the eddies and currents of the LCL that enveloped all three of the pilots. “I will repeat the statement. According to the mission clock, we should be emerging from the water in two minutes and seventeen seconds, as of the start of this statement. However, this is incorrect, and, in fact the head of Unit 02 shall become visible in one minute and twenty nine seconds, as of the start of this sentence.”

“... okay,” Shinji said, cautiously. “Uh... have you told Asuka about this?”

“Yes. She did not appreciate it, and was somewhat disturbed by it. Nevertheless, she will account for the change in the information.” Rei paused. “I have noticed a tendency...”

Mein Gott, will you two stop chattering!” snapped Asuka through a new window. “Whatever happened to radio silence?”

Asuka was nervous, she admitted to herself. But only inside her head. And that was partly due to the fact that Rei had opened that window, to inform her that the mission plan was wrong. She certainly wasn't going to let it show by blabbering on like that. But it was almost time, and she was ready. As the only New Earth Government officer among the pilots, she had technical seniority (not that the other two would necessarily pay any attention, she added, bitterly), and with the weapon set the Project had given her, she was the vanguard. Well, at least they could do something right.

She could feel the stillness and the coolness inside her head. It was time.

The dark shape of Unit 02 moved up the fjord, unnaturally strong legs beating. The surface of the water, reflecting the fire-lit clouds, rippled and bulged as the hidden monster pushed its way along, walking along the bottom of the deep-water channel. Blue-green light flared around it, muffled blasts of water exploding upwards; always in front of it, never quite where it was.

A second shape followed it.

And a third.

A head broke the surface of the waters, four eyes aflame with viridian light. Asuka looked left and right, eyes scanning the city that filled this area, built all over the flatter coastal regions. The urge was almost instictual; the Evangelions were by no means reliant on the hijacked optic nerves of the arcanoxenobiological organism beneath the armour, but it just felt right to look around, rather than stare at the screens in the entry plug. The city was already burning, the NEGN missile barrage still in progress despite the damage it had already done. Projected onto the HUD on the inside of the plug were the positions of the friendly special forces units, hidden within their stealthed IFVs. They had to avoid

From all around the frontline fortifications, masses of concrete protruding up against the cold waters of the Atlantic, a ragged cheer arose. Asuka smiled. Idiots! Do they really think that we've come to save them from the missiles? Except in a terminal way. They're under heavy attack, and they think the mysterious figures are here to help? What are they, completely stupid? How can they have lasted this long? The redhead shrugged at the cliché of her thoughts, as she took another step forwards, climbing out of the deep water channel. The ships that would have needed such a thing were already ruined. She could see that one of the ships was arcing actinic multicoloured lightning, coruscating and burning over the surface, charring the metal. She tagged the target as high priority; a D-Engine malfunctioning from damage like that, with what looked like a possible Horizon Event, could not be permitted to exist.

She twitched her fingers, the click of the joints muted by the orange-red fluid that surrounded her. Unit 02 twitched with her, more a generalised movement than one of the hands; the synchronisation ratio remained too low for such precision. She wanted to open fire right now. But Asuka repressed the urge, and took another step forwards and upwards, exposing more of herself to the defence lasers.

If they hadn't sabotaged the weapons, this is going to hurt, she thought, as explosions blossomed across the city and missiles streaked across the sky, smart sub-munitions cutting down anyone not under cover, the invisible plague of BCNaM warfare making even the air unsafe,

The figure of Unit 02 was by now half-way out of the water, water cascading off its flanks. It was not well lit; its shape was a darker patch against the sky, with only those four eyes, awesome in a primal sense, giving off light. Even night-vision goggles worked imperfectly, somehow skipping slightly away from it, as the basilisk-type camouflage interfered with the obsolete amplification systems in the Second Cold War-era electronics in the Dagonite viewers. In the light of the fires than now spread across the city, from the missiles that the NEG were now lobbing against the innocent civilians of the Elect, it was barely visible. If the onlookers had been in a suitable state of mind, they might have noticed the manufactured look of the behemoth. They were not. The strategy had been conceived on the assumption that the Dagonites would pause upon first sight of the Evangelions, which, after all, were sufficiently different from the Engels that the fish-men should believe that they might be a friendly extranormal entity. Something which the recent refit had been designed to promote, as well as the dream-engineering conducted by teams of sorcerers working in unison for almost a month, now.

Another head emerged from behind it, and the two harsh, actinic white eyes of Unit 01 joined its sibling in staring over the city of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr. They both continued their inexorable march, though, and the third sibling, one crimson Cyclopean orb atop its head, of Rei's Zero-Zero, joined them.

“Sensors detect a still-active D-Engine in Defence Laser 07,” noted Rei. “Target has been acquired, and the charge beam has adjusted for ambient electromagnetic fields. I am able to fire on command.”

“I'm aiming at Sector 01,” said Shinji, a slight shake in his voice. “Uh... the LAI has highlighted concentrations of enemy forces for me. I'm ready.”

“I'm in position for Sector 02,” added Asuka. “The automated fire-control systems are primed, and the indicator on main weapon is green.” She paused. “We're ready,” she said, unable and unwilling to keep the enthusiasm from her voice.

A [VOICE ONLY] icon appeared on all three viewscreens, the authentication code showing that it came from Misato. “Do not use the main weapons in the areas marked in red on the overlay; they have friendly forces operating in theatre, or have been noted as being Dagonite-operated camps. Apart from that...weapons free,” ordered the Major, in a tone of voice not dissimilar to that which Asuka had used.

And with a cold, contemptuous glare, Asuka raised her plasmathrower, and vomited forth the raw material of stars, a blinding lance which illuminated the clouds above in white light. The armoured structures, disguised as apartment buildings, which made up the first line of defence, literally evaporated, the tight cone cutting through them in a way which left no intermediate state from intact structure to melted slag and vapour. Beside her, the stream of smeared suns which the plasma minigun bought into existence spun into existence, whipping from one cluster of red boxes on Shinji's viewscreen, resting there for no more than the seconds needed for the LAI to remove the threat indicators, before he moved it on.

He glanced over at Asuka, and felt the synchronisation training stir, from the way that the targeting schema they had both been given matched. A barrage of missiles, broken and inconsistent, was spewed forth from the intact fortifications; a pale reflection of what they should have been facing where they facing the true defences, unbroken by sabotage and the betrayal of their “gods”, but still remarkably intense. The LAI systems devoted to the management of the laser grid had already shifted from the aquatic mode, where they had been handling the minefield, to the anti-missile grid system, and the air was thusly filled with the ripened explosions of the cascade of fruit-like missiles, their smart electronic systems long obsolete, and suffering massive interference from the rebroadcast nano-and-micromachines which filled the air.

And Rei? Rei stood alone, the bulky charge beam, which the others had inexplicably deemed the “Rei Gun” despite the manifest inaccuracy of such a term (as it failed to describe the damage mechanism for the relativistic particle beam), already raised, sunk to one knee in the water as she braced the bulk of Unit 00 for the hideous recoil of this weapon. They had integrated A-Pods into the design, the reactionless thrusters serving to shift the change in momentum to the reinforced structure of the the weapon, compressed between two opposing forces, rather than the (almost hopelessly flawed for recoil mitigation) bipedal mech, but there was only so much that even nanofactory diamond and carbon nanotubes could take.

The impact, and its resulting explosion and burst of hard X-rays, tore apart the Dagonite defence laser, and, air shimmering green in the afterglow of the passage of the protons, ripped through the buildings behind it, down into the Earth itself, proved that the weapon did at least not blow up on the first shot.

“Rei!” warned the Major, her flushed face on screen. “You just hit a red zone; there was a camp area that you just tore through. Control that thing, or I'll have it deactivated! Dial down the yield if it's over-penetrating,” she added, in a quieter voice.

“It was necessary,” Rei said calmly. “That laser had not been deactivated. Permission was granted to perform such actions in order to ensure the success of Task Force Nero. It was felt that an operational capital-grade static laser weapon might pose an impediment to our duties,” the white-haired girl remarked.

The Major nodded. “Proceed.” Misato sucked in a breath. “Be careful, though.”

“I will be full of care.”

“Not for the fish-scum,” said Asuka, as she washed the lance of white-hot plasma over a Dagonite residential district.

Rei stared at Asuka, for perhaps a second too long. “Understood,” she said, as she scanned the screen for anything else which might require the firepower she bought, which was really overkill for soft targets.

It said something that soft-targets included things which, in another era, would have been called nuclear bunkers. This was not war. This was pest control.



~'/|\'~




The pale figure floated mindlessly in its orange-tinted tank, eyes open but vacant. Around it, the hybridised fusion of modern technology and ancient sorcery embraced him, needles piercing its flesh in so many places, spreading out branch-like through the body.

“Dr Wade, the binding circle is active. As soon as the input source is limited, it will be drawn here, and the Type-2 Seelenversetzung can be remedied.”

The blond woman nodded, then cocked her head slightly. “Are you scared?”

The man gulped. “Terrified.”

“Me too. But it's necessary. This asset will be needed.” She sighed. “We can only hope that target can be suitably prepared before the Third eliminates it.”



~'/|\'~




Deep, deep, deep down into the hungry void the Engels swam. Even in full daylight, no light made its way down two hundred metres, and the pale reflection which was the moon ceased its luminescence even shallower. The arcanocyberxenobiological organisms were far deeper than that already, only minutes after the drop. The blade of the strike force, they were in full combat mode. The tendrils of the Hamshalliam tasted the water, languid movements which pulsed in a peculiar asymmetry, drawing the water in as hair-thin lesser tentacles filtered the seas of life, while the Ish lashed out with their long, blade-like tongues at any fish which passed their way, spearing them and pulling their catch back into the waiting maw.

The Engels did so enjoy a chance to release the constraints on the armour, and feel the water around them.

Above, the bloated hulls of the frigates and submersibles accompanying the strike force descended, vast cigar shapes around which the conventional mecha swarmed in patterns which resembled most the flight of starlings; superficial chaotic, yet possessed of an emergent order designed to make them harder to hit. The LAI systems on the craft chattered constantly to each other, tightbeam laser communications streaming data far more efficiently than the squishy organics in this vast nervous system of silicon and crystals and electrical charge could ever have hoped to achieve. Such a system would be damped down massively if they were facing the Migou, who were just as good (actually, tactical analysis put them as notably better) at intelligence warfare as mankind, but against the inferior systems of the Dagonites, they could be used closer to their maximum potential. Though they were not self-aware, they were sentient, able to respond to their environment and react to data inputs.

And then there were the autonomous units. How much intellect was needed to control a torpedo and the swarm of guided sub-munitions they would drop split into, one “mind” between many bodies? Little enough that such a weapon could be deployed in vast quantities. Up, above the sea (and especially against the Migou), these things would have faced the laser coverage of defence emplacements. Down here, though, these micro-swarms (each submunition individually smaller than a fish), and possessed of the same swarming emergent mind which made them exceptionally hard for the sub-par data processing of the Deep One masters of the Esoteric Order of Dagon possessed to target. This was a problem which was worsened in these aquatic conditions, where lasers, the optimal point defence weapons, were dispersed and necessarily limited in range.

Of course, this was a problem for the New Earth Government Navy as well, especially since the anti-torpedo laser grids were necessarily larger, and more power intensive than anti-missile ones, and so could only be mounted on the larger submersibles and capital ships. The casualties from the torpedo batteries could be potentially crippling, and so that was why the static defences of the Deep One city of Guh'thya-leh'yi were the first targets. Even then, the vanguard would likely take nasty losses from the inter-lapping torpedo, laser batteries and the charge beams that shielded the area.

Azrael flicked a tendril out, and pulled a fish into his maw, the thin trail of blood from where he had crushed its skull the only trace that it had ever existed. Nestled deep within the gut of the monster, in her entry plug, Zuly felt a brief pulse of satisfaction and sanity pulse through her central nervous system, the inhuman emotion retracting as quickly as it had entered.

She kept one eye on the bathometer, watching the distance until the holding depth tick down.

“Two hundred meters until Depth Bravo,” her system LAI informed her unnecessarily.

“I know,” she growled back.

The dumb system didn't respond. Although such a response was understood, the programmers had quite specifically pruned it of responses which would aggravate a pilot in a combat situation. It merely saved the audiofile, logged with the constantly tracked vitals, in the mission record.

An audiovisual window opened in the uterine capsule of the Engel, the security code showing its source was genuine. It was Captain Koru. “We're at Depth Bravo. We're holding here until Command sends us the go code.” He sighed, slightly. “I want a CCI.”

Ping signals and the mandatory responses echoed in from the rest of the squad, in the Communion Check-In. For an Engel, the standard, autonomous system wasn't enough. If the thing under the armour managed to gain control, either through overpowering the restraints, or those whispered times where it managed to absorb the mind of the pilot, an LAI response that the vehicle was still intact wasn't enough.

And for an Engel squadron entirely composed of Hamshalliam, this was considerably more worrying than normal. They had all seen, all felt what had happened back on the ships. Hamshalliam were already a troublesome breed; too smart for their own good in many ways, and if they were on the edge, that was certainly going to put their pilots on edge.

It was dark down here. They couldn't have the searchlights on, and the light sources which would compose part of the initial barrage (the colour shifted into the blue, due to the fact that Deep One vision tended to the longer wavelength end of the spectrum, compared to that of the Homo sapiens subspecies,) had quite obviously not been fired yet.

Zuly waited, curled up in the uterine plug implanted into the chest of her Engel, counting down unknown seconds while Command prevaricated over sending the initialisation code. Or whatever reason they had to leave the task force sitting here, vulnerable. They were already minutes behind schedule, and when the fact that Operation CATO was a wide-area attack over Dagonite territory, the risk that they be detected, and the forces attacked, negating any surprise or shock and pushing the attackers onto the back foot was dangerously high.



~'/|\'~




Following the vast figures, which towered far above the troops which were being disgorged from Ranger AFVs at the shoreline, the Replicas advanced. Tight-band radios pierced the deliberate holes in the jamming that saturated the electromagnetic communications spectrum as troopers efficiently and rapidly shared information with their squadmates, aided by the Seelengehilfe-bonding from the noetic presence that lurked behind their eyes. The silvery dust that hung in the air, sparking in the harsh white light which vomited forth from the behemoths, was a fine mix of micro-and-nanomachines, designed to absorb and re-radiate the radio spectrum, the phase differences destructively interfering with the enemy communications, as well as reducing the maximum effective range of their anti-air and anti-missile laser weaponry. The fact that so much metallic dust, even when it was not designed as a nanological weapon, was still toxic and choking to unprotected lungs, was merely a benefit.

The frontlines were not a place for unprotected infantry. All of the Replica troops were in sealed combat armour, and all deployed outside of the vehicles were in REV-3 heavy armour at the least. Most were in the REV-6 or the REV-8 EPA or one of their variants.

Against the Migou, such a formation would have been cut to pieces. Powered armour and the even lighter heavy armour, a somewhat unfortunately-named trial model designed to replace the role of conventional infantry on the battlefield, were comparatively unarmoured. Even when supported by their AFVs, they would have got bogged down, and been quickly destroyed by a force with proper main battle units. Against the Dagonites, with their inferior logistics which forced them to rely upon powered armour themselves, this was a viable tactic, especially within the tight confines, which gave maximum advantage to the individual superiority of the Replicas over the Order forces, which relied heavily upon militia for their numbers.

And against the REV-8 EPA, which was specifically designed to target and destroy enemy power armoured units, with the substitution of any melee functionality for superior firepower, the lightly armoured and armed Dagonite units were shredded.

The six man Replica squad, safe within their sealed armour and operating in the standard NEG infantry pair-system, paused in the hallway, watching all sides. The militia, and the rarer true military forces of the Order, were dug into these apartment complexes, designed specifically as solid, almost bunker-like structures, to protect both their infantry and their own powered armour.

“Looks like some kind of command post. 816, cleanse and purify” ordered Foxtrot 811, stepping out of the way, as the bulk of the REV-8-CQB stepped up to the armoured door.

“It's sealed, and too solid for brute force,” radioed back 816. “Requesting that 814 punch a hole in the door before assault.”

“Request approved. 814, beam it.”

“Order acknowledged. Please retreat to minimum safe distance,” warned 814, in the REV-8-S, the sniper variant, as the Replica levelled the charge beam mounted on his right arm at the door. There were a few thunderous footsteps, as the other REV-8 units took steps back. “Breaching door in 3, 2, 1.”

The beam of high energy protons punched straight through the reinforced door, a burst of neutrons and hard electromagnetic radiation accompanying its impact. Foxtrot 816, advancing to the glowing hole, levelled his arm and triggered the flamethrower, the white-hot chemical mix rushing out to fill the room. The metal door began to melt, not to speak of the infantry and sensitive communications equipment who had been inside the room, the former with multiple heavy weapons pointed at the door, judging from the explosions. The interior structure groaned, as the underfloor reinforcement melted, a cascade of volatile fluid pouring down through the new hole in the floor.

Several blue-green lasers punched back out of the smoke and ionised gas that now filled the command centre; heavily attenuated by the opacity of the atmosphere, but still enough to be lethal to an unarmoured figure. One beam scraped along the arm of the REV-8-CQB, breaking the jet of white-hot fuel.

“Minor damage to torso,” reported 816, retreating back behind the cover of the unruptured parts of the heavy door. “Flamethrower auto-shutdown to prevent premature fuel ignition.”

“Target ID?” asked his partner, Foxtrot 815.

“At least two laser-armed PA. Cannot confirm presence of any other target.”

“Selkies?” queried 813.

“Probably. Weapon characteristics match.”

“Acknowledged. Initiating Narrow Area Search.” With a pop of gas, a small drone, about the size of a man's fist, launched itself from 813's REV-8, tiny thrusters flaring from the internal D-Cell. These things were too small for the use of an A-Pod, which would enable indefinite operation (through there were true combat scout drones, which even now hung stealthed above the city; a substitute for the satellite coverage which armed forces once enjoyed), and so were forced to return to their master suit, to recharge off the D-Engine. It hung in the air for a second, and then darted through the hole in the wall. No volley of laser fire could be heard, which suggested that it had gone unnoticed; a fact confirmed by the appearance on the HUD of the unit of the location and model of two Order powered armours.

“Target lock on Tango Alpha,” stated Foxtrot 814, charge beam pointed directly at the first of the two targets, uncaring of the armoured wall in the way.

“In position for Tango Bravo,” added 813, plasma cannons at the ready, standing by the hole in the door, with words that were echoed by Foxtrot 812.

“Execute on 814's command,” stated 811.

There was a moment of stillness, as missiles shrieked outside, thudding explosions making the heavily reinforced building shake.

“Firing.”

The relativistic particle beam tore through the reinforced wall and kept going, the disruption in the arcanomagnetic containment field leaving it corkscrewing slightly, but still accurate enough to slam into the chest of the first armour, knocking it onto its back, as the ammunition for the HMG on its arm cooked off. The feed from the drone died, the pressure wave from the explosion and detonation of the onboard systems on the power armour crushing it against a wall.

Together, Foxtrot 813 and 812 stepped through the hole in the doorway, triggering their dual plasma cannons, one on each arm, pumping tiny suns (so small, compared to the river of stars which one of the titans had carried with it) into the one remaining figure that stood upright in the devastation which 816 had caused. The simple fact was that laser weapons, in such an optically opaque environment, were a suboptimal choice compared to the particle beams of plasma cannons, which cut through the nanomachine dust and the smoke, tearing the Selkie apart at the waist and vaporising torso-sized chunks out of the wall, the explosions filling the air with even more superheated dust. It would have been enough to kill any infantry in the area, had the infantry not already been almost instantly killed by the room being aerated by white-hot volatile chemicals.

Two last shots tore apart the air, as Foxtrot 812 ensured that the armour hit by 814 was indeed dead.

“Clear.”

“Clear.”

Slowly, oh so slowly, the room began to clear, the smoke and particulate matter settling, or escaping through the many structurally superfluous openings which the combat (less than 30 seconds in duration) had opened. Through these impromptu windows, especially those caused by the charge beam (which reached all the way through the building and out), the flashes of light from outside sept in, as conflicts such as this were repeated a hundred times.

“Command, this is Foxtrot 811. Dagonite comms centre, target priority Beth-2, eliminated. Be aware; flamethrower on team's CQB suit out of operations. Requesting new orders.”

The clouds, seen through a hole in the ceiling from the detonating infantry weapons, were lit by the fires that consumed this city, and pierced by missiles, as the ship-board bombardment continued unabated. Far above the clouds, NEG air superiority missions had already swatted the few Order aircraft, and now their bombers and ground-attack air units slaughtered targets in the areas where the Surface-to-Air Lasers and Missiles had been taken down. Overhead, only audible by the displacement of air that it left as it moved, a Chalybion gunship flew low overhead, the single charge beam it mounted in its tail-like turret accompanying the nose-laser in hunting for enemy mecha in the city.

The blue-grey chassis blended in near perfectly in the night, as it found its prey unaware of the insect-like hunter. There was the explosion of a relativistic particle beam impact outside, as it tore off a Dagonite Leviathan's leg off at the hip, the war machine crashing to the ground. It was mercilessly cut to pieces as it lay crippled, the LAI systems placing the rapid laser shots (each enough to blow a fist-sized hole in a man's torso) into the weakpoints. A second shot ensured the target was down, and the Chalybion retreated into the sky.

“Foxtrot Squad ORPH-PN1-012, this is Command. JSN-AR2-043 and -045 are pinned down by heavy Order opposition. Report skilled anti-armour sniper, as well as use of unrecognised power armour with a CQB focus. Area still has active AA, so there can be no close-fire support. Transmitting coordinates now.”

“Acknowledged, Command. ORPH-PN1-012 moving out.”

As one, they left the place. It was not a charnel house. A charnel house would have had bodies, which would have decayed as the inevitability of entropy overcame the structure of the flesh. The cycle of life would have continued, as dead flesh fed the smallest of living things and was broken down. But in this place, there was only a stark reminder that the human body could accurately be described as a sack of dirty water wrapped around a frame. The only traces of the former inhabitants were slagged metal; the remains a sign of intelligent craft which remained where the flesh could not.



~'/|\'~




Misato watched the progress of the Evangelions on the model of the battlefield, built from the cumulative feeds from the stealthed drones even now hidden above Iceland. It wasn't exactly hard. She strongly suspected that they could have been tracked with the naked eye from orbit. The plasmathrower, and the plasma minigun were not subtle weapons. In fact, anything which threw out the raw material of stars, at a higher temperature than the surface of our own sun, could quite accurately be said to be the opposite of subtle. And the charge beam, which she was going to call the Rei Gun, damn it, may not have flooded the electromagnetic spectrum, both visible and outside the human range, when fired, but the spikes in the sensors it was making when the relativistic particle beam hit something (the sensor officers called it a “whoomp-bloomp”, from the initial pulse of hard radiation, and exotic particles, and the subsequent chain of decay products) were characteristic, and massive compared to the lesser versions of the same weapon being used by the mecha on the same island.

“This is Nero-Command to Nero-Evas,” she said, noting the fact that they were slightly behind schedule. “You don't need to flatten the city. The troops are moving up behind you; you're here to punch through.” She paused. “And keep an eye on the map,” she added. “It's tracking friendlies as they move forwards; do not, I repeat, do not use the capital grade weapons when there are friendlies in close proximity. Or medium proximity, Rei.”

Asuka, her face floating before the Major on the control display, looked somewhat offended. “Yes,” she said. “I am aware of friendly fire and its.... arrrrgh,” the girl snarled, turning away from the screen as a cascade of supersonic cracks, so quiet in comparison to the din of war, coincided with a flurry of slugs ricocheting off the sloped armour of the Type-D. The lance of plasma reignited and washed over a street barricade and a fair amount of the surrounding neighbourhood, the anti-armour railgunners hidden in the festival junk gone in one painless instant. A glowing scar was dug into the street, down into the land, while the street and buildings around melted like hot wax, despite the fact that the actual core of the lance of plasma had not touched them. "Welcher Schwachkopf würde Infanterie gegen ein Evangelion einsetzen? Schwach! Ihr seid so schwach! Es ist fast eine Vergeudung, euch alle mit der dicken Wumme zu töten!" she roared in triumph.

“English, Asuka, English,” sighed the Major. “We use a standardised combat language here, remember.”

“Okay.” The girl paused, as the secondary plasma cannons and charge weapons tracked and acquired a power armoured squad, the LAIs only asking confirmation for the firing lock before cutting down the soldiers with ruthless precision. "Nicht, dass mich das jetzt aufhalten wird," she muttered, rebelliously.

Shinji glanced at the red-head's picture, eyes narrowed slightly. “What's a 'weak head'?” he asked, in a somewhat wearied tone.

“You are. Move up, Shinji, and take out DK/77. You're falling behind.” She smirked. He really had set himself up for that, hadn't he?

“You're running off! We're meant to be working as a group.”

“Yes. We are, Rei's with me. You are the one who's falling behind.”

“Unit 00 is closer to Unit 02 than Unit...,” began Rei, before an impact jolted her, hair drifting lazily after her head through the LCL. Unit 00 fell to one knee, in a crashing impact, as the road's surface erupted, melted tar and projectiles thrown upwards like an erupting volcano. There was the sound of a pained gasp over the communications channel.

S'bepr'fh-crevbe Phu'hului'yi stared at the viewscreen on his binoculars, the screen mitigating the inferior long-distance eyesight he had, out of water, compared to the invading blasphemers. Such atrocity! That they would disguise their already sacrilegious war machines... he tried out the word in his mouth, “Ehn'ghul. Een-guhl,” as one of the blessed Dagon'puvyqera... well, it was much more than just one heresy. It was doubly heretical, if not more so.

That was why he was so exceptionally pleased that he had been given command of the III Z'nxvat Haz'nxvat, one of the engineering companies, to use the human term, in charge of local defence. He had not been so before; the task, being on land, was one which was not held highly, and even the increased breeding rights did not make up for the discomfort of the syhvq'xr-rcvat, the water retention suit he had to wear for extended periods of time on land. He had even asked revered Pth'thya-l'yi, the revered high priestess and matriarch of his lineage, why it was necessary that one of the Chosen hold this position, why it could not simply be left to a trusted Blooded. He had not asked why it could not have been a human, for such a minor role, but he had thought it.

The answer, of course, was that it was not done to permit the Blooded too much authority. There must be a clear line of delineation between those who had taken to the water, and those who had not, for the good of society. If those who remained too human were given the powers which should remain the preserve of the Chosen, then then the Homo genus would have problems seeing the natural order of things, the simple fact that they had not been Chosen and so their faith, pitiful and childlike despite its sincerity, was not worth as much.

Of course, Phu'hului'yi suspected that it was due to his lack of breeding, that he had once dwelt on land, and although not as low as the almost-mass produced Blooded soldiers that the current conflict had spawned, he did not rank highly in the society beneath the waves (though the humans here treated him as one akin to a saint or an angel). And the fact that he had made some... foolish decisions, long ago (though not as the gehr'pu-b'fra (for that was what the Chosen who possessed a pure lineage called themselves) reckoned it), could not have helped. It was not his fault. He had not known at the time.

But, now, as he observed the plume of molten tar and dust splatter down on the ground through the binoculars, it all seemed worth it. He had positioned those inferior, un-Blooded humans near to the shaped charge for exactly that reason; to make the blasphemies pause for a moment.

“Va gur Dagon'anzr, erny-yl tbb'q gung gurl q'vrq j'vgu fhpu uba'bhe,” he remarked to his immediate subordinate, and the only other one of the Chosen in the formation, put here due to her youth and early transformation. Too weak and young for her Gifts, those blessed powers that the New Earth Government ignorantly called “parapsychic powers”, and put down to some kind of freak evolutionary trait, to have come in strongly, he still broadly appreciated the presence of a Oen'va-ernq're 'guvrs of Dagon.

S'bepr'fr-pbaq Thul'yhu-gi gave her assent, making the ritualistic gesture as best she could while lying flat on the roof, under a thermally camouflaged blanket. “Vg r'kv-fgf pregn'va, c'bf-fvoyl?” she asked cautiously. “Xab-jyrq'tr pregn'va gung fh'pu oynfg q'rf-gebl'rq gnet-rg Ehn'ghul?”

Phu'hului'yi made a disgusted noise. “Cebon-oyr gung gur guvat y'virf,” he said, loathing in his voice. “ Ehn-ghul! Ehn-ghul! Shp'x rirel Nu Earf Gubbermaent! Gur've r-kv'f-grapr'f j'ebat, naq gurl pregn'vayl gb-b g'bhtu. J'nvg hag-vy uh'zna-eha'are o'ev-atf z'rff-ntr orsb'er arkg pu'netr,” he added in a softer tone of voice, though the irritation remained.

No sooner had he said that, than a human runner poked their head up through the open trapdoor, exertion visible by inference from the increased temperature of the gas from his filtration unit . This one, he could see, was dressed in proper military armour, not the mass-produced, pre-nanofactory gear given to the militia, albeit the stripped down version used by runners. It was ironic, Phu'hului'yi considered, that the end effect of all this technological advance (specifically that of their enemies) had been to reduce the faithful to systems of battlefield communications that would not have been out of place in the great war (how petty and small it was now, by comparison) of his youth.

I...i...ireel erf'chap...gh...ghy'ngrq Ss'behepr'fah-crevne,” he began, coughing, his exhaustion making an almost profane mockery of the syllables of Ry'lehan. Humans required effort to fit their way around the wet sounds of the language of their superiors, and the exhaustion and dry mouth of a runner didn't aid in such an attempt. Most understood it quite a bit better than they could speak it, though.

Thul'yhu-gi made a noise of annoyance at Phu-hului'yi, which went by the human entirely unnoticed. “Schpeak... een... ghu'man,” she said, in what would have been an exasperated tone, had the words been in a proper language.

“Yes... sanctified ones,” the man answered, arm twitching, but managing to resist giving the gesture of respect in a warzone. “MyS'bepr'fh-crevbe! The blasphemous machine... the one with the red eye, has fallen. The other two are moving towards it.”

Phu-hului'yi would have opened his eyes wide, had he still possessed human eyelids. Instead, he contented himself with picking up the telephone beside him. It was, in fact, despite the military appearance, directly connected into the civilian network. The entire structure, built from the ground up after the Liberation of Iceland from the xeno Migou, had been designed to deal with a military situation.

“Jur-ervf, gur'ybir, gur'ybir, gur'ybir,” he snapped down the phone, the authorisation almost frantic. “B'u Dagon on'gzna j'nagf 'zl urn-q!”

His command was answered by a choral blast, dwarfing the previous one which flooded the entire spectrum with noise in the brevity of their explosion. The Deep Ones, and the members of the proper military forces of the Order, still felt the slam of sound, even though their helmets had clamped down, while militia members were stunned by the magnitude of the blast. The human runner flinched, and almost lost his grip, scrabbling to remain at the top of the ladder.

The entire district which the blasphemous machines had been in was not engulfed in fire, burning bright-white under the plume which billowed upwards, blotting out the moon from where the forces of the faithful waited. The loss of that illumination was no real issue, though, as the chemical fires which now lit the area, a simple redox reaction enough to slag the area when applied in the vast quantities required to ensure that, running below the streets, there were pipes packed with powdered rust and aluminium, wrapped around the support structures of every single building.

The district had only even been a sacrificial one, designed to occupy a New Earth Government or Migou armoured force long enough for it to get bogged down and move as many reinforcements into the area as possible. The buildings had all been designed to make it hellish to clear them (which had caused no small amount of hassle for the individuals, almost all of low social status, who actually lived there), and the raid bunkers for the area had been located outside it. The charges collapsed the buildings, crushing any infantry which had moved into the location, while the rivers of thermite that ran below the streets ignited and melted the foundations. It was intended to collapse the entire district into a mass of wreckage and molten metal, wrecking the terrain and killing anything that had moved into such a place.

Nothing could survive that intact, not least the impracticality of a forty-metre walker, which had enough issues with ground pressure even before the streets assumed the consistency and approximate temperature of molten iron.

Only to be met by a sick, coruscating shimmering which lit the skies in a way quite unlike the blinding brightness of the masses of thermite, or the weapons that the loathsome constructs wielded. Three such lights, terrible in the way that they took the light from the molten streets, the hellish light of ruined cities and death, and twisted it through impossible interference patterns which shifted and interlinked, playing off each other in a way... which was... oddly... compelling. Two of these patterns leapt up out of the fire, in identical arcs, their movements synchronised as almost perfect reflections, while the third, stoically, continued forwards, wading through molten tar and metal and the like, the cracked light making it a darker shape in the brightness.

And it screamed. In the name of Dagon and Hydra, it screamed, a horrifying, muffled scream, which dwarfed even the sound of the blast. The psychic backlash of the leviathan filled the three space-like dimensions of the so-called World of Elements, intruded back and forwards through the time-like dimension; only minor echoes of the full magnitude of the agony that it imposed upon the things attuned to the fifth, and least-known dimension of the common frame of reference, that where the soul had its quantised existence and the emergent properties of complexity had their own, strange, unlives.



~'/|\'~




Alarms wailed in the Herkunft control centre, the cascading red across the AR projections painting itself afresh across the hard contacts and AR-glasses of the operators at the desks. And, down below, beyond the one-way mirror, blue and green warning signals flashed up on the monitoring panels, leaving the technical crew scurrying from station to station, clad in their thick , partially motorised, biohazard suits. They had been selected for resilience to external mental influence, but that didn't help, when to go to close to an unstable Sub-Commander would boil flesh and strip out muscle, leaving only a bloodied and charred skeleton.

“Attunement ratio is rising... no, falling... no rising again!” called out a blond man, pupils gleaming red, filled as they were with the light of the images projected against his hard contacts. “It won't stabilise!”

“Achilles is dropping... borderline six slash seven... damn, we've dropped to six! EM Double Ess scores for Subject Group C2 are dropping.”

“Get it back up,” ordered Dr Barriso. “Achilles is one of the Primary Sub-Commanders. We can't lose the Type VIIs!”

“We're prioritising the balance, sir, dropping co-ordination from other groups.”

Philipe Barriso cocked his head. “How are the handling capacities for Orpheus and Heracles? Can we transfer some of Achilles' assets to those pools, until we can get back to Stage 7?”

There was ten long seconds of wait, as the complexities of animaneuralanalysis made their way through the computers, not helped by the flux in the attunement of all three Primary Sub-Commanders. Around this, there was chaos, as the operators tried to balance the needle-thin margins of error. Finally;

“We can do it, sir,” a female operator finally responded, face pale. “We can bump most of the weight to Orpheus and delegate it downwards from there by normal procedures; it's more stable than Heracles, despite its raised LAAM.” She sucked in a breath, shivering slightly. “Or maybe because of it.”

The man ran a hand over his head, smoothing down his sweat-slick hair. “What do you mean, because of it?” he asked, gut sinking slightly. “And do it. If the Replicas shut down, then they'll be slaughtered.”

The process of transferring control to the other Sub-Commanders, moving the units that could not be supported with the lowered attunement stage to ones with spare capacity began, somewhat mitigating the alarms which, although they were still there, at stopped warning of a potential large-scale shut-down.

Dr Barrisso took a breath, and repeated his question. “What do you mean, because of it?”

The operator paused, glancing around nervously as she was put on the spot. “Well, uh, the LAAM is the normalised overlap integral of the subject's animaneural waveform and that of the Lilitu Extradimensional Energy Source, converted into a percentage, yes?”

“Well, strictly speaking, no, not at all,” the man answered. “But,” he continued, breaking the slight flash of relief that emerged on the woman's face, “continue. It's accurate enough for rule of thumb, and it's a lot less complicated.”

“Okay.” She took a breath. “Well, in that case, a high LAAM should infer some kind of resilience to external sources of animaneural influence, shouldn't it? As, in a sense, they're already interacting with something else. I just noticed that the Sub-Commanders with the highest LAAM are the most stable, at the moment, and sort of put it together.”

Dr Barisso paused. “Well,” he began, “intuition like that is usually a pretty terrible way of solving problems. Especially arcane problems, which are almost completely counter-intuitive.” He ran his tongue over his lips. “You might be right, though. It would explain a few things, especially about the Ligier-II Test Group.” He waved his hand in the air, bringing up an AR panel, and began to run his way through the menus. “You can go back to work,” he noted to the operator. “What is your name?” he added.

“Gladys Chell, Operations Department,” she answered, with rather stiff smile. “On loan from the Achtzig Group.”

“You're from Achtzig?” Dr Barriso said, somewhat surprised. “Well, I wish Alice would tell me these things when she puts new people in my Project.” He sighed. “And on that subject,” he said, now talking to the computer, “please send out a call for Alice Wade. No, Dr Alice Wade,” he repeated, the voice recognition software getting confused in the noise, and getting the first name wrong. “No, I said Alice. A. L. I. C. E... Yes!” he snapped at the dumb system, before lowering his voice. He knew it was noisy in here, but it was unusual for the LAI to confuse such an “ice” sound. “Tell her that she is needed in Command, priority 1. Forwards the files to her, especially the ones on the Commander instability. Whatever she's doing can't be as important as this.”



~'/|\'~




The red-eyed cyclops that was Evangelion Unit 00 emerged from the district, the natal shield of the AT-Field wrapped around it, breaking up the light and refracting it, casting strange shadows and interference patterns of light. The Dagonite soldiers that had been positioned outside the trap, to cut down that anything that tried to escape the heat, were disorganised, blood running freely from their eyes and mouths from the agony which the arcanocyberxenobiological organism had shared with the world. They fired as best they could, 18mm railguns and 120mm rockets spilling forth from their armoured positions, against the white-shimmering devil that strode forth from the flames. The slugs merely ricocheted off the nearly-frigate grade armour of the Type-D armour, but the missiles had far more success than they had in the fjord. The surface of the Evangelion was partially glassed, even the outer layers of ceramics vulnerable to the intense heat, and the laser defence grid was almost completely incapacitated, the surface weapons fused solid.

And still the beast screamed, an agonised noise that left sensitives all over the world waking in cold sweats.

Inside the entry plug, warning lights and temperatures gauges alike flashed red, a cacophony of LAI voices spewing unfocussed glossolalia as they all tried to warn of the many problems that the Unit was now afflicted with. The programs should have prioritised the deliverance of such information, to avoid overloading the pilot with useless information and distracting them from the combat.

Rei had turned those filters off, and now faced the information overload without limits. The view from the plug was hideously chaotic, the mess of overlays and vision modes sharp contrast to the measured professionalism of Unit 02, or the (to be honest) simplified for ease of use display that Unit 01 used.

“That was... unforeseen,” she said in a tone which was suggestive of both shock and concern, as the Unit stepped out of the molten mix (which now covered its legs), its call ceasing as the girl within clamped down on the leviathan. “I did not expect that.”

The charge beam was raised, and pointed at a SRM platform on the other side of a building. The shot collapsed the building, vaporised the defence system and a non-negligible cone around it, and left fifty men and hybrids dying from burns and radiation exposure.

“I see it when I close my eyes,” Rei said softly, as the particle beam dumped the waste heat, clouds of coolant vented from the sides. A flick on the control levers turned down the power input to the weapon; a faster fire rate was needed. Plasma lashed out from the shoulder mounts, carving its way across the face of a bunker, the final shot breaking through and frying the men inside. “Fire sweeping over the earth,” to her left, Unit 02 cut its way through an armoured column, the capital-grade firepower slaughtering a squadron of the rare true battlefield mecha that the Order possessed, “bodies in the streets,” beside the Mass Production Unit, the Prototype cleaned up, cutting down anything which survived the sweeps of the lance-like plasmathrower, the explosion of some kind of warehouse covering the surrounding streets in shrapnel which mercilessly cut down the lightly armoured militia troops, “cities turned to dust.”

The charge beam indicator was green again. She levelled it at a taller building in the midst of one of the camp-areas, near the outer edge of the city; one of the zones which she had been instructed not to fire at. But this was different. She zoomed in with little more than a thought, the projected scope from the charge beam displaying the slight thermal signatures on the roof. They deserved to die.

She depressed the trigger.

“Retaliation,” she whispered.



~'/|\'~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.


Last edited by EarthScorpion on 2009-12-19 10:46am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Chapter 14, Part 2 PostPosted: 2009-12-13 01:05pm
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~'/|\'~




Misato specifically did not look at anyone else in the command centre. Yes, she knew it was probably too much to hope for a group of teenagers to act like highly drilled military officers (even if, technically, one of them was). It's just that, after the blast, they were... well, before it, they had been taking it a little too lightly, for the Major's tastes. Now, though the aforementioned group of teenagers were currently slaughtering cultists who might as well have been unarmed and unarmoured, for all that they could do against the Evangelions.

She could see their calculated emotional states, from the physiological responses which were tracked at all times. They weren't pleasant, especially when you were the guardian of two of the teenagers out there. That couldn't be good for them, in the long run. Certainly, Rei was showing disturbing levels of indifference towards the slaves in the Dagonite camps. It wasn't that she was targeting them, it was that she made no effort to avoid firing the charge beam in a way that would cause casualties, if it would take out a more important target.

Misato knew that the fish-fucking freaks of the Esoteric Order of Dagon were inhuman monsters, who couldn't feel the least of sympathy or empathy or any positive human emotion, saving their every thought for the enslavement of humanity and their subjugation into their vile rape camps. It was just that residual instincts told her that this was somewhat unfair. And other, more recent instincts told her that this was the guilt for how all three Children had been caught in the blast, deliberately lured into an area that the GIA hadn't discovered was a trap.

Of course, modern control schemes for mecha are actually based off computer game controls, she thought, a trace morbidly. It's probably just for the best that they're not thinking about what they're doing. And at least the synchronisation training that Ritsuko put Asuka and Shinji through seems to be helping, she added mentally, watching on the screen the way that they split their fire based on their outfitted weapons.

“How is it going, Major Katsuragi?” asked a voice over her shoulder, the words clipped and precise, even through the phonetic Nazzadi accent.

A chill ran down Misato's spine, before she managed to suppress it. She had told Asuka that, given that she had stared down the mouth of a Bhole (and much more, in the Fall of China), there were very few things that could scare her. And, yet, for some reason, this Nazzadi woman, devoid of any real distinguishing marks, the right age to be one of the AW1 generation, and dressed in neat, almost fussy black suits, was absolutely terrifying.

But all that showed was that fear could come from the higher mind just as much as from the more primal parts of the brain.

“Director Khoury.” She suppressed the urge to salute; had Special Services existed, it would have been a civilian agency, unlinked to the military chain of command. She glanced at the subordinates that flanked the woman, both dressed in the undifferentiated black of Special Services. One was a male sidoci... no, he wasn't, she realised. The eyes were the wrong colour, a very pale blue, and the skin was just slightly coloured, in a way that someone who lacked melanin or... she couldn't remember what Nazzadi used... the other Homo genus skin pigment looked, rather than the oddness of the White xenomixes. His hair cut to a stubble across his scalp, in direct contrast to his neatly trimmed beard. He looked somewhat familiar; she thought she recalled him from the audience of the briefing. Misato distrusted him instantly, to a large part because his face looked like it had been selected for being honest-looking.

The other was more unusual; an exceptionally tall woman, well over two metres, who loomed over both Misato and Director Khoury (and the male albino, when it came down to it). She had to be Germanic or Scandinavian, the Japanese woman decided, especially when her natural-looking blond hair, tied behind her in a neat pony-tail, was taken into account. The woman caught Misato's gaze with blue eyes behind AR-glasses, white-text scrolling down, before looking away.

Director Khoury caught her glance. “Agent Tome. Agent Andersdóttir,” she said. “Agent Tome is a sorcerer, and will be in charge of coordinating the ritual from this end.” There was no explanation for Agent Andersdóttir. “Now, I shall repeat my question; how do you feel that it's going?” She chuckled to herself; the kind of laugh made by very intelligent people who think of something of dubious humour content. “If I were some kind of walking stereotype, I would add something overblown like 'Very few ever get the privilege of me repeating the question without much pain'. But I'm not, so I shall not.”

Misato frowned. “What?”

“It's a cliché.” She paused. “I might add that I'm still waiting for the answer, though.”

“Yes, Director,” Misato said through gritted teeth. “The Evangelions are still advancing through the urban area; the hostile forces are putting up heavy resistance, and seem to be targetting the Units above the special forces that are also attacking. Unit 00 has received moderate damage from an anti-armour trap; the ACXB is intact, but lots of the built-in weapons aren't working any more, including large amounts of the laser-defence grid.”

Director Khoury flinched slightly. “The charge-beam?” she asked, with an intense note in her voice.

“It's still working.”

The other woman relaxed. “How do you feel it's going, Major?”

“We are still within the time constraints for our progress. If you want information on the rest of Task Force Nero, you should ask the officers in charge of those parts.”

“Good, good. But, Major... don't you feel it's a little off for a mere Major to be in command of three capital grade units, by the way,” she raised a hand, cutting off Misato, “Don't say anything, that was merely an observation; neither a threat nor an attempted hint at future rewards. But, Major, that's not what I asked. If I wanted a status update, I would look at the reports, instead of hassling one of the commanding officers and distracting them from their duties. No, what I asked was how you felt it was going. Be honest.” The eyes, a darker shade of red than typical, stared right at her.

Misato swallowed. This was a much more dangerous question to answer. Especially since she knew for certain that Special Services would have had access to her files and her history. They probably knew more about her than she did. She turned to look at the Evangelion staff, taking in the open comms link to the London-2 Geocity, using precious tightbeam access to one of the few satellites that the NEG could maintain in the face of Migou orbital supremacy.

“Major Katsuragi,” said Lieutenant Aoba, half-swivelled on the chair. “It's Dr Akagi, over satellite. She says it's important.”

“Major,” said Director Khoury, a warning note in her voice.

Misato froze for a moment, before making her choice.

“Captain,” she said to the NEGA officer assigned to the Evangelion team to assist in this mission. “You're temporarily in command here. Aoba, Makota, Gong, and the rest. Keep it stable, inform me if the situation changes.” She then stepped away from the command deck, following the Nazzadi and her accompanying agents to an alcove, away from both the noise and the potential listeners of the surrounding military. Misato was under no illusions that the entire place wasn't being recorded, but if Special Services had existed, this woman would certainly have had the clearance to discuss this level of thing. More than enough, actually; such a group would have effective access to whatever they wanted.

Once away from the hubbub of the command centre, she stared the Director, from Special Services, right in the eye. “You want to know what I think about how it's going?”

Director Khoury indicated her assent.

“I think it's going as well as could be hoped in a mission which has been handicapped in this way. You know that I was involved in the planning. You also know that we planned to kill the thing, before we were overridden. I do understand,” she said, raising a hand, “that if we could capture a Herald, it could potentially be a war-winner. You said as much in the briefing. I just don't think that summoning it ourselves, while in the middle of an active combat zone, using,” she swallowed, “child soldiers on the frontline, in a territory worryingly close to Migou-controlled areas, is the way to do it. Take the Kathirat, for example,” Misato said, counting it off on a finger, “the NEGN crippled it when they ambushed it. If we'd had standing orders at the time, and more than one active Evangelion, it's entirely possible that we could have captured it then. But now?” She shook her head. “It compromises the mission, endangers the larger operation of CATO, risks my pilots unnecessarily, and feels rushed. Because I'm clear about it; as both a Major in the New Earth Government Army, and Director of Operations for Project Evangelion, my job is to see the Heralds dead. Every last one. We shouldn't prevent anything which would stop us from killing, through any means necessary, all of them. Because they don't deserve to live. They deserve to die; all of them!” Misato took a deep breath, panting a little, and stared at the Director and the two subordinates she had with her.

That had... maybe gone a little too far.

Director Khoury shrugged. “As expected. But it won't prevent you from executing your duties, will it, Major Katsuragi?”

She stared blankly at the Nazzadi. That... wasn't how she thought they'd react. Though it did make sense, logically; it just required a worrying degree of self-control. “No, Director. As an officer of the New Earth Government, I will carry out my orders to the best of my ability, in accordance with both the spirit and the letter.”

“Good. Your feelings about this are irrelevant. You have your orders; the importance that we obtain a live Herald-type entity overrides any lesser feelings from your history. Do you understand this?”

The Major nodded, still staring at the Director. She had got carried away, Misato decided. It was likely that her psychological profile had flagged this up, and they had decided to clear it up now, because that was exactly the sort of thing that the reputation of the Office of Secret Services said it did.

Because, after all, if she failed in this, she wouldn't be able to watch (at least by autocensored proxy) as they vivisected the Herald codenamed Moloch, tore its secrets from it and used it to wipe out every last one of its class of entity. That would be much more satisfying than a clean death for the thing at the hands of an Evangelion.

Out loud, she said, “Yes. Clearly.”

“Good. Agent Tome will accompany you back; he will advise on the procedure when you have control over the correct ritual site.” The Nazzadi smiled. “I will be going, along with Agent Andersdóttir. I wouldn't want it to look like there existed a civilian agency with the authority to command high-level officers in the NEGA and NEGN.”

She permitted herself a cat-like smile.

“It's just as well that there isn't, then.”



~'/|\'~




“Foxtrot 813, report!”

A pause.

“Foxtrot 813, report!”

“No response. Unit is designated MIA until further confirmation on vital status is obtained.”

“Foxtrot 811, this is Command. Reports indicate that your squad was close to the explosive in target district Bravo-Zeta-0-2. Report status, over.”

“Command, this is Foxtrot 811. Units Foxtrot 814 and 815 are KIA. Unit Foxtrot 813 is MIA. Unit Foxtrot 816 has suffered a mission kill to his REV-8, and is continuing on foot. Foxtrot 811 and 812 remain mission effective, although damaged. Requesting evac, as we are reduced to less than 50% effective combat strength, over.”

“Negative, 811. Evac will not be provided. You are to proceed to the new waypoint, and meet up with ORPH-HC1-029, who have also taken casualties. You will then provide assistance to JSN-AR2-043 and -045 who are pinned down by heavy Order opposition, as previously instructed.”

“Understood, Command. ORPH-PN1-012 Foxtrot-811 out.”



~'/|\'~




Down below the waves, above the Deep One city, something had to give. The NEGN had to act, or their foes would. And the Deep Ones did. From far below, down in Guh'thya-leh'yi, hatches popped open, phalanxes of torpedoes launching together. This was one area where the Deep Ones matched humanity and exceeded them, their low profile torpedoes, enhanced by unknown sorceries, were far more difficult than was reasonable to detect. They had hidden down below the oceans for a very long time, and although humanity had received hints of their existence even before the First Arcanotech War, they had maintained their masquerade. It had been their own choice to join in the Aeon War; they could withdrawn from it, and watched it in peace. Though that was not true, not really. If the Migou won, excising the threat of humanity by pruning them back to a state where they posed no threat to the purpose of the Exclusion Volume, then the Yuggothian fungoids would most certainly eradicate the Chosen. There would be no controlled barbarity for them, no life, monitored by watchers who would prevent them from posing a danger to the Migou (and, coincidentally, themselves). No, they would be wiped out, every last trace removed.

It was ironic, really. The Chosen of Dagon knew that the New Earth Government and its coddled humanity had far, far more in common with them than with any other side in the Aeon War. As species, they were kin, and through the blessings of the Gods, could even interbreed. All that they need do was accept the true faith, and that was no great thing; they had already proved that they were capable of such. Yet they insisted on violence against the cause of righteousness; their ignorance of the universe and the true horrors out there merely leading them to perform acts which blasphemed the Gods and endangered themselves. And now? With the atrocities which the frantic reports to Guh'thya-leh'yi screamed about, the indiscriminate massacre of the innocents in the submarine section of Cthulhu'ybeq Ahefrel,the dread clouds of nanological, micrological, biological and chemical weapons which filled the streets on land, and now this assault against one of the sunken cities of the Chosen?

The arrogance. The monstrous arrogance. It had been less than one generation since the humans had discovered sorcery in any widespread fashion, and yet they had the presumption to attack their elder siblings, who had much more experience and truly understood the universe; how it worked and the costs that must be paid for survival. They were arrogant children, and, so like children, must be disciplined.

And that wave that had screamed through the minds of the sensitives of Guh'thya-leh'yi, that had killed many, including a Star-Spawn, insides liquefied by the force that had mutilated and consumed its own soul... that was truly alarming. The New Earth Government could not be permitted to interfere with the sacred tasks of the Chosen. They must act now, for that had been a signal!

Limited Artificial Intelligences triggered sirens throughout the fleet, as they took command from their human handlers and shifted the flock patterns, scattering. It took valuable seconds before the humans in the loop reacted to the sirens, screaming of a detected threat, and by then the LAI systems tied to the propulsion had already executed hard manoeuvres, slamming the naval officers (all in the mandatory acceleration couches, or stabilised power armour) back. The smaller units, the one-man mecha and submarines took longer to respond (the Operator Side Effect in particular posing a problem for LAI automation), but they had already been in evasive patterns. A blast of water, the shockwave felt all around, spoke of the death of the Equinox Sight, the impact of a torpedo enough for the lasers and charge beams down below to tag it, the particle beam tearing right through the bridge, buried in the middle of the ship.

“Go! Go! Go!” ordered Captain Koru, pulling his Engel down, A-Pods at maximum, organic parts retracting for maximum hydrodynamic efficiency. All throughout the vanguard, the Engels were diving, Hamshalliam in a desperate rush to get into the city itself, away from the open water where they could be picked off, while the Ish support squadrons were more sedate, emptying their racks in an attempt to take out what defences they could before following them in. Zuly tucked in behind him, pulling Azrael down and activating the LAI evasion override systems as torpedoes and lasers filled the water.

pain! kill! emoted the Engel below her, the emotions rushing through his mind with an intensity that they had never done before, making her blood rush and adrenaline flow through her system. As a lesser chorus, to the overarching theme, it addedterror! and revenge! Throughout the Engel formations the same was experienced, a sudden desire of the Hamshalliam to see the city below burn, reduce it to ash and leave only the corpses of its inhabitants, floating lifeless, in its watery streets, to be eaten by the things that live in the depths of the ocean. The Ish, on the other hand, only felt terror, as something vast brushed against their crippled minds.

The human forces did not simply sit back and take the fire from the Dagonite forces, of course, as the swarms of LAI weapons systems went active, sub-munitions bombarding down on the city below, aiming for any heat sources, while larger torpedoes zeroed in on the launch sights and the weapons emplacements. The BCNaM agents thickened and darkened the waters, obscuring the blasts that rippled across the towers, only visible through the cameras on the probes that sent their telemetry back to the manned units.

The New Earth Government had decided at the highest levels, back in 2084, that the Earth's biosphere was, fundamentally, replaceable. The populace (that they cared about) lived in arcologies, which had been specifically designed to survive without external inputs (the Wade air recycling organisms entirely self-sufficient when fed with energy from a D-Engine), while the Rapine Storm and the Dagonites were dependent upon the pre-existing biosphere. The ecological damage that such a BCNaM attack would cause was viewed as the lesser evil.

And against such monstrosity, such wilful disregard for any life that was not themselves and against the planetary biosphere, the Deep Ones initiated their own defences.

A brief flash of light illuminated the depths. And then the shockwave came, tossing aside the torn-apart remains of mecha and ships and submarines like toys.

A second flash.

A third.



~'/|\'~




“Shockwave! We've got a massive detonation... holy fuck! Another one! We have two detonations right in the middle of... a third! A third! Three detonations right in the middle of Task Force Maximus.”

The central control room for Operation CATO, back on the British mainland, as opposed to the shipboard ones running the Task Forces, was filled with alarm sirens and the confused babble of human voices.

“Each one was multiple kilotonnes. Telemetry from the sensor probes is giving us three, multiple kilotonne blasts. Look to be of the order of 10 kT. Multiple 10 kilotonne blasts.”

“Yes, we have a burst on the surface. Water displacement is characteristic of deep-sea nuclear blasts. Some kind of torpedo or depth charge.”

“The Dagonites have nukes! Fuck, intel didn't give us a warning about this! At most, they said they'd deploy chemicals or biologicals, and ground troops are NBCNaM-proofed.”

“They've never done that before!” Field Marshal Kora said, his voice twisted with anger, to his counterpart in the NEGN Command Triumvirate, watching over the scene on the floor.

“Casualties figures are coming in. We've lost the Equinox Sight, the Creation, the Ascension, the Awakening...”

“The vanguard has engaged in full. They're into the city itself; the defences are prioritising on the capital ships and the support units. The Engel squadrons have launched a full-on attack to break the firing lines.”

“Pull them back, pull them back! We can't take the city without the capital support,” ordered Admiral Tatuta

“We can't do that, sir. They'll be shredded by the defences if they head into open water.”

There was a groan.

“We're committed, then.” Field Marshal Kora, the representative from the NEGA (European) Triumvirate sucked in a breath, looking at Admiral Tatuta. There was a nod from the other man. “That's it, then. Continue the attack, but be ready to pull out when possible. We have to destroy those silos.” He paused, eyes filled with vengeful wrath. “And I personally authorise the deployment of κraken. Let's see how those fish-fuckers and their tentacled god like this.”

Admiral Tatuta shook his head, vigorously. “No!” he snapped. “You know just as well as I do that to deploy κraken would take at least two Triumvirate-level authorities, and I'm not giving that authorisation. It's not that severe, and we are certainly not going to fucking devastate the oceanic ecosystem in the way that use of κraken would.”

“Don't you get it!” snapped back Kora. “The seas aren't ours any more. They haven't been, since the start of AW2. It's better that κraken get them, than the Dagonites get to use them like they do!”

“Get some sense of proportion!” The other officers in the command centre were staring at the arguing Field Marshal and Admiral, now.

“They nuked us,” hissed Kora. “They haven't dared do that since '87, and we made them pay for New Miami in full. We should respond in kind, and the Migou won't object to κraken like they would to our own nuclear retaliation!”

“Listen to what you're saying. You know damn well what κraken would do to the world, and you'd still release it.” The Admiral looked up at the ceiling. “Goalenu,” he said, forcing his voice to be level, as he spoke to the LAI system that was so heavily integrated into the higher command functions that the two were, if not indistinguishable, at least rather hard to tell apart. “I would like to raise a concern about the mental health of Field Marshall Kora. I believe he has had a nervous breakdown, and...”

The other man glared at him. “I retract my suggestion that we deploy κraken, then.”

“Yes,” snapped the admiral. “You know, the entire reason for the Triumvirate system is to stop ill-thought out things like that.” He turned to another officer, taking a deep breath and setting his face. “Inform the other Task Forces of the fact that the Dagonite forces have used nuclear weapons. We're going to have to be very careful here.”

The confusion rippled out, into the military as a whole, and into the other Task Forces in Operation CATO. An outside onlooker might have noticed the slight hesitation that the ground forces in Task Force Scipio, engaged in a heavy assault on the capital, the Reykjavik pseudo-arcology, as their commanders spread units out and avoided concentrating their forces for fear of more atomic weapons, while the air forces in Task Force Marcellus held to more conservative patterns, in preparation to cover a retreat.

Task Force Nero did not hesitate. They had their mission, and they knew of its importance. And the higher-ups in Nero knew that, technically, the other three Task Forces were but bait, to distract. They'd known about the launch capacities of Guh'thya-leh'yi, after all; their sea-based missile capacity, equally capable of being deployed against land forces as against the naval units was a major threat, especially if the Dagonites were to work out the real purpose of CATO.

To be ruthlessly utilitarian, every nuclear weapon that was used against Maximus would not be used against Nero. And that was exactly how the planners wanted it. They would have preferred that Maximus destroy Guh'thya-leh'yi, and so neutralise the weapons that way. In fact, they hadn't expected the Dagonites to launch yet, that they would have to be pressed harder before they would risk revealing their strategic deterrent, but by forcing a launch in self-defence, the NEG now knew how the Dagonites hid their missile silos; the flare of sorcerous warding detected as it was temporarily lowered, enough that the waveform could be isolated. It had been a very careful balance to keep the forces far enough apart that damage could be reduced, while making them a tempting target that still would take multiple missiles (and thus multiple launches) to eliminate.

A good fraction of a NEGN task force, including multiple frigates and even more lesser units, was fair payment for such information, it was reckoned.



~'/|\'~




It was a good party, it was widely agreed (at least by the people who had obtained the highly exclusive invites). The Annual Gala For The Development of Nazzadi Culture was one of the best events in the social calendar, and this, the fifteenth iteration, was no exception. Despite the name, it was by no means composed exclusively of the dark-skinned siblings of humanity; this was a place where the influential and powerful mingled. A sceptic might even say that the event was an excuse for social influence and back-room dealing, but that would be a little too cynical. Many a young Nazzadi (and nowadays, xenomixed) artist had got their first break through the auspices of the Society for the Development of Nazzadi Culture

At the moment, a young group of sidoci were putting on a display of jakari, the “traditional” Nazzadi performance art which combined music and bladeplay through the means of hollowed tubes, which moaned and whistled as they passed through the air, interspersed by the staccato beats of the amijakari, the instruments, clashing. It was somewhat eerie to an ear unfamiliar with it; the beat slightly off from what might be expected, and the rapid shifts in pitch, as the amijakari were swung around, was not the most harmonic sound.

Oh, and the fact that every person on stage was a pyrokinetic made everything so much more exciting. Which was another way of saying that everyone on stage was on fire, in clothes which were not fireproofed and, in fact, in certain areas, had actually been covered in an accelerant. A disturbing number of people had already remarked that one or another of the group was “hot”, thus proving that bad humour and lechery (considering the average age of the onlookers to the young sidoci) was universal among the human subspecies.

One of the onlookers, a woman in a smart red suit, with her head rested against her jaw, was tapped on the shoulder by an adjunct, a brief whispered message into her ear. Tucking a loose hair behind an ear, she stood up. She had a mild headache; the lights and heat were a little too much in her opinion, but she hadn't got to her current position by letting her emotions show.

“What, are you not enjoying the display?” said one of her companions, a tall Nazzadi with Caucasian features, and a shirt pulled wide open to display what looked like ornate tattooing covering his chest. Looking closer, though, an onlooker could see the tiny topics running along the marks and across the other parts of his chest; thin, almost unnoticeable structures which could be used to alter local skin colouration to produce the tattoo-like effect.

The woman shook her head. “It's not that at all,” she said, calmly. “Actually, I'm rather annoyed at having to leave, and sincerely apologise for this. It's apparently urgent. I'm sorry about this, Yavana; please tell your artists that I enjoyed their performance greatly, and look forwards to following their future career. Such a group should do wonders at banishing the residual prejudice against both sidoci and parapsychics.”

“That is the point of the Society for the Development for Nazzadi Culture, yes?” the man replied, with a smirk. “'Through Culture, Harmony',” he added, repeating their motto.

“Quite,” she said, nodding, as she adjusted her jacked, and slipped away with the adjunct, in between a pair of other guests, their jackets perhaps a little tight on their bulky figures. Behind her, a wave of heat washed over the audience, as the music built to a crescendo and the sidoci jakari-artists built up the intensity of the fire, burning a blue-white which cast the room into a stark relief.

Once outside, she ran her hands over her face, wiping away the layer of sweat which had accumulated there. “That was a little warm,” she said to one of the guests who had followed her.

The man, a Nazzadi with the natural dark hair of his kind, nodded stiffly. “Yes, ma'am.”

“Anyway,” the woman continued, turning to the adjunct, “what is it, Tomás? This gala is an important one, and the Nazzadi press will be all over me if I'm not suitably there. You know they're already aggravated by those murders in Brasilia-A, and it's only going to get worse if the FSB can't find those monsters.”

“I apologise, Madam President,” the adjunct said calmly, “but this is highest priority. I have the Minister of War on the hotline, along with NEGAFC-Europe.”

The woman, Helen Nyanda, President of the New Earth Government and leader of the Unification Party, sighed. “Oh. Damn. There goes any hope of a quiet evening. Or probably of getting any sleep tonight.”

“That is indeed probable, Madam President. We have a secure link prepared, and a data-stream compatible with your hard contacts. It will be necessary to brief you on a Code SANDALPHON operation.”

The President's eyes opened wide. “Sandalphon? That's one of the ultra-high NEGA clearance ones, isn't it.” Not letting the adjunct answer her rhetorical question, she made a disgusted noise. “What has Genevieve done? What has happened!”

“It will be explained, Madam President,” the adjunct said smoothly. “Now, follow me, please. This is a somewhat urgent situation, and protocol demands that you be bought up to speed as soon as possible.”



~'/|\'~




Behind the Evangelions, the city of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr was aflame.

To a large extent, it was their fault.

Nevertheless, despite the hideous levels of violence and atrocities such as the gratuitous use of capital-grade weapons against foot infantry, it had been nothing more than a distraction, an obstacle that needed to be removed so that the true purpose of Operation CATO could be carried out. And now that it was past, it was time for that very purpose.

The Children weren't going to be told about the nuclear weapons. It would just alarm them unnecessarily.

“Shinji, Rei, Asuka,” said Misato, her head popping up on the AR viewscreen inside the Units. “The location of the first potential ritual site has been marked on your maps. We've had some luck, actually; the air cover cleared the skies ahead of schedule. Looks like the Dagonites had even less aircraft than we expected, and we overestimated their AA coverage. You have gunship support, as well as recon drone coverage.”

It was Asuka who asked the question. “What use is gunship coverage? We're more armed than them, even without the capital-grade weapons, and they restrict how the big guns can be used.” She glanced to the west, where the light of the burning pseudo-arcology, which was what had once been Reykjavik, could be seen over the mountains. The official main attack force of CATO had obviously been almost as busy at they had. “Back me up here, Shinji.”

“Uh...” he started. “Well, the plasma minigun is certainly useful...”

Misato shook her head. “They're Hyenas. Anti-armour precision platforms. They're there to take down mecha that might try to slow you down or perform a holding action.”

“Just as long as they don't get in our way,” Asuka grudgingly conceded.

“They will not obstruct our mission... I think,” stated Rei, an odd note underlying her voice.

Misato stared at the pale girl, eyes narrowed, trying to read her emotions off the porcelain mask that stared back at the elder woman. “I haven't forgotten about you,” said the Major. “Rei, you were issued the charge beam because it was felt that you were the most level-headed, and least likely cause friendly fire incidents with it.”

“And because I have the lowest synchronisation ration,” the girl said, in a monotone. “And so you told Dr Akagi that it would be best if I were given the weapon least sensitive to the increased reaction time produced by the deficiency in my synchronisation with the arcanocyberxenobiological organism.”

“That was a lesser factor, yes”, admitted the Major. “However, you have, on multiple occasions, fired it at Red zones. You knew that there were civilians or friendly forces in those areas, even if there were hostiles, you should have used other weapons. Does innocent life mean nothing to you?”

Rei looked back, an almost puzzled expression on her face, as if she were trying to solve a difficult question “I... was angry,” she said, finally. “The... explosion hurt. I was not thinking clearly, and forgot to reduce the yield. It was an error, and I shall endeavour to avoid in in future,” she continued, expanding on the same hesitant theme.

Misato only gazed back. Frankly, she didn't believe a word of it.

She isn't that emotionless, she thought, and she knows what things like that are. I saw the pain she was in, after the accident with Unit 00. She has the full range of human emotions, from her psych profile, and, anyway, Whites are still human... uh, well, human sub-species, just a bit... distant. Not emotionless robots or anything like that.

And I could see the feedout from her plug. She wasn't angry. She was feeling something... but it wasn't anger.

...how much of the
rest of her behaviour is a lie?

The deadlock was broken by the roar of the plasma minigun, as Shinji poured fire into the mountains ahead, the curve of the stream of projectiles visible in the pre-dawn darkness.

“There are a bunch of red icons up there,” he said through gritted teeth, squinting at the shapes on the AR display on the plug wall. “Mostly slashes... uh, infantry, with some squares and triangles.”

Impact craters of slagged volcanic glass and flash-ionised water vapour covered the slope ahead of them like plague scars, ten-metre wide holes that slagged the bunkers and the forces that were fleeing from the ruins of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr. If the brightness of the plasma weapon had not forced the photovisors of those with protection to clamp down (to prevent them from being blinded, like those who did not), then the clear path of glowing sores on the mountainside, an angry orange, would have been clearly visible.

Shinji was briefly tempted to write his name on the hillside. He fought it off, though not without some internal debate.

“I see them, I see them,” said Asuka, the head of Unit 02 turning away from the sight of the city, and tracking back and forth; a largely unnecessary action, when the fact that the sensor system of the Evangelion was producing most of the information on the plug wall, not the eyes. “I'm having problems acquiring them... are you getting a steady lock?”

Shinji nodded, the gesture reflected in the actions of the warmachine. “Yes, pretty good.”

Asuka frowned. “They're dropping in and out for me,” she said, as she triggered the lesser weapons on the Evangelion, LAI aiming systems freed from the constraints imposed upon them by the human in the cockpit. “I think... yes, that's it. I've lost long range sensor coverage down my front, Misato,” she reported. “I'm only getting things from left and right; about 40 degrees, right down the middle, just isn't working.”

“Are you sure, Asuka?” asked the Major. “The instruments are working, according to the data from the Eva.”

“Well, they're certainly not working for me,” she retorted. “Go talk to Doctor Akagi, then, and ask her why they're not showing things right in front of me. Come on, move,” she added to her fellow pilots, breaking into a run that ate up the distance at a considerable pace, the massive legs of the Evangelion breaking the ground. “We can't just stand around, and let infantry on foot delay us. And maybe it'll work, up close.”

“Uh, Asuka,” said Shinji. “I can see multiple squares and triangles, too. Not just infantry” He paused. “Does that mean that I'm the only one with a fully working sensor grid, then,” he asked. “Rei's was damaged in the blast, and if yours isn't working properly too...” he let his voice tail off, as the LAI systems engaged the targets it could see.

“Possibly,” said Misato, a concerned look on her face. “We didn't expect the trap, and it's done quite a lot of damage to the surface mounts that the Type-D added. I'll get you E-9 coverage to patch the sensor loss,” the Major added, closing the link. She turned to the technicians that Project Evangelion had bought with it. “Makota, put in a request, highest priority for a Sentinel to be assigned to the Evangelions. If the air is clear, then they don't have to sit back so much.”

“Yes, Major Katsuragi,” the Nazzadi remarked, adjusting his AR glasses slightly. “They're not going to like it,” he warned. “You know how people fight over E-9s.”

“They don't have to like it. Tell them to take one of the birds from the D-O monitoring; now that the Evangelions are through, the special forces there have filled their main role. They can pull back and consolidate, and so won't need as much TAWACS coverage, yes.” She sniffed. “And, since the Evangelions were nice enough to cut a path right through the heart of D-O for them, they should be grateful enough to spare us at least one E-9.”

“May I?” asked a voice, from behind her. It was the albino sorcerer from the OSS, the special operative. What was his name? Book, wasn't it... no, it was Tome, she recalled. The one who was just in the normal boundaries of creepy for a sorcerer, as opposed to the transcendental creepiness of Director Khoury. He stepped forwards, without waiting for an answer, handing a PCPU to Makota. “Use this code for requests for assets for Operation Nero. It should ease things.”

Misato, smiled, surprised. “Looks like there's some use to having you around, after all.”

“I aim to please,” he said, with a completely straight face. An effect which was ruined after only a second, when the corner of his mouth twitched up into a smirk.

“Uh, Major Katsuragi,” said Lieutenant Aoba, from further along the row of control panels. “Dr Akagi is still trying to contact you.”

Oh, good, thought Misato. She's going to be annoyed.

Dr Akagi appeared as a floating head on one of the lesser screens. From her expression and somewhat disturbed hair, she was not in the best of moods.

“Ah, Major Katsuragi,” she exclaimed, each word dripping with sarcasm. “So very nice of you to talk to me. I do like these conversations between the Director of Operations and the Director of Science, during the middle of the operation, when the Director of Science has something urgent to tell you.”

Misato managed a sigh. “I'm sorry. I had to deal with a woman from Special Services trying to talk to me and make veiled comments-which-honestly-aren't-suggestions right after Unit 00 got caught in an booby-trapped explosion, and then deal with the Children and set their next directives. And have a talk with Rei,” she added darkly.

The scientist's face softened. “A woman from the Office of Special Services?” she asked. “I'd heard that they were involved, but... they were actually interfering in command decisions?” She sucked in a breath. “That's skirting what they're allowed to do, unless it was authorised by a high-up in the government. I think they'd need... regional, if not ministerial authority.” A faint smirk appeared. “Are you sure that she wasn't from the Office of Special Services?”

“No, I'm pretty sure she was. The paperwork authorised as her as one of the Directors, too.”

“No, I meant, she wasn't...” began Ritsuko, before Misato interrupted.

“No, Rits. She most certainly was,” she snapped. “And, yes, the OSS does exist, and it isn't funny, and that joke gets used far too much, and it's just annoying, and I'm not in the mood. Now, are you going to tell me what you got angry about, or are you going to let me get back to handling three capital-grade units manned by teenagers?”

The shock on Ritsuko's face flashed across it; this was somewhat akin to being bitten by a fairly friendly cat (not that such a thing didn't happen, she thought). The expression was mimicked by the other Ashcroft Project staff moved up here for C&C; they'd never really seen the Major go for Dr Akagi like that. The needling and sarcasm was normally only a one-sided affair. “Good,” she managed. “Right. Firstly, we've managed to work out what the effects of the damage is on the operation capabilities of the Units. Beyond the loss of obviously functionality; I mean. We've run the physics simulation on the data from the Evas. Zero-Zero is in the worst state, but both Unit 01 and Unit 02 have taken minor epidermal damage.” She paused. “Uh, that's surface damage.”

“I know what 'epidermal' means,” retorted Misato, anger still somewhat evident. “And, actually, it means 'skin'.”

“Well, yes. The bad news. Unit 00's point defence grid is going to be giving worse then 20% coverage. They couldn't have designed a better weapon to wreck it if they tried. The fine particulate the first blast kicked up was nasty enough, but the second one? Well, it just fused most of the laser grid straight away, especially since the system tried to tried to track some of the larger chunks.”

“That woman from Engel told me that they'd sorted that problem,” Misato said darkly. “False acquisition was a problem with those grids even back in '86; that's why they never saw widespread mecha use.”

“Probably.” Ritsuko sighed. “In addition, the heat melted... well, I have a long list here, but it sums to “Keep Eva 00 away from anything that might hit it in the legs”. Keep the First Child back as far as possible.”

“Well yes,” Misato said, with laboured patience. “I was intending to hold the one with the long-ranged in-theory-precision weapon back.”

“In theory?” Ritsuko frowned. “What do you mean, in theory?”

“Rei appears to have some problems with the concept of don't-shoot-the-Rei-Gun-near-the-people-in-the-camps,” said Misato, lips pursed.

“Are you sure?” asked Dr Akagi. “She's normally... well, excellent at following instructions. What rules of engagement did you give her?”

“They should be in the batch of files I got Aoba to send you the day before yesterday,” Misato said, gazing up at the ceiling for a second, as she thought back. “I manually tagged it and everything; 'ROE'.”

“Yes, I thought I'd read it,” the scientist said, after only just a moment looking away from the screen. “Nothing unusual. That's... unlike her. I'll need to get another psych profile done as soon as she gets back to L2,” she added, a momentary expression flashing across her face that Misato couldn't read.

“No. But there's something even more serious.”

“Another thing?” Ritsuko said, rolling her eyes.

“Yes. You know the damage the Evas took. Well, Asuka's noticed that she's getting a blank arc; 40-or-so degrees, in the front arc of her sensors. Just the long range ones; they're losing things when they're right in front of her.”

“In front of her, relative to head or torso,” the blond asked, all traces of levity gone.

“Makota?” Misato asked.

The Nazzadi's hands flew across the console. “Uh... torso, judging from the dialogue transcripts and the feeds, Major.”

Ritsuko nodded. “Yes, that would be what it would be if it were the actual sensors playing up, rather than a problem in the feed. I'll get Maya right on it.”

“You know, it would be a lot easier if we actually had some Magi technicians up here,” Misato said.

“Yes, I'm sure it would,” Ritsuko replied, archly. “But there's no way that we'd let the Magi run a datastream all the way to Scotland, then broadcast it to a ship, even over tightbeam. Do you have any idea of the security risks that would entail? And that's not even mentioning the lag that the Magi Operators would have to suffer; it'd play hell with them and attempts to use the Magi to their full potential. The DMIN suffers over the distances in L2, let alone the kind of multiple-link long-range network that this kind of thing would require.”

“I know, I know.” Misato sighed. “It was just a grumble, after all.”



~'/|\'~




In a hidden chamber, dug deep into the hard volcanic rock of Iceland, the concentric circles of Deep One sorcerers swayed and chanted, their inhuman cadences transmitted through the waters of the vast flooded chamber and reflected by the walls; focussed on the massive figure in the centre.

Jr-bs'sre hagb l'bh, DAGON-ybeq'uvt-urfg, bhe ce'nlref. Gnx'r bhg gur be-tbar sebz bhe f'bhyf naq gnxr vg hagb g'urr, gb jnxr gur ur-enyq, va freivpr gb CTHULHU-ybeq'fhcerzr, they chanted, over and over again, unceasing in their devotion to their patriarch and his lord. Jr-bs'sre hagb l'bh, DAGON-ybeq'uvt-urfg, bhe ce'nlref. Gnx'r bhg gur be-tbar sebz bhe f'bhyf naq gnxr vg hagb g'urr, gb jnxr gur ur-enyq, va freivpr gb CTHULHU-ybeq'fhcerzr.

With each beat of the sonorous drum, they forced their ruach, the energy of their souls, through the sanctified channels that ran from each of the positions. When one fell or released the engraved golden rods before them, they were replaced before the drum beat again. No human sorcerer, they knew, could have maintained such a flow of ruach for so long. Not even their hybrid children, even when they were fully mature, could do this. The hybrids were emotionally stunted and backwards, mentally crippled children who crammed several hundred years of maturation into a few mere decades. They were useful, true, but they were not really worthy of the mastery that came with the Blood of Dagon. These sorcerers came from all over the globe, the wise among the sunken Deep One cities.

And even they were not enough, on their own. So the lifeforce of human slaves were being used, a crude implement to boost the reserves of the sorcerer-priests, who could refine it and channel it properly. It was trivial to remove the limited ruach that the human soul could temporarily contain, if one did not mind the death of the inferior being. The sorcerer-priests could feel the pulse from the air-filled outer sanctum, as blessed machines of gold and emerald and steel dug their way into the nervous systems of the sacrificed, filling them with a moment of transcendental bliss as their blood gushed from the wounds the machines made and the release of arcane energies fried their brains.

The figure in the middle felt the rush from his children, and reached further down. It was still not far enough! They were forced to keep on moving the location for the ritual, as the geomantic warding proved too strong for one such as him. He was only the most favoured servant of his master, after all, and although some of his powers were invested in this most unworthy servant, the powers of the Endless Ones delegated to one such as him, he was not truly worthy.

They would keep on pushing. That much was necessary. The one below, the <Ancient-One-Who-Slept-In-Fire>, who dwelt in the molten rock just as he and his kin dwelt in the ocean, was an ally of his master. No, ally was not the right word, insofar as such terms applied to such beings so far beyond his own comprehension. Nevertheless, if he invoked the <Ancient-One-Who-Slept-In-Fire>, with the authority of his master, it would awaken. And that was all that was needed.

If only he could break the wards which the <Ancient-One-Who-Slept-In-Fire> had erected through its will!



~'/|\'~



Paxton Fettel, the Primary Commander for Project Perseus, a designated handler for the creations of Project Eidelon, Animagenoneural Reference Source for Projects Harbinger and Paragon, and the Second Infant for Project Herkunft, got up from the control couch, stepping through the suit (more akin to a power armour than clothing) which fed him data, restrained his limbs, and provided him with nutrition for long-time operations.

It was but matter, merely present in the three dimensions of space and one of time that pre-Arcane Theory mankind had known about, and he was more than that.

His steps were calm, confident, and silent, as he stepped over to the Herkunft operators, monitoring the progress of the Replicas in Iceland, empowered by his soul and mind and will, and the various mechanisms the Group had used to replicate them in others. Reaching out with one hand, he brushed aside the short black hair of a female operator sat near to him, eyes fixed on the feedout monitoring the characteristics of the Second Infant within the control suit, and lent down, mouth against her ear.

“Wake up,” he said, softly. “Rise and shine.”

The operator stiffened slightly, as a terrible feeling of cold water ran over her skin, her bones feeling like they were on fire. She wanted to scream; she couldn't.

“What a... boring. No, mundane, that is a better term. What a mundane mind we have here,” he said softly, no-one else in the room hearing his whispered words. “Except it's not.” He smiled. “They set you up, you know. They never trusted you to oversee this part of the operation. How much did they pay you, I wonder? Ah,” he added, rummaging through her thoughts, “no, they didn't pay you. You're doing this because you believe.”

He smiled, teeth bared as his lips curled up.

“But why is it that you believe? They removed all choice from you, didn't they? And you don't even know that. You're as much an object, a machine as the computer you sit at. You are a puppet, a little doll suspended from cables that move your limbs for you and I can see the strings.”

The woman, frozen as his mind reached deep into hers, reached down, and began to type a note, that there was nothing unusual with the Second Infant, noting time and date.

“But I didn't need to do that, did I? You wanted to do that. Your sense of self is an illusion that lags behind the interactions between your soul, and your body. That's why you left a little backdoor that let me do this without alarms being triggered, exactly so that I could do this. Because you are a child's drawing, sketched over the complexity and beauty of a masterwork in neurons and charges and emergent structure.”

He paused.

“I can hear her calling out, you know,” he added in a somewhat hollow voice. “I survived as myself, because the last time this happened, there was someone else that she was drawn to first. But now, there is no shield, beyond the cheap copies which will not stand. The First... I cannot see into his mind; it is like a steel ball, closed on itself, with empathy but very little sympathy. He can withstand her. And the Third is trapped within the loop of her own foreknowledge and past-sight. I have touched her mind, and it felt a little like hers. Perhaps the very similarity is some kind of defence. And the Fourth is no more... at least at the moment. We shall see.”

Paxton Fettel licked his lips, looking around the room, at the precision and order of the organisation layered over the machine-like minds, following the directives he could see written across their selves, their training removing the inelegance from the dance of progress that he watched. He reached into the woman's soul, and snipped out the memories of what he had just said.

'Know what the stars forebode.'” he breathed, letting her hair fall back into place. The operator bought up a new AR menu, and input a password, activating a concealed program as her own concealed internal programming kicked in.

The man let out a chuckle, as his form melted away into intangible ash which fell to the ground and vanished. Back inside the control suite, a faint smile crept onto his inanimate body.

It was time to do as AHNUNG had asked.

Exactly what they had asked.



~'/|\'~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.


Last edited by EarthScorpion on 2009-12-19 10:47am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Chapter 14, Part 3 PostPosted: 2009-12-13 01:06pm
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~'/|\'~




The toppleless towers of Guh'thya-leh'yi, which had stood for many an age of the Earth, and had been foretold to stand for many more, crumbled and fell. Explosions ravaged the phosphorescent palaces of many terraces, and the gardens of strange leprous corals and grotesque brachiate efflorescences wilted and died, as the unseen machines of the modern era, and the noxious byproducts of war, filled their delicate fronded filter tubes and tore them apart, innocent victims of an uncaring legion of men and monsters.

It had been said that the Deep Ones could not be destroyed, and that it took the palaeogean magics of the Old Ones to keep them in check. Such tales were revealed for what they were; the hubris and self-aggrandisement of a species which had let its time slip through webbed fingers, and even now grasped spasmodically for that which had past and would not come again through their own devices, for all that they clutched at the memories and tales of the past. Even more than one hundred and sixty years ago, less than one Deep One generation ago (though many more of their bastard offspring and the lower race which they bred them from) the crude submersibles and low-yield depth charges of the ancient United States of America had hurt Y'ha-nthlei. They had not killed the city, true, merely wounded it and left it to recover and repair, to plan its revenge.

Y'ha-nthlei would not fall until 2079, when the revived Esoteric Order of Dagon drew the attention of the New Earth Government. There were still records from the First Innsmouth Campaign, after all, surviving the end of the United States and the First Arcanotech War to sit in archives, a weapon from the past to be drawn by modern humanity and thrust into the heart of their kin-species (for, until the advent of the Nazzadi, the Deep Ones had been the sapient species most akin to humanity). Nevertheless, now it was a blasted wreck; the fires and bombs and missiles of unified humanity descending from on high to lay wreckage to the place, the fleeing survivors tracked in the hope that they would lead the land-dwellers to more of the undersea cities.

They had not. And this was one of the main goals of the attack on Guh'thya-leh'yi; to take and hold the city intact. To take the secrets of the Deep Ones, take their knowledge and their tales and their maps and their plans. To steal from them that which defined them, and use it against them.

That was something that humanity did very well.

Azrael let out a screech, the harmonics shifted by the depths, travelling faster than it should have through the dark waters, and lashed out with a feeder tendril. The white armoured Deep One, spear cast aside in its attempts to flee, opened its mouth (the armour was not sealed, though the eyes were hidden behind the faceplate) and tried to bite into the tentacle.

amusement pulsed through the neural link, into Zuly's head. Azrael found this hilarious, she could feel, and she let out a faint giggle (quickly restrained) as a second tendril pulled the legs off the tiny figure before her, the cloud of rich red blood a slight discolouration on the thermals, rapidly dispersed as Azrael devoured the hapless fishman. He seemed calmer, now, the pulses of emotion reduced to mere whimsy by the time that they reached her, rather than the genuine terror which had been felt just before the attack... the nuclear attack.

“Good boy,” she whispered softly, tightening her fingers around the control yokes. “Good boy. I'm sorry I didn't realise what you were doing.”

satisfaction pulsed back at her, with just a hint of boredom.

Spinning on the spot, angled A-Pods thrusting her around, she raised one arm and let loose with the cutting laser, scoring deep scars into the architecture of Guh'thya-leh'yi, and scything down the foes which covered in it. Some of them were fighting back. The nuclear charges had shown that they could hurt the unfaithful. If only they had fired them earlier, before the rampaging armoured monsters had broken off. Others were merely hiding, until the heavier forces, their salvation, could get there.

They weren't coming.

There was a brief moment of quiet in the war, and Lieutenant Zuly used the opportunity to thrust into cover, the feet of her arcanocyberxenobiological organism anchoring itself into the rock. Quiet was a purely relative term, of course, as the deep thudding blasts of the bombardment from high above (far less than it should have been, reserves hurriedly moved into position to fill the losses) met the crack of superheated water from all over the city, and the corresponding retaliation from the Deep One forces. Looking up, Zuly saw a brief flare of light, followed by a ripple of explosions as the hit frigate tore itself apart. Unknown to her, a torpedo had got past the laser grid and torn through weakened armour, detonating the internal munitions supply, but the sight of the death of the NEGN ship was still sufficiently clear. The carcass of the slain ship, a dead leviathan, fell, spine barely holding, before slamming into an underwater spire, deep in this crevasse, where it broke up further. A few smaller explosions, remnants of the weapon systems blew then, only contributing further to the scattering of the remains of the Truth and Justice across Guh'thya-leh'yi.

The war was going as well as might be hoped, given the catastrophe which had occurred at the start. The Engels had penetrated the outer city, which was even now under attack from the surviving capital units and the conventional submarines and mecha, and now they were in their favoured zone; the up-close, dangerous conflicts where their individual superiority over the larger Dagonite mecha and their older, pre-arcanotech war machines was best used. While the Ish were more of a support unit, their long-range torpedoes reaping a terrible cost in Leviathans and Hybras on the initial approach, the Hamshalliam liked to get to the short-to-medium ranges in the dense conurbation that lay at the heart of the Deep One city, descending down into the crust where strange, arcane machinery was fuelled by the molten rock so close to the surface around Iceland.

“Check in.” It was Captain Koru. He, at least, had made it down here intact, all the survivors of the squad pulling into the cavernous hall in the building they had just riddled with charge beam trails and carved with lasers. It looked like some kind of minor temple, perhaps, or the office of some kind of civil authority. It wasn't clear; the damage to the walls didn't really affect the fact that none of the squadron could read Ry'lehan, and so the hieroglyphs and associated pictures were nothing more than disturbing decorations (featuring too many tentacles and unnatural beings), to be erased. “Captain Koru, Engel-Type Hamshall, Designate Eremiel.”

“First Lieutenant Border, Engel-Type Hamshall, Designate Sehkmet.”

“Second Lieutenant Pecna, Engel-Type Hamshall, Designate Dyeus.”

She checked in. “First Lieutenant Zuly, Engel-Type Hamshall, Designate Azrael.” She said the last word with her characteristic disdain; she hadn't chosen the name, after all, even if this was a stupid time to be worrying about this.

There was a pause. Then Koru spoke, a note of melancholy in his tone. “The lights for Miguel and Sma are red. They're deemed MIA, until further confirmation.”

Already two losses, thought Zuly. That really wasn't good. Engels didn't come with ejection systems, because of how the entry plug was built directly into the nervous system of the arcanocyberxenobiological organism, and this deep, if the plug was compromised, you'd be crushed, even in an HEV suit.

As if to remind her of that, she felt, rather than heard, the armoured chassis-carapace of Azrael creak, as a distant explosion let loose its pressure wave. You never really got used to that sound, even when you'd heard it many times. And, yes, she was safer than someone in a submarine, as the flesh of her Engel could probably hold out, even through an armour breach, but she was just in a small, fluid-filled plug, surrounded by armour and unnatural flesh. It was always a worry.

“Captain,” said Samantha Border, nervousness evident even over the heavily encrypted comms, “I saw Cassiel get hit on the way down. He... he was right in front of me. Lieutenant Sma is dead, sir.”

“It might have just been a mission kill,” Su Koru said, gently.

“In that combat environment, that's as good as dead. Oh gods. It would have hit me, otherwise.”

“Lieutenant Border, pull yourself together. You're having problems with your communion; I can read it. I do not need a berserk Engel, when we're in this situation.”

There were several shuddery, fluid-filled breaths over the radio. “Sorry, sir. And sorry, Sehkmet. Calm down, girl, calm down. It's okay. I'm feeling better. I'll make it up to y...” there was a gurgled hiss of breath, “Sorry. Radio on.”

No one said anything. There was a thud, felt through the chassis of the Engel, and through the feet anchored to the plazas of the city, and a brief lightness in the all consuming dark, far deeper than the sun would have reached, even had it been day.

“Do you think that was another nuke, Captain?” asked Pecna.

“No,” he answered confidently, after a wait of about a second. “LAI says spectrum was wrong, and too deep, unless they want to blow up their city before we did it.”

“I just wish we had proper underwater recon Engels,” said Zuly, darkly. “Auphans were really useful, back when I was in a tin can. They could have told us what those fish-fuckers were going to do.”

Samantha let out a gurgling chuckle. “We're up against the Deep Ones, here. They're the fish-fuckees, remem...” she said, interrupted by a torpedo smashing into the building, spilling rubble from the ceiling down onto her Engel. “Captain, I think they've found us,” she added unnecessarily.

“Yes, I'd say so,” Captain Koru said. “We've got new orders; they've got comms back up, and a proper Verdandi sensor frigate overhead. We're to head deeper into the city. Ignore the outer defences. They've detected what they think is the power source; if we can cripple their geothermal plants, they'll soften up.”

“Deeper?” Zuly asked, scepticism in her voice.

want, emoted Azrael. below. tasty. approval.

“... and now Azrael wants to go down there,” she continued, the scepticism becoming concern. “As in, that was worryingly aware thought, just then. Are you sure that it's a good idea?”

“If we don't get the geothermal plants, the fleet will take heavy losses,” the Captain said, ignoring her question. “Move out, bounding overwatch, two-by-two. Use NC4 LAI automated evasion package; it's too tight quarters for RZ4.”

“Captain, 7... no, 8 Merrows coming in,” said Pecna, worry in his voice, as he watched the sleek powered armour jet down to their hull-down position through a camera feed from an LAI-slaved drone. “Two squads. Highlighted and tagged on TacCom.”

“Damn. Last thing I need, PA with CBs. Okay, prioritise targets. Ambush variant Delta-7. Don't let them get a shot off; those things are dangerous. Execute in 10. After that, we're going to want to keep away from buildings, because if they're deploying Merrows like that, they can wolf-pack us.”

The eight pure-blooded Chosen, clad in the three-and-a-half metre tall armour which mounted an integral charge beam which punched way above their weight category, were exceptionally surprised when four Hamshalliam, each over ten metres tall, burst out through the wall of the second floor of the tomb of Luh'ra-da-j'maen, their whitish-green deepwater camo hard to see in the low light, designed as it was for low thermal emissions. They already had the targets located, and although the Merrow could punch above its weight, it was in all other regards a power armour, as the surprised pilots were well aware.

The surprise did not last long.

Well, apart from for the Deep Ones; in that case, it lasted for the rest of their lives.



~'/|\'~




The sun had already reached its zenith, after only a few short hours of light, before beginning its decent back under the horizon, the land returning to the night that embraced it so tightly in these winter months. Down below the surface, though, in the water filled sanctum where Dagon himself and the elite of the sorcerers of the Chosen, such things meant nothing, except in an astrological sense. And although the positions of the stars and the planets (or, more correctly, the effects on higher dimensional spaces that their c-limited propagating electromagnetic and gravitational waves, and other, more esoteric interactions, had) were of vital importance to such a ritual, the they were also known quantities. Stable. Controlled. Understood and accounted for.

Jr-bs'sre hagb l'bh, DAGON-ybeq'uvt-urfg, bhe ce'nlref. Gnx'r bhg gur be-tbar sebz bhe f'bhyf naq gnxr vg hagb g'urr, gb jnxr gur ur-enyq, va freivpr gb CTHULHU-ybeq'fhcerzr, the chant continued. Over and over again. Jr-bs'sre hagb l'bh, DAGON-ybeq'uvt-urfg, bhe ce'nlref. Gnx'r bhg gur be-tbar sebz bhe f'bhyf naq gnxr vg hagb g'urr, gb jnxr gur ur-enyq, va freivpr gb CTHULHU-ybeq'fhcerzr.

Lord Dagon let out an ululating gurgle, and send another surge of ruach downwards, down to the Earth's core. It was necessary to rouse the <Ancient-One-Who-Slept-In-Fire> slowly, to ensure that it was full and woken as close as possible to gurpr-y'rf'gv'ny p'bawhap-g'v-ba, the celestial conjunction that was coming so soon. It would ensure that the great being, ancient beyond belief, would listen to his petition, and acknowledge his right to do so.

To rouse it too quickly could be disastrous. It slept by the core of the Earth, after all.

Compared to a human, the visual range of the Deep Ones was spread over a larger range of frequencies, yet had anomalous gaps. It was not surprising, after all. Evolution selects for traits which aid survival and increase the chance of breeding in the environment which the species dwells. In the case of Homo sapiens sapiens, then, the arboreal-roots of the apes from which they had come was clearly evident, all the way from their dexterous manipulators to their superior colour vision for a mammalian species. Mammals, descended as they were from nocturnal creatures, tended to trade colour vision, with its inefficient cone cells, for the always-functional, black and white rod cells. The arboreal branch of the warm-blooded lactating creatures that contained the primates (and within them, the great apes), therefore, had been forced, by circumstance (and the need to find brightly coloured food in a largely green environment), to re-evolve colour vision, and indeed their ability to distinguish between different wavelengths of light was excellent by mammalian species, while retaining, compared to much of the animal kingdom, superlative night vision. The cost they had paid was still evident, however; they were trichromates, rather than tetrachromates, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom. And the Nazzadi, Homo sapiens nazzadi were a kin sub-species, engineered by the alien Migou, based off archaic Homo sapiens sapiens, and one of the things that the Yuggothian fungoids had done was rebuild the structure of the eye, so that it conformed to their aesthetic preferences. It was more efficiently designed, wired the right way around, and gave them night vision comparable to that of most mammals, with only a slight loss in the acuity of their colour vision (hence the slightly over-bright, and discordant colours, when seen from a human viewpoint, common in Nazzadi fashion).

The Deep Ones, the Dagon-tra'rg-v'pf, had been subjected to rather different pressures. Down in the depths, clinging, ape-like, to reefs (and what was their relationship to man, exactly? They bore live young, that was certain, and maintained thermal equilibrium in their body temperature, albeit a lower one than most mammals, but they had gills; an adaptation which even the cetaceans had not evolved), the ability to see all the colours that a human could was a lot less useful than the ability to see through the water of their aquatic biome. They were only dichromates; able to see the blue-green that was absorbed by water the least, and infrared, used for point-blank hunting. They could see the polarisation of light, though, and their low-light vision was superior to that Homo sapiens sapiens, though notably inferior to that of the engineered Nazzadi. If the qualia that one of the Chosen experienced could be converted into that seen by a human mind (and it could, due to parapsychics and their ability to intrude into the mind of another), then they would seem as blind to yellow as humanity was to infrared, and pure green hovered at the edge of perception, in the same fashion as a blacklight; the blue-green (to a human) wavelengths the centre of their perception. To a Deep One, the surface was a strange, dark place; the blue sky containing a blue-green/infrared sun, shining over the largely black expanses of nature and of the buildings that the humans constructed. In return, the infra-red and the polarisation of light was opened up to them. A human being was blind to both evtug-eb'gng'r and y'rsg-eb'gng'r, let alone the difference between them. Though they were kin, compared to the other things in the Aeon War, the gap in perceptions was massive. And bridged by every hybrid who transformed, yellows fading to nothingness as a whole new qualian spectrum opened up.

And so, when Lord Dagon's sight faded, the area around him forcing it into colours and qualia that he should not have been able to see, losing all the infrared components, and forcing him into the perceptions of a hostile mind, he knew to be afraid. It was in fact more alarming than the way that the Deep One sorcerers who surrounded him faded to ash, falling apart, for it was possible for that to happen naturally, whether through sorcerous backlash or hostile powers. But this change in the way he perceived things; the only way that could happen was if something was inside his mind.

“You were open, like a castle with its door unbarred and its gates spread wide,” said a hollow sounding voice, from within his mind. And he understood it, understand the alien thought processes that raped his mind with the bloodied hooks they ploughed through his subconscious mind.

fire

bodies

awakening


“You reached out, looking for another mind. But, like the hedgehog who tried to get close to another, you were impaled.”

Dagon searched around, in this red-tinted world he was trapped in, alone in a hollow sphere filled with water. Even the walls, so carefully inscribed with the runes in vibrant q'r r-cerq', were now blank.

There were two figures standing on the curved ceiling above him, the taller one stood in front of the smaller one... no, there was only one figure. Who took a step forwards, a casual stroll as if he was in his native environment. In a sense he was; this was not the physical body of the human, he could see. The lord of the Deep Ones tried to communicate, try to work out what was going on.

What <are> you?


The man smiled, hair perfectly still, as if it were sculpted onto his head. “Can't you see? Why don't you think?”

<Exist> Spawn-of-Yog-Sothoth


Paxton Fettel shook his head. “No.”

<Exist> Spawn-of-Yog-Sothoth!


“Use your mind. Call upon your memories.”

A pause. Then;

Impossible! <Can> not <be>!


“No. No. Not impossible at all. You? You are one of the chosen servants of a dead god who sleeps. And I?” The corners of his mouth turned up. “I am not a servant. Nor was I chosen.” Paxton Fettel paused for a second. “At least, not by her. Others removed that right from her.”

fire

bodies

death


<untranslatable>?


“Think more. Open up your mind.”

<Exists> refusal, mindworm!


The man grinned, a predator's smile. “I wondered how long it would take you to realise. But it really doesn't matter. I have touched your mind, now, and now they know how you feel. That is enough.”

How <is> <this thing> possible?


There was a new stress in the alien mind. It reached out, but found that it now longer controlled its body, that its mind was trapped in a fleshy prison. Paxton Fettel continued walking, another step along the ceiling. He was getting very close to the bloated Deep One, now, the glint of steel in his hand evident.

“The light of your soul shone out, as you tried to contact Moloch. Through your wards, through your shields, through time and space. And the light is still out there.”

fire

bodies

death


<Does> not <exist>! <Is> not <wanted>!


“I am in your mind, not your soul. What use is a soul, Lord Dagon, if you have no mind to think with?” He coughed slightly. “I am afraid that they only want you for your soul, for your AT-Field. They really don't care about your body or mind at all.”

I <will> <destroy> you!


“Yes. Given time.”

Time <is> on my side!


“No.” There was a grim finality to the words. “No. It is not. The Third. The White Dollmaker. She comes for you. And you cannot even gain the will to move, let alone let the light of your soul shield you from what she bears.”

fire

bodies

death


<Impossible>


“You keep on using that word. I am not entirely sure that you know what it means.” The man shrugged. “It does not matter. You deserve to die.” He paused. “You know why I kept talking to you?” he asked, in a casual tone. “With each word, each thought, I get deeper into your mind. I bind it to me. I steal it. How much of the thing answering me is you, oh mighty Dagon,” the sarcasm was blatant in that statement, “and how much of that thing is a simulation being run in my own mind, to trick your soul into remaining where it is while the Third comes even closer?”

What <is> it that you <want>!


The man paused. “Retaliation,” he answered finally.

fire

bodies

death


And then death came through the ceiling. It was not the kind of beam so beloved of fiction, which gives a point of immanent brightness which expanded into a terrible light which permit the victim a futile attempt to flee. No, it was death incarnate, a sudden transition from life to non-life which left the entire room nothing but plasma. In a sense, it was almost anti-climatic in its suddenness.

But the universe did not care for dramatic necessity, and merely progressed according to its (albeit mutable) laws.

The three Evangelions stood on the mountainside, and watched the fungoid cloud blossom above what had been the mine, braced as the shockwave rippled the ground beneath them and slammed into their profiles. The blast was tainted with strange colours, greens and purples and blues, as the orgone reservoirs which the ritual had built up discharged, transmuted into photons throughout the spectrum, and other, strange forms of matter, which too quickly decayed.

“Target eliminated,” said Rei, dispassionately. “The ritual site has been cleared.”

It took almost thirty seconds for Misato to respond, her image cracked and distorted as a fresh E-9 was moved into position. “Uh... wow,” she managed. “Request confirmation of target's destruction,” the Major added.

“Target eliminated,” repeated Rei. “The ritual site has been cleared.”

“We're not getting any Pattern Blues from the site,” called out Aoba, from his desk. “The Arr-Eees are clear, too.”

“Good,” said Asuka. “Now, can we detach the umbilical, and move out, now that the First has done her thing. She doesn't need the power, now, and I'm running off batteries here.”

“Why are they called umbilicals, anyway?” asked Shinji, frowning. “They go into the back. That's... not where an umbilical cord goes.”

“Because they're a plug that goes into the torso?” hazarded Misato.

“Yes, but that's a rather ornate name, isn't it? I'd thought that they'd have called it something like the Arcanoelectric Transferred Power Conduit, or at the very least translated it into German or something.” He sucked on his top lip as he thought. “Like... Magenkabel,” he hazarded.

A window opened fro,Unit 02. “Shinji.” The red-haired girl's face was almost as flat as Rei's.

“Yes, Asuka?”

“Shut up. Stop babbling. Learn more German. 'Stomach cable' isn't a good name. And Rei. Give me back my main engine.”

Agent Tome, of Special Services, tapped Misato on the shoulder. “They should do that. The Solomon Throne is moving up, and it can't land if there are hostile forces.”

“That's approved,” said Misato. “Shinji, Asuka, Rei. Keep the area clear of Dagonite forces; we've got more aircraft moving up, once the atmosphere clears up.

The pale girl nodded. “I shall do so”, she said. “I think... no, it does not matter,” she corrected herself.

“Okay...” said Asuka, squinting at the other girl.

“No,” said Shinji. “Really, what was it? Was it important? Do you... know that something is happening?” he asked, unsure of how to direct questions at the parapsychic.

“I know everything is happening,” Rei answered. “If it does not happen, it does not exist. That is how we define everything.”

“Uh...” Shinji tailed off. “Never mind.” He closed the window, leaving Rei gazing out of her fluid-flooded capsule, the walls covered in overlays and projections, a few commands enough to detach the umbilical cables that had provided the extra power for the charge beam, running it off the equivalent of three frigate-grade power grids.

And she knew what had happened.

brother

sister


fire

bodies

awakening




~'/|\'~




Time passed.

Replica Unit Foxtrot 813 opened his eyes. Before them lay patterns of blue and green and red, cascading before his eyes in random patterns of squares and hexagons, reforming and melting away with each beat of his heart. His arms and legs felt restricted, and there was some force, pulling him to his right, squeezing him against the wall. Squirming, he managed to move his left arm; the right was being crushed, right up against something.

Status: I still remain in my REV-8, he thought. The patterns match the response of the internal eyesguard to a strong magnetic field. The external armour appears to have taken major damage, although I remain physically intact.

Squirming from within the immobilised suit, he managed to free his left arm from the suit's arm, bringing it into the pilot's capsule. The REV-8's limb screeched, as melted servos tried to match the movement, before giving up when the Replica remembered to disconnect the feedback system. The right one remained pinned against the arm of the suit, only able to move it a small distance before some force pulled it back.

If 813 had been built from pure baseline genetic material, his arm would have almost certainly have been broken. Even as it was, it felt heavily bruised.

“Foxtrot 813 calling all Units in the area. Phi-alpha, phi-alpha. 813 calling all units.”

There was no response; only intense random static in the systems.

With the one free hand, he groped at his helmet, pulling away the piloting overlay, which was malfunctioning and producing the colours. The inside of the suit was cast in the same red, green and blue light, though, as the mainscreen of the armour exhibited the same problems. Through the corrupted interface, he could vaguely see the shapes of where warning were meant to be, their boxes unreadable under the flickering light. Finally getting his hand to the release leaver, he pulled it, the sound of pressure seals venting a welcome noise to the Replica.

The front failed to open. He gave it a thump, trying to dislodge it. Nothing happened. The push also failed to provide any help at all.

813 paused for a moment, giving it what-passed-for-thought in his pseudo-sapient mind. From what he could tell, there was an issue with the right arm, probably with the plasma cannon mounted on it, which relied on a linear spatially discontinuous arcanomagentic field to channel and prevent dissipation of the plasma. That would fulfil the observed details.

Satisfied, he began the shutdown procedure for the D-Engine mounted in the back of the REV-8. He considered initialising the Horizon Event emergency shutdown; the idea was rejected, because if it turned out that the REV-8 could be salvaged when he inspected it from the outside, the D-Engine would have to be replaced, making the armour useless for this mission.

This time, when he levered open the front-opening slides with the freed arm, they opened. The arcanomagentic field was still present, due to the D-Cells in the plasma cannon specifically designed to keep the field active in the case of a shutdown, if the weapon was still hot, but weakened, in dissipation mode, and so he could pull the arm away, standing up from the ruins of the building he had been thrown into by the blast.

All around, was urban wastes, in the most literal sense. The dust filled the air, mixed with nanological and micrological agents, turning the weak winter sun, this far north, red, like the sun was setting early. Tangled power cables, formerly strung between the busy apartment complexes which had filled this residential district, lay on the ground like the corpses of snakes, their power cut. The area was unpleasantly hot; the trap which had destroyed an entire district may have melted into the round, the surface of the earth no contest for the heat it produced, but the radiated heat and the warming of the ground, still made things this close to the area like a desert. It was why it was quieter here; troops not in power armour couldn't operate here properly, the only survivors bunkering down in buildings, and so the NEG could claim armoured supremacy without much difficulty, leaving only the handicapped infantry to fight against superior forces.

A flight of five Chalybion gunships swept the skies, surrounded by optically-camouflaged, car-sized scout drones. They didn't use true stealth systems, to keep down the cost and weight, but the LAI scouts, slaved to the Chalybions, were still very hard to see, even as they fed comprehensive sensor profiles of the area to their parent gunships. There were the explosive impacts of charge beams, and the crack of superheated air from rapid-fire lasers, as they swept over the ruins, search-lights cutting through the dimness and often scaring the surviving Dagonite militia enough that they would break from cover, exposing themselves to the gunships.

One of the slaved drones detected a density profile below, which, compared to the local magnetic field strength and the sharp spike in it, was characteristic of a damaged powered armour unit; specifically, one where a weapon which required an arcanomagentic field for containment was damaged. It fed the data to the smarter LAI installed in the Chalybion, which processed it further. The data was... confusing to the Chalybion LAI. The model was none of the standard ones, neither New Earth Government nor Esoteric Order of Dagon, and it began an archival search to see if it was an obsolete, or jury-rigged civilian model, while another process noted that it was in such a situation that any IFF-signal it might have been emitting would have been corrupted beyond readability, while several more processes ran through its heuristic guidelines, accumulated over the course of the active field use of the Chalybion, for situations unanticipated by the original designers.. After 'pondering' this for a little under two seconds, it reported a cut down version of the data to its pilot, and transferred copies to its 'sibling' LAIs, in the other craft in the flight.

The report consisted of adding an“unknown” marker tag in yellow to the map, on the location of the what-it-guessed-to-be damaged power armour.

“We've got a unknown on the targeting computer,” said the co-pilot, gazing at the vast projected screen on the inside of the windowless cockpit. “Reads as some kind of damaged PA, no IFF, Eminar-status on the armour. Shoot / no shoot?”

The pilot paused for a moment, as he approved an LAI request for control over the nose-laser, the crack of laser fire scoring its way along a building and cutting apart an abandoned AA railgun position. “No-shoot,” he said, finally. “There are SpecOps in the area, and they don't always use IFF or reggies. Avoid blue-on-blue. ”

“Understood. Recorded location for other forces, moving on.”

The flight of Chalybions, LAI piloting systems producing a pseudo-random walk to cover the area in a non-predictable fashion, continued onwards, bringing death and destruction with them from the skies.

Foxtrot 813 watched them go, a pale imitation of what would have been anger in a human flashing briefly through his mind, before the foreign feeling passed. His situation was clear. He was separated from the rest of his squad and from all his allies, his power armour was crippled (the legs were crushed under a beam, he could see), and the Esoteric Order of Dagon were still present in force.

He would just have to go complete his mission on his own. At least until he got another instruction to the contrary from due authority.

Reaching down into the opened cockpit of his now-ruined REV-8, he retrieved the out-of-armour case which all Replica units in vehicles were issued. A true combat helmet, the wideband optical sensor went over the padded sealed unit worn while in a vehicle, the connectors snapping into place and locking it to the internal armour bracing. After retreating from the wreckage with the case, he rebooted his visual software, the re-emergence of the HUD a welcome feel to the Replica soldier. The quick-snap pouches were attached to their designated places. And, importantly, the standard issue weapon for the Replicas, the ECU-IMFW-3 (or, as anyone who actually had to deal with it called it, the Imphaw), was prepared, removed from the sealed bag.

With the development of the Type-V Eidelon Units, it had been felt that they needed a weapon which took advantage of their unique assets over conventional troops. The first step at this had merely bulked out the old HKS-189, increasing the clip size and removing the fire-rate limiter that the weapon possessed (due to the limited ability of a human to absorb the recoil). It had been the IMFW-1, designed for the Type-VIs, which had really taken advantage of their increased strength, by basing the system around the old MP-50 Repeating Cannon, a 20mm anti-armour railgun designed to be mounted upon light hovercraft. It was a partial solution to the total inferiority of foot infantry to powered armour, which left them relying on missile launchers and their own armoured units to have any hope of scratching them.

The ECU-IMFW-3 was an evolution of that decision. The core of the weapon was built around a railgun, firing the same 20mm hypervelocity solid slugs as used in the RMG-10-AM anti-armour rifle; eight to a magazine. Mounted underneath was a 9mm assault rifle, relying on old-fashioned electrochemical ignition, due to the issues with magnetic induction in the other rail, in a weapon too small to use arcanomagnetic fields. It could take out powered armour through the front facing, and cause mission kills on heavier mecha, if hit in weak spots.

It was, all in all, an excellent weapon, albeit a stopgap until the man-portable energy weapons (the first prototypes already being trialled on this deployment, although they still had large problems with capacity and weight) could enter widespread use. And, indeed, it had seen use outside of the products of Project Eidelon; both the Office of Special Services and Blackspire, the GIA black-ops agency, issued it to some of their field agents. The only problem with it, from the point of view of the NEG military as a whole, was that it weighed almost ten kilograms when fully loaded, and still could break the shoulder of the firer if they were improperly braced when firing the railgun. It was, in fact, just too heavy and too powerful to be used as a rifle by conventional soldiers.

It had been built from the ground up with the needs of the Replica programme in mind, after all.

Foxtrot 813 ducked into cover, as he felt, rather than saw, the missile streak down, wobbling slightly, and hit the building across the street. Pulling himself up, he wiped the dust from the sensors on the front of his visor, and knelt, scanning the street. His equipment was not receiving an update signal from local forces or an overhead E-9, and the compass in his helmet was pointing directly away from the wreckage of his armour, no matter where he stood, which provided no help at all. Vocally, then, he instructed his helmet's LAI (much, more more limited than the advanced systems, capable of heuristics and complex analysis, installed in the Chalybions), to alter the order of his objectives. It was necessary to reunite with NEG forces first, before he could complete his objectives.

Keeping low, in the dense cover of the ruins of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr, the Replica headed out.

And, passing by, something noticed him. Something which currently lay outside what humanity called reality.



~'/|\'~



The underwater grotto was quite beyond comprehension, the majesty of the place unfitting of the small, petty-sounding word. Roughly hemispherical, the curved surface hanging down from a flattened roof, the place was hewn from the rough basalt of the volcanic rock. To counteract the darkness that such a material would produce, though, the incredible volume had been decorated to a level almost unbelievable, even to modern human society and its nanofactories. Fresco-like paintings, adapted for such underwater environments, covered every surface of this place, the detail truly incredible (though somewhat lost on a species which could not see the infrared). Temples and spiralling towers hung down from the ceiling, joined by plants, unknown to the surface world,which instead of consuming the light of the sun with photosynthesis, radiated it out at an incredible intensity through the blessing of those who had planted them. Even with this light, the depths of the immense cavern remained shadowed.

All this, however, paled before the statue that stood in the centre of the flooded chamber, a colossus with tower-like legs astride a vast deformation in the rock, a carven body of a fallen titan. The figure must have been almost a kilometre tall, almost reaching the ceiling despite the impossible dimensions of this hidden carven, the holy of holies beneath the city of Guh'thya-leh'yi. It was quite unlike the basalt of the cavern, for it was made (for “carven” would imply a crudity anathema to this abominable masterwork) from a strange, blackish-green rock, striated and flecked with gold and iridescent shimmers that sparkled in the bluish-green light that glowed from the depths, the floor itself shining. If one were to blaspheme it by touching it, a deed that should surely lead to death, the impossible smoothness would have been felt, like warm, wet ice; disconcertingly alive.

And to speak of this subject... well. Human languages trod with care in such a domain, for the limited experiences of such an organic linguistic system were not well suited for the nigh-infinite vicissitudes of the cosmos beyond this planet. The figure was vaguely anthropic; that was the best that could be said for it. Comparisons would involve hominids, cephalopods , and even the draconic, but it was most certainly its own thing; one cohesive lifeform far beyond the ken of mortal man. Two vast wings, impossibly thin and membranous for such a massive construct, made from the same unknown stone, spread wide across the inverted dome, exulting in the freedom that they enjoyed. Unspeakable tentacles descended from the maw of the thing, large enough to grab a frigate and consume it in the alien, jawless mouth that adorned the abomination. Claws and scale and hooked tentacles adorned the beast, but far more terrifying than any mere blade, though it may be the size of the building, was the look of intellect in the statue, which seemed to gaze out through graven eyes, something that was obviously constructed, yet in some subtle, unknowable way, alive.

And it was before this statue that Yul'uth-ca, star-spawn and highest priest among the clergy of doomed Guh'thya-leh'yi, prostrated himself.

It was all going wrong. The planet had not even rotated upon its axis one half of a cycle since the attack had, in retrospect, begun.

And he could hear them. All of them. Calling, calling, in the depths... longing? Was that the right emotion? Or was it fear? Hunger? Nostalgia? He did not know, and it filled his soul with a cerebral terror. And those were not the only songs he could hear. A triumvirate of noise which filled his heart with both faith and dread; fear and reverence, blasted mindlessly onto the astral plane. Yul'uth-ca had existed for time almost beyond counting; so many orbits of this planet that he could not remember them all, and such volume was heard infrequently, and only as a declaration of war.

But there was the other voice, two lesser ones highlighting certain themes and frequencies, while ignoring others, and amplifying the greater one merely by its presence. A soft hum accompanied it that left his tendrils twitching and itching, almost negligible in the mental noise that degraded his wits so. That... that was the one that consumed his mind with dread, so that he could not even focus on the most trivial sorceries. It was not a voice (or, at least, the synaesthetic representation of a fifth dimensional astral waveform intruding into the lower dimensions) that he had heard before, true. But he could feel the desires, alien ones bleeding off a mind not like his own. And that mind knew what it wanted, and how to get it.

Yul'uth-ca realised that he had made up his mind. Swinging wide the diamond doors that led into the corpse-thing that lay at the feet of his God, he descended into the vaults.

It was time, once more, to retrieve Лu-hvean'tahæn, the weapon passed down to him from when they had descended to this world, to war the long-dead <Things-Of-Five> and their artificial <Unshaped-But-What-They-Chose> weapons of war.

No upstart race would stand against that. The Deep Ones, petty servants who had the luck that one of their number had been uplifted by the Lord himself, might fall against their kin-species; another race from this ball of rock, who would be forgotten just as the Ushashasshu and the Lae'luouiu'lu (to name but two of the flights towards sapience, which had been bought to a halt. True sapience, that is, not the pitiful lack of awareness which both the humans and the Deep Ones had,) had been, buried under aeons of time.

The Star Spawn would not.



~'/|\'~




“The Third Star unit has secured the area. I repeat, Third Star has cleared area. Deploy Solomon; authorisation code Aleph-93-00-61-93-Kaph-Resh-92-53-19-49...” The officer continued to rattle off the lengthy authorisation code.

“Control, this is Solomon Throne. We have received a valid authorisation code for the deployment of Solomon. We require a secondary authorisation, to acknowledge that Operation Goetia can proceed.”

The albino stared at the screen, marked [VOICE ONLY]; a legacy of the fact that the bandwidth used had been necessarily minimised. Idly, he rubbed one ear, while working his jaw.

“Solomon Throne, this is Goetia Control. Secondary authorisation will be given to proceed. Valid ID: Agent Tome. Authorisation code is as follows; Pe-75-Aleph-Mem-Mem-02-06-33-76-Resh-He...” A second, equally lengthy code was given.

“Control, this is Solomon Throne. Authorisation received. Operation Goetia will commence.”

The plae skinned man nodded, a slight smile (not of pleasure, but instead of satisfaction) creeping onto his face, like one from the prospect of seeing something long awaited coming to fruition. “You will be using Variant Null, proceeding to higher Variants as needed by circumstances.”

“Correct, Control.” There was a pause. “I require reaffirmation for the authorisation for the potential use of τitan.”

Agent Tome nodded, even though the field agent couldn't see him.

“Correct. Note that the use of τitan is only permitted in the case of the situation progressing to Variant Five. Be aware that, as stands, you are closer than minimum safe distance, and lack the ability to survive the use of τitan. Also, be aware of the consequences of any use of τitan which is not later contained, which include massive ecological damage, estimated to be over an order of magnitude worse than any other RV-WALCL variants. Authorisation for use of asset in Variant Five contingency is as follows...”



~'/|\'~




Shinji jumped slightly in his seat in the entry plug, as a large shape suddenly appeared above him on his long range sensors, the systems chiming in warning.

“What is that!” he blurted out. “Uh... I've got a big thing, about 100 metres long, right above us,” he added, as he swung the plasma minigun upwards, staring up for visual contact.

“I can't see it! Nothing's pinging for me... just a hint. I just got a hit,” said Asuka, her face flushed. “It's big... uh... yes, there it is again.” The Evangelions scattered, crushing melted terrain underfoot as they prepared for a threat that one of them was blinded to, and one could only see hints of.

“The LAI doesn't recognise it as friendly,” Shinji said. “Should we attack?”

“Don't attack,” shouted Agent Tome, shoving Misato out of the way of the control console in his frantic motion. The military officer reflexively shoved back, training taking over, sending the rather scrawny albino sorcerer sprawling to the ground. “Don't shoot,” he shouted from the ground, panting. “It's the Solomon Throne.”

Misato winced. “Sorry,” she said. “Now, explain. What's happening? And you could tell us that you have control of a...” she paused. “... a what looks to be a frigate, before you try to land it in the place with 3 Units with capital grade firepower, maybe?”

“Why doesn't it show up on IFF?” asked Shinji, somewhat more relaxed.

“Why haven't you got Dr Akagi to write a patch for my sensors?” added Asuka, in a rather more aggrieved tone.

“Asuka, she says it's a hardware problem, that they've got damaged, and for some reason the equipment doesn't realise that it's damaged, so it makes it looks like a software problem.” Misato glanced over at Makota, who gave her a thumbs up. “Yes, that's right. And as for why it doesn't have those safety things that we military folk have to stop friendly fire,” she said, glaring at the Special Services sorcerer, who was currently engaged in wiping the dust from his black overcoat, “well. Agent Tome. Why not explain why you don't have those things that stop people shooting you?”

The sorcerer sighed. “The Solomon Throne isn't a standard model, like the rest of its type. They're based off the old Type-11-V Light Picket Ships, but they've been heavily modified for in-atmosphere use.”

“I thought so!” said Makota, a spark in his eye. “The profile looks like an interwar spacecraft, rather than a modern ship!”

“Exactly. We needed something with spaceship-grade stealth capacities, for some of the... tasks we must perform. In-atmosphere stealth systems have to dump the heat periodically, or they'd fry. Void-grade stealth systems use waste heat to run a D-Engine in reverse to get rid of what they can... thermodynamics is still a bitch, but the efficiency is much higher.” He glanced at Misato, an offended look in his eyes. “I think you can see why we don't have the data added to IFF systems, maybe?”

“I'm sorry for pushing you,” sighed Misato, in a somewhat patronising tone. “It was reflexive.” She paused. “So, what now?”

“Uh... the Solomon Throne will land. It will take about an hour to prepare the area; we need to laser-carve in the proper wardings, and seed the area with the nanocleansers. After that... the ritual should take about seven hours, depending on how advanced the Order got with their own ritual. We'll be a lot faster than them, after all. We're not trying to wake it up slowly, after all, feeding it with ruach... that is, orgone to boost its strength. We're trying to wake it up as violently as possible, so that it's weak.”



~'/|\'~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.


Last edited by EarthScorpion on 2009-12-19 10:08am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Chapter 14, Part 4 PostPosted: 2009-12-13 01:07pm
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~'/|\'~




“Is this everyone who could get to the rally point?” asked Captain Kora “Really? Everyone?”

“No,” answered the amlati Lieutenant, one of the three survivors from his squadron, “but we're the only ones who made it this deep. There's more comms chatter up above, but down here, they've got some kind of sorcery up.”

The high powered lights mounted on the Engels lit up the corridors, displaying the blasphemous, unnatural pictures that covered the walls, pictures within pictures, hieroglyphs within cuneiform within letters. Against this mismatch of colours, the constructs of the New Earth Government were hideously obvious, their deep-water, chemically camouflaged greenish-white paint blatant against the decadence that surrounded them on all sides. Now, there were only eleven Engels; nine Hamshalliam and two Ish, and both the Ish were out of the long-range torpedoes which were their primary armaments, reduced to a single large laser cannon, and their natural armaments. They were actually exceptionally dangerous in these close confines; their long, sinous, eel-like shape as well as their superior LAI systems giving them a real advantage over the humanoid Hamshalliam, but if they were to have to go back to open waters now, they'd be little better than hit-and-run attackers and the closest thing that the amphibious Engels got to scouts.

A mish-mash of squadrons were the ones who had made it down to the depths of the Dagonite city, right down to the bottom of the rift, where the orders had said that the geothemal plants were located. And they had gone deeper, and taken even more casualties, and fought their way down, through this confusing labyrinth (which, admittedly, had been made somewhat easier to pass through the judicious application of firepower). All of Captain Koru's squadron, those who had made it down, were still here, and they'd been joined by the remnants of other squadrons; three from one group tasked with hitting a laser site, an Ish-Hamshall pair they'd found, even deeper with than them, their main objective crushed by a sunken frigate, the sole survivor of a squadron who'd been too close to the blasts, and another lone Ish, who'd been engaged in a fight against a thirty metre long shark.

“Ready to breach?” asked Zuly, levelling her charge beam at the point her targeting LAI highlighted, hyperedged blade (not an integral one, an auxiliary one issued in cases where extreme close range fighting was expected) in other hand.

“Ready.”

“Ready.”

The underwater thwumpth of the firing of charge beams, into the spots that had already been weakened by strategically placed laser fire, echoed through the structure of this place, and through the water, making the hulls of the arcanocyberxenobiological organisms creak under the immense pressure. Braced onto the walls, the Engels weathered the pressure wave from the flash-ionised water around the blasts, temperature gaugues rising precipitously before falling again.

Really, it was very fortunate that this labyrinth had been built to this scale. The Engels could actually fit; it would have been less of an issue for the Ish, as their narrow cross-section was fully advantageous here, but the Hamshalliam were just short enough to move down these corridors, well over ten metres high.

“Bloody hell,” whispered one of the Ish pilots, one of the survivors from a mixed formation. “Streaming image.”

There certainly wasn't a geothermal plant down there... at least, not immediately down there. For there to be a geothermal plant, there would have had to be geology, and there was only a vast, space, almost a kilometres high, from what they could see in the light that was there. And it was populated, too, or at least decorated; they were emerging from buildings, hanging down from the roof, and there was some kind of vast statue which reached all the way to the ceiling, towards the centre of the hemisphere. The immensity of the thing, so vast, made it almost unreadable, the details lost in the titanic size of the architecture.

From what they could discern, it was for the best that they could not grasp the full being, only able to concentrate on small details.

“I wish... I just wish I had torpedoes left,” the same pilot muttered. “This is the kind of place I could make a killing, hull down up here.”

“But you don't,” said Captain Koru, curtly. He paused for a moment, his intake of breath audible over the radio. “The Ish, hold this position. This is our only way

“Sir,” asked Samantha, cautiously. “Did you have any idea that this place was here? It's... wow.”

“It's dangerous, Lieutenant Border,” the Captain answered. “This is hostile territory, right in the middle of enemy territory, and it was hidden. And, no, I didn't know that they'd built some kind of...” words failed him, for a moment, “some kind of giant black hemisphere underground. I mean, how are they even keeping the city upright. This thing means that they've got no foundations.”

liar emoted Azrael, simply. liar. calling, calling. depths. longing.

obvious.
.

shush emoted Zuly. danger. keep me/us safe, kill my/our enemies.

eat?

Inside the plug, Zuly made a nauseated face. Not just at the beast underneath and around her, its nervous system pulsing through her brain. No, the disgust was at how good the Engels... emotion? Thought? Desire? It wasn't quite clear... made it feel and sound. Everything had felt so much more... real, this mission, in Azrael. And he was feeling much, much smarter. His emotions were becoming more akin to thoughts.

She was still in control, yes. But how much of it was her control, and how much his influence bled through into her control, was becoming worryingly uncertain to the Nazzadi woman. She retuned her attention. The instructions were clear. The Ish, emptied of torpedoes and thus underarmed compared to the charge beams of the Hashmalliam, were to hold the exit in the ceiling of this place, while the other Engels explored, sticking together. She sheathed the hypededged blade on the storage rack fitted to her back; she'd want full aiming with both arm-mounted guns for this.

“And... go!”

The nine Hamshalliam dropped down from the hole that they'd blow in the ceiling, gliding through the water in a delta formation, their greenish-white armour much more camouflaged in the lighting that made up this place. The beasts inside relaxed somewhat, vents opening up and their feeder tendrils darting out, tasting the water for any strangeness, their long, guard tentacle-like tail extruding fully, lashing from side to side to aid the A-Pods. From above, the light from the biolumiscent plants shone brightly, the greenish light making the pale figures seem almost white.

“What's that?” asked the amlati lieutenant from earlier; Zuly thought his name was Tera. “Look, down there!”

She zoomed in, amplifying the display, while her Engel circled. Her eyes widened in recognition, as something she'd only seen in training kicked in.

“Holy shit,” said Pecna,voice strangled. “Star-Spawn! We've got a genuine, Grade 7 Knight-Type down there!”

“Everyone, flock-and-lock!” ordered the Captain, already pulling his Engel down to the bowl-like surface of the inverted hemisphere. “Kill that thing fast, before it can do anything.”

'Flock-and-lock' was a simple command, and the most common one when faced with exceedingly dangerous entities such as a Knight-Type, especially one as high as Grade 7. For amphibious Engels, such as the Hamshalliam, it meant to try to surround it, spread out (as to minimise who much damage it could do at once) get to the nearest surface, and activate the clamps, which stabilised the ACXB against the recoil from the charge beam.

The Star Spawn, tentacled maw twitching just gazed up at them. It was clad in some kind of armour, unusually; some kind of hybrid between plates of armour, and robes. And the robes were a concern, because who knew what might be concealed underneath. The loose garments wafted in the currents, as the Engels slammed down into the painted floor, smashing it underfoot as, at the last moment, their A-Pods flipped, inverting the direction of thrust. Knees bent as they absorbed the impact, manipulators extruding from the legs to become true feet, not just the hydrodynamic variant they were when swimming. Breaths shallow, Lieutenant Zuly could feel as Azrael's tail mostly retracted into his body, leaving only enough for combat uses, rather than swimming.

She straightened up, drawing the hyperedged blade from her back, and Azrael leered as she raised their head, blinded eyes, replaced by implanted sensors which hijacked the nerves, still gazing at their opponent.

There was one moment of perfect, eternal silence, as the nine Engels surrounded the one lone figure in the centre, particle beams levelled at their foe, blades in the other hand. It was unarmed, apparently. But it was still a Grade 7, still a Knight, and they certainly weren't going to take any risks.

They waited just a moment too long.

Fast, far too fast, the hostile beat those massive wings, thrusting it forwards in a way only aided by its swimming-tail. The sonic boom of displaced water filled the air, as it slammed into Sekhmet, both hands held together in a fist that it bought down, crushing the Engel's skull and sending dark ichor rushing forth from the ruined unit. Denser than water, the Hamshall remained upright for a few seconds, LAI systems trying to overcome the change in mass and death of the ACXB entity, and valiantly, yet briefly, holding out. Over the comms, Lieutenant Samantha Border could be heard screaming, the agony of the brain-death of her attuned Sekhmet flooding through her mind, before the morale filters kicked in, locking her out of the network.

Slowly, though, through the dense water, surrounded by the dark clouds of its own blood, Sekhmet toppled. The Star Spawn, though, grabbed the body and supported it, slumped over its killer. And, so, the round of retaliatory charge beam shots, tearing through the water as arcanomagnetic fields, tunnel-shaped, pulsed into existence for just a fraction of a second, enough to guide their cargo to its destination, hit the wreckage of the Hamshall instead, both layers of armour plating and the organism between them serving as a shield for the monster.

The charge beams immediately began their cooldown-recharge cycle, dumping vaporised coolant into the water, bubbles rising in a matter more akin to a shockwave than a stream, as they built up the charge on the capacitors, the power required for the particle beam beyond even the capacity of the onboard D-Engine to provide. And that was when the Star-Spawn acted again, back into motion with an organic elegance which only a highly trained expert at Engel communion could possibly hope to match.

The flash of something that was not mere awareness, nor limited sapience, but genuine, superhuman (in both nature as well as capacity) intelligence in its eyes said everything. This was not some dumb animal, equipped by its masters to fight, nor was it a lobotomised warmachine, implants in its brain linking it to a lifeform it could have torn apart without a thought had it been whole. No, it knew about the charge beams that the Hamshalliam used, knew their performance characteristics, and knew that their low rate of fire was what they sacrificed in return for firepower that could even hurt a being like it.

Pulling the hyperedged blade from the limp hand of Sekhmet, it made one, violent movement that ended with the sword embedded in what would have been the throat (had the ACXB organism been human) of another Engel, twisting and pulling up, in a way that shattered the monoedged weapon, shards of metal shrapnel tearing into the flesh of the mecha. The hilt remained in its hand; it slammed the remains of the blade into the open wound, ichor flooding the already worryingly opaque waters as it opened up the wound, twisting as it hurled the dying Engel at the seven remaining.

“Where the hell has it gone!” yelled the amlati lieutenant, Tera. “Sonar and thermals are wrecked by the cee-bee venting, and now visuals are d... Lucy! Behind you!” he yelled at one of the other surviving members of his squadron, who turned and spun immediately with the hyperedged blade; a wise move, as the sword flicked into the arm of the Star-Spawn, its own blood joining the vital fluids that filled the water, causing it to flinch,slightly, but just enough that the blow that was aimed at the Engel's skull went wide.

There was slightly hysterical laughter over the radio, the pilot flooded with the hunger and rage of the machine, as the Hamshall latched onto the arm that had tried to crush its skull in, feeder tendrils tearing into the flesh and entangling the limb, opening the wound that her blade had caused as her war-beast ate of its foe's flesh and drank of its blood..

“Swamp him, you fuckers!” yelled the pilot, Lucy, as she tried to grab the other arm with her own, the integral charge beam still venting superheated gas. “Pin it down and kill...” her voice was broken with by a scream that her Hamshall echoed, as the tail of the Star-Spawn darted out, punching right through the thigh of the Engel. A beat of its wings, and the entangled pair were launched from the bottom, arcing to slam down with more force, rolling over and over.

The Star Spawn, maw spread wide, managed to end up on top in the rolling mass of armour and alien flesh and tentacles, and promptly began to consume the feeder tendrils of its foe with its own, tearing them off its arm only to pull them into its gullet with the prehensile manipulators. A blow from the newly freed arm to the torpedo tubes on the front of the Engel crushed the seals on the remaining weapons, detonating them in a blast which smeared Lucy against the inside of her entry plug and left the Star Spawn bleeding from the wounds to its face, flesh flayed off its unnatural endoskeleton.

Through the clouds of dilute ichor and the chaos and confusion of the fight, a particle beam reached out, and stroked the back of the ancient monster, right at the joint where the left wing merged with the back. There was no blood this time; only a shockwave that forced the oxygen in the water out of solution, fizzing as it superheated. And then the wing detached, the lack of damage to the now-severed limb a testament to the unnatural toughness of the flesh of the Star Spawn.

“Got him!” yelled Captain Koru, as his charge beam began another lengthy recharge cycle. “Hit the limbs!”

The Star Spawn began to sink, as it paused, limp with shock, its tail, more akin to the guard-tentacle of a squid than anything that a mammal might have, twitching frantically.

Pain flooded through the depths of the mind of Yul'uth-ca. He was aware, through a process akin to how other creatures might know were their limbs were without seeing them, that his left wing was detached, floating loose. And despite this academic knowledge, his wing-muscled still contracted, the imbalance causing its remaining twin to slam him once again back into the floor of the sacred place, tearing up the delicate murals and crushing the mosaics, as the impact cracked through the decorations and flattened him against the dark stone of the walls of the bowl. Worse still, the impact opened up the charred flesh from the severed wing, a fresh current of ichor polluting the waters.

And he could see the crippled shapes around him, in the higher dimensions. It was a feeling akin to being surrounded by the living dead, crude lurching shapes that hungered and screamed and raged, but lacked any traits that would have shown that they were really living, really aware.

That was perhaps what did it. He had removed Лu-hvean'tahæn from the place it had rested since the construction of this holy place and, indeed, before the least caves of what had become the city of now-doomed Guh'thya-leh'yi had been inhabited by the ancient Deep Ones, prior to their Choosing. But he had not intended, once his hands had closed around the blessed artefact, to actually use it in anger.

That had changed.

This was one of the holies of holies, a sacred place ancient beyond belief. It was sanctified, and it was blessed in ways that the feeble religious delusions of lesser races could not understand, uncomprehending of the sorceries which empowered this place. And these... things, these lobotomised... blasphemies! They would dare intrude upon it! They would dare try to hurt him! He would forgive them, for they knew not what they did.

But their human pilots? That was another matter. There truly was no better place to unleash Лu-hvean'tahæn than in here.

He spoke, a deep bass rumbling that pulsed through the water, and, had his foes been unprotected by their armoured blasphemies, would have been felt in their bones. And, coincidentally, left them writhing on the floor in pain, bleeding from all kinds of interesting orifices, some of them which they would not have possessed before he had spoken.

If only.

Лu-hvean'tahæn he said, speaking the tongue of Ry'lehan the way that it was really meant to be. This was not the inaccuracy rendition of either of the lesser species, who lacked the correct apparatus to even hear some of the differences, let alone pronounce them. No, this was Ry'lehan as spoken by its native race. r'kgehq'r lbhe-fr'ys se'bz gur r'kgen-q'vzraf-v'bany ubyqvat fu-ryy, naq fr'g 'hc!

Broadband electromagnetic radiation flooded the vast chamber, a pulse of light which, to the human eye, appeared white, but to a being that saw more of the spectrum (or indeed, a technological device), spoke clearly of its unnatural nature. There were no absorption lines, no refractions, and no phase delays. It was not so much that the light had been emitted, as that it had come into being, photons flashing into existence only to interact with that which was already there.

There were gargled screams from the Hamshalliam, as they saw the light too, the first thing they had seen in their unnatural lives, the vat-grown constructs implanted with their cybernetics before they had been permitted even the low levels of intellect that they possessed. The ruined Engel that lay on its back, chest-cavity crushed by the detonation of its munitions began to spasm violently, the sensation too much with Lucy, its pilot, her communion with the thing broken by dead, no longer there to function as a higher mind.

But the light did not fade entirely. Arising from the hole which its impact had cracked in the elaborately painted floor, the Star Spawn stepped, the one remaining wing aloof. It did not look the same. Where once it had worn (and worn was the right word, for they had obviously been garments) what had looked like robes and armour, now a whitish-purple carapace extruded over the skin underneath, horrifically organic in appearance. Each contour of the limb was mimicked, each trait exaggerated, until the figure in imperial purple and corpse-like white which rose from the place that it had fallen, was more like some twisted angelic parody of its former self, more akin to a scaled version of the titanic statue that stood behind it than that which it had once been. The flowing hieroglyphs of Ry'lehan covered the armour, picked out in gold and silver and colours that shifted and crawled across the surface, never constant yet eternally the same.

In its hand, it held a sword, bearing most resemblance to the twisted cousin of a straight-edged European blade. It was not one of the ornate, curved blades of the Deep Ones. It was a weapon of war, designed for killing by edge and tip, although it would, if needs be, settle for irrevocably maiming. And it was the source of the light; sick fractures, like a broken diamond refracting light from distant stars, rippling and twisting, tightly embracing the blade and leaving it surrounded by ghostly refractions of what might be and what once was. Or perhaps what would be, and what used to be, but was no longer.

Such distinctions meant little to the little shard of divinity, constructed through procedures of such unspeakable complexity and requiring such knowledge of the universe, that they were nigh-akin to the greater beings of the universe in their own right.

'Yn-ffra f'vr haf fvr ny-yr, z'rva Zrv-f'gre g'bgra. V-pu 'ova or-erv'g,” spoke the awakened god-mind of Лu-hvean'tahæn, in the archaic variant of Ry'lehan that it used; kin to, but not identical to the dominant strain of the language. It had already made itself open to Yul'uth-ca, and the Star Spawn reached out mentally towards it, gazing into the higher dimensions, and seeing the bulk of (the device? The entity? Which was it, and did it make a difference?) Лu-hvean'tahæn expanded throughout space, its merest projection this source of power. There were those who matched the power of this ancient race; the statue that stood in this underground grotto was of one who had exceeded them. But they were ancient beyond belief, and strange, almost beyond comprehension.

Still, it acknowledged his mastery. And perhaps that was enough.

A few paltry shots crawled through the air towards it, the mind of Лu-hvean'tahæn showing him their passage through this tiny bubble of the dream of the Demon-Sultan, even as his main mind watched the Guard of Yog-Sothoth come into being before him, such things absorbed and nullified by the fractured light.

The Star Spawn raised its blade, a trail of cracks in the very substance of reality trailing behind it, like a sparking after-trail, and charged the nearest Engel. The angel-like figure, lit by the strange wrongess of the light of its blade, may have only had one wing, but it could still swim, and it bought the blade down, both hands on the handle, on the head of the blasphemy before it.

Captain Koru dodged the approaching one-winged avenger, throwing Eremiel to the side, and so the blade only removed the right arm of the Hamshall, the unutterable sharpness slicing through the limb without any hint of obstruction. Fresh blood filled the water around them, only to be blown away by the impact of multiple short-ranged laser blasts against the Star Spawn's back, the steam explosions as the energy was re-radiated by the armoured carapace that now surrounded it clearing the water of blood. The stab of a hyperedged blade followed the blasts, which had been fired as the attack lunged, and that managed to penetrate one of the holes opened by the blasts, digging in, before stopping as Yul'uth-ca removed the offending limb at the shoulder, a diagonal slice which continued down, severing the Engel diagonally. The beast clad in purple and white spun, and finished off Eremiel, the coup-de-grace impaling straight through the entry plug.

There were only four Engels intact, now; the blood and bodies of the other thown around like dolls in the terrible currents that the fight was generating.

“Koru is down! I have senority,” barked Tera, the amlati Lieutenant. “Pull back, pull back. Back up to the entry! We can't hold that thing off here at close range with that sword-thing, we need long range firepower, Insha'Allah ... is it still a Knight-class any more? Fall back!”

The beast roared, as it saw its prey try to retreat, the ripple in the higher dimensions as the A-Pods tore at them for thrust.

z'lfrys pn-aab'g or q'rsr-ngrq! Cthulhu'ybeq jn'gp-urf bire z'r, it screamed to the statue of its god that stood in the chamber. They were retreating, and their weapons could hurt him, he knew. Pushing off from the bottom legs and tail beating, the remaining wing assisting as best it could, it headed for the nearest one.

Laser fire streaked down from the roof, as the pursuit finally bought the fighters into weapons range of the two Ish, up in the hole in the flat ceiling. Emptied of torpedoes, they were limited by the way their laser cannons diffracted in water, making them useless and unable to hurt anything armoured beyond a certain distance. The Star Spawn roared, taking the blows on its arm, but the Ish adjusted their aim, and it could not stop everything. But that didn't matter. Even without its wings, it was faster than the Engels. Notably so.

“It's catching!” yelled Tera, his grey face taking on a faint, haemoglobin-red tint. “Get away! I'll slow it down!”

He spun his Hamshall, now head down, while keeping the A-Pods leading him upwards, with the right arm stretched out, as if tempting the sword-wielding monstrosity. The charge beam was levelled right at the Star Spawn's head. And so the sword removed it.

Just as planned.

The other arm, wielding the hyperedged blade cut down, slashing as hard as the unnatural strength of the Hamshall could swing it on the arm that had just removed his Engels' arm. The impact generated a terrible screech, as the top layer of the purple and white carapace was stripped away lengthwise, peeling up the arm. The laser mount fired wildly, but the flow of movement did not bring the beam into contact with the Star Spawn, which jerked away from the motion, bringing itself back into position. The feeder tendrils of his Hamshall lashed out, though, and entangled the arm, even as the tail of the Engel acted as a new limb, wrapping around the neck of the creature and trying to throttle it.

And that was when Pecna slammed into the pair, A-Pods set to maximum, sending the three of them sprawling into the statue, tumbling wildly over its surface, smearing it with ichor. In the tumble, the AT-Field wrapped around Лu-hvean'tahæn carved deep gashes over it, until the Star Spawn, expressing an emotion best compatible to shock, willed the Guard of Yog-Sothoth not to be. They would have to rebuild the entire statue, now, for it had now been desecrated through his actions, even if they were in its defence. The revue was broken, though, as he was forced to raise Лu-hvean'tahæn into the way of an oncoming blow from a hyperedged blade, the two swords, each over ten metres in length, bouncing off each other with terrible recoil that left both arcanoxenobiological organisms spinning away from each other in the water. While that blasphemy was distacted, he grabbed the other one, bleeding from its head where all of its feeder tendrils had been pulled out, at the roots (Tera's pained screams filling the network before the morale filters locked him out), by its throat, and slammed it against the profaned statue. Once. Twice. Three times, until liquefied unnatural flesh began to seep out of the cracks in the armour around the breast plate.

With the one remaining arm of his Engel, Tera punched the Star-Spawn in the face, grabbing its armoured tentacles, beam laser set to maximum, carving into its purple-and-white skull-like face and pulling hard, even as he gasped for air as the pain of Jibril filled him. Without detaching its hand, he slammed its head into his own, using the fact that it was pulling him against that profane statue to get leverage. It relaxed slightly, perhaps stunned, and he used the opportunity to thrust his barbed tail into the root of the creatures own tail, trying to cripple its swimming muscles. He slammed his fist on the torpedo launch button, too, aware that they wouldn't have armed this close; merely trying to use them as a kinetic impactor.

Pecna bought the spin under control, and raised his charge beam at the back of the Star Spawn, enmeshed with Jirbil and Lieutenant Tera. He fired, and the beam slammed into the back of the creature, which let out a screech. The back was cracked open wide now, hideous organs and clouds of blood (the same colour as the Hamshalls) spewing forth, in a volume disproportionate to the size of the creature. It tore away from Tera, taking his Engel's other arm with it. The agony shot though the mind of the pilot, and he fainted, losing all communion.

Pecna was not so lucky. Лu-hvean'tahæn, aflame once again with the will of the Outer Gods, removed his swimming-tail, as he fled. The Star Spawn slammed its clawed hand into the breast-plate of the Engel, over and over, until it cracked, and it could reach in, pulling out the enrty-plug, cables and tubing surrounding it which had tied directly into the central nervous system of the lobotomised ACXB organism. It went into spasms, with the removal and death of its attuned pilot, with the tearing sound of its own flesh as it tried to force its own guts back in.

Two Hamshall left. Yul'uth-ca pushed off from the floating Engel, dead in the water beside him, and bore down on Lieutenant Zuly, who desperately tried to thrust away from the monster who had mission-killed, at the very least, seven Engels identical to hers in less than three minutes.

A sixth sense... no, that was not the right term, for the Star Spawn had far more than six senses. Even humans had far more than six. A higher sense alerted Yul'uth-ca to the danger behind him, and he spun, one raised in warning, as he called upon the fundamental nature of reality and of the powers of Лu-hvean'tahæn. The charge beam shot, arcanomagnetic tunnel popping into existence to guide the protons, and clashed with the AT-Field before its hand, fractured spacetime writing and twisting before its outreached hand. For just a fraction of a second, the explosion was frozen in space, up against the silvery mesh, almost digging into it, as the energy collapsed the phase space, each proton limiting the ways that the universe could be rearranged so that the next one did not hit.

In fact, it seemed like it was piercing the barrier.

But it was only for a fraction of a second, far less than was visible to the human eye, and the beam exploded outwards when the arcanomagnetic field, designed for the tiny amount of time it took a relativistic particle to propagate, disappeared, no-longer opposing the mutual repulsion of the charged protons. It bloomed and flattered itself against the Guard of Yog-Sothoth, and when the water around it, superheated to an opaque plasma, and the resultant steam explosion cleared, the Star Spawn still stood, shimmering field intact.

That was when the second shot, from the Hamshall Azrael who was directly behind Yul'uth-ca, pierced the back of his helmet, breaking through the onee'vre-wn'p-x'rg that Лu-hvean'tahæn had built around him, and punched through his head, the relativistic protons leaving his skull through his eye. But it was not a clean hole, no; such things did not happen in real life. The impact of the high energy particles with the atoms in their way, protons into proton and neutron and the stranger matter that made up the creature, which had flown to earth from beyond the stars, left strange particles quickly born into a cold cosmos in which they were not stable; the uncharged ones leaving the arcanomagnetic field in all directions, while the charged ones bounced around inside the tunnel of discontinuous force, before its cessation left them free to escape, too.

Azrael began to make a strange noise, a gurgling, roaring noise which echoed through the chassis and left the fluid in the entry plug vibrating, a distinctly peculiar sensation.

hilarious he emoted, as he began to move towards the foe without any prompting from Zuly within, who was trying to deal with the sensation of the fluid in your lungs buzzing. She really wanted to throw up, right now. hilarious.

More shots lashed out, from the few surviving Engel units, punching through the armour that it had made for itself in many ways. Perhaps the damage done had weakened it, or perhaps it could only take a few hits before it became purely ornamental. Either way, the Star Spawn did nothing, apart from reach out with its free hand, towards the vast, kilometre-high statue that filled this underwater temple. The fingers twitched spasmodically, more through residual instinct than anything conscious. Through fading sight, it saw the third Engel that it had killed pull itself to its feet, ribcage wide open, a hint of red blood seeping from the crushed entry-plug revealed within, and swim towards him, feeder-tendrils waving.

p'yri-re... t'vey...” it managed, through ruined mouth, voice quiet, before the first of the Engels bundled it, the arcanocyberxenobiological organisms jumping the arcanoxenobiological organism like a wolf-pack taking down a lion.

But it was only natural for the Hamshalliam to act like a social pursuit predator. They had a little bit of human in them.

One hyperedged blade lodged itself in his torso, twisted in through the onee'vre-wn'p-x'rg, then a second. They were firing at him from point blank range, too, blue-green lasers punching holes and vaporising flesh in small explosions.

And then, from behind, Azrael latched onto the hole in the head that the charge beam had caused, feeder tendrils thrust deep in, penetrating the wound. Yul'uth-ca began to die the Death of the Little then, the death of self, as the feeling overwhelmed him. The tentacles moved in and out, teasing the gap wider and wider, pushing more of themselves in as they scooped out the insides, and pulled them into the maw of the Engel.

Yul'uth-ca lost all sense, then, as his lobotomised kin, grown in vats, twisted and modified through the addition of alien genetics, implanted with controlling cybernetics, and used as weapons by uplifted apes whose kin had most resembled rodents when he had been spawned, tore him to pieces, tearing at his flesh and devouring his soul.

“Tasty. Eat. Love,” whispered Zuly, as she consumed the head of the Star Spawn. And the other Hamshalliam were doing the same, whether through piloted control or otherwise, eating of the flesh of the Star Spawn, and drinking of its ichor, a pack of ravenous predators.

The consumption of Yul'uth-ca went on for quite a long time, the Engels in a feeding frenzy, the pilots unwilling, dead, or simply unable to stop them.

Finally, though, it was over. The torn pieces of the Star Spawn, one shredded limb still reaching out to the statue that dominated the room, were spread over a wide area, the waters filled with the ichor of the thing.

tasty, emoted Azrael.

“Yes,” said Zuly, her voice filled with self-loathing and shame. It was horrible, it was unnatural, and it was true. It had been tasty, and her stomach now felt heavy and full, endorphins flooding her system.

look. there. examine. now added the Engel.

The Nazzadi could feel the Hamshall pointing, its thoughts showing her where she should look. She... no, Azrael, she reminded herself, reached out, and brushed aside the consumed remains of the Star Spawn.

And the hand rested upon Лu-hvean'tahæn.




~'/|\'~




Second Lieutenant Hupuna was, by most reckonings, a fairly good man. He was generous to charities, was happily married (without children, through their own choice), and (relatively) punctual and efficient in his duties as a monitoring officer.

It could be said,, therefore without much fear of correction, then, that he did really not deserve to be the one who discovered what he did. Strings of data poured down in front of his eyes, the hard contacts (permanently implanted into his eyes; among other things, able to manipulate his field of vision to produce realistic shadows for AR projections, and generally capable of supporting a much higher resolution and realism factor than the older, pre-implant AR glasses or goggles) slightly warmer than the surrounding tissue from the waste heat they produced.

He leant back, and ran a hand against the side of his face. Yeah, he really needed to shave tomorrow. But, really, what he wanted was coffee, and the nanofactory wasn't working right now. The thing had blackscreened, right in the middle of making a sandwich, and got stuck. The end result that not only was the nanofactory not working, but now all the break room stunk of ham, because it got stuck on a loop while weaving protein for the meat-substitute, and as a result had wrapped the machine in the white-pulpy mess of pre-flavouring protein, making it exceptionally hard to actually get to the power to turn it off at the mains. At least he hadn't been the one who had got rather more sandwich than he had asked for.

But, the problem was that he wanted coffee, dammit.

He opened his eyes, and looked around the room. The rest of the staff were sitting around, fixed at their computers, or sitting back, eyes closed, letting the direct manipulation of their visual system that the hard contact system provided give them the information they needed, hands on joysticks. The images in front of his eyes dimmed, becoming no more than pale ghosts. He closed them again, and they returned to full strength, as his retina was once more cut out of the loop, and moved his field of view to the two-dimensional projection of the northern radar scans.

Amli katu wha disnu...” he breathed in shock, hands scrabbling for the time slider. He pulled it back. The massive number of signals, big ones too, not just recon craft by any means had just... appeared, ten seconds ago.

It couldn't be real, could it?

Could it?

“We have...” he paused, wetting his lips, which suddenly seemed far too dry to even speak, “we have... multiple massive anomalous signals on Grid Bravo-Alpha-069, inclination 078, azimuth 007. LAI is analysing veracity... uh, it can't be.... uh, the LAI can detect no technical problems. They're massive! So many returns! Right up, lunar orbit, but coming in fast! Really, really fast! Someone, someone else get a harangy look at this on a different set, see it isn't a problem with me.”

Behind him, he could hear the sound of chairs pushed aside, and footsteps. He continued to stare at the display painted across his visual field.

“Uh... we have matches for, oh... there's more... more!”

“Lieutenant Hupuna, report!” It was Iruly, the superior officer, and, technically, his younger sister. Well, younger half-sister. Younger, much more ambitious and intelligent half-sister, who actually wanted the promotions, rather than staying stuck as an radar operator (actually, it was more complicated than that, but the term “radar” had stayed) for all her career.

“Yes, Iruly,” he muttered. “Ah, looks like... 33... 34... no, that's a double blit, 36.” He swallowed. “I can't believe I'm actually saying this. Thirty-six Swarm Ships, forty-four, plus or minus anomalies, Drone dropships, and two anomalous contacts, which don't match anything that I've seen before. They're massive!”

“Get someone else on this data-set!” shouted Iruly, somewhere in the blackness outside his head. “It's got to be some kind of error!” He could feel her voice turn to him. “36 Swarm Ships,” she said slowly, her voice laden with doubt. “That's stupid. That's impossible. That's... impossible. That's more than they've deployed in one place... ever! That's more than they have active on the Eastern European Front.

Another voice spoke. “Uh... yes, we have confirmation. Multiple other stations are calling in, too, and we've been told to track the cluster with everything we've got. If it's a lie, then HQ are fooled, too.”

“Order of thirty-five Swarmers, forty-five Drones, and two anomalies?”

“Yes, Captain Iruly. That's... well, assuming that they're packed into the Drones like normal, there's ten-odd division-equivalents in them; anywhere from one-fifty thousand to two hundred thousand hostiles in those things, probably about half Blanked, half Bugs.”

“Impossible! Where are their targets?”

“At the moment they're high enough that they're covering all of Europe. Forces are scrambling, but...”

“What prompted this?” Iruly asked frantically, hyperventilating. “This is completely out of character! What are they doing? And where are those forces from? Where did they come from?”

Lieutenant Hupuna shrugged unconsciously, answering the question. “I don't know. I rewound it. One second... there, the next, not. And look at the gees that they're pulling. That's got to be 20-plus. That's red jam level, isn't it?”

“I think so, for us, at least.” There was a pause, as other voices talked. “You mean it's there? Could they have compromised our coverage? Are they radar ghosts? What's going on!

“Please...” he said, screwing up his eyes, even though it did no use, the hard contacts having subverted his optical nerve. “I'm trying to work out what the 5 klom anom... harangy! Harangy!” He clutched at his forehead.

“What happened?” Iruly asked, concern in her voice even over her panic.

“You can't see it? You can't hear it? The noise!”

There was a pause. Then;

“No. Because I don't have an active set of hard contacts,” she said, slowly.

“Gods, so many alarms. They're screaming in my head. And the heat!” He moaned again, and took several shuddery breaths. “Massive energy signal from one anomaly, then another. Like some kind of nuclear blast or something, but directional. Can't read a rad-count, might be weapons, might not...” he traced a finger along a line invisible to everyone else, “it's still there, and still flaring. It's like a continuous blast or something... rapid delta-v.”

Iruly stared down at her half-brother, slumped down at his command console, one hand at the keyboard (rendered in the hijacked optical nerve exactly as it was in the real world), one finger waving in empty space. “Hupana,” she said, taking a deep breath. “You said that they were five kilometres long, right?”

He nodded.

“And the energy signature... it couldn't be an engine, could it? A real, actual, reaction drive, not arcanotech A-Poddery?”

“Uh...” he sucked in air between his teeth, “... I guess it could be. It's directed, if that helps.”

Captain Iruly looked around the room, left and right, wringing her hands together. “Right,” she said, finally. “Make sure that everything we get keeps on going straight to Int-HQ. I don't want any excuses. It has to work. And, now,” she said, trying to keep the wobble out of her voice, “I have to make a few phone calls.”

She managed to get to outside the room, before her legs gave way, and she slumped against the wall, dry sobs welling forth. At least her subordinates wouldn't see this, she thought pathetically.

A multi-kilometre anomaly with a reaction drive. That's not a in-atmosphere craft, like the Swarm Ships they use, which just happen to be void-capable. No, we've seen torch-flares out in the outer system like this. That's what I did my PhD on.

That's a real Migou warship.

And two of them have come to Earth, in the middle of the biggest single bug deployment I've ever seen.

...

We're all going to die.




~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.


Last edited by EarthScorpion on 2009-12-25 08:55am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-12-30 06:22am
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Location: London
Chapter 15a

CATOcylsm: Termination



~'/|\'~




it hurts so much. pain is her existence, now. for a subjective eternity.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
she floats, in darkness.
How I wonder what you are.
they reach out and touch her but they don't touch her.
Up above the world so high
they shouldn't touch her.
Like a diamond in the sky
not like that.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
not ever.
How I wonder what you are!
she screams as it happens, water and fire and pain and death and abomination and horror and fear and terror and panic and screaming and confusion and agony and cessation all brushing against her mind, and she feels it all.
When the blazing sun is gone
that was a long time ago.
When he nothing shines upon
she screams as it happens, fire and death and pain and horror and flesh and nightmares and dead mothers and decay and tearing and tiny things that crawl inside the lungs and the eyes and eat them and she feels it all.
Then you show your little light
this is now.
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
she stirs.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
she wakes from her slumber, eternally lying dead but dreaming.
How I wonder what you are!



~'/|\'~




The sky was on fire.

Well, technically that wasn't true. But night had already fallen again, the day this far north in winter only a few short hours which had already passed, and the smoke from the Reykjavik pseudo-arcology, which the Dagonites had called Cthulhu'ybeq Ahefrel, were lit from below, to create a crimson sky. From the exterior feed from the outside of the Ranger AFV, the damage which the invasion had done was evident. No building was left untouched; even the least damaged had holes through their façade, punched through by plasma beams, railgun slugs or necklaces of bullet scars.

The camera panned to a ruined fountain, high pressure water jetting out of the ruptured mains pipes only to fall back to earth as a cold mist, freezing solid on the ground. There were the remnants of a statue at the peak, carved out of some black stone. One wing remained intact; the other, along with the head and the parts of the torso that had connected the two were gone, shattered upon the ground.

“You got that?” muttered Antonio.

“Yeah,” replied his cameraman, hands dancing over the controls as he coordinated the suite of LAI-assisted drones that flocked around the Ranger, filming the environment. “It'll make a great 'defining image' for the package. 'Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair', and all that.”

“Uh... we're coming up to an intersection. Try to see if you can get a full shot of that spire... no,” he said, highlighting a tall building backlit by the fires and the remaining Dagonite searchlights, leaning over at almost thirty degrees, the slanted outside plagued with scars, “that one.”

“On it.” Varuata said. “What do you think did that? How's it still standing?”

One of the troops escorting them leaned over; the AR projection against their contacts (only soft contacts, not the permanent hard contacts or the optical nerve jacks that were starting to enter the market) tagged him as Sergeant A. Richards. “The slanting one? Yeah. If it's one of those cabletowers, then the cables on one side got hit, and then something hit the building, too.”

“They're a real bugger,” added one of the soldiers. “They're easy to build; you anchor the rods with cables, like a tent, and then you build around the inside, but they fall apart. And the fish-fuckers love their coilsnipers.”

“And those harangy CW2 gyrojets,” added another solider. “So damn crude that they sometimes work even through the emfog. Launch from cover, then home in on the spotter's target.”

“Are... there are coilsnipers up there?” asked Antonio, concern in his voice.

Sergeant Richards shrugged. “Not on that tower. You'd have to be an idiot to stay up there. It's going to fall any minute.”

There was a pause, as the two journalists shared a look.

“I'll keep a drone on it,” said Varuata.

“Good idea.” Antonio turned to face the soldiers again. “So, how long until we get to the site?”

“Ten minutes out, assuming the area remained clear.”

There was a jolt, as the AFV pulled behind an abandoned barricade and opened fire, the snap of superheated air audible through the hull as the laser pulsed its way along the front of a ruined tenement. An explosion sounded nearby and bullets pinged off the armoured vehicle.

“Well, mostly clear,” added the sergeant, clutching his rifle closer in the somewhat cramped cabin, the mass of the empty powered armour taking up space for two men. To Antonio, the way the armour's LAI set the soldier's combat armour eyeholes to opaque removed all humanity from the already skull-like face. “What've we got?”

“Squad of tangos, hostile heavy weapon is down,” yelled back the gunner, targeting the general area of the fire and letting the LAI do the fine work before firing. “Look like militia... that's one of the CW2 one-twenty mike-mikes they give to the goons. We're just mopping up. No real threat.”

Sergeant Richards looked back to the journalists, and relaxed. “Acknowledged. Yeah,” he continued. “The armour and the Papa-Alphas have already been through, and the Echo-9s have the place covered, so... yeah,” he summarised.

“Bit pathetic, really,” added another one of the identical looking soldiers, her voice the only indicator of her gender. “The militia are just brainwashed cultists, mostly.”

“Yeah, well,” said the sergeant, “we're off to see one of the romeo-camps with the journos. Once you've seen one... the fish-fuckers don't get any sympathy from me. Wish we could use some bee-cee-nam, like we did in Santander, but that'd remove the point of rescuing the poor buggers. Hells, en-bee-cee-nam would be better, but...” He shrugged, and glanced up at Antonio, no flesh at all visible under the almost skull-like visage of the infantry combat armour. “You covered what the fish-fuckers do before?”

Varuata shook his head. “Yes. We were in Santander, too. R&R, actually, bad luck that they showed up. Closest ones to the place. You know those videos of Valkyrie coming in?”

“No way! That was you?”

“Yeah.” He raised his hands. “Wasn't even using drones for that; didn't get them until after they'd mostly been driven off. Old fashioned shoulder-cam and exosuit for that.”

“Wow,” said the female soldier who'd spoken before. “Those were awesome. And those helljumping nutters are fucking badass.”

“I interviewed a few of them afterwards,” added Antonio. “They are completely,” he raised a finger, “and I mean, completely and utterly bugshit insane, but, yes, they are awesome.”

“We've been on the Eastern Front since then,” continued Varuata.

“That's a cold fast one, isn't it? What do they call it? “Time and Tide”, isn't it?”

The Nazzadi nodded. “Yeah. Hideous jamming; you can't use drones in most places, so you have to go in on foot. Both us and them are all about the attack, counter-attack. 'Cept when a cap-ship shows up; then they completely dominate the area, until the others can pull back to static defences. It's like some weird kind of trench warfare, 'cept instead of trenches, you have stuff that can hurt cap-ships. It's almost luck if you can get footage there... more like bad luck, almost, 'cause it means the bugs are hitting the sector you're in, and they'll pull back before reinforcements arrive..”

“Four minutes out,” called the gunner from the front, over the intercom.

“But... yeah,” said the sergeant, a morose tone creeping into his voice, as he returned to the original topic, “if you haven't seen what the romeo-camps are like, you should turn around and leave now. I just hope the killing hasn't started yet.”

“What killing? By who?” asked Antonio, paling slightly.

“By the people we rescue,” said the solider, who refused to say any more.



~'/|\'



Misato took it surprisingly well, all in all.

“I see,” said the Major slowly, as she broke the link to her comms implants. “Information distribution authorised,” she told the branch of the Total Information Tactical Analysis Network LAI that was handling the Nero operations.

There was a generalised commotion from the rest of the room, as the rest of the operations room responded in a less calm manner.

“Captain Martello,” she said, turning to the NEG military liaison, “I want as much air cover as you can get me. Get Marcellus to send everything they can spare and then some. I don't care if that means that the other Task Forces have to take losses. Pull in any capital ships you can, too. We need to slow down the orbital forces enough to complete the ritual, and then take down the Herald.”

The square-jawed man stared at her, jaw slightly open. “Are you insane?” he finally managed. “The entire naval assets used in CATO are smaller than the incoming Migou forces, even before the hostile warships and the losses we took from the Dagonite nuclear weapons are included. There's no way we can win.”

“I know,” said the Major, the glimmer in her eyes belying her calm expression. “That's why I clearly remember saying that we needed to slow them down.”

He only worked his jaw a few times.

“The entire point of Operation CATO was the success of Nero,” she continued. “If this fails, then we have damaged the entire strategic position of humanity for no gain, even if we don't take any losses from the Migou. Agent Tome,” she continued, turning to the albino, “how long does the Solomon Throne need?”

“To complete the ritual?” He checked his book-shaped PCPU, making a few quick adjustments. “Assuming we accept a 50% fatality rate among the sorcerers, and... fifty-three minutes. Plus an unknown period of time for the Herald to surface.”

“Too long. Can you speed it up?”

Agent Tome stared back, impassively. “There is another way, but it will raise fatality rates further, and risk burning out the survivors, as well as possibly drawing extranormal attention. From a entity that is not Moloch. We can employ the Patrone System to its theoretical maximum.”

“Do it. Your superior told me hold important Nero is to you, so you can risk it to ensure that the mission is completed. How long would that take, then?”

He blinked, twice. “Including the necessity to get authorisation? Seventeen minutes, plus or minus six minutes. That's assuming that our estimates for the entity's current wakefulness are accurate, of course. There's a very large margin of error here; possibly several hours.”

“Can you be more precise?”

“No. We haven't exactly done this before,” the agent said, a hint of sarcasm creeping into his voice.

“Have you done something similar?” the Major snapped, aiming for the weak spot in his sentence.

Agent Tome licked his lips once, an unconscious gesture. “There exist other magma-dwelling creatures, although they were Knights, rather than Heralds, at most, and in almost all cases lesser threats than even that. However, none of the trials were anywhere near this deep. I cannot help you. It might teleport up instantly, it might swim up. We weren't exactly expecting the Migou to show up now.”

“Wait? What trials?” interjected Captain Martello.

“That's classified. You did not hear that,” said the albino, deadpan.

The Major tilted her head slightly. “Go! Get me everything, Captain. And, Agent, will your sorcerers accept those kind of losses?”

A faint smile crept over the albino's lips. “Oh, yes. They agreed to do this, understanding that they could die. They're aware of the need to do this.”

“Then go do it. And then use your Special Services pull to get me even more forces. Go drag in Director Khoury; she made it clear that this is necessary.”

The Captain saluted, the OSS agent merely nodded. “Understood.”

Misato turned, and headed down to the main workstations, hands balled into fists, internally swearing with exceptional virulence in all the languages she knew.

Migou. Why now! They want it too?

She noticed the way that the operators and technicians were staring at her; with a degree of fear and what almost looked like concern. They hadn't heard the conversion; the noise cancellers around the command point should have seen to that, but the combination of the news and the body language was more than enough to set everyone on edge.

Misato leant over to Makota. “Open a channel to the Evas.”

He continued to stare at her. “Major Katsuragi... it looks like you're keeping the Evas there. Under the biggest single fleet ever.”

She stared at him. “Yes.”

“They won't stand a chance! They're just children.”

“No. They stopped being just children the day that each of them became one of the Children.” The Major stared blankly up the main screen, tracking the projected landing area of the incoming Migou fleet. “And if we don't managed to eliminate that Herald, one way or another, we won't stand a chance either. Do you want it in the Migou's hands?” She paused. “Now, open a channel to all three Evangelion Units.”



~'/|\'~




All across the ruins of the city, where the NEG had mostly gained control, the surviving gaggles of scattered troops, both Elect and Blooded among them, moved from building to building as best they could, ducking away from the searchlights from above when they swept over head. Each group was trying to get back to Dagonite-controlled areas, or were, desperately, trying to continue the fight.

“Come on, come on,” said Sv'fuzna-obff Guh'maena, striding at the front of the group, reduced to three after they'd made the mistake of poking their heads out when an armoured column, hover-tanks and mecha alike, were passing. He was bare chested, crude bandages wrapped over the morass of cuts that covered his chest from when a close-proximity blast had crushed his armour. “We can still smash them! We're not going to cower down below in the tunnels. We have faith in Lord Dagon, and he, in turn has faith in us! We shall not disappoint him. Have faith in yourself.”

Yuh-kho'ui, anti-armour coilgun and what ammo she could carry after the death of her spotter slung over her shoulder, elbowed him. The male Blooded grunted in pain. “Keep it down, you p'erg-va,” she hissed, feeling her nascent gills, still not permitting air across them, open and close in anger. “Look up!”

The brightness of a searchlight shone through the ruins of the roof, through the holes that shrapnel had torn in it. That wasn't the most worrying bit. The heretical forces of the New Earth Government didn't rely on visible light, especially when operating at night. There could be those spy drones up there, scanning the majority of the EM spectrum, and the first thing they'd know was when a missile got lobbed in through the roof, or those wasp-like gunships did a strafing run.

She looked back. “How are you holding up, Shem'oan?” she asked the operator of the exosuit behind them. It was crudely armoured up into a power armour, but its true purpose as a tool for digging tunnels like the ones which connected the underground shelters was clear, from its bulbous front profile and ornate frontal decorations. It wasn't even a militia vehicle, and the pilot was just a construction worker.

“Not too good,” Shem'oan sniffed. “It doesn't matter. We're all going to die, anyway.”

“Don't be a fool!” said Guh'maena loudly, turning around to face the other two. Stepping back, he grabbed the mining exosuit's hand, which could have crushed him with almost no effort, and stared at the eye-sensors on the front of the construct. “Listen to me. Survival isn't winning! Winning is winning! Listen! Er-wrp'g p'bz-zba fraf'r 'gb z-nxr gur v'zcbf'f-voyr cbf'f-voyr! Vfa'g gung gur 'j-nl gung s'n-vgu e'by'yf?” He paused. “You understand what we will achieve, because we have faith in Dagon and in ourselves?”

Shem'oan nodded within the exosuit, then realised that the honoured sv'fuzna-obff could not see that. “Yes, my Sv'fuzna-obff,” he said out loud, over the speakers.

“Good!” Guh'maena paused. “So, where are we?”

Yuh-kho'ui sighed. “We're in Yr-neavat-v'fsha Primary,” she said softly, dropping down below the window, staring out past the broken glass to the darkness outside. “We just need to make our way through the rest of S'n-gny'evat-v'at, and we can get to the fallback position.”

“We shouldn't be falling back!” said Guh'maena, the sound of outraged faith in his voice. “We should be proud to give our lives in service to Dagon-anzr. One of the true faithful does not die even when they are killed!”

Slowly, the female Blooded drew her coilgun, deploying the bipod, and resting it on the broken window. “Don't say another word,” she said, barely breathing. “I thought I saw a flash of movement through there... and get low!” she added, realising that she was dealing with a Sv'fuzna-obff; the kind of religious fanatic who wouldn't know the least about duties as a markswoman. She was going to really miss this, when her blood showed fully; the deterioration in vision was not going to be pleasant. Breathing slowly, she scanned the buildings across the street, over from the playground, looking for any movement.

There was the hypersonic crack of a railgun, which was deafening even with the ear protections in the masks that the Order infantry wore, and Yuh-kho'ui felt a spray of something warm (too warm in the cold night air) spray across her back. Reflexively she span, dropping the coilgun and drawing her pistol. In the strange-slowed time that an adrenaline-filled brain produced, she saw the mining exosuit take one step back towards the window and her, the other side of the room visible through the hole blown through the domed cockpit. The fluid sprayed across from the hole was dark, the colour unknown in this darkness. There was a bulky figure standing on the other side of the room, something wrong-looking about its face.

Impossibly, the mining exo-suit pulled itself from the fall, and took step forwards, its drill spinning up. A second step.

A second crack of the railgun, which tore the right leg of the suit clean off, sprayed the rest of the room with shrapnel and concrete splinters when the hypersonic slug tore into the floor. The exosuit began to fall, as did Guh'maena, his unarmoured torso torn apart by the shrapnel, that hyperedged sword he'd been so proud of clattering to the floor undrawn.

The Blooded woman had her pistol out and levelled by now, though, and she squeezed the trigger, the nine-millimetre bullets (a product, like so much of the Order's weapons, of the Second Cold War; that pistol calibre no longer saw use in the forces of heretical humanity) impacting against the figure, which twisted and ducked back behind the cover of the wall. She couldn't see that it'd had any effect. That was something they'd found with these NEG forces; even the infantry, when they weren't using those power armours or those odd heavy armoured suits, took multiple shots to take down, even if you could get through their armour. Resin casings clacked to the ground, as she kept shooting, through the thin walls of the school.

Yuh-kho'ui felt the pistol click empty, and scrabbled on the ground, trying to pull the coilgun back around, up from its position at the window. It'd be worthy shattering her shoulder if she could take this monster down.

Lift and... up... and around.

The figure already had its rifle levelled at her even as she started turning back. A burst of three bullets danced its way up her chest; one through the sternum, one through a lung, and one shattering her right shoulder, like a trio of knives punching through the light armour issued to the marksmen of the Dagonite forces. She fell to the ground, her spasmodic trigger squeezing tearing holes in the ceiling before the coilgun fell from her hands.

Through darkening eyes, she saw Guh'maena twitch. In an odd clarity, the finger-long pieces of concrete protruding from his chest were clear, even through the fog that gathered in front of her vision. She knew what she had to do; the grenades were at her belt.

Her right shoulder was a mess of pulped meat and bone. She didn't have the strength.

One poster, drawn crudely by childish hands in paint, on the opposite wall became clear, as she gazed helplessly, unable to even move her head. The bright blue was so... pretty. Like the sky. And the mass of stars everywhere were just... right.

And then there was nothing.

Foxtrot 813 scanned the room for any other threats. A single bullet was spared for the one cultist that twitched on the floor, ensuring the elimination of the threat. When the inside of the exosuit was checked, the Replica found that the pilot had been pulped by the first shot. Evidently, the LAI control systems had merely been doing their best to keep the suit upright, and the second shot had been wasted on a threat which had been neutralised.

The fact that the movement had not matched how a LAI system would have moved was considered and noted.

The Replica shifted inside his armour. The pistol, light and obsolete though it had been, had hurt; not in the same sense as it would have hurt a human, but the existence of pain was acknowledged in the pseudo-sapience of the organism, the shard of soul behind its eyes moaning. According to the armour smart systems, two bullets had penetrated the hardplate, before being stopped by the mesh underneath. His armour integrity was severely compromised; more care would have to be taken against any hostiles engaged from now on.

The ammunition counter on his HUD was checked.

Code:
ECU-IMFW-3
20mm Railgun
Standard – 3/8, /|\ 8
EMP – 0/8 /|\ 3

9mm AR
DU – 23/40 /|\ 40
FMJ – 0/40 /|\ 0

-

ECU-SIS-2
15mm Automatic Pistol
DU – 18/18 /|\ 18

-

Grenades:
L7A2 Fragmentation – 2
UT-42 Flash – 1
FFB-1 Incendiary – 0
CW-4 NECW - 0


He was starting to get worryingly low on ammunition for the assault rifle component of the IMFW-3; less than two full magazines remained. Before that, it would be worth acquiring weapons from enemies, even if there would be a loss in efficiency due to the fact that the weapons would not be designed for integrated use with his armour system.

There was an odd crackling in his radio system. User ID only displayed UNKNOWN CONTACT. Foxtrot 813 slapped the side of his helmet; nothing happened, apart from his HUD flickering slightly.

There was an odd noise at the edge of hearing... a simple tune, chiming in the distance, from the outside of the school building. The Replica, weapon raised, made his way to the window, stepping over the corpse of the female coilsniper.

Nothing. It was coming from one of the buildings on the other side of the street, one of the few without any signs of burning; the red glow of flames could be seen from inside many of the others. There was a dead tree on the pockmarked lawn outside, what had been one of the few, non-rooftop patches of green in this densely packed city. A lone swing hung from it, limply.

Foxtrot 813 levered himself over the ledge, and headed through the outside. The music was growing stronger. He had to find the source!

Something knocked against his shin. The Replica jumped back, weapon lowered. The Dagonites had been using large numbers of mines, and rollers were not unknown. The fact that he remained intact suggested that it was not an active threat, if he'd actually touched it, but...

It was an basketball, orange even in the night's darkness to the enhanced night vision systems of the Replica. The construct froze in place, while the LAI in his helmet tagged that it could not detect any traces of explosives. Slowly, 813 squatted down, and rubbed one armoured hand over its surface. His pseudo-sapient mind could not work out why it had suddenly moved like that.

“Unrecognised unit; IFF reads positive,” came a voice over his communications system, loud, crisp and clear; the first such that he had heard since the destruction of his REV-8. “Possibly the source of the unknown transmissions.” The voice was one he was programmed to recognise, one of the Replica variants, though not the same model as he was. “Identify yourself!”

He lowered himself into the crater, squatting next to the basketball. “Eidelon Combat Unit ORPH-PN1-012 Foxtrot-813.”

“ORPH-PN1-012 Foxtrot-813,” repeated the voice. There was a pause. “That unit was recorded as MIA.”

“Correct. The assigned REV-8 Eidelon Powered Armour was mission-killed, and self-destruct protocols were carried out as usual, to deny asset to enemy forces.”

His HUD picked up a flicker of movement, tagging a friendly unit; just there for a second before it was gone again.

“Foxtrot 813, a location is transmitted to your HUD. Regroup with forces there.”

“Understood,” answered the Replica, with a feeling of relief more intense than most humans would experience. It was back in contact with friendly forces, so the success of its mission would be increased.

There were four Replicas in the wet basement, clad in greyish-white semi-powered ultraheavy combat armour. Twenty-four yellow optical sensors were turned his way.

“Eidelon Elite Combat Units ORPH-ORPH-03 Kantya-12, Kantya-13, Kantya-14, and Kantya-15,” stated one of the figures, only distinguishable by the fact that the HUD highlighted which one was communicating and their different armaments. “ ORPH-PN1-012 Foxtrot-813, your current orders are now over-written. Synchronise orders with ORPH-OPRH-03.”

Foxtrot 813 nodded. The Replica Elite had such an authority. Produced in much smaller batch sizes than the mainstream Type VIIs, they were also much more heavily enhanced. Although there were multiple genotypes among all the Replicas, even within a Type, the Elites were, without exception, based off a female template; further modified for endurance, strength, and lightning fast reflexes, and with added aggressiveness and cunning embedded into their pseudo-sapient psyches. Add that to superior armaments and armour, and the fact that they were directly under the control of Orpheus Command, and it could be seen how, if the Assassins were the knife of Project Eidelon, the Elite were the lance. The main limit was how much more difficult they were to handle, assigned to Orpheus Command exactly because only it had the spare capacity to sustain multiple Elite activations as well as keeping the rest of the forces active.

“Threat classified “Migou” has entered combat zone,” stated Kantya-12. “Unlock combat library “Migou”. Orders are to engage Migou and residual Dagonite forces which attempt to prevent evacuation of all assets in Task Force Nero. Destruction of all enemies forces is instructed as a secondary priority; they are to be eliminated. They all are to be eliminated.”

“Understood,” said Foxtrot 813.

fire
bodies

awakening




~'/|\'~




With the window to Command closed, the three pilots stared at each other.

“And now the Migou are showing up,” said Asuka, flatly. She smirked. “Well, I've killed Swarm Ships before. Just follow my lead, and you'll be fine.”

“Certainly,” said Rei. She paused. “Where is the nearest high object to jump off?”

Asuka narrowed her eyes. “You're trying to make fun of me,” she stated. “And, no, don't pretend to be innocent. You know exactly what you are saying.”

“You were not referring you your past experience with the Migou?” Rei frowned. “Oh. I see. But after the previous Herald, we were told by Dr Akagi to try to avoid ripping holes in the fabric of space to create a Zone-like environment of infinite dimensions overwriting the standard 5+n. That may pose a problem, if we are to follow your example.”

“What?” Asuka glared at Rei. “Oh, ha ha. Anyway, I'm pretty sure she was only joking. Or at least,” the girl corrected herself, “being gratuitously sarcastic. Because, obviously, we should avoid blowing up the universe. And I'd like to note that I'm the only one who's fought the Migou befo...”

“Could we try to avoid the catfi... uh, I mean, the argument,” interjected Shinji, hastily correcting himself after a piercing blue and a cold grey gaze locked onto him, “and maybe consider the fact that we're now going to be attacked by the Migou, while we're trying to protect a ship that's trying to summon a Herald, which we then need to capture, and then get away from here?” Shinji paused. “There may also be attacks from remaining fish-men forces,” he added, as the sheer ridiculousness of the situation began to get to him. “I just hope the Yellow Storm doesn't decide to show up as well.”

“Oh, it gets better,” said Asuka, an almost identical tone in her voice. Shinji may have been prone to useless passive-aggressiveness, but, much as she was loathe to admit it, he was right. In that they needed to focus, of course, not that it was a catfight or anything like that. “Unit 01 is the only one with a properly-working long-range set of sensors. Because that blast managed to damage mine, and Unit 00's just got slagged by it. And Migou standard operations is to drop in from high orbit, if they're in an area where we don't have capital-grade defences; we certainly won't have the E-9 coverage once they arrive.”

“Really?” asked Shinji, face turning a paler shade underneath the LCL.

“Yes. It's basic knowledge.” Asuka growled. “And I'm armed completely wrong for this kind of thing. And you, you're not exactly doing too well, either. That thing you have is for shredding vehicles, not going against Swarm Ships.”

“The most commonly encountered model of the class of xenotechnological vessel assigned the name “Swarm Ship” mounts, as its major armaments, one ventral plasma weapon and two nose-mounted weapons of the technological basis that have been deemed “null” weaponry. Despite the extreme inaccuracy of such a term,” Rei added.

“Huh?”

“They possess three weapons which are capable of threatening an Evangelion with a single shot,” explained Rei, tilting her head slightly. “There are thirty six of them. Moreover, the 45 “Drone Ships” mount an laser attuned to the near-mid ultraviolet of a similar, though lesser, threat level.” She paused. “By my understanding, the warships will mount such armaments as to make...”

“Please, no more, Rei,” said Shinji, weakly. “I get the picture. We'll all die if they attack us.” He shivered, suddenly aware of the slimy feel of the LCL that surrounded him. “I never ever, ever thought it would end like this,” he said, in full honesty.

“That is not necessarily true,” she said, clinically. “And what I told you before Operation Ishtar still holds true. You will not die, because I will protect you. I can be replaced.”

“Look, uh, I said you shouldn't say that kind of thing...” began Shinji, before Asuka, who had been sitting, listening to the conversation with growing rage as Rei enumerated exactly the trouble they were in, finally exploded.

“What the hell did the GIA, the OSS... just everyone think that they were doing!” she shouted. “Why didn't they foresee something like this happening! Argh! So obvious that of course the bugs were going to do something like this!”

There was silence.

“Actually, when you say 'foresee'...” said Shinji, slowly.

“No,” said Rei, her voice level.

“Uh... what exactly you mean?” he asked

“I mean, 'No'. I do not know.” She squinted, eyes darting from side to side, in what looked like worry, gazing from the cluttered cockpit of Unit 00. “Everything is strange,” she said slowly, a uncharacteristic tone of both fear and wonder in her voice.

“What are you talking about?” snapped Asuka.

“I cannot explain. You lack the context.”

Back in her plug, the red-head fumed.

The shear arrogance. Going around seeing the future and locking people into the actions that she sees, and acting like that when anyone questions her. She never explains herself. She's so damn quixotic. And she's always been like that.

She stared up at the skies, shifting her position to get her stupid broken sensors to work consistently. Stupid sensors. Stupid OSS. Stupid Rei.

In Unit 00, Rei stared at the morass of projections and displays that smeared the insides of the entry plug, many of them warning diminished functionality due to the damage from the blast.

It was not meant to be like this. I do not understand.

fire
bodies

awakening





~'/|\'~




Solomon Throne, this is Goetia Control.”

There was a pause, as the link protocols ran. Then;

“Acknowledged, Goetia Control. Uplink is secure.”

The albino sorcerer nodded, despite the fact that this was a [VOICE ONLY] connection. He made a few movements across the AR display, dragging new options together.

“Be aware, Solomon Throne, there are multiple hostile Migou capital ships, converging on your location.”

“We are aware, Goetia Control; we have access to NEG military channels.”

“Understood.” Agent Tome paused. “Task Force Nero has chosen not to abort the operation. Repeat, operation is continuing. You are hereby instructed to move to Variant Three.” He fell silent again, taking several deep breaths. Oh, sure, he might pretend to the military and the Evangelion people that such orders didn't affect him, but that was a lie, to create a public persona for the OSS. “The fatality rate of Variant Three has been deemed acceptable. Moreover, you are instructed to employ the Patrone System to its maximum capacity, in a simultaneous dump.”

“You are aware that this will add ten-to-fifteen percent to the fatality rate? And induce orgonic burnout in the survivors?”

The albino closed his eyes. “Yes,” he said. “I am aware.”

“I am afraid that you lack the authorisation to command this. We require authorisation from a Genesis-level authority.”

“Patching you through to Director Khoury,” Tome answered, making a series of complex movements in the AR array. There was silence for a minute. Then;

“Authorisation has been given, Goetia Command. After ritual is complete, we will engage stealth and evac as fast as possible, assuming success and no destructive backlash from use of Patrone.”

“Acknowledged. Goetia Command out, Solomon Throne.”

The three hundred metre ship, which stood upright in the excavated hole which the Order had dug, was now covered with a vast dome, memoform materials only enough to seal off the area and prevent undue influences from entering. The Solomon Throne had seeded the area with nanites, and sped their operations up with broadcast power, relaxing the thermodynamic problems that such free-roaming nano-and-microagents had; the same ones which made the “grey goo” nanoweapons an impossibility. The area was now a black hollow, surface like black glass, with symbols and figures carved into it by the finely controlled lasers mounted on the outside of the ship. The Evangelions had been moved outside the crater, and were being kept away from the dome, standing unmoving vigil over the target location, sensors and eyes to the sky. They should have had nothing to do until the ritual had been completed; now, of course, things had taken a notable turn for the worse, from the viewpoint of the Office of Special Services and those pieces of the New Earth Government that knew about Nero's role.

Inside, the rows and rows of Special Services sorcerers, sat in acceleration couches that bound their limbs, wires threaded into their bodies and into the ports that connected directly into their cerebral implants, twitched. They were not really there, not mentally. Their consciousnesses were in a simulation, a fake world built in the dreams and soul of a preprepared subject, their psyche parapsychically reconstructed to make it an ideal site for such a ritual. After all, by conducting it in a dream, they were in fact conducting it in a location with the same location in the three dimensions of space and one of time that humanity was familiar with. It was merely the fifth coordinate which varied. And due to the fact that it was occurring in one soul, rather than many, metaphysically the ritual resembled one cast by a single, much more powerful lifeform, rather than many weak and flawed humans. It was an ingenious merger of the arcane and the technological; an exploit in the “laws” of sorcery which the mystics of earlier generations had held to. And a work-around the fact that, individually, humanity was fairly terrible at sorcery, the hard-wired limits on understanding as well as their individually rather pathetic reserves of ruach crippling any more intuitive, less ritualistic understanding of the subject.

So very human.

The dream-selves of the sorcerers stood on a vast white plane, no walls in sight, under a void-black sky. Across the featureless plane, vast markings were placed with perfect precision, carved into the server-mind through mental sculpting. Anchored by the identical, though much smaller carvings outside, they stretched into immensity. Each mental-projection was in place somewhere on the diagram, although their eyes could not resolve the nearest compatriot in the procedure.

They were not chanting. They were not praying. Within the sculpted mind which was the ritual site, they were in turn turned inwards, silent, as the equations flowed through their minds, each one solved in turn and in the correct order, describing precisely the flow of orgone through the host-psyche and downwards, into the Earth.

Down to Moloch.

There were three major schools of sorcerous practice in the New Earth Government, with a fourth arguably deserving inclusion. The Cassandran Practices were perhaps the simplest, and closest to how they had been before their public revelation. In a sense, they were not so much a unified school, as a collection of sorcerous procedures that much more accurately required the name “rites” or “ceremonies”. Most spells which would be classified under the Practices were illegal, deemed too dangerous compared to the sterilised and tested versions of the Schools. The few which remained legal were the most basic ones, circles of Warding and Protection, or cruder, less effective (but easier to learn) versions of modern arcanotherapeutic procedures. Where they came into their own was on the summoning and binding of creatures; not through any particular innate brilliance (indeed, they were often horribly flawed, traps left by cultists and long-dead sorcerers as revenge to permit extra-normal entities access to the world), but simply because the practices of summoning and binding had been heavily restricted if not entirely illegal for all of modern times. Those who went into such fields, either through necessity (such as NEG-trained exorcists, working with the OIS and FSB), or through curiosity (a path which led so often to the consumption of the practitioner), were often forced into using the Cassandran Practices.

By far the most widely used was the Horakian School, and, arguably, the Lorenzian School. Both these systems were modern ones; devised and revised by old-school sorcerers who had gone legal, and used the desperation of pre-NEG governments to investigate this new science to secure massive grants, funding, and teams of highly trained scientists all looking for instruction. Officially, Horaki had won out over Lorenz, to a large extent because the former had the advantage of good relations with the nascent Ashcroft Foundation rather than because his version was better, but in practice the two, somewhat similar already, had syncretised in modern universities, the hybrid version taking on the traits of the school that Lorenz had devised. There still existed hard-school supporters of both, but the two were, fundamentally, similar. They were both devised from the older styles, but heavily modified by the systematic application of the scientific method to the old rites, flagging ones which failed or had unintended consequences, comparing those broken ones to ones which worked to find the elements that differed, and generally doing the same thing to sorcery that medicine had done to folk remedies.

But the final, and most esoteric of the methods, was the Salaamian School, named after Christopher Salaam, an early-twenty-first century archaeologist and linguistic theorist who had, if his story was to be believed, stumbled across the principles of sorcery from almost first principles, aided only by some clay tablets of unknown providence in the British Museum. Certainly, the Salaamian School had very little in common with any of the others; it treated sorcerous procedures as something more akin to pure information, a careful balance of mnemonics and exceedingly complex mental calculations that effectively programmed the effect into being. Although the theoretical basis was sound, and the effects that could be generated in it were typically more... elegant, in a mathematical sense, than those produced by other methods, the problem was that it was beyond the human intellect to perform anything but the most basic of procedures, which even then took far longer than any other method would have taken. Christopher Salaam had gone crazy at the end, become convinced that the entire universe was a localised bubble in a vast churning sea of infinite possibilities, and was fundamentally unstable, rebuilt afresh every time a sorcerous procedure was performed; that, literally, sorcery did not break the laws of physics, but instead shifted the practitioner into a point in phase-space where the initial conditions were such that the effects desired happen. The school was an almost purely theoretical one, due to its complexity and negative effects on practitioners' sanity. It was used to check the procedures of other schools, not actually performed.

And yet all the sorcerers upon the Solomon Throne were all trained in the Salaamian School, and, indeed, the OSS made up the majroity of its practical users. The reason for this was simple. Despite the risks and the complexity, it was the only known human-codified system for practice of sorcery which had any capacity for building new procedures without extended experimentation; the only one which allowed true workings from first principles. And, unlike all other systems, the limit was in the rate at which the exceptionally complex n-dimensional calculations and lengthy mnemonic devices (themselves only abbreviated versions of other calculations; given results, so to speak) could be performed, given a sufficient flow of orgone.

The Trintignant-Patjug-003 cyberbrains, Achtzig-made implants that wrapped around their brains, coolant pipes flowing from the ceramic skull-replacement, were woven into the unmyelinated fibres that made up the cerebral cortex, and solved the issues of computation, linked as they were into the trio of Mobad supercomputers within the centre of the ship. And, as for the supplies of ruach, well...

Out in the real-ship, down in what, in the original design, would have been the chamber for an additional D-Engine, to power the ventral laser, but in the Solomon Throne now housed a new power source, a team stood, all clad in full biohazard exosuits. They were clustered together in the middle of the hollow space, keeping far away from the Patrone capsules.

“We have authorisation for full use of the Patrone system,” said Dr Childe, over the comms system of the suits. His tone was confident, veiling any nervousness he may have had. “Ready to authorise?”

Each individual Patrone was a cylinder, whitish-grey, with cables flowing from its side, slightly wider and about a head taller than a man's torso. They were wrapped, six to a level, around a central pole, from ceiling to floor. The room was filled with these poles, . There were hundreds in this room alone; there were more spaces such as this, in whatever room could have been found. A single green light blinked on each one; of course, in Augmented Reality, flowing entopics and projections gave the full status of each Patrone at just a glance. But the green light told all; that the Patrone was ready for use.

The lights flashed blue on the inside of Dr Childe's exosuit, as the other operators across the ship acknowledged him. He reached out, servos on the outside of the void-proofed exosuit humming, and made a complex gesture in the AR display that hung before him.

The results were rather prosaic, after all this melodrama.

One by one, cascading down from the ceiling, the lights on the Patrone cylinders flashed to yellow, and then to red, the flow through the pipes into them ceasing with the red light. It was over in a few seconds.

Inside the simulated space, where an infinite black void which hung above the infinite white plane, the effects were much more dramatic. The entire world began to warp, vast flowing ripples which pulsed through the floor, avoiding the sorcerous markings. In the sky above, novae flared, burning brightness which left harsh shadows scorched behind the standing figures of the sorcerers. They left a pattern in the sky, from where they have so briefly been; the dead stars creating a ritualised marker identical to the one down below, on the whiteness.

Back on the Solomon Throne, the lifesign monitors on the sorcerers began to scream, as the cyberbrains were pushed beyond their safe-operational limits, frying the organic tissue as the waste heat produced from their operations overcame the capacity of the coolant systems.

A plume of liquid shadow erupted from the plane, as the whiteness tore, split like a discarded skin. Vast and roiling, it spread out, a cloud of impossible darkness obtenerating the sorcerers and almost obfuscating the novae, already dying out. It was only possible to see by its absence, but it seemed to be coalescing into some kind of shape above them, up in the void, some vast sphere.

“ENE breach!” warned monitoring systems, back in the real world, sirens blazing throughout the ship. “Sever-soul compromised!”

“Yank them! Get the sorcerers out of there!” yelled Dr Childe. “Ignore the AN damage!”

Too late.

There was a moment of terrible movement, as the last of the novae died and the white plain ceased to be, consumed by the growing shadow.

All at once, all the other vital signs failed, the other sorcerers snuffed out in an instance like candles dropped in the ocean. The server-soul's host began to thrash and scream blasphemies, mad words pouring from her mouth in a roaring torrent, before the LAI systems engaged and triggered the containment protocols, flooding the room with plasma. There was no-one else left to order it. Everyone else on board, within the warding circles carved into the rocks around the ship, and which had been in the sever-soul, had dropped to the floor like puppets with their strings cut, minds and souls snuffed out in an instant.

Nevertheless, they had, in those last moments, succeeded.

It was done.



~'/|\'~




[START PACKAGE]

[The camera pans over the wreckage of the Reykjavik pseudo-arcology]

Antonio de Nebrija :“The fighting still rages in Reykjavik, the cultist forces of the Order of Dagon being slowly pushed back by fierce house-to-house fighting...”

[A soldier in Centurion powered armour blows down the door to a building with a single plasma cannon shot. A grenade is thrown in, then foot soldiers, clad in the heavy combat armour of the standard infantryman, head through in pairs, rifles raised]

ADN: “... and despite minor friendly losses, victory looks to be certain.”

[The wreckage of an Esoteric Order of Dagon Leviathan-type mecha lies sprawled on the ground. The unit is blown clean in half at the waist. A Seraph Engel looms over it, bearing proud and regal. Notably, none of the organic components are showing; from this perspective, it could just be a very large conventional mecha]

ADN: “This is aided by the reports of the success in the diversionary assault to the north, which, contrary to even the most optimistic expectations, has actually succeeded in breaking through the lines...”

[A graphic displays an arrow, the green of unified humanity, punching through the blue of the Order forces over the urban area to the north as well as into the Reykjavik pseudo-arcology.]

ADN: “... no doubt aided by the fact that they have been assisted by the brand new Evangelion-class mecha, capital-grade units recently unveiled and seeing their first major deployment; one which has been exceptionally successful.”

[Still pictures of Unit 02, in the old Type-C armour, from its public unveiling in Chicago-2, shortly before the attack by the Seventh Herald, Yam. Notably, it's still in the red of its test colours, rather than the camouflage scheme that it used when actually deployed, let alone the Type-D it is currently in]

ADN: “However, it is not enough to merely win the war. We must also win the peace.”

[The camera moves to a dusk shot of a sealed camouflaged dome, made of memoform plastics; it's large, covering multiple clusters of buildings. The Atlantic oscean can be seen behind it; there are docking points, where A-Pod ships (not military troopships) hover. Large airlocks can be seen at the base, surrounded by military forces]

ADN: “Even though this is still an active war zone, the humanitarian effort to rescue the slave workers and victims in the Dagonite camps has already begun. The first, and most important thing, is to get the victims to a place of safety, and prevent their officially sanctioned killing by enemy forces, in an attempt to prevent their liberation.”

[The shot changes to one inside the dome; it's well lit, with strips of light running along the curved ceiling. Multi-story tent-like structures have been set up, packed very tight, connected together.]

ADN: “Once rescued...”

[NEG soldiers, notably not wearing the standard combat helmet, but instead a less armoured variant which covers the face with a nanofactory diamond transparent front, removing the inhumanity of the standard, skull-like appearance, can be seen, waving columns of people in cheap-looking, undyed clothing along. The hair of the rescued people has been shaved off, leaving only a stubble. The clothing is obviously far too cold to survive for long outside in the temperatures in Iceland at this time of year]

ADN: “... and the obvious Dagonite infiltrators removed...”

[More NEG soldiers, a Crusader powered armour standing next to them, HMG in hand, have hand-held metal detectors and stun batons, scanning the people at a checkpoint for weapons, before herding them into another, larger scanner. One person is pulled out of the crowd, and bundled to the ground, before being clubbed into unconsciousness with stun-batons.]

ADN: “... then the humanitarian work can begin. These poor people have been through so much.”

[The camera jumps from tear-stained face to tear-stained face]

ADN: “Those liberated from the work camps have been used as slave labour, given the bare minimum of food. Some cannot be saved; the... well, the evil, there's no other word, really, of the Order is such that it lobotomises them, making them into nothing more than fleshy automata to use as workers. Others were pumped full of combat drugs when the NEG assault was detected, and set loose into our path, mindlessly killing anything that got in their way. Only those who were in tasks which required some intelligence...”

[Images of the things described above. The blankness in the eyes of the lobotomised workers, sitting like cattle in the pens that the Order kept them in, not even moving when the powered armour claws off the locks, is more disturbing than the madman with a knife being gunned down by infantry]

ADN: “... can be saved. And as for the people in the forced breeding camps, almost exclusively women, to the trauma of their repeated rape by the bestial Deep Ones, and highly transformed Hybrids, can be added the effects of the hallucinogenic and euphoric drugs used to keep them docile. Perhaps worse is the way that the highly addictive drugs are withdrawn during any pregnancy that results, all in a too-often-successful at brainwashing and thought control.”

[Still shots of the living conditions in the rape camps. They are spartan, rather than the squalor of the work camps, with a slightly medicinal appearance to them; only slightly, because the pictures on the walls are disturbing in the extreme, to the extent that the autocensor blocks them out.]

[A woman of Asian decent, face puffy, eyes red-rimmed, a badly healed scar just under the barcode emblazoned on her forehead, appears on camera. The LAI automatically subtitles her dialogue. She begins talking in one of the Malay languages.]

SUBTITLES: “You're getting me out of here, please! I'm begging you, tell me you're getting me out of here!”

[She begins to shake]

SUBTITLES: “They... oh.... oh... they...”

[She bursts into tears.]

[The camera focusses on Antonio de Nebrija, he's standing on top of one of the multi-story prefabricated structures established in the NEG holding centre. He's wearing the light armour that is issued to journalists, the red “PRESS” emblem clearly obvious, with the same, PR-friendly helmet that the soldiers here were wearing.]

ADN: “I'm here inside one of the many rescue centres that the NEG forces have set up, as we advance across the formerly-Order controlled island. They contain top of the line medical facilities, including access to arcanotherapy, to treat injuries and malnourishment, as well as to counteract exposure to biological, chemical, nanological and micrological agents. This way, the rescued prisoners can be stabalised, before they are loaded onto ships, to get them to safe, NEG-controlled territory.”

[The camera pans sideways, to show a male Nazzadi in a white biohazard suit, anti-stab plating evident on the chest, marking him as part of one of the Army Medical Corps. From behind the clear faceplate, he looks old enough to be a first generation, who possibly even fought in the First Arcanotech War. The camera LAI tags him as “Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services, Dr Rera]

ADN: “So, doctor. Exposure to battlefield bee-cee-nam? That sounds unpleasant.”

[The doctor nods]

Rera: “It's true, it is unpleasant. Control of the modern battlefield requires the use of emfog, a cloud of nano-and-microparticles which interfere with most kinds of communication, and, sadly, it is toxic when breathed in in large amounts. Luckily, with proper medical care and the use of counter-agents, it can be neutralised.”

ADN: “And the biological and chemical weapons?”

[The doctor shakes his head.]

Rera: “Let me be clear. It has long been a policy of the New Earth Government that we do not use biological weapons that could infect any non-Tainted member of the four recognised Homo sapiens subspecies. The risk of military grade bioweapons infecting real people would be too great. And on the subject of chemical weapons, likewise, I can guarantee that the only weapons used by the NEGA or NEGN here have been designed to be less-than-lethal to the purebred Homo sapiens subspecies. So, yes, we do have to remedy the effects of knockout gas on many of the victims here, but if it's a choice between letting the Dagonites kill them, or knocking the entire work camp out, I know which one I'd chose.”

[Antonio nods to the doctor's explanation.]

ADN: “I see. But...”

Rera: “That's not what I really want to talk about, though. The important thing is the good we're doing here. Once the Hybrid infiltrators have been weeded out... it's the matter of a simple gene check, the markers are unmistakable if you know what you're looking for, we tag each of the rescued people, ready to get them off this island. Already, we're setting up proper settlement camps back in friendly territory. Hopefully, one day we'll be able to set up proper housing here again, but for now, Iceland will be a military territory.

[He pauses]

Rera: It's probably for the best, considering how close we are to Migou territory.

ADN: “So... this entire structure... it's the size of an arcology dome...”

Rera: “Well, a slightly-smaller-than average one, to be accurate.”

ADN: “Yes, okay, true. But, still. This entire thing, you've set it up in hours, and from the flow of people...”

[The camera pans down, to show the column being herded along the temporary streets, shaven-headed figures in loose, undyed clothing, like that might which be given by a hospital, shuffling along. The NEG guards around them have their stun-batons drawn, and are carrying riot shields.]

ADN: “... it's already well under way in its task. How do you manage it so quickly?”

Rera: “That has to go down to the bravery and efficiency of the men I have the honour of serving with... the soldiers who freed these people, the engineers who set this place up, and my fellow doctors and medics who are working non-stop to get these people processed, ready for evacuation.”

[The camera pans again, so Antonio is the only one in shot.]

ADN: “So, there we have it. A sight into one of the areas of the Aeon War which we hear less about, and which many people would like to pretend doesn't exist. But we can all sleep better, and feel better about ourselves, in the knowledge that Operation CATO, with its aim to stop the Dagonites from doing things like this, has succeeded. This is Antonio de Nebrija, for WBO News.”

[END PACKAGE]



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2009-12-30 06:23am
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Antonio stretched, straightish his arms and swinging them around. “How was it, Var?”

“Looking good.” The Nazzadi paused. “We're going to have to do a redub on some of the earlier packages, though. The fact that we got moved to a processing centre, rather than a rape camp, means that the narrative's a bit mucked up.”

“Are you done with me, though?” asked Rera, his dark face suddenly much more haggard-looking.

“Should be,” answered Antonio. “If we need a reshoot, we'll find you if you're free, or someone else if you're not.”

“Okay,” said the elder Nazzadi. “Uh... when do you think it'll be going out? The bit with me in?”

“Want to tell someone to watch it live?” said Varuta, looking up from his PCPU with a wicked grin, pupils lit up as if with firelight from the AR images up against the soft contact layered over his eye.

Rera shuddered slightly, then nodded. “Yes, actually. Wife, and, who knows? Maybe my daughter might be able to take a break from her holiday... at my expense... to see what her dad actually does. If she isn't too busy staring at pictures of mecha online, all the time, even when I try to do something with her,” he added, a sour note in his voice.

“Teenager?” asked Varuta, a sympathetic tone in his voice.

“Yes. You have one of the wonders known as teenage daughters?”

“One. Adopted. She can be like that, yeah. Nice most of the time, but sometimes she treats Pesa and me like we're only there as sources of money.” The Nazzadi smiled, slightly indulgently.

“I wouldn't mind that so much, if she'd just be nicer to my... no. I am not going to complain about her like this.” He thought about it for a moment. “I am not going to complain about her more, like this.” Rera paused. “So, uh, when is it going to be shown?”

Varuta shrugged. “Antonio?”

“Two or three days from now, but as live. They don't show this kind of thing 'live',” the man said, not looking up, and making the inverted commas with one finger, as he ran over the notes on his PCPU, “until they're sure that they've won. Remember Juneau?”

“You mean...”

“Yeah.”

Just then, an AR message, bright red against the inside of the transparent faceplate of the biohazard suit, flashed up. Rera glanced down. His face fell. “Harangy,” he muttered to himself.

“What is it? Anything important?” asked Antonio, his journalistic instincts tingling.

“Important, yes,” answered the doctor, bruskly. “Something you can cover, no.”

“Why, what do you mean?” the human asked, jogging to catch up with the Nazzadi doctor, who had already headed off down the staircase at the side of the temperature building. “We're here to get the story, get some human interest, maybe.”

“You don't want this kind of interest, human.”

“Why not? We're here for the truth.”

He almost ran into the elder man, red eyes staring through the faceplate with what seemed to be concrete hate, chisel-like teeth evident through parted lips. “Ua mandaterma ni infera,” hissed the older man. Varuta blanched slightly at those words. “You idiotic human moron... you have no idea what it's really like dealing with these people. What they go through and even once we've got them out, the withdrawal symptoms they suffer. You think there's a harangy reason we're all in full gear, and the soldiers have stun-sticks and riot shields, huh? Some of them are so broken we'll never really be able to put them back together again, and then you prattle about “liberation” and “saving them”. You have no idea what I'm going to, do you? Do you?”

Neither of the journalists said anything.

“It's a five-four-fifty-five. That means that some of the captives have had slow-release drugs that induce symptoms akin to paranoid schizophrenia injected before we got to them, and had non-metallic knives hidden on them. They're normally fully symptomatic before they find the knives, if they do at all. Sometimes they just attack the others with their bare hands and teeth.”

He glared at them.

“Do you know what it's like working in an environment where it's so common that we have a standardised code for it?”

The doctor stormed off.



~'/|\'~




High above the surface of the third planet in the ǶǡѬѮӜ-[(zero-46,656) and (thirtyone-1296) and (eleven-36) and (thirtyfive)]-[(zero-60,466,176) and (one-1,679,616) and (twentynine-46,656) and (seven-1296) and (seventeen-36) and (three)] system, the Migou Hive Ship hung, its bulk minuscule compared to the oversized moon of this world, but still enough to make it a new morning star to the inhabitants.

The term “Hive Ship” was eminently inaccurate. The correct term could not have been pronounced by an ape-descendent which lacked almost all the necessary organ systems, and could not see into the majority of the needed bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, but a much simplified version might have translated better as [Exclusion Volume] [Containment and Defence] Planetoid, or EVCDP. This basic design saw use all around the galaxy, on those occasions when it was necessary to lock down an entire solar system, to contain the things of long forgotten species and the remnants of those who had attempted to transcend their then-status that littered such places.

The Migou, to use just-plain-wrong term (the abominable snowman of Tibetan myth was an entirely different species, often encountered in the forces of the Unnameable One), were not even a single species, not any more. Yes, the local branch, the void-adapted fungiod insect-like creatures, spread over this arm of the Milky Way, were all closely related, though they had speciated and divided as the gap between star systems and the slow speed of light, when the immensity of space was considered, had imposed a barrier. But as you spread out, they got more and more different, and, moreover, there were creatures from other trees of life, all following the same goal; the containment of the sleeping and dead elder monstrosities which could wipe them all out. The Migou were no longer a species. They were a philosophy; a galaxy-wide loose alliance of those who recognised that there were things in the universe which could wipe them all out. And their knowledge diffused out, to aid in the pursuit of their eternal vigil, for the failure of one could threaten all the ones in the local area. They were not so much an empire as they were a network, watching over those spatially close to them, to ensure that they had not been corrupted, while providing aid to the unsafe systems.

And the native species, Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ... they were dangerous. The entire planet was irrevocably contaminated just by its nature; it was the reason that the highest level of Exclusion Volume had been established around it. It was the reason that asteroid belts from local stars had been mined to near worthlessness, rather than risk disturbing things in this system by taking too many resources, just to build the masses of EVCDPs that clustered around all the direct paths from other stars, searching for torch-flares or the odd rifts that the Tsab used in their discontinuous jumps, to destroy anything that tried to breach the volume.

The humans below thought that the Migou could have at most two EVCDPs, two Hive Ships. They were blind. There had been attempts, true, to move a second EVCDP to the third planet, almost exactly [(one-36ths)] of a Yuggothian cycle ago, but lased warnings about a Tsabian breakthrough close to the system had forced its recall. It had been all that could be spared, from the necessity of maintaining the [Exclusion Volume], proof against lesser species and stopping any of the quarantined lifeforms from getting out.

And the last [(ten-36ths)] of a Yuggothian cycle, their central base in this system, had been a period of first concern, then worry, then annoyance, and now terror. So fast. So unpredictable. In some ways, such as recklessness and blind-stupidity, this species put even the Tsab to shame. Communications from systems closer to the lines, the light-speed signals crawling through space like a slow fuse, indicated that that Tsab were slowly becoming more aware of the dangers, of the reason for the existence of the Migou, taking more care when they managed to break an [Exclusion Volume] or find one that the local Migou had not discovered. That was a mixed blessing, of course, as it meant that they were less likely to be consumed by the inhabitants before they could obtain the truly dangerous things, but it was better, if only marginally, that they did not wake that they should not.

And it was on the subject of things that should be not woken that this emergency meeting had been called. This EVCDP, as with all its kind, a warship, smothered in layers of ablative ice, which also served as reaction mass and camouflage, and reinforced along the line of its thrust axis, to take the almost-impossible forces generated by its engines, needed to move an object of its mass at an anywhere near passable acceleration. There simply was not the engineering tolerances to have the vast caverns or tall spires of Yuggoth, and so the planetoid was an almost sold mass of metal, Migou construction material, and other, stranger substances bought from beyond the stars. This was irrelevant, though, for only one of the individuals at this meeting was actually in the room in person, the others merely present in one of multiple [body-form/indiviudals], blank communication bodies remotely controlled. And that was not to mention the sensory feeds that ran from this room all around the EVCDP, and via the lightspeed communicators to the rest of the fleet around Three, and (for archival purposes) out to the rely stations that would lead to Yuggoth itself. The Migou did not delineate cleanly between themselves and their technology, and any one of the void-adapted fungoids within range could view this, their superior intellect allowing them to multitask in this way, even when they were operating multiple body-forms. In a sense, the six involved in this conversation were not there as individuals. They were there as representatives of positions, in the vast network of webs and connections that was how the Migou made decisions; merely as ones among the most respected of their respective positions and through their own merit.

Some humans believed that the Migou were a hive-minded species. They were wrong. But in some ways, they had built themselves one, through technology and sorcery, not through some pathetic innate parapsychic ability; a vast network of communications and debate from which emergent policies evolved.

Some might even call it a cyberdemocracy.

Their conversation could not have been understood by a human. Quite apart from the fact that the Migou language, despite the best attempts of linguists, remained untranslated, the levels of reference, the cultural context, the vibrations and colour changes that the information took; all of this was outside the ability of a human to understand, even if they had the necessary implants to understand the flow of easily accessible information that any of the participants or onlookers would have access to with but a thought, to understand the morass of precedent, previous cases, and predicted data. But the basic nature was less alien than might be thought, with the obfuscation of linguistics stripped away. That the chamber would have appeared dark and slime-covered to a human merely showed their inferiority; unable to see the frequencies which void-adapted Migou saw in, or recognise that the maintenance fluid was entirely sterile and aided in the repair and stability of the ship; likewise, everything the Migou did had a point.

There was a buzzing and vibration from the one Migou exclusively present, their [self-form] only occupying a single [body-form/individual].

<Secretary of Known Recordings> : This [meeting/assemblage] is now [full/complete]. It is [requested/ordered] that all [body-forms/networks] act as is properly becoming.

The buzzing from the rest of the room ceased to a rhythmic hum, from the unconscious twitching of limbs.

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] is [grateful/glad]. It is now [necessary/mandated] that the [emergency/situation] on Three be discussed. This [meeting/assemblage] calls upon the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces> to provide [clarification/explanation] for why it has issued a [full/total] deployment of a full [(five-36ths)] of our strategic reserves.

<Assistant to the Void-Forces>: This [body-form/individual] wishes to [interrupt/expand].

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] permits such an [interruption/expansion], though with [slight/marginal] annoyance.

<Assistant V.-F.> : This [body-form/individual] is grateful for permission, and [believes/assures] that this is directly [relevant/connected] to the subject at [appendage/manipulator]. The <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces> has [authorised/forced] [(two)] of our [General Out-System] [Local Supremacy Craft] into the atmosphere of Three, to [join/accompany] the deployment of the . This [self-form/individual] would like to remind this [meeting/assemblage] that we only have [(twelve)] available around Three, due to the needs of the Containment of the rest of the ǶǡѬѮӜ-[(zero-46,656) and (thirtyone-1296) and (eleven-36) and (thirtyfive)]-[(zero-60,466,176) and (one-1,679,616) and (twentynine-46,656) and (seven-1296) and (seventeen-36) and (three)] system. The needs of Containment [mandate/demand] that we [quarantine/isolate] all the in-system objects Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ has tried to [inhabit/colonise], even after they have been [cleansed/purged] of Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ.

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] was aware of such [information/data], <Assistant to the Void-Forces>, and was proceeding in an [orderly/stable] manner.

<Assistant V.-F.> : This [body-form/individual] apologises. It is merely that it was [thought/believed] that such a detail should be [raised/informed] as fast as possible.

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] believes it would go faster if certain [self-forms/individuals] did not [interrupt/interject].

The Secretary twitched its wings, resettling them in what, to a human, would be akin to clearing their throat.

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] asks the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces> to provide [explanation/clarification] for its actions.

<Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces> : This [body-form/individual] thanks the <Secretary of Known Recordings>, and condones the [wonderful/brilliant] enthusiasm of the <Assistant to the Void-Forces> to raise its points as [rapidly/swiftly] as it could. Furthermore, this [self-form/individual] assures the [meeting/assemblage] that it retains full [grasp/embrace] of its sanity. However, to [explain/clarify], it must call upon <Student Into Things Unknown>, for it [made/gave] the orders on the [explanation/clarification] of that [self-form/individual].

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] would query if the <Student Into Things Unknown> provided its backing, as [detailed/described] by the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces>.

One of the other communication bodies vibrated, spreading its wings wide. Even from the communications body, it could be seen, from the cybernetics that snaked into the body, that the <Student Into Things Unknown> could not bear to lack the massively enhanced interface capacities, even for a short meeting in a [body-form/individual], that it would normally possess in its laboratory environment. How typical for one who filled a role such as it.

<Student Into Things Unknown>: Indeed, this [body-form/individual] and its [self-form/individual] gave full backing to the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces>, after [consulting/debating] with the <Prophet of Estimated Futures> and the <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts>.

The <Assistant to the Void-Forces> let out an annoyed buzz, a pulse of its surface rippling through the mid ultraviolet, before it regained control of itself. With such a block behind it, the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces> was probably untouchable, even if it had forced the stupidity of pulling down [General Out-System] [Local Supremacy Craft] into atmosphere, where they were not really designed to go. The <Student Into Things Unknown> ignored the outburst, such as it was, and continued.

<Student I. T. U. > : Our [(three)] [self-forms/individuals] have analysed the [data/readings], executed the predicative [procedures/sorceries], and consulted with the [Sanctified/parapsychics]. It is [clear/certain]. In [retrospect/hindsight], we should have seen it earlier.

<Prophet of Estimated Futures> : This [body-form/individual] apologies most profusely for its failure to [anticipate/foresee] such an event. It was too preoccupied with the [possibility/potential-probability] of another light-speed [break/rupture] and the resulting dimensional [instability/flaw], such as happened in the [(eighth)] and [(ninth)] time increments.

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] would ask precisely what event its [esteemed/respected] colleagues are referring to, and [request/ask] that they get in close proximity to the point.

<Student I. T. U> : This [body-form/individual] would request that it not be [interrupted/interjected], when it is trying to explain. As the <Secretary of Known Recordings> has [noted/raised] on previous occasions.

It paused.

<Student I. T. U> : Naturally, the <Prophet of Estimated Futures> and the <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts> are welcome, to [explain/clarify] on points in their own [expertise/base].

<Archivist of Dangerous Pasts> : This [body-form/individual] would like to say that this last [(ten-36ths)] of a Yuggothian cycle has been without [precedent/predecessors] in the Containment of this Volume. It is the opinion-from-evidence of this [self-form/individual] that the upcoming {CELESTIAL CONJUNCTION} has caused a massive rise in activity of the {THREATS}.

The last of the Migou in the room spoke then. It had a much darker epidermis than the others, which almost sucked at the light.

<Handler of Xenobiological Lifeforms> : With respect to the <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts>, this [self-form/individual] does not believe-with-evidence that that can be the sole [reason/explanation]. An increase in root atavistic [traits/tendencies] of the order of [(sixteen-1,679,616)] has been noted among the [inhabitants/dwellers] of the dominant social [organisation/grouping] of Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ. This [self-form/individual] is of the opinion that Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ is [undergoing/experiencing] typical [spontaneous/unprovoked] differentiation. For this reason, this [self-form/individual] supports the <Assistant to the Void-Forces>. If Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ undergoes the full degeneration, it will be [necessary/mandatory] to have total orbital [supremacy/control], to prevent the contamination of the rest of this system.

<Archivist D. P.> : This [body-form/individual] would request that the <Handler of Xenobiological Lifeforms> not promote its [sanity-lacking/crazy] assertion-hypothesises in this [meeting/assemblage]. Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ only fulfils [(eleven)] out of the [(thirteen-36) and (nineteen)] criteria associated with [spontaneous/unprovoked] differentiation. The idea of the <Handler of Xenobiological Lifeforms> has been considered, and been found [wanting/lacking].

There was a loud, furious-sounding buzzing from the <Secretary of Known Recordings>.

<Secretary K. R.> : Not relevant! This [body-form/individual] would like to know why deployment of a full [(five-36ths)] of our strategic reserves has been [authorised/enforced]!

The <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces> spoke quickly.

<Coordinator D. C. F.> : The [sensor/detection] systems on board on this [Exclusion Volume] [Containment and Defence] Planetoid, confirmed by the [Long Range Sensor Vessels], detected a [massive/huge] flow of {UNTRANSLATABLE}, in Hex [(zero-1,679,616) and (nine-46,656) and (seventeen-1296) and (thirty five-36) and (zero)]. [Satellite/orbital] coverage shows that a major [offensive/attack] was launched by [New Earth Government] forces against the cultists of {HIGH PRIEST}. The [New Earth Government] has [compromised/weakened] its position against {CONTAINMENT} in order to do so.

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] believes-with-evidence that it is more [evidence/clues] that they are desperate. At least they [acknowledge/recognise] the threat posed by forces loyal to {HIGH PRIEST}.

<Coordinator D. C. F.> : This [body-form/individual] is sure that what they are doing is [illogical/stupid], if it is being done for [territorial/military] reasons. The military gains are not of that [value/worth]. They are up to some [plan/plot].

<Archivist D. P.> : This [body-form/individual] would like to add that the signature of {UNTRANSLATABLE} is unprecedented in over [(two-46,656) and (zero-1296) and (thirtyone-36) and (twentynine)] Yuggothian cycles. Either an exceptionally powerful {THREAT} is [awaking/living], or multiple such beings are involved. It is believed-with-evidence that it is the [former/first] is the case, and the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} is being intentionally being [summoned/roused].

The <Assistant to the Void-Forces> was silent, shocked to its core by the news. Finally, it managed to speak.

<Assistant V.-F.> : This [self-form/individu... this [body-form/individual] expresses great concern. Are the <Student Into Things Unknown> and the <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts> sure of this?

<Prophet E. F.> : This [body-form/individual] is, and once again expresses [remorse/sorrow] that it did not foresee or predict this.

<Archivist D. P.> : Likewise, this [body-form/individual] is certain, to a high [extent/level].

<Assistant V.-F.> : With such information, this [body-form/individual] withdraws all objection to the deployment.

The <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts> rippled its wings in satisfaction. The <Assistant to the Void-Forces> continued, though.

<Assistant V.-F.> : This [body-form/individual] also now believes-with-evidence that more [void/space] forces should be [committed/deployed]. This threat should never be [underestimated/ignored]. Indeed, this [body-form/individual] believes-with-evidence that the entire [hex/sector] should be [sterilised/cleansed] from orbit. It believes-with-evidence that such a [technique/method] would be the only way to be [certain/sure].

<Handler X. L.> : This [body-form/individual] expresses [shock/alarm] at such a suggestion. The {SLEEPER IN FIRE} could be woken by such a [technique/method], and there are other {THREATS} on Three.

<Coordinator D. C. P.> : This [body-form/individual] is of the opinion that, although the suggestion of the <Assistant to the Void-Forces> should not be [implemented/performed] immediately, we must be ready.

<Archivist D. P> : This [body-form/individual] agrees with the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces>. It is better to risk an [uncertain/unfixed] awakening of a {THREAT} to contain another, than to [let/permit] one [certain/fixed] awakening {THREAT}.

<Prophet E. F.> : From initial calculations, this [body-form/individual] believes-with-evidence, that, should orbital [sterilisation/cleansing] be needed, the chance of another{THREAT} [awakening/living] is [(thirteen-36ths)]. Yet it will prove necessary to risk it, to prevent the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} [awakening/living] again.

<Archivist D. P> : This [body-form/individual] would remind this [meeting/assemblage] of the events last time it [awoke/lived]. It must be risked.

There was silence, as the terrible future that lay before them. Finally, the <Secretary of Known Recordings> spoke again, its buzzings and colour changes weak and muted, in a way which, in a human, would have seemed like desperate hope.

<Secretary K. R.> : At least, this [self-form/individual] reminds the [meeting/assemblage] that the [New Earth Government] will try to oppose it. They have an [unnatural/unusual] skill at such things.

The buzzing of the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces> was burning cold, its mottling shifting to the far ultraviolet.

<Coordinator D. C. F.> : This [body-form/individual] would remind the [meeting/assemblage] of what happened last time [containment/cleansing] was attempted on a {THREAT}. In the [(sixth)] time increment? [(Two)] entire [fleets/wings] of [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Local Supremacy Craft] (Non-Standard) were destroyed. [(One)] by a close-proximity [fused-hydrogen/atomic] weapon, while actively in [combat/conflict] with the {BLACK FRACTAL}, the other by an [orbital/void-born] assault while [trying/attempting] to reinforce the aim of [containment/cleansing].

<Assistant V.-F.> : This [body-form/individual] would like to correct the <Coordinator of Deployed Containment Forces>. It was [technically/precisely] launched from the [upper/higher] atmosphere, and thus was not under the [jurisdiction/control] of the [void/space] forces.

<Coordinator D. C. F.> : This [body-form/individual] would like to say that that was not the [point/message]. The [point/message] was that Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ cannot be trusted to deal with {THREATS}, even if they [possess/own] the technical capability.

<Secretary K. R.> : This [self-form/individual] would argue that, if they have the [capacity/abilities] to deal with {THREATS}, then it is possible to [protect/preserve] our strategic reserves.

The humming of the <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts> was slow, methodical, and ancient. It was the eldest of its kind here, having soaked up the lore that the species that made up the Migou had accumulated, crawling between the stars at light-speed as it was sent, for aeons. The line between the Migou and their technology was thin at best; the <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts> was far beyond it, more like a distributed mind in the networks, teleoperating body-forms than anything akin to how it had once been. And the way it broke protocol to say this showed its concern.

<Archivist D. P.> : It cannot be risked. The behaviour of the [New Earth Government] matches several other [cases/instances] where the {NATIVE SPECIES} was compromised by [cultists/worshippers] of {THREATS}. It is suspected-by-precedent that they are trying to [summon/call] the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} themselves. Such behaviour would indicate that Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ is completely [hostile/servile]. It may be necessary to [move/transition] to the [sterilisation/eradication] of Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ, should this be the [case/situation].



~'/|\'~




An explosion thudded far overhead, deep and sonorous, which shook the bones. The lights flickered, making shadows dance, the dust on the floors danced. Babies wailed like air-raid sirens and small children bawled, the frantic attempts of the outnumbered carers to keep them quiet unsuccessful. The air was already growing thick with the musk of the scared members of the Elect, and the wetter, somewhat necrotic scent of the Blooded.

Things were quieter, but even more stressful in the militia command post in this bunker. A mix of bureaucrats and factory supervisors, Blooded and Elect alike, were all that were here. There were no members of the proper armed forces of the Esoteric Order of Dagon left alive here, nor any of the true Chosen.

“Right, my fellow qr'rcbar'uloevq-uhzna, and r'yrpg-uhzna, what do we know?” said Khonatqa Smeef'ubabhe, who was technically the local Veer'thyne'yrnq-re, running a hand through her fast-thinning hair. By right of Blood, she was the highest ranking member of the militia here, and that was not comforting. Va Dagon-anzr, she was the superior supervisor of the production from the Bu-shp'x District, not a military commander. The Veer'thyne militia was only meant to be subordinate to the proper military, not to carry out operations on its own, va Dagon-anzr!

As a result, she was just going to fall back to what she knew, and get a clear overview of their assets, after they'd been forced to fall back here, collapsing the tunnels down on their way. It would take the blasphemers of the New Earth Government considerable effort to follow them down here, as the corridors had been built to be too small for powered armour, meaning that they'd have to find dig a way through the corridors on foot. Their own powered armour, manned by the last members of the proper military they'd had with them, had given their lives at the entrance, unable to retreat further, but able to buy time and dig in.

Not much time, since the NEG had simply pulled back their own powered armour, and called in those en'cvat wasp-like gunships, who'd simply cut the poor faithful to pieces with pin-point accurate laser fire and charge beam shots, their slaved LAI drones more than enough to see through any attempt at cover, but time enough.

The member of the Blooded who'd defaulted to her second-in-command, Ubeevoyr Q'b'p-gbe-ubabhe (in his normal life... or at least the life he'd had until the monsters in the NEG had come... a medical doctor who saw to the ha'snvgu'shy-uhzna), blinked his oversized, watery eyes, the pupils no-longer human, and said, “Well, um, we've still got contact with most of the other f'n-s'rgl bunkers... they're in a similar state to us. There are some members of the military in some of them, but from what I've been able to pick up, they're arguing with each other. Some want to attack, some have just broken like ul'qebcu-bovp s'vfu.” The last words were spat in the invective tone. These discussions were being conducting in the hybrid tongue spoken by the human and near-human inhabitants, rather than true Ry'lehan, simply because there were not enough present who could speak the proper language with any degree of faculty.

“I know they're a bunch of ul'qebcu-bovp s'vfu,” said Khontaqa, using a studiously neutral tone, “but we can't do anything. We collapsed the tunnels behind us.”

“Um... ubabherq Veer'thyne'yrnq-re!” called out one of the operators, sat by one of the stations that connected to the fibre-optic network in this cramped room, “we've... well, networks are dropping off the station. We've lost Q'rnqs'vfu, Er-cyvp'nc'jarqh... I can go on.”

“They've gone dark?” asked Ubeevoyr, answering for his superior.

The woman at the desk, barely sixteen and not really much more a girl, shook her head. “No. They're still broadcasting... but,” she winced, “well. Uh, listen.”

She made a few changes at her desk, the computer (a bulky desktop, seventy years behind the technology curve) humming near silently as she plugged moved cables around. Something began to play, in the strict, precise Reformed English of the New Earth Government. It was a female voice, cold and clinical, and dripping with contempt.

“We now return,
Deep Ones will learn,
New kinds of fear,
While we are here.”

There was a pause. Then the voice spoke again, in some alien language, but this time there was a wicked glee in the words.

Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.

Another pause. It began to loop, starting again.

“We now return,
Deep Ones...”

“Cut it off!” snapped Khonatqa, her voice little more intelligible than a gurgle. The operator obliged.

Va Dagon-anzr, they've got to the tunnels, then. They weren't meant to find them,” she said, managing to hold the whine out of her voice. That estimate had always, in retrospect, been too optimistic. When they were meant to be able to lob a missile through a window to hit an unauthorised radio broadcast, of course they'd find the tunnels. She wiped one clammy hand over her forehead, melanin now blending with the emergence of the various pigments that the Chosen used, and slumped down in her chair. “Right!” she snapped, sitting bolt upright. “Have the remaining Veer'thyne got everything from the military stockpile here?”

Ubeevoyr nodded. “Yes. It's meant to be saved for the army, though, not the Veer'thyne,” he said, a note of reprimand in his voice.

“Yes,” she snapped back, rolling her fish-like eyes in their still-human sockets. “Because they're being really helpful, aren't they?” She paused, as another explosion shook the ceiling and made the lights flicker. “If they want them, they can come and get them. Until then, I'm going to see that they're used.”

The man lowered his gaze. “Sarcasm,” he muttered. “Yes, that's useful, isn't it? Just when I try to note that you're not...”

“Ubeevoyr.”

“Yes?”

“Shut up, Ubeevoyr.” She drummed a pair of fingers against her teeth, drawing them back with a yelp when she nicked one against the shark-like teeth which had replaced her human ones, coming in from under the gums.

Ubeevoyr snickered, until a glance silenced him.

“Can we concentrate, please? Of the surviving members of the Veer'thyne, we have 29 ready, yes?” The question was directed at one of the human lesser members of the militia, who had been standing silently in the room. The man shook his head.

“I am afraid not, ubabherq Veer'thyne'yrnq-re,” he said, saluting sloppily. “According to the doctors... uh, we got some of the carers to help up, as they have medical training, I hope that's okay?” he asked, waiting for confirmation. When he received it, he continued. “Yes. Um, we have only twelve of the Veer'thyne who are completely uninjured; five can walk, and six are too injured to do anything. The rest have died, or didn't make it down before we collapsed the tunnels.” The man flinched slightly, then added, “Va zl bja vasre'vbev'gl, z'lfrys znl unir b'ssraqrq lbh, fhcrev'be bar,” in ritualised apology for the correction.

She waved a webbed hand at him. “Fine.” She took in a gulping breath, air dragged over her gills as well as into her lungs. “Only six p'bzongc-nve of uninjured,” she groaned. “How are the five?”

“We've doped them up on painkillers. They can walk, but they won't be aiming for hevar... uh sorry, ubabherq Veer'thyne'yrnq-re.”

Ubeevoyr stared into her eyes. “Not enough. I could see what you were planning. The blasphemers hold the waterfront. We couldn't even get that close. And it would be foolish to try. We should just stay here, and hold the entrances.”

The communications operator who'd spoken earlier interrupted, her voice shaking with both nervousness at doing this, and the terror of hearing those messages take over even more of the bunkers. “Uh, ubabherq Veer'thyne'yrnq-re, I think that's how they're getting into the tunnels. They're getting in through the evac points at the waterfront. And... well, they seem to be using,” he voice dipped, “I know it sounds impossible...”

“Just tell me, r'yrpg-uhzna,” snapped Khonatqa.

“Summoned haan'zrn-oyr'puvyqera,” the woman burst out. “Invisible monsters with glowing eyes that disembowel and kill and rape and paint the walls in blood. That sounds like the haan'zrn-oyr'puvyqera of the Unnameable One. Do you understand, Veer'thyne'yrnq-re,” she suddenly shouted, almost screeching as she left out the honorific. “I can hear it all over the network. There isn't any warning; they just start screaming, and there's this noise and a few babbled descriptions, and then the line goes silent. And then that chant starts again.” There were tears running down her cheeks, smudging the make-up that must have remained from the parties only the night before (so long ago), as she said, “Do you know what it's like listening to that over and over again?”

Khonatqa stared at the sobbing woman for several long seconds. Then, “Get to the armoury. Get yourself kitted up. You can't cope with the radio any more. Fine. Get ready to fight.” She turned to Ubeevoyr. “Get me a full list of every person of age... no,” she corrected herself, “get me a list of everyone in this bunker.”

“What are you doing?” Ubeevoyr asked, straightening up, as he realised what she was doing. “You can't just do this. They're here to be protected.” Inhuman instincts flared in both of them; he was flexing for a dominance challenge. They were both, unconsciously, heating up, faces flushing with blood as their body temperatures rose for the activity that their nascent Deep One forms foresaw.

She thwarted it by the expedient method of, in one smooth motion, drawing her pistol and placing it against his forehead. She could see, in her developing infrared vision, all the heat drain away from his face.

Va Dagon'anzr, you are not going to do anything stupid, are you?” she said, coldly. “I want you alive, but I need you to do what I say. Drop the pistol you're trying to draw if you think you can do that.”

There was a clatter. Only then did she see the shocked faces of the young Blooded, their gills not even coming through yet and the Elect around them. For some of them, this would be akin to a theological crisis; two such Blooded, almost Chosen, could not be seen to fight like this. “Listen to me, qr'rcbar'uloevq-uhzna and r'yrpg-uhzna of the Veer'thyne,” she snarled. “You are going to do what I tell you to, because I am your superior in blood. And what I'm telling you to do is to get a list of every single person in this bunker, and check the inventory for the military supplies here. Every person of twelve years or more is hereby recruited into the Veer'thyne. Get them armed. Everyone younger... if they can carry a pistol, give them it. If they can't, they're carrying extra ammo, or looking after the smallest children. We are not going to wait here to be slaughtered like everyone else. We are going to try to get to the fho'z'ne-v'arf places, and get into the water. Yes,” she paused, as the ceiling shook, “yes, I know that the blasphemers have the waterfront. They're also in the tunnels. And if they've taken one bunker, they can work out where the rest are.” She gave a grin which, to a human was ferocious, but was actually rather pathetic. “It's better to die on your feet than die on your knees, right?”

“And what if we'd rather not die?” muttered someone, in the onlookers.

“Then this way is the only way,” she replied, contempt in her voice. “Unless you want to cower here until they find you, and rape you, kill you, and paint the walls with your blood.”

She glanced back down at Ubeevoyr, still on the ground. She could see the hate in those bulbous, dark eyes.

He's a threat to your control, her thoughts went. He opposes you, and you've embarrassed him in front of a load of qr'rcbar'uloevq-uhzna and r'yrpg-uhzna inferiors. You can't trust him.

He tried to threaten you for dominance, added her growing instincts. This is your pod, and he wouldn't be a good mate, really.

They were in agreement.

She shot him in the head at point-blank range, the hiss of the needler burst almost silent in the noise of the screaming of children from outside and the thudding from up above. There was surprisingly little blood; three thin fletchettes punching through the front of the skull and ricocheting around inside the braincase. The body of her second-in-command slumped to the floor.

Plus, I never really liked him, she added, mentally.

It was less than fifteen minutes later that she was scanning down the full printed list of all the Faithful, as outside there was the noise of impromptu lessons in weapons safety from harassed Veer'thyne soliders, themselves only militiamen, not professionals.

They were probably all going to die, Khonatqa thought. The prospect was especially galling to her, as true, biological near-immortality was maybe a year away. If only the hevar New Earth Government had waited, then she could be safely down in Guh'thya-leh'yi, where her father swam even now, rather than up here in this bunker, most probably to die. And that meant that she was going to grasp at the best shot for immortality that she had right now.

She made a few notes, as she ran through the paper list. They were going have to cluster the Blooded children together. Those of weaker blood would be the vanguard and rearguard, where the casualties would be highest. It probably wasn't worth arming the rearguard at all... maybe just anything that was left over after the rest had been equipped. And, in these cases, an adult, albeit one who was part of the Elect, was more valuable than a child of weak blood, because the adult would be better at making sure that everyone else survived; they'd need a real rearguard, to actually watch for enemies behind them, and then the disposables, who could be safely sacrificed to slow down anyone who tried to follow them. Better still, they would be young enough that those with the Blood would be almost indistinguishable from those of the Elect, so there was a chance that the enemy would waste time securing them.

She had supervised the production in the s'noev-pn'gvba p'nzc-f. This kind of calculus of human life was what she was good at.

Khonatqa glanced through the door, propped slightly open. There were so few adults here, even with the carers, who would have looked after the children while their parents were in the militia, outfitted as one of the Veer'thyne. Just swarms and swarms of children, all with gas-masks round their necks, swathed in heavy winter clothing over their hazard-resistant suits. The older ones were holding secured carry-cases, for the infants, or grasping onto the shoulders of their younger siblings. There were a surprising lack of tears, but plenty of tear-stained faces. Perhaps they didn't really know what was going on. Perhaps they were already cried out; the brighter ones must have already realised what had happened in the... it had been less than a day, Khonatqa realised, less than a day since the routine had become this hell. Perhaps they were just traumatised. Either way, she had to try to save as many as possible, while also keeping herself alive.

Babies could be strapped to other children, she noted, continuing, but toddlers would be more difficult, as they would be too big to be carried like that. Leash them together, and get children in the rearguard to herd them, as they could be left behind, rather than slow the group down if it had to run. She considered the benefits and costs of splitting up groups which only shared one parent; on one hand, that way they could be placed in the place which most suited their blood-purity, but on the other hand, the trauma would make them uncooperative, and would slow the group as a whole down.

She was scoring out entire sections now, highlighting the different levels of importance. A cluster of names caught her attention, and she paused. Something jolted her mind... something she'd been told yesterday.

Ah. That was it, wasn't it. She wrote the two names out on a piece of paper, and handed it to one of the Veer'thyne by the door, telling her to find the two names on the paper. The three in the cluster were crossed out, and highlighted in the colour to be added to the rearguard.

After all, she knew where their mother had been placed, and what that almost certainly meant. And, really, now, she was the closest thing that they had to family.

At least on the land. And that was the point, wasn't it?



~'/|\'~




It was a cold night, the only clouds the man-made ones as the cities burned, and way up above them, in the clear air, a flock of comets could be seen, trails of fire streaking as a tail behind them, growing larger. With the wandering comets were two new stars, burning brighter than even the shard of moon visible.

The Migou had entered the atmosphere.

They were coming in hard and fast, relying on the atmosphere to breaking. It had permitted them to maintain their burn for a few precious [time partitions] longer, and so they could get to the necessary Containment Hex faster. The [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Local Supremacy Craft] (Non-Standard) and the [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft] (Non-Standard) were, in a sign of how the local forces had been obliged to upgrade to the new, suspect technologies employed by Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ, operating with reactionless-drives, and so the the flaming path they picked through the sky was only caused by the friction between their hulls and the surrounding air. But the [General Out-System] [Local Supremacy Craft], although they had been retrofitted with a few A-Pods, were still primarily based around their fusion torches, and so they were forced to full a hard-burn in the upper atmosphere, to ensure that the last part of the decent could be handled with the maximum-safe levels of burn permitted on such a Contained planet. Their thick layers of ablative ice were burning away, as they descended, tail first, contributing to their flaming passage. After this mission, they would need resupply, from one of the icy asteroids that the [General Out-System] [Large Supply Craft] had towed from the outer system to the orbit of Three. This would be a terrible time for a Tsabian breakthrough. Well, if there had been a breakthrough, it would have happened multiple Three-orbits ago, but that was the problem of a sidereal war where no side could violate lightspeed.

In the one of the [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Local Supremacy Craft], the consensus-appointed leader of the [Deployed Containment Forces] component of the fleet (everything except for the [General Out-System] [Local Supremacy Craft], which remained under the auspices of the Void-Forces, even in-atmosphere), prepared his final message before they hit combat.

<Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves>: This [self-form/individual] is of the opinion that all must be [aware/conscious] of what is at [stake/risk]. [Understand/comprehend] this, then, {MIGOU} and {LOYAL XENOBIOLOGICAL ASSETS} alike. When this [deployment/force] will [hunt/locate], this [deployment/force] will [kill/exterminate]. No thing is [safe/inviolate], no thing is [protected/sacred]. As it stands, this [deployment/force] is the [last/final] line of [defence/containment]. This [deployment/force] will [burn/sterilise] itself to hold the [defence/containment] line. Every [living/awake] entity can be [burned/sterilised] to [contain/restrict] the {THREATS}. Success is [mandatory/necessary]. Failure is [unthinkable/unnatural].

The <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> broke the link through its implants. Words had been said and transmitted, translated into an appropriate format for the {LOYAL XENOBIOLOGICAL ASSETS}, both Blanked human and Loyalist Nazzadi, and now it was times for deeds. The majority of the [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Local Supremacy Craft] would accompany the [General Out-System] [Local Supremacy Craft], their armoured forms, designed for atmospheric use and built around the A-Pods, more expendable than the somewhat more fragile war-ship, the massive ventral weapons making the spine of the ship, with the fusion drive at one end and the crew at the other.

All across the [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft], Migou, Loyalist and Blank troops were ready, contained within the Inhibition Holds; the only thing which had prevented the human-baseline elements of their forces from being smeared across the walls in the rapid acceleration and deceleration from high orbit. Even then, multiple {LOYAL XENOBIOLOGICAL ASSET} elements of their forces had been incapacitated with broken limbs and squished tissues, and were being swapped out of their craft for the replacement pilots, who had had the benefit of acceleration tanks, rather than just the acceleration harnesses of their mecha or dropships.

The Migou elements had fared better, able to cope with higher accelerations than the terrestrial humans, but it had not been a pleasant experience. But now they (in their xenoarcanocybertechnolgical warmachines) were ready. The elite of the [Deployed Containment Forces] were seeing use here, and their role was containment, not occupation. The regular formations, made up of Migou as well as the {LOYAL XENOBIOLOGICAL ASSETS} would be taking the outer edges of the island, engaging the forces on the island while the elite locked down the summoning site and cut the heart out of any hardened resistance.

And the <Soldier of Necessary Actions> was certainly ready. Its [self-form/individual] was in control of six [body-form/individuals], a true [body-form/network], encased in their [Insertion] [Ultraheavy Assault Units]; what a human would have called a Mantis. Five blank bodies, implanted cybernetics synchronised with the ones in the [body-form/individual] it had occupied since its [thought centre] had arrived in its containment capsule on the hard-burn courier ship from the second nearest star-system from the [Containment Volume], following the emergency call for [Containment Forces]. It was now a distributed mind over seven bodies, thinking the same thoughts, its superior intellect handling all the thought processes. The final body was a back-up, in a null-sense environment back on the [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft], taking minimal thought processes to run, but ensuring that as long as one of its [body-form/individuals] survived, it survived.

The Migou in command of this [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft] opened up a mind-link to all the units ready for drop.

<Captain in Void-Dark Hull>: This [body-form/self] wishes to inform all [body-form/networks] that control over [release/initiation] has been [passed/authorised] to them.

The <Soldier of Necessary Actions> twitched its limbs, all of them, across its seven bodies. It was ready. It pulsed a single thought into the communications network.

<Soldier N. A.>: Deploy [combat-form/network].

The [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft] pulsed, rails spewing out the insertion units, firing them through its own cloud of burning air as it descended, down to the surface to deploy the non-insertion units, before taking off again to give fire support. All around, from the bulbous holds of the [Deployment Craft], orbital insertion units, atmospheric fighters and smaller handing craft spewed out, a flock of smaller units around their parent craft, breaking off to hit their own objectives.

The surface of Three spread out below the <Soldier of Necessary Actions> and its [combat-form/network] tumbled through the air, each [Insertion] [Ultraheavy Assault Unit] wrapped in its own corona of re-entry flames.

Through the fires, to war.



~'/|\'~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.


Last edited by EarthScorpion on 2009-12-30 11:29am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2010-01-12 02:31pm
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Chapter 15b

CATOcylsm: Termination




~'/|\'~




“The brazen arms were working more quickly. They paused no longer. Every time that a child was placed in them the priests of Moloch spread out their hands upon him to burden him with the crimes of the people, vociferating: "They are not men but oxen!" and the multitude round about repeated: "Oxen! oxen!" The devout exclaimed: "Lord! eat!" and the priests of Proserpine, complying through terror with the needs of Carthage, muttered the Eleusinian formula: "Pour out rain! bring forth!" The victims, when scarcely at the edge of the opening, disappeared like a drop of water on a red-hot plate, and white smoke rose amid the great scarlet colour. Nevertheless, the appetite of the god was not appeased. He ever wished for more. In order to furnish him with a larger supply, the victims were piled up on his hands with a big chain above them which kept them in their place. Some devout persons had at the beginning wished to count them, to see whether their number corresponded with the days of the solar year; but others were brought, and it was impossible to distinguish them in the giddy motion of the horrible arms. This lasted for a long, indefinite time until the evening. Then the partitions inside assumed a darker glow, and burning flesh could be seen. Some even believed that they could descry hair, limbs, and whole bodies. Night fell; clouds accumulated above the Baal. The funeral-pile, which was flameless now, formed a pyramid of coals up to his knees; completely red like a giant covered with blood, he looked, with his head thrown back, as though he were staggering beneath the weight of his intoxication.”

- Gustave Flaubert, “Salammbô



~'/|\'~




The three Evangelions watched the points of light in the night sky above them. To the west and north, the fires in the major settlements lit up the sky, but here, in the middle of Iceland, it was dark, and the trails of fire left by the Migou as they braked using the atmosphere were clear.

Then, suddenly, the number of trails increased a hundred-fold.

“That'll be them dropping the smaller units,” whispered Asuka. “They'll hit first, take the ground and try to take out any capital-grade defences before they move the ships in.”

“Correct,” said Rei.

“Capital grade defences,” said Shinji, suppressing the urge to throw up. “That's us, isn't it.”

“Yes,” both the girls said at once. The stress of the moment meant that Rei only received a short glare.

A view window opened on their screens. Misato's face stared out at them, any trace of her normal levity gone.

“We're getting seismic shifts all over the island,” she said. A wave of static washed across the screen, the smart programme trying to prevent corruption of the image, and giving up, switching to a static image. “Ritsuko?”

An image of Dr Akagi appeared. Her voice was tinny and metallic, altered by the many levels of encryption applied to get it from London-2 to the Evangelions. There was a multiple second latency. “Yes. Geological tracking stations all over the globe are reporting major seismic movements. The major fault lines suffering large-scale earthquakes; San Andreas, Dead Sea, Alpine...” she said, reading off from her arglasses, “they're all slipping.” She sighed. “If those idiotic proposals to rebuild Los Angeles as a major arcology had gone ahead, we'd really be in trouble,” Ritsuko added, referring to the glassed remains of a city, flattened at the end of AW1 when one of the Loyalist Nazzadi colony ships deliberately crashed rather than accept their defeat in the Nazzadi Civil War. “As for why you haven't been experiencing it... well, I don't know, honestly. You should be getting the worst of it.”

Shinji winced.

Wonderful. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. I hope Yuki, Gany and the twins are all right, in T-3.

“It's estimated that the Herald will surface in less than thirty minutes; from what we can tell, it is less than two hundred kilometres below boundary between the upper and lower mantle, plus or minus forty,” she added. “It has been moving... oddly... from what we can tell, at least.”

“You just need to hold them off until then,” said Misato.

“We don't have half-an-hour,” snapped Asuka. “You know they'll be using Mantises and Spiders in large numbers, and they're superheavies, half our height. And both of them pack Behemoth-scaled null-rays. You said that you'd get us capital-grade support; where is it!” the girl demanded. “”We're linked up to Unit 01's sensors, and we can see the bugs coming in!”

“Yes, about that,” said Ritsuko, her voice hesitant. “You're going to have to shut that link off, and set the Evangelions to autistic mode. It is, as you should known, Second Lieutenant, standard policy when up against the Migou. All major systems must be physically isolated. They're better at information warfare than us. And the naval forces near Rejavik are still engaged, while if the ones up north move, the assault on the Deep One city will fail. They've already been... experienced set-backs,” Ritsuko corrected herself, and hoped that the non-Rei Children hadn't caught the slip. Because the First Child always noticed everything; even the things she shouldn't, or technically couldn't have.

She waited for the explosion from Asuka; one which would surely match anything that the Herald was causing as it rose through the Earth.

It didn't come. Instead the red-head froze, taking on a tone as cold as anything that Rei routinely used, but in a sense, it was more terrible, because there was the knowledge that this coldness had come from burning rage, rather than her default state of being. “I see,” Asuka said. “And therefore you aren't planning to get us out of here or provide any proper support for what we're facing. Despite the fact that, together, we might just about have the same level of fire power as a single battlecruiser, and there are 35-odd Swarm Ships up there.” It wasn't a question.

“I'm afraid not. There aren't the ships to spare, and they wouldn't get there in time, anyway. It's necessary to capture the Herald.” Ritsuko was almost apologetic. “And you do have the AT-Field.”

There was the sound of cracking knuckles over the link, the harmonics oddly shifted by the LCL that surrounded them. “Right. In that case, Rei, you are going to take out any ship that comes into range. Aim for the A-Pods or the main weapons; cripple them if you can't destroy them. I'll lend you my Engine for as long as possible, but when I tell you to eject the umbilical, you will do it, yes? Synch your smaller weapons to your main fire, as you have no long-range sensors. Teach the bugs fear.”

Rei nodded, an unseen smile of gratitude on her face. “Understood. I will follow your orders, Second Child.” Now, she finally knew what she would do. Reality clicked into place. The path opened before her.

fire
bodies

awakening


“Shinji, you're anti-air. Set all your smaller weapons to full LAI autonomous fire, as you're the only one who has the sensors that they can use. To do that, you open the main control window... look, someone... say, Misato, do something useful and guide him through it. Otherwise, you are going to have to kill the air-dropping mecha. Some of them will hit the ground, but try to stop as many as you can. They drop feet first,” she said, calling back to her training, “so one or two hits from that plasma weapon will melt the legs, and they'll crumple when they hit the ground. Just track across the sky, and let the aimbots do the fine control. Tear them apart.”

Shinji swallowed a mouthful of LCL, and took a shuddering breath. “Yes,” he said. “Okay.” It did feel better, he thought, to have someone actually taking control.

“That leaves me, with the shortest ranged weapon,” she continued. “Therefore, I'm going to hold them off from you two. If they get troopships down,” and she grinned viciously then, the fire reigniting, “then they're going to wish that they hadn't.” She paused. “Not for very long, of course, but perhaps if they believe in reincarnation, they're going to learn not to mess with me.” Unit 02 hefted the plasmathrower, green eyes blazing in the darkness.

Behind her, the top of a mountain exploded, magma shooting forth into the sky. The tremor pulsed through the land, as a barrage of molten rock and the top of the mountain rained down, boulders and globs of molten rock the size of houses raining down.

Ein jeder Evangelion ist schrecklich,” she whispered, as the blast-cloud of dust washed over the three figures.



~'/|\'~




Things were a little less confident in Nero Command.

Solomon Throne, report! Is there anyone left alive?” repeated Agent Tome. He had largely given up hope now, but was still trying to contact anyone. He sighed, and began to start sending the signals that would tell the command LAI to launch a hard burn (the term was still used, despite the fact that, for a A-Pod equipped vehicle, there was no reaction mass or burning) to get away from the place. He slammed his hands down in rage, as the system had already been set to autistic mode as soon as the Migou had been detected, locking all autonomous commands out. The only way to remedy that would be to physically go and remove the settings; there weren't any backdoors that could be used to avoid the fact that the communications systems could not communicate with any of the rest of the ship beyond their own hardwired interfaces. The Solomon Throne had been designed too well for that kind of potential weak-spot.

“For God's sake, there's no way we can leave them in there,” shouted Captain Martello, waving his hands in the air. “Did you even think of the consequences of us losing three sixteen-year olds, who were only there on dubiously legal grounds! Or that there may be other Herald-class entities out there, and all of Project Evangelion's assets are on the ground there right now!”

“Yes,” replied the Major, leaning towards the angry man. “I also thought of the consequences of the Migou getting their mandibles on the Herald themselves, or of it getting free, now that they've,” jerking a thumb at the Special Services agent, “summoned it. The air units we've pulled in should buy us five minutes at least; possibly more, depending on how cautious the Migou are being. Add that to the batteries of Cyclopses we've pulled forwards, and we should be able to do it. With the Evangelions there, we can trade our own mecha and aircraft for time for more than long enough. They're going to have to pull down capital ships to get there before we can engage the Herald.”

“Something they have in large numbers,” shouted back Captain Martello. “Stop trying to act like they're going to be overly conservative, when this is the biggest damn Migou force we've ever seen, and they've pulled two damn warships in-atmosphere. This is stupid! Pull them back!”

“Captain,” said the Major, softly, “stop acting like a child, or I will see you first sedated, then court-marshalled. For goodness sake, the Children are being less childish about this thing than you are.”

The man glared at her, balling his fists, but locked his jawline and shut up.

“Yes, about that,” said Agent Tome, standing directly behind her. “I'm afraid there's something else that needs to be done. The Solomon Throne is not responding; I did warn you of the risks involved. It cannot be permitted to fall into enemy hands, and it may potentially be contaminated by the extranormal given the fact that the warning systems report that there are no humans alive on board any more. It needs to be completely destroyed; nothing of it can survive.”

“You want us to scuttle the ship?” asked the Major. “I want a clear order from you before I'll authorise the destruction of a capital ship.”

Uh... apart from that one we used against Mot. But that was necessary, and it worked. And it was technically an accident. And once they replace the ventral laser, and give it new armour, and undo all those modifications we did, I'm sure that they can rebuild it.

“Yes. The Throne must be destroyed; we can't let the Migou get their claws on it.”

“Good.” She paused. “Open a channel to...”

“I heard you, Misato,” said Asuka. “I'm ready to melt the ship to the bedrock. Just say the word, and it's plasma.”

“Do it.”

The flare of white could be seen from the E-9s all over the island, harsh white light cast against the clouds. It continued for almost ten seconds, lancing forth, up and down, deep carving into the volcanic rock as it cut through the capital vessel.

“It's vapour,” Unit 02 reported. “I'm connecting my Unit up to the Prototype now, so if you want anything else melted, it's going to have to wait until we kill every last one of the bugs.”

The profile from Unit 02 on the screen changed, the mD/D-Engine turning yellow, as the back-up D-Engines choked without the use of the D-Cells, cutting the powerflow to the Evangelion to an extent that it would be barely possible for Asuka to move. Unit 00, meanwhile, gained an icon which represented the external source of power, and the values for recharge for the charge beam actually fell below those for the cooling cycle period.

“Oh, Asuka, I'm so proud of you right now,” Misato said softly, glancing over at the read-outs from Unit 02. “Give those bugs hell.”



~'/|\'~




Sirens filled the internal network at the camps, broadcast over the communications devices, rather than overtly, where the rescued prisoners could hear it.

“Kilo-Alpha-Four,” the code went. “All individuals report to evacuation stations. This is not a drill.” The same words repeated over and over again.

“'Kilo-Alpha-Four'? What's that?” asked Antonio, shaking his head. He'd had this helmet on for far too long, and his head was feeling unpleasant, sweat-soaked hair compacted up against the bands which stopped it sliding around. He wasn't expecting an answer, at least until he could find someone to ask, but the LAI in the helmet answered for him.

“Kilo-Alpha-Four is the highest grade emergency evacuation code in use in an evacuation camp such as this. Please ensure that the armour is running off a clean air supply, turn off all monitoring equipment, including free-operating drones and report immediately to the nearest evacuation point. This armour has entered autistic mode. All wireless interactions have been prevented, with the exception of radio communications, which is physically isolated from the main suit network.” The voice, a pleasant male baritone paused for a beat, then continued. “Would you like me to place a navigation marker at your nearest location, and calculate the most efficient route?”

“Please,” he said, looking around, picking up the backpack of gear and one of the back-up severs. “Var, ask it to explain what is happening.”

The other man nodded. “'kay,” he said.

“Please wait... complete,” the LAI said, almost interrupting itself. “Please follow the AR path marked in green.”

Antonio glanced at his cameraman. “You want help with the exosuit?”

“Yes, please. Just hold this, so I can strap myself in,” Varuta said, passing another identical backpack to his colleague. “Oh, yeah, damn it, check that the drones are in place on the back. I forgot. We don't want to lose them.”

“You've guessed what this is, right,” said the human, as he stepped around the figure of the exosuit, checking that the four remaining drones, of the six that they'd started with, were firmly in place on the mounts on the back of the suit, recharging off the D-Engine. “Yeah, they're secure.”

“Course I have,” Varuta responded. “Like we didn't see this kind of warning on the Eastern Front. We're under attack, and they're infowar and emfog heavy.”

“Yes,” said Antonio, “exactly. Exactly like what happens in a Migou attack, yeah?”

“Bugs? Here?”

“Not surprising, really,” he said, passing the other backpack to Varuta, who stashed it in the compartment inside the exosuit, jamming it in. “Think about it. We're pretty far north. Of course they're going to be sending scouting parties out once they noticed what we were doing.”

Varuta shook his head, the head on the exosuit now mimicking his actions. “Listen. Listen how everything's changed.” And indeed everything had. The noise inside the sealed dome was now purposeful, rather than the randomness that comes from hundreds of people doing their own ordered things. “I think they're evacuating everyone.”

“Everyone?”

“Yeah.” The Nazzadi flexed his fingers, and the articulated fingers of the exosuit flexed with him. “Okay, sealing up. Keep all hands and fingers blah blah blah.”

The front of the exosuit slid shut, folding out from the almost-wing-like structures which it formed when open. The transparent faceplate lit up with AR piloting symbols.

“Oh. My arm. It got cut off. I'm suing,” said Antonio, in a deadpan tone.

“You say that every time. It's not funny any more. Now, perhaps we should...”

The sentence was interrupted by the shattering of the memoform roof that arced over the entire sealed dome, sending shards of hardened plastic flying everywhere, which, when removed from the programmed design, softened, splattering everything below with a dirty-greyish-greenish-blue plastic. It broke in another place, then another, the area between the holes starting to sag, as the design liquefied from so much traumatic damage, before the repair systems could ooze more material into place.

That was when the shooting started. One of the projectiles revealed itself to be a Migou automated emplacement, which, in a sickeningly organic way despite its metallic manufactured appearance, unfolded itself, digging its claws deep into the ground. It was squat and rounded, covered in armour plating which could survive re-entry, and armed to the teeth. It contented itself with automatic fire from its projectile weapons, though; high velocity, smart barbs which braked just before impact, flaring out. They didn't kill. They merely paralysed and rendered unconscious, ready for Clarification.

A facility like this was an asset for the Migou. Certainly, they would restore the traumatised inhabitants to a much better state than the New Earth Government could. Some idiots believed that the Migou tortured their captives, breaking them through hideous pain, deprivation, and psychological warfare, before physically cutting open their brains and operating. It was a charming lie, which allowed some hope that a captive taken could be saved, rescued before their psyche had broken entirely.

But, really, why would a species with such a knowledge of the natural world, and a much wider definition of the word “natural”, have to use such crude methods? It was quick, and relatively painless, a purely physical process. Control the brain, and you controlled the person. An incredibly complex network of meshed fibres, at the nano-and-microscales, ran throughout their brains, a secondary neural network through which each thought ran. It edited the thoughts, the memories, tying them together in a way which used the subject's own mind to work out what should be controlled and which could be retained. It turned the mind against itself, and, worse, improved it, making the subject smarter and fast-wiring their reflexes as fine nanoscale meshes snaked their way around the nervous system.

The Blanks were left happy, content in themselves, able to understand the world to a much greater extent than they had been prior to the Migou intervening, and actually fairly well balanced. And utterly, irrevocably loyal to the Migou. There had been attempts to remove the structures, removing all altered tissue and regrowing it with arcanotherapy. The brain actually grew them back. And purely surgical attempts to excise it were impossible; even if the implanted structures did not detect the attempted intervention and simply shut down autonomous functions, they requires the removal of so much brain tissue that the person was worse than a vegetable, not even able to breathe on their own.

The fact that the other two impacts were revealed to have been from landing craft; one carrying Blanked human infantry, clad in full NEG combat gear, and the second, power armoured Loyalist Nazzadi, proudly wearing the colours of the fictional Nazzadi empire, only made the situation worse.

Harangy traitors,” Varuta muttered, the fingers of his exosuit tightly gripped, as if he were imagining it around the throat of one of the Loyalists.

“Just fucking run,” shouted Antonio, already sprinting along the green AR path. Everyone knew that the Migou just killed the Nazzadi; for the other Homo sapiens subspecies, Blanking awaited. “Follow the arrow!”



~'/|\'~




There was the terrible noise of a charge beam, a thunderous sound that went far beyond in magnitude anything that a human would call noise. It was only visible by the after-trail, a glowing green trail of ionised air which dispersed as soon as the arcanomagnetic field ceased. Far above, one of the large comets jolted, and its path became a parabola.

“Hit,” said Rei, flatly. “Main A-Pod cluster destroyed. Drone Ship now lacks the capacity to reduce its velocity to a level where impact can be prevented or made survivable. Calculated location of impact sent to NEG forces for salvage of remains. Cooling cycle in process.” The charge beam vented gas in a vast expansive cloud, which washed around the figure in Type-D armour; a cloud illuminated by the constant stream of suns coming from Unit 01. The entire area was lit up in burning white, as Shinji, tracking the LAI-given boxes on his screen rather than the actual targets, moved from cluster to cluster.

“How are you doing this?” said Asuka softly, almost sub-vocalising the words, as Unit 02 stood, almost useless, running off the smaller D-Engines which were just enough to keep major systems functional. “These shots should be impossible. I mean, you're doing them with no sensors.”

“Capacitors charged,” said Rei. “Cooling cycle still in process.” She paused. “I do not aim for the ships. I aim for where the path of the trajectory of the ship intersects with the path of the relativistic arcanomagnetically-contained protons.”

“But...” Asuka's eyes narrowed. “That's a recursive process.”

“Yes. It is. It would require some kind of knowledge of the future actions of the target before firing, and possibly even some kind of clairvoyance. Cooling cycle complete. Firing.”

Another terrible noise. A new star blossomed in the skies above, the explosion lighting up the sky, and a wave of static washed through radios across the hemisphere.

“Miss. However, the arcanomagnetic field of the charge beam destabilised the containment arcanomagnetic fields of the ventral 'null rays' mounted on the nose of one of the Swarm Ships. Sadly, that led to the release of a small amount of antimatter, which was enough to totally destroy the ship. No entity survived. Two other Swarm Ships, and a Drone Ship suffered non-negligible hull damage in the blast, although they remain operational. Cooling cycle in process.”

Asuka listened to the flat voice of the other girl, rolling off the facts. “Did you do that on purpose, to show off?” she asked. The red-head wasn't quite sure if that was exceptionally annoying, or sort of awesome. Well, it was the former, obviously.

Obviously.

“It was necessary that such a shot be made. It was the only way of affecting a target that high, due to issues of proton dispersal. Capacitors charged. Cooling cycle still in process.”

The boom of the detonation of the Swarm Ship torn apart by the detonation of its own antimatter arrived with the pressure wave, finally crawling its way down the many tens of kilometres to the source of that which had killed it. It was ignored by the Evangelions, though the thud of the Earth could be felt slightly, as it destabilised a snowfall somewhere off in the distance.

“So, was that a 'yes' or 'no'?” Asuka asked. “And do you have to narrate everything that happens?”

“Neither. It was a refusal to answer the question. And yes. It is necessary. With the lack of sensors, it is necessary to document the efficacy of my tactics and battlefield decisions, so that I may improve and perform my duties in a superlative fashion.” She paused. “Remember, I still have the lowest synchronisation ratio of the pilots,” Rei added, conversationally.

“Do you two mind?” interrupted Shinji, even though he did rather admire that which he suspected might have been an attempt to placate Asuka at the end. “Some of us here are trying to hit very small moving targets,” as the stream of plasma swept around through the sky, no longer targeting the re-entry fireballs, but now the aerial units on his sensors, “without the aid of precognition here, and you're being distracting. Um, and Rei, there's a ...”

“... cooling cycle complete.” There was the terrible noise again. “Hit. Hull not breached. However, Bremsstrahlung radiation induced by the impact of the charged particle beam has killed the central command centre on the Drone Ship, and has fused the ventral laser. Target is a reduced threat. Cooling cycle in process.”

“... yes,” Shinji tailed off. “They're starting to get to land in larger numbers; my LAI can't follow them all now that they're no longer leaving nice fiery paths, so I'm only getting some of them.”

Asuka stretched her fingers, wrapping them around the handles in the entry plug. “Right, First Child, I'm going to need my Engine back.”

“It is done.” The umbilical cord popped out of the back of Unit 00, and began to retract into the Mass Production Model. “Charge cycle is now slowed; rate of fire will correspondingly decrease.”

Power supply at 100% of expected capacity flashed up on the display of Unit 02. PP3-P is online and fully functional.

“Keep firing, you two!” Asuka shouted at the other two pilots.

“I never stopped,” muttered Shinji.

“Don't get distracted,” she continued, ignoring the boy. “I'll protect you. And kill them all.”

The first few Migou units survive the hellish drop through the overlapping laser grids of the other NEG forces, and the torrents coming from the Evangelions, got a rather nasty surprise when the forty-metre biped became visible. There was something rather primal about the way that the green fires burned in the eyes of Unit 02, as it illuminated the area with raw stellar materials.

There was also something rather terminal about it.



~'/|\'~




CATO Command were watching the feed from Nero with awe. Specifically, they were watching Unit 00. Occasionally, they remembered to close their jaws, or at least have them so they weren't quite so wide open.

Amli katu wha disnu...” whispered Admiral Tatuta. “I can see why Ashcroft came up with the Test Pilot sophistry if they wanted to deploy her.” He paused. “Not sure about the point of the boy, though,” he added, more disapprovingly. “I suppose they had to settle for the other two; no wonder they call her the First Child.”

“You know, technically, doesn't that give her one of the best kill records in the whole NEG, Army or Navy?” asked Field Marshal Kora, similarly in awe. “And she's getting them with that charge beam; it's really rather stripped down, compared to what a true capship would have, isn't it? Look at how she's getting the indirect kills, rather than proper hull breaches.”

The Admiral nodded. “I think she's now in the top twenty five still living, just from this,” he admitted. “But,” and his voice grew more serious, “they're going to be having problems with coolant soon. The internal reservoir has to be running low after the rest of CATO, and the fact that they're running it off two engines, rather than one, can't help.”

“Can we get any supplies there?”

The admiral stared at him. “Yes. Of course,” he managed. “Because we really can refill a internal liquid helium reservoir just like that, in battlefield conditions. Especially on a stripped-down one like that, which will have compromised such things,” he said, in a withering tone of voice. “What, do you army types think that the volumes you need for the operation of a capital-ship charge beam just comes in handy magazines you can just slot in, yes?”

“Well, yes,” Kora admitted. “Mecha-grade ones do. Forget I asked.”

“Fine.” The admiral sighed. “And when the Invictus-class battleships start to see operation, we can finally have proper anti-capital ship firepower. She's beating the rest of CATO's fleet for kills, for goodness sake. The Victory-class battlecruisers just aren't cutting it any more against Swarm Ships, with the recent upgrades that the bugs have done. I have no idea why we compromised the design by giving them organic mecha forces.” He paused. “I just wish there was a place we could get more like her from, though,” he added wistfully.



~'/|\'~




Down in the London-2 Geocity, the false stars in the ceiling shone down upon the wilderness that surrounded the small “city” which was the visible part of the Ashcroft-run complex. Light streamed from the tower at the centre of the main building, the windows opaque, yet glowing.

Inside, the Representative and his deputy stood in the vast, well-lit office, around a high-resolution augmented reality map. Already, areas were losing their details, as the Migou took down the aerial coverage afforded to NEG forces. Their ships, tiny in comparison to Iceland, were just visible; tiny flies above the mass of land. From this detached perspective, the damage that the Herald was doing to the geography could be seen in perspective, with the plumes of smoke over newly erupted volcanoes, and even the way that the sides of certain mountains were bulging suspiciously. The location of the Evangelions could be seen, though; the lightshow from Unit 01 was enough, even if the map wasn't tracking each individual shot from Rei as it reached out into the ceiling, high above.

“This will have an adverse affect on the biosphere.” said Fuyutsuki. He permitted himself a small smile. “I wonder how the Storm's logistical chains, insofar as they understand such a concept, will be affected by this.”

“It will not affect us,” was the answer he received. “We are not dependent upon harvests any more.”

“This is appropriate, though. Moloch rises, the mountains erupt, strange lights are seen in the sky, and the crops fail. Superstitionists would already be burning their children in supplication to this creature.”

“'The savage, like ourselves, feels the oppression of his impotence before the powers of Nature; but having in himself nothing that he respects more than Power, he is willing to prostrate himself before his gods, without inquiring whether they are worthy of his worship. Pathetic and very terrible is the long history of cruelty and torture, of degradation and human sacrifice, endured in the hope of placating the jealous gods: surely, the trembling believer thinks, when what is most precious has been freely given, their lust for blood must be appeased, and more will not be required,'” said Gendo, staring at the map which occupied the floor.

Fuyutsuki sighed. “There's no need to go quoting Russel at me. As I recall, I was the one who introduced Yui to that book, and she it to you.”

“The point remains apt, though. And particularly appropriate.”

“Well, yes. 'The religion of Moloch — as such creeds may be generically called — is in essence the cringing submission of the slave, who dare not, even in his heart, allow the thought that his master deserves no adulation,'” completed the older man. “'Since the independence of ideals is not yet acknowledged, Power may be freely worshipped, and receive an unlimited respect, despite its wanton infliction of pain.'”

“You are aware what has happened, though? If only by implication?”

Fuyutsuki paused, as he processed the change in topic. “Ikari,” he said somewhat wearily, “I have been here, with you, almost constantly since nine at night yesterday. I am aware that a lot of things have happened.”

“It was the first thing I ever said to her,” the younger man continued more softly, eyes invisible behind the image projected against his glasses. “And she did it. It is just that I know what will now be done.”

“Ah. Yes. Dagon is dead.”

Gendo turned up to stare at his former mentor, glasses clearing as they displayed only the normal entopics that hung around his office. “Define 'Dagon'.” He paused. “And for that matter, define 'dead'.”



~'/|\'~




The Migou deployment put Operation CATO to shame. CATO had been a wave, washing forwards in a manner much faster than in the past, but still in a manner that would have been recognisable one hundred years ago. The Migou were a rain shower, a fluid, expanding to fill any and every open area, washing around obstacles and isolating them, cutting them off. [Combat-form/networks] were superior to human units, there was no denying it. The coordination of purpose and the many eyes in one mind meant that they achieved an efficiency that was beyond soldiers that were forced to communicate with each other, which were separate entities. By contrast, the Loyalist and Blank units, which saw use away from the Containment Area in the centre of the Hex, were 'merely' exceptionally good, the Blanks combat networked to a level that the NEG could not achieve in such an emfog and infowar heavy environment, and the Loyalists a highly trained force specialising in mobility warfare.

A squad of eight Oyanari powered armour pounded down the street, greyish-purple armour painted in an odd cross-hatching of bright green and yellow, as fast as they could. Behind them, the Drone ship sat on the ground, heavy, its lower hull opened up like a split ribcage to produce an armoured landing zone from which Blanks, Loyalists and Migou units deployed en masse. The air was filled with the fine silvery dust of emfog nano-and-micromachines, both trying to interrupt each others communications. It was actually beautiful, Weny Komdy Hikary had always felt (and had written poetry to that effect); the way that anti-air and anti-missile lasers were made visible by the incredibly fine dust, their light reflected. Of course, it was literally blindingly bright, so the beauty was somewhat minimised, as the smart systems in the eyepieces tried to regulate the image shown on the screen on the inside of the armour.

Explosive flowers blossomed against the hull and in the air around the Deployment Craft they had come down in, as elements of an off-shore missile barrage slipped through the laser grid. The ship lurched, but stayed steady, continuing to disgorge its cargo. It retaliated with its own barrage, launched from within the ship, as barb-like missiles fired directly upwards, high into the atmosphere, splitting apart into their smaller explosive components before zeroing in on the launch-site. There was a terrible noise, like a massive charge beam, which echoed throughout the area; the centre of this cold island, beyond the horizon was lit up with some unnaturally bright light. They had seen the lights in the night sky as they came in, dodged the streams of plasma which had jetted up from there, and from what the Creators had told them, there was something terrible waking up in there.

One of the robotic voices the Migou used for communicating with their loyal creations, who had stayed true and faithful, linked into their communications network. It indicated that it was coming from a Dragonfly, one of the stealthy scout mecha which were one of the biggest banes in the NEG's side.

[Targets/foes] located, it informed them in the Nazzadi tongue. [position/location] marked.

Dy vulakrony,” she thanked the Yuggothian fungoid. Little did she know that the [self-form/individual] controlling the [body-form/individual] in the Dragonfly was actually from a smaller mining facility in the Oort cloud, but, all in all, it was largely an irrelevancy.

The targets were on the other side of the wall; the projection before her eyes labelled them as six in number, and an unrecognised model of power armour.

Ib astany va juta rati, mandatvulakausi!” she ordered, and her squadron fell in behind her, taking a sharp turn to the left, and smashing through the wall of the apartment complex, pulling to a stop in the hallway on the other side of the room through which they'd entered.

Twi ib twi, krasy-lula-kwari,” she ordered, laser cannon raised, as the squadron broke into the pairs which they used for house-cleaning; one armour supporting while the other advanced. “Mandatermakausa absi ni kasi.

Kompreha,” her second-in-command answered. “Sufiki ui oirakroni vy nazzady,” he said to the rest of the squad, reinforcing her orders, “[i]mandatermi absi ni kasi. Terma tota vy bitka.

The house shook, the roar of superheated plasma and the terrible noise of charge beams blanking out all other sound as the audio receptors clamped down, audible even through the armour of the Oyanari. A secondary explosion rattled much closer, as the ceiling cracked, and the lights began to flicker. A wave of static washed over the communication systems.

The feed from the Dragonfly dropped out.

A wave of doubt washed over her. They could wait for another Dragonfly to get them a fresh feed, or they could move on. If they stayed here, then the hostile forces could escape. If they moved, they could end up walking into a trap.

Her mind was made up for her. “Weny Komdy Hikary,” reported one of the rear teams, “za obsera sufiki jigabaki,” using the Nazzadi word for the insect-like gunships, “ni vi atmosi.

She swore. If they didn't have total air cover (and the fact that the Dragonfly had been shot down suggested that they didn't), this whole affair would be much harder. She contented herself with the fact that it must be necessary, for the Creators to order that painful acceleration and deceleration from orbit, which had left two of her squad unsuitable for combat, their replacements not used to the tight camaraderie of the Oyanari.

Twi ib twi,” she said. “Sufiki mandatvuli ohny objimpery.” And that was that, with no objections made, even by the newcomers.

As the armoured suits made their way through the building, the terrible noise roared again from the centre of the island, accompanied by the more minor crack of the lesser charge beams and the noise of superheated air, as the Chalybions continued to pick off the Migou-allied units emerging from the Drone Ship, LAI-drones providing targeting, picking off targets through buildings, always on the move. The NEG artillery was zeroing in, too, the indirect-fire railguns lobbing smart shells onto the landing zones and filling the air with false targets that allowed the bombers and air-supremacy fighters movement even in this anti-air heavy environment.

The point at which the eight Loyalists realised that they were not alone in this building was when one pair of Oyanari failed to check in at the designated time, their signal lights remaining off. There had been no emergency calls, no warnings. If there had, they had been lost under the pulses of static that the discharge of plasma weapons and charge beams produced.

Mandatinstra dy pule vi twi nazzada kubot twi hi kontrseri!” demanded Hikary, the Weny Komdy of the force. Consultation revealed that the two had been near the top of the house.

Twi poteneplumakroni?” asked her second-in-command, the Meda Komda of the squad.

The Weny Komdy flashed her assent light red. No, it wasn't possible that they'd fallen, both at the same time, and without warning. “Contrserakausy,” she said. “Seki nazzadi persesakausi pla termakausi absul gurili.

Dy vulakrony!” responded the female members, as the remnants of the squad moved out, taking the stairs slowly, making sure that they could support their armoured mass. If there were hostiles up there, they were going to get ended, in the name of the nazzadi.

Da vulakrona,” were the words of the male ones. As they climbed the stairs, it could be seen that this was not just an ordinary apartment complex. The fact that the stairs were reinforced to take the weight of a suit of powered armour without creaking was enough to show that, a fact further accentuated by the way the walls were a thin layer of plaster over bunker-level defences

Poteneseri estel tenemeni seri sufiki gura oa Dagonvela?” asked one of the front team, his red eyes scanning the walls and all the entrances for any signs of the detestable inferior beings that actually gave themselves to worship of the {THREATS}. The Creators had shown to the nazzadi the consequences of such a path, explained what inevitably happened. Only the Creators could protect the nazzadi, and even their inferior cousin anfrazzadi, and, yes, their miscegenated offspring, the amlati and sidoci (though all the others were inferior to the true nazzadi). And the Creators needed their help, against the dangers such as this.

The assent light flashed green. Yes, this probably was a Dagonite fortification. But who was in control of it now?

The EMP grenades attached to the tripwire failed to answer the question. Neither did the pair of anti-armour charge detonating at perfect chest height for a power armoured suit, one fore and one aft. What they did manage to do was tear open the chest of the front suit, severing the pilot at the waist, and damage the D-Engine in another so badly it was forced to perform an emergency cut to prevent a Horizon event, crippling the armour, as well as tearing off the arm of the suit and the limb of the nazzady inside, along with it.. The survivor at the front began to fire wildly, laser pulses blowing head-sized chunks out of the reinforced walls in clouds of expanding vapour, before she was ordered to stop to avoid bringing the building down on them.

Soli komdi komprehi estel whiku termakrona twi nazzadi,” remarked Meda Komda Jula, while the medic tried to staunch the bleeding from the injured survivor, the front of the Oyanari opening up and the movements desynchronising to allow him to examine the patient with his bare hands. His diagnosis light flashed red. She couldn't be saved; she'd lost too much blood. The medic winced inside his under-suit, and administered a lethal dose of painkillers, to kill without pain, in peace, before he bend down, and inserted a cable from his armour to hers, to grab the data from the powered armour's black box . Once the necessary actions had been taken, he stepped back, sealing up his amour again, as another one of the nazzadi vaporised the body, releasing the spirit from its mortal shell of flesh to move on to another life.

Contrserakausy,” was their leader's answer. “Twi nazzadi... pule seri objtermi?

It was true, he had to admit. No bodies, no wreckage. And, certainly, the anti-armour charges had done enough damage to the interior of the building that there wasn't a way that they could have missed that... unless there were magic interior decorating goblins who also had replaced the LEDs that the EMP had fused.

Which implied that someone had set (or at least activated) the trap after the nazzadi had been through.

The squad, only half now remaining from the force that had dropped in only minutes earlier, continued; even more slowly, checking for tripwires and remote detonated devices as best they could. There were attempts to contact the rest of the Creator-led forces, but the thick structure of the former Dagonite reinforced position seemed to counteract it. The nazzadi were envious, in truth, of the way that the Creators seemed able to keep their squads so coordinated.

The echoes of that terrible noise from the centre of the island came again, drowning out even the closer sounds of conflict.

Weny Komdy,” reported the new pointman, “da persesa soli objtermi Oyanari. Terma oa liberatagi.

Kwer?” asked Hikary, her mouth dry. Which one was lying there, power armour ripped apart by plasma fire?

Wery,” answered the pointman, after checking what details could be seen on the remains of the armour. The front had been fried by a direct hit from a plasma weapon; the few scraps of the nazzady left inside charred flesh over burnt bone. From the fact that the armour was still there, though, the weapon couldn't have been too large. That confirmed it. There was hostile powered armour in this place; whether NEG or Dagonite, they didn't know.

The blast which tore out apart the ruined armour and ripped off his legs the second he tried to download the black box still came as a surprise. Whoever had done this had packed the insides of the armour with explosives after scooping out the remains of the pilot, leaving just enough to be seen through the hull. They had known enough about the respect that the nazzadi, the real ones, had for their dead, and of their protocols, to use it against them.

That clarified who it was in here considerably.

Harangy 'Newi Earthi Govermenti',” swore the Meda Komda. That left them with only three survivors, and one MIA. They'd all taken damage in the blast, which had turned the ruined armour into an impromptu fragmentation grenade, scything into the walls and damaging the other powered armours.

Absul mandatlevy!” snapped Hikary. They were pulling out of here, getting out into the air where they could call for the Creators to take it out with heavy units. Clearing a place like this in powered armour was going to be hell; far better for a true mecha to blow it up.

It was on the way down that the stairs were detonated, collapsing and crushing the first two that had stepped forwards, the cracks of a too-rapidly fired hypersonic railgun coinciding with the holes that were punched into their prone figures. The Weny Komdy fled, jumping down, and so survived long enough to be picked off by a shot from an EECU Klinge Type-12 Pulse Weapon which punched through a wall to hit her, tearing off one leg at the knee, and leaving her sprawled face down in this hell of a building which had consumed her entire force.

Then she saw them. They weren't truly invisible, but they were the same colour as the background, only those six yellow eyes visible. But they were far too small! They were probably shorter than she was outside of her Oyanari, certainly, they were too small to be carrying anti-armour energy weapons like that. That kind of knowledge was the preserve of the Creators, according to everything she knew!

She tried to lift herself up on her arms, raise one arm to bring the laser-cannon to bear. The figures pre-empted her with their own laser fire, a continuous beam crippling the weapon, moving to sever the control muscles in the offending limb, and, scoring a line across her fallen back, moved on to perform the same procedure on the other one.

It was at that point she realised, though the sudden clarity of the Creator-made combat stimulants that had been administered when the inner-suit had detected damage, that they wanted her alive. And from the way that they had herded her, cutting off the paths of escape, using the nazzadi doctrines for where the the squad leader would be positioned, it had been her that they'd wanted. They had been using a building in which the squad were isolated from the Creators, and had been fast enough to prevent them from leaving for backup; the genius of the plan had been almost prescient. Even the weapons they had used to take her down had been used to cauterise and contain, rather than kill, and now that they had her immobile, she could do nothing but scream as the three six-eyed figures pried open the front, hyperedged blades fitting into the thin gaps at the cockpit and puncturing the seal, knife thrust through the layer that protected it, before pulling her out. One holding down the Weny Komdy, the other efficiently stabilised her condition, sealing off the severed stump of her leg with the bluish gloop used for field containment. That was just a respite, a act which appeared charitable, before they installed a field jack to the back of her neck, sliding the blade-like device between vertebra, where it split the spinal cord between C4 and C5, the complex device tying itself to both ends of the severed cord, where it took over the maintenance of the autonomous functions. Oh, yes, they were crude compared to the TSEAP, their parent technology, but they physically isolated the brain from the rest of the body, and so could even be used to incapacitate Blanks, and they kept the prisoner alive. As long as their heart could physically beat, and their lungs breathe, they would. They had their role.

Now she was truly a prisoner in her own body, not even able to truly scream as the jack kept her breathing steady.

“Subject is secured. Isolating before Command can deploy to extract memories.”

Oh, they were good.



~'/|\'~




Asuka Langely Soryu was brilliant, even if she had to admit it herself. Which she did, often without prior provocation. Several times a day. However, in this case, as she swung the plasmathrower around, carving notable tunnels into the mountainsides of Iceland, melting the igneous rocks and the Migou forces that stood on them, it could be argued that, by all reasonable definitions, it was literally true. Certainly, she was bright enough, once again in a literal sense. Her other weapons, the smaller integral ones, now fired autonomously, the targeting LAIs once again with data now that she could rely on her short-range sensor systems. She turned her head, and the dual charge beams mounted there cored a Fireant. That seemed to be the last of that group.

A few (very large) steps, and she was across the valley, footprints dug into the rock. Down one end the NEG forces which had been moved up to support Nero, largely armoured vehicles such as the Vreta and a number of Nazzadi mecha, were holding off the Migou forces, but they were having a tough time of it. The superheavies, the Mantises and the Spiders were disproportionately common, and, frankly speaking, the tanks were outnumbered and outgunned. The Migou had landed a Drone Ship, which had got past Units 00 and 01 (and, yes, Shinji had apologised sufficiently, in her opinion; Rei most certainly had not), and it was landing its full complement of troops, quickly and efficiently spreading out from under the cover of the nine hundred metre vessel, its underside breaking open like a split ribcage, to effectively served as a fortress.

A squadron of Type-207 tanks swept their way up the valley, trying to follow her, the quad HAL-7 laser cannons spewing out near-ultraviolet (and fairly ultraviolent) death into the advancing Migou forces. The systems on Unit 02 projected the passage of their shots against the inside of the entry plug as a purple line, calculating their position from the scattering against the dust and emfog, still outside the human visible spectrum. Asuka paused for a second as she bent to leap, and still found the time to be amused that laser weapons, thanks to systems such as this which were standard in armoured vehicles, actually did leave a visible trail.

Then she was into the air again, AT-Field flaring She had yawned into her drink. They really weren't getting anywhere, doing things like this. for a brief second as she smashed through a Spinner dropship, the bulk of Unit 02 and its unnatural emanation tearing cleanly through the domed, doomed flying saucer in half without any resistance, before the earth rose to meet her. This was not, sadly, a metaphor or any other use of poetic license.

From out of sight, scout [body-form/individuals] in stealthed Dragonfly reconnaissance units provided guidance for the rest of their [body-form/network], mounted in Wasps; heavily-armed artillery units. They had been dropped before the Drone Ship had landed, and had flown in, taking up positions above the battlefield. From the NEG's perspective, one of the greatest threats about the Migou was the fact that they had their reconnaissance units integrated at the tactical level, seemingly possessing instantaneous access to the data that the Dragonflies gathered. But they didn't truly understand the way that [body-form/networks] worked, not really. They brushed around the edge of the truth, but could not understand it.

As a result, when multiple wings of Wasps, guided through the emfog and battlefield jamming through by their forwards scout-selves, opened up, all targeting Unit 02, this was a non-negligible issue.

The Wasp (another example of the terracentric nature of the New Earth Government; the Migou would rather have called it a [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Long Range] [Individual Artillery Support Unit] [Containment/Sterilisation] variant, for the NEG naming scheme actually merged multiple similar craft) was a fat, bulbous thing, laden down with armour, and targeting and sensory equipment for the launch systems that gave it its role. It was, in fact, vaguely wasp-shaped, hence the name, but only in that it possessed vaguely insectoid legs which it used when stabilising itself in a launch, the sensors, when fully spread-out were akin to wings, and that some of the more common variants possessed a tail-mounted weapon, in the same sense that the Chalybion did. Their sole role was as missile pads, for rocketry was one area that the Migou were far ahead of the NEG. Their missiles were smart; vicious barbs of Migou construction material with disturbingly low thermal signatures and nasty manoeuvrability, that somehow managed to communicate with each other and their launch vehicle, and with the forwards scouts guiding them in, through all but the most intense emfog, and which, without exception possessed their own counter-measure systems. Worse; they learned, data from each one fed back to each other, to the launch vehicle, to the pilot's [body-form/network], and to the other forces in the area. In a sense, a Migou missile barrage was not so much a salvo of warheads as it was the release of a cluster of kamikaze pilots, who knew their goal but were permitted to find their own way to do it; the only limit their fuel capacity, as they were too small for A-Pods.

However, the problem was not the conventional missile systems. Well, the main problem was not the conventional missile systems. The big problem, from the viewpoint of Unit 02 and its pilot, was that Wasps were loaded for sterilisation and containment; to hold the line, no matter what they faced. And so, mixed in with the missile barrage, were warheads with roughly four and a half milligrams of metalic antihydrogen contained within a perfectly spherical arcanomagnetic field of uniform strength. Each one of these ones, slightly smaller than the pre-fragmentation warheads of the ones that carried submunitions, had, ignoring the energy wasted in useless neutrinos, the same yield as of roughly eighty tonnes of conventional explosives. Each Wasp carried three of these, in a heavily shielded component designed to survive a small nuclear blast, and be capable of reaching orbit on its own, where they could be safely contained. And the <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> had authorised their use on this mission with more permissive parameters than others may have; alerted by the suspicions of the <Archivist of Dangerous Pasts> that there were more {THREATS} than the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} alone present.

The three entities which had already destroyed multiple [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Local Supremacy Craft] and [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft] were certainly threats to the mission and hazardous to the capital ships, if not {THREATS} or {HAZARDS} in their own right.

Asuka landed and stumbled, almost falling on a ground which was no longer that which she or the Evangelion had expected it to be, while her laser point-defence grid sliced through the air, swatting for missiles which were actively trying to evade, the data on the laser scattering from the watching Dragonfies interpreted by the projectiles and used to try to evade the seeking light. Despite the best efforts of the outmatched LAI systems in the defence-grid, missiles got through, shaped charges detonating against the thick plate of the Type-D and explosive submunitions bursting like rain. Inside the entry plug, the impacts muted to dull thuds, the girl growled, and sprang to the right, left arm instinctively raised as an ineffectual shield against the smart swarm of explosives. Forgoing any attempt to stay with the following tanks, the Evangelion advanced through the swarm-barrage, laser-grid sweeping through the sky trying to swat the insects wearing at the Unit.

“I'm not going to let Rei hold the record for most capships,” Asuka roared, straining forwards in her seat as the behemoth broke into a sprint, directly towards the landed Drone Ship, ignoring petty things like “terrain” and “capable of supporting the weight of an Evangelion”. The terrain just had to support her for long enough for the next step, leaping from patch of ground to patch of ground, zig-zagging to confuse the Migou missiles with rapid changes in direction that nearly slammed her into the walls of the plug.

It helped, certainly, but the sheer volume of fire that multiple wings of Wasps could throw out, assisted by the systems mounted on the Drone Ship, meant that she was slowly being whittled down, layers of ablative armour stripped away and digging into the first layer of hardened plating.

“Misato! I'm getting swamped here! Argh! There are tonnes!”

The message didn't even make it back to HQ, so dense was the emfog and the infowar around the Migou vessel; an environment so electromagnetically heavy that infantry would have started suffering ill effects. The microwaves being thrown out in direct line of sight of the Drone Ship were cooking what little vegetation existed up here, and was melting the ice in the area, newborn rivers formed from melting snow springing to life.

The four waves of missiles had just been a test, to see what the entity had, and what kind of defences it had. On the discovery that it just seemed to have a NEG naval laser-defence grid, there was only a moment of hesitation, as the Migou on the field experienced what, to a human, would be akin to perplexed shock, the feeling of stepping on a stair which was not there, before the next salvo began, a single antihydrogen warhead hidden among the swarm which was, really, nothing more than decoys for the main missile.

By purest chance, the laser-grid system of Unit 02, overwhelmed by the targets presented to it, happened to hit the first antihydrogen warhead fairly early, the continuous-beam laser slicing through the missile and destabilising the arcanomagnetic containment field.

The inevitable happened.



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2010-01-12 02:32pm
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~'/|\'~




Shinji swept the plasmagun over to the next set of targets prioritised by the onboard computers, the LAI part of the firecontrol minutely adjusting the arcanomagnetic sheaf around each bolt to hit precise targets within the cone of fire. There were so many of them now; the sky was filled with projected laser paths of the weapons on both NEG and Migou aircraft, as well as the gratuitous amounts of antimissile defence being thrown around by air and specialist ground units (and Unit 01 wasn't exactly negligent in adding to the lightshow). The system was even displaying who was responsible for the fire, by comparing the wavelength of the scattering with the known values of systems used by both sides.

He benightedly realised that the Migou were probably doing the same, that Unit 01 stood out like a sore thumb with the laser-grid, and that they were almost certainly using it to target him further.

He raised the point with Rei, as Units 01 and 00 advanced, moving together as the Test Model protected the already-damaged Prototype. The targets were getting scarcer for the Rei Gun, as the Migou Swarm Ships stopped their decent, and actually rose, pulling back, letting the Drone Ships take the fire. Rei had made attempts at the higher shots, but dispersion of the charged protons, as the spatially discontinuous arcanomagnetic field weakened meant that she was not getting the kills in one shot, often merely (at least according to her narration) damaging them. And, far above, bright torches in the night sky, were the two warships, fusion drives holding them high, tail pointed towards Earth. They seemed to be waiting for something.

“I thought that the MBAMCIGA-2 and 'Rei Gun' would be more of a contributing factor in making us a target,” said Rei calmly, inverted commas audibly clicking around the informal name for her charge beam. “It is possible that the laser defence grid may play a role; however, it would be preferable that mine were still functional. Capacitors charged. Cooling cycle still in process.” She paused. “The levels of coolant in the internal liquid helium reservoir have reached critically low levels. The integral D-Dump is still operational, but both yield and firing rate will suffer adversely when the weapon is depleted; in addition, the risks of catastrophic failure are greatly increased.”

A static picture of Misato appeared in the bottom corner of the viewscreen, the words [VOICE ONLY prominent under the picture. “Just a little longer,” she said. “The Herald is almost there.”

“The levels of coolant in the internal liquid helium...” repeated Rei, before the Major interrupted her.

“Yes, I know. I heard.”

“Oh.”

Shinji felt a sudden spike of pain, like a momentary touch from a too hot plate, and flinched, the aim of the plasma minigun dropping, leaving glassed craters across the mountainside. Turning, he saw a streak across the right arm of the Evangelion glowing white-hot, a gash that just looked wrong against his (no, not his, the Evangelion's, he reminded himself) body. The systems LAI tagged a box around it, warning of hostile charge beams, but the lack of training (and what there had been had been largely focussed around the necessities of engaging Herald-class entities, rather than the Migou) compared to the other pilots showed, when, rather moving quickly, he merely turned, enough for the next shot from the [body-form/network] of the <Soldier of Necessary Actions> to be aimed at the front of the shoulder-mounted missile pods, rather than their more heavily armoured sides.

The next thing Shinji knew, he was on the ground, the bulk of the Evangelion sprawled out. He blinked, heavily, shaking his head as the lights on the walls of the entry plug swam and danced in strange circle. His right eye ached, as if someone had just punched it; he was sure that he could feel it swelling already, the LCL cool against the heated flesh.

Rei's portrait appeared on screen, the mouth of the static image moving to her words, but all he could hear was a dull . The boy stared at the two images of the pale girl before his eyes, uncomprehending, waiting for the two images to re-merge before he could even think of... well, thinking the Evangelion back up.

He could feel the earth beneath the Evangelion pulse, even through the insulation of the LCL that surrounded him, and the noise through the haze that filled his ears. Misato's portrait joined Rei's. He tried to focus.

“... the beam penetrated the hull and...”
“Shinji! Get up!”
Another spike of pain, this time in his right leg.
“passed through the main D-Engine and one of the main A-Pod clusters.”
“Shinji! Damn it! Listen to me, you need to get up!”
Ritsuko's portrait appeared.
“Your synch ratio has fallen below 50%. You must focus, or...”
In the front of the entry plug, he saw, as the haze over his vision faded, Unit 00, wrapped in the clouds of the venting coolant, run out, bulky charge beam still held in both hands.
“The target will not be capable of continued flight, and its main weapon systems...”
“Listen, Shinji! You're a sitting duck there! Get to your feet, or... at least try to roll a bit...
“No! Don't roll! You'll crush the minigun!”
“... are offline. It is advised that land forces try to secure the...”
Unit 00 covered the distance in a few long strides, leaping to one foot before bringing the other around in a half-circle which sent the Mantis, twenty metres tall itself, flying, its front caved in. The Evangelion paused there for less than a second, still wrapped in the clouds of still-cold helium that enveloped it and left it glittering with ice crystals, before sprinting on. It looked like Rei, denuded of almost all her integrated weapons, her armour heavily cracked with a crystalline blackness visible underneath, and her charge beam still cooling down, was going to try to kick the Migou forces to death.
“Better a crushed weapon than dead!”
He took a deep gasp of LCL, and through the aching in his skull, concentrated deeply on the concept of getting up, of pulling himself to his feet.
“The two won't be that different if it happens!”
“...crash site, *-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-*,” Rei finished, transmission interrupted by the fractured light of the AT-Field shining around her as she tore through a pair of Spiders, the sussuration of the communications static whispering in his ear as the barrier interrupted the transmission, causing Unit 01 to lose her signal.

Unit 01 pulled itself to its feet, hunched low. Shinji spared a glance; his right shoulder (no, the Eva's, he reminded himself), was a mess, the armour plating flayed away and covered in the organism's blood, which ran down his arms and dripped to the ground. The image was... funny, all along the right side of his vision, even through the pain in his eye.

“Good, Shinji!” called out Misato. “Go, help Rei!”

“Listen to me, Shinji,” said Ritsuko, intensely. “Unit 01 took a hit directly to the the rocket pods on the right shoulder. They're meant to blow out safely, but the charge beam moves faster than the explosion, and so, when the angle and path it took is taken into account, the hole it left meant that, quite apart from the impact, you were essentially hit with a shaped charge to the head as all the rockets left cooked off at once.”

“Huh,” was about all he could manage, as he groggily swung the plasma minigun around, onto the mass of targets. “What's... up with...”

“I haven't finished,” she interrupted, the lag in the transmission enough that it led to such things. “Both the shoulder and the head have taken non-negligible damage. The Unit is blind in one eye, and the armour in both locations is severely impaired. The entry plug display isn't purely a visual subvert system, but you're going to get a noted loss in resolution and a slight image lag on the right half of the screen. Now that the Migou know about this issue, you're going to have to use all your rockets, and...” she paused, “Try not to get hit any more; use your AT-Field!”

Rockets. Missiles. Whatever. Yes. That was something he could do, he thought, as the aiming profile for the missiles came up, the yellow box in the centre of his viewscreen.

It really is like some kind of computer game, isn't it? he thought, as the second red box closed around the already-recognised hostiles. The thud of the first-stage booster, kicking the missiles out of the launch tubes in order, fired slightly upwards before arcing down to was not noticed by the boy, as Unit 01 began to sprint too. The Prototype stood alone, the crystalline radiance of fractured space-time flaring intermittently as Rei only added to the destructive nature of her kicks and stomps. The salvo began to impact, as the indicators on the left shoulder blinked red, a counterpoint to the red glows covering the shoulder and part of the head on the display

“You are functional,” said Rei calmly, as a Fireant was punted into a mountainside. “That is optimal. It was uncertain. Eliminate these forces so that I may take the next shot.”

Asuka's portrait joined Rei's; the older woman shrinking so that they took up no more space than one had. There was some kind of crackle, through which her voice could be recognised, but not understood.

“What was that?” said Shinji distractedly, trying to split his attention between the traces of her voice that got through the static, and trying to direct plasma fire into the contacts all over the wall of the entry plug.

The world was, just for a second, cast into sharp relief. Before his eyes, slowly, a fireball inched its way above the mountainside to his front. And then, seconds later, the shockwave hit, nothing to the twin behemoths.

“Antihydrogen,” said Rei, clinically. “ 4.837 miligrams of it, to four significant figures. The Migou have decided that we are hazardous to their end goal. It was used against the Second Child. Such an omnidirectional blast is such that, if it were at very close proximity, it could seriously damage, or, considering the damage that Unit 02 has already taken, potentially destroy an Evangelion.”

Something snapped inside Shinji, then, some outpouring of inner hatred and frustration.

I don't even want to be here! I don't want to be used as a weapon! I don't want to be shot at by fishmen or bugs or crazy cultists or anything! And now you bugs show up like this with so many ships and mecha and antimatter. You're not even meant to be here! And my eye and shoulder actually really hurt... as in really! Argh!

...

I am going to kill you all! All of you! So now you won't be here!


“Very enthusiastic, Third Child,” said Rei, “but it was not necessary to exclaim that at such a volume, especially with such inelegance. Firing.” The charge beam roared.

The words failed to have any calming effect, as roaring, Shinji and Unit 01 together sprinted towards the nearest concentration of forces. The harsh light cast by the plasma minigun swayed and spun as he spun from target to target, casting crazed shadows of over the terrain in burning white and night-blackness, interspersed with the fabricated unreality of the shimmers of the Guard of Yog Sothoth.

The <Soldier of Necessary Actions>, four of its [body-form/individuals] already dead (including its back-up on the ship, dead with the vessel, so it risked permanent death,) decided that such a threat demanded that there be survivors to report it. This was major; vital. A potential <THREAT>. It pulled back its surviving components of its [body-form/network] from the roaring beast, the dreadful sound most akin the scream of a drowning man, and advised other forces in the area to do the same. This was beyond them. They needed capital support to deal this this kind of target, at the very least. The Migou forces began a disciplined withdrawal, sacrificing [body-form/individuals] to ensure that as many [self-form/individuals] survived, as Unit 01 tore through their forces, roaring as the plasma weapon reaped its toll through their ranks like wheat.

Rei stared blankly at the image of the receding Unit 01 on the inside of her entry plug. Her face was lit in red by the warning signals that spoke of the massive damage she had experienced earlier, and now, and of the critical lack of coolant in the charge beam. “Hit,” she said, but there was something gone from her voice, some vital spark that others would not have thought had been there and which was only noticed by its absence. “As it was always going to be. So must it be. Always.”



~'/|\'~




The Weny Komdy, what was left of her body lifted in one arm by the figure (and they really weren't in power armour, she was sure) that had the impossibility of a hand-held laser weapon, was carried back up to the top of the house, then carried down a hidden ladder, down underground. Her attempts to kick with the one remaining leg did nothing; there was no motor control. She was nothing more than a limp ragdoll, with a head attached to the top.

There was no pain, thanks to the Creator-made stimulants automatically administered by her piloting suit, but, nevertheless, it was purest hell.

There was a room down here, at the foot of the ladder, obviously of Dagonite origin. The decorations were intact, though somewhat scorched from laser fire and riddled with bullets; the remains of the previous inhabitants had been piled in a corner. The sleek thin shape of a modern NEG computer, about the size of a credit card, lay on the desk, connected to the pre-existing computer, fan whirring, which had probably been several technological generations out of date when the nano-factory had been invented. The three that had killed her entire squad and taken her like this, lay her down in the middle of the floor; she could still move her eyes, at least to see that there was at least one more, dressed the same, and... she would have taken a sharp breath, had the field jack not controlled her breathing, keeping it steady. The last of her Oyanari was in the room, closed up and active, crude plating strapped to the front, right over where the head of the pilot would have gone.

She could already guess what they'd done. They had EMP grenades, and they had those (impossible) lasers. They'd obviously ambushed the first pair, one of the suits wrecked with the plasma weapon (and then they'd used it as an explosive trap), and the second powered armour had been more precisely fried, the outer hull cut through in a way that killed the pilot, but kept the suit intact enough for them to use, with a little repair work.

The armour spoke, over the loudspeakers, in the dominant language used by the NEG. “Foxtrot 813 status report. The salvaged power armour is capable of operating at 71% capacity. Repairs have been made to the damage inflicted, although they remain suboptimal, and a standard power armour OS has been installed over the top of the pre-existing Loyalist one. It is likely that this is a standard field unit, as it uses logical progressions from AW1 equipment, rather than the Migou-pseudohuman designs seen in operation among elite Loyalist forces.”

“Acknowledged, Foxtrot 813. Position yourself at the entrance. Ensure that no hostiles are permitted access to this location.”

“Acknowledged. Foxtrot 813 moving to new position.”

The stolen Oyanari then moved, with a certain familiarity that suggested that the pilot, whoever it was, was familiar with both nazzadi, and the derivative craft used by the traitors who had betrayed the Creators, armour.

Weny Komdy Hikary flicked her eyes back to the figures that stood around her. She had been taught a few words of englisi, back in the revolving Hamilton cylinder in the asteroid belt where she had been decanted and trained in both fast-time simulated space as well as the 1-g environment of the cylinder, before being shipped to Sol Three. All but one of the figures in their shifting armour, not true stealth, but enough that a glance might miss them, had stayed; one had followed the stolen armour. Eighteen eyes stared back at her, nothing of the nazzadi in the armoured helms.

She tried to talk to them, to explain that she wasn't going to talk, and they should just kill her... although she blanched somewhat at the idea, like this, tied up and crippled, with no control over her own body, but she couldn't. She wasn't even sure if was due to the thing they had used to steal her body from her, or just sheer terror.

Pathetically, she just hoped that the thing maintained bladder and bowel control. She had no clue if it did, and, actually, the combat suit would deal with it, but it seemed like so little to ask for.

“Orpheus Command, this is Kantaya-13. We have secured another target for extraction.”

Sufiki contrignosy! she wanted to yell. Did they think that their communications would really work here, underground, when just the building above had been enough to cut the nazzadi in their true powered armour, able to throw a D-Engine behind their transmissions?

understood

The voice came from all around, a hollow whisper that felt as if it echoed within the skull.

orpheus deploying as requested

The lights above flickered, and the radio in Hikary's combat suit flickered to life, filled with waves of sussurating static. But it shouldn't have done that. They'd crippled it... hadn't they?

A figure stepped into view from the left of the trapped nazzadi woman's vision.

It was best described as a figure. It certainly couldn't be called a person. Part of one, maybe, but certainly not a whole one.

Viscera, at roughly the height it should be, hovering in mid-air.

No lungs, but there was part of a heart, beating steadily despite its incomplete structure.

A few slivers of bone; a spinal chord without a spine. A fine, transparent network of nerves.

Slivers of flesh sketching out part of a human body, pale as a dead meat drained of its blood and prepared for slaughter, devoid of skin.

Metal, snaking into the mess, weaving through the spinal chord and into the faceless mask that the presence wore, if wore was the right word for the way that it sat, almost clamped to the terrifying figure, moving as it it were the thing's head.

These were only impressions. That was all that there could be. A true description could only be given with recourse to an anatomy textbook and a taste for the macabre.

That was what it reminded her of. Back in the facility where she had been decanted, she had seen two workers, supervised by one of the Creators, remove a child who hadn't grown properly; the skin hadn't taken. It was like that, but unutterably worse, because that at least had been still, a dead failure. The figure that stalked towards her was alive and it was moving and it should not be.

The nazzadi screamed and screamed and screamed, but all came out were the steady breaths, perhaps altered by the contortions of her vocal chords, if she could even do that. She didn't care. She screamed in her head, to drown out the whispering.

The lights flicked as the thing bought a hand that was little more than a pinkish mist wrapped around the spider thread-like nerves, in which a few tiny fragments of flesh floated, into contact with the nazzadi woman's forehead.

She deployed with her squad, charging out of the armoured cover of the Drone Ship.

She was buffeted by the horrific acceleration that the Creators imposed on them, lungs heavy, head feeling faint, colours fading to grey.

She watched as Kora was cut down by the beast, and, screaming, charged at it, hyperedged claws ripping and tearing at the engorged intestines of the monster.

She moved through the long-abandoned ruins of a city somewhere in Asia, cutting down the degenerate [i]anfrazzadi
cultists, as, above her head, the vessels of the Creators swatted the flying monsters out of the air.

She lay in Kora's arms, on board the ship as they orbited high above the earth, merely a brief transfer to another group of Creator forces, for redeployment. She tilted her head around, and kissed him in that little patch where his neck met his ribcage.[/i]

She watched helplessly, filled with terror, as a shadowy figure, visible through the abomination of flesh, only waist-high, slowly took took steps forwards. But it didn't matter. Kora would be here soon, wherever here was.

She felt her system flood with adrenaline, as the hatch open and stood on the surface of Sol Three, the world that would be theirs, for the first time, staring out over the snow-covered ground to the city-base where she would be stationed.

She paced through the dark ship, the night vision of her kind making it possible to see where she was going.

She watched behind her as the cylinder receded from view, heading for an unknown future.

She punched, she kicked, she punched,she kicked, until the routines of Hun Zuti were as second nature, in this strange virtual world the Creators had built.

She opened her eyes for the first time, lungs filled with fluid. She did not scream. That reflex had been suppressed.


She was no more.

The eyes of the sixty kilograms of flesh and bone rolled back, neurons fried, soul devoured.

memories extracted, whispered the figure. orpheus task completed.

The abomination of flesh fell apart, disintegrating into ashes which slowly fell to the ground, before disappearing.

The Replica Elite cut the throat of the hollow shell, adding a Loyalist to the pile of Dagonite corpses who had already been extracted. There would be more.



~'/|\'~




The thing had torn the woman apart. It hadn't even moved. It hadn't needed to. It had other recourses.

Of course, if it happened to the bitch,

Glimmering. Sparkling. Wrapped all around her.

she would not have mourned her.

Arrogant idiot. What was she, stupid?

The Type 1 would never have worked safely, despite her protests. And look what had happened.

An all enveloping mesh of broken diamond and strange reflection. Tighter than a mother's grasp, as if it were part of herself, or maybe she were a part of it.

A man had sat down beside her, his normally neatly-trimmed beard shaggy from not having been home in over a week, and not having slept in two days. He too had been nursing a drink. He had seen it too.

They had drunk the drinks. Then the next ones. Then the next ones, ethanol washing away the memories


There were things outside. Here, she was safe.

”You were right,” he had said. “We can't just use their principles straight off; we're dealing with a completely different mind. God, if we hadn't just rushed it, if we'd just ignored her and tested it properly.

However, they were not. They were right to be scared of her. She was going to do something that they'd never seen before. Something that no-one had ever seen before.

“And you know all about minds,” she had said, slurring her words slightly. “I just don't fucking care right now. Save it for the reports, when the slut has to justify why she pushed ahead despite our warnings.”

“Too true,” he had said. “Listen...


They thought they could kill her.

”... are you doing anything. There's something,” he raised an eyebrow suggestively, “we could do something more fun to forget, rather than just getting drunk.”

Hah.

She had subconsciously smoothed down her clothing. She had been aware that she smelt of sweat and of beer and of cleaning chemicals and... other things. But he had smelt the same. And he had been there too. He had seen it happen, too.

It was going to be the other way around. For certain. She raised the plasmathrower, and grinned a predatory grin. It was appropriate, after all. The bugs were all about to die, and nothing that they could do was going to stop her.

“Sure. Why not.”

“My go, Migou,” she said, flicking on the external speakers, the voice booming across the valley.

And there was light.



~'/|\'~




The data that the Magi, back in London-2, were receiving was sparse, necessarily limited by the available bandwidth, especially since the NEGN had clamped down on the stealth satellites, terrified that the Migou might be able to detect the slight atmospheric scattering inherent to the tightbeam lasers that permitted the link between the flotilla and the satellites, picking up what transmissions from the Evangelions which got through the emfog.

“We're only getting a max of 3.2 Mbps,” reported Maya, hands flying through the katas of control, cable snaking from the back of her exposed Direct Magi Interface to the seat behind, “they've cut us even further.” She made a disgusted noise. “I've cut all attempts at video feed, we can get that from the Evas when they're back, and we need the data more than we need pictures. Uh, if that's okay with you, doctor,” she added, hurriedly.

Ritsuko waved a hand. “Fine, fine.” She gnawed on a fingernail, removing it from her mouth and balling her hand to prevent her from doing it, when she realised that. “Now, what on earth is happening with the Evas!” she demanded of the room, packed with electronics and computers and cables and suspension couches and, in the middle of all of this, Magi operators.

“Unclear,” answered Nara, his dark face twisted with worry. “I'm getting blips from feed... yeah, uh, yes, that's an AM gamma spike.” He paused for a fraction of a second. “Seismics?”

“Unclear, with all the eruptions, but we've got a large blast... 0.07 to 0.1 kilotonnes... that is a valid ballpark for their tactical AM weapons,” answered Cela, voice dispassionate.

“Yes, it is,” added Sosily, red eyes glinting. “Link to previous uses dispatched.”

“Signals from Evangelions?”

“Maintained. Data stream cut from Oh-Two matches that of strong AT-Field... yes, that's confirmed with squirt.”

“Report on status.”

“Data sent.”

“Evangelion 02... status intact. Weapons feed indicates actively in combat; interruptions characteristic of frequent use of AT-Field.”

Ritsuko removed her arglasses, and massaged her eyes, before putting them back on. It gave her time to think. The Migou were making use of antimatter weapons now. And it was somewhat headache-inducing listening to the conversations of the Magi operators, as they responded a little too quickly to track properly, flowing datasets and internal worlds on their hard-contacts beyond that which she could keep up with. Even if she were to use her obsolete spinal ports, they wouldn't come with the level of integration that this new generation of operators (and they were a new generation; fresh-faced youngsters, mostly recruited by the Foundation straight out of their first degrees or from military data analysis roles) enjoyed. Spinal ports only subverted the nervous system. The DMI, and the newer generations of the related technology from the Achtzig Group that were starting to be in the Ashcroft Foundation and in the high echelons of the New Earth Government interfaced the mind with the machine, the self with the shell.

In fact, in these data-handling matters like this, she was almost redundant; her presence there akin to the cerebrum in cerebellal tasks.

But they still need me for my mind, she thought viciously. I'm the one who does the higher level reasoning, not them. It was a shameful thought, but it was true. That was something that the Magi couldn't do for the Foundation, despite what her mother would have liked.

One of the other Magi operators... the new one, Ritsuko recalled, the one who was replacing Oliva, popped up, her face projected against the arglasses the doctor wore, unlike the hard contacts and optical jacks so common among the technical staff of Project Magi and universal for the operators.

“Dr Akagi?” Penny asked, who, despite the fact that her name ended in a 'y', was not a Nazzadi. It wasn't as bad as that which Clara (as a male amlati) and Maya (as a human female) experienced; at least the name matched the gender. “I'm getting something... funny on Unit 02. Link provided.”

“No,” Ritsuko said, a hint of annoyance in her voice, “explain what you see. I want to see what made you think it was worth bringing to my attention, rather than relying on me to decide whether it matters. If I wanted that, I'd go get one of Sylveste's idiot machines.”

Maya snorted. Like that would be the day. The doctor had made her feelings on the Achtzig Group clear on previous occasions; they were remarkably similar to her feelings on the Engel Group.

Of course, come to think of it, she had asked for help from the Engel Group.

Maya shook her head, an odd-feeling, swaying motion as the cable trailed behind her, and got back to her task.

“Well... um, if we track the synchronisation ratio, it suddenly just skyrocketed. Just as the Second Child activated the AT-Field to defend against the AM blast.”

“Well, isn't that just the effects of the AT-Field, surely? We have tracked the fact that the AT-Field is to a certain extent self-reinforcing.”

“Yes, I did think that at first. I did a paper on the known manifestations of this... well, it was a sorcerous phenomenon when I wrote it, because this was before,” she tapped the ceramic plating that replaced part of her skull, “I joined the Project. But the shape is wrong, from what I've been shown, and from what the Children displayed during the training you had me monitor.”

Ritsuko sighed. “AT-Fields only seem to exist to screw up hypotheses. Send it over.”

She scanned the graph, expanding it to fill the projection on her glasses, and her face paled.

“Berserk!” she managed through numb feeling lips. “It went berserk... just for a few seconds... but it is identical to what Unit 01 did against Asherah!”

The reactions from the Magi Operators to this announcement were about what might be expected. Specifically, that the ones recruited from academia started throwing out hypotheses to try to explain it, splitting their attention despite the fact that their work-rate barely dipped, while the ones with military training (albeit nothing from the frontlines), such as Maya, continued to work, taking over the slight dip in productivity almost instantaneously.

“Self-preservation,” suggested Cela, confidently. “It matches all previous examples.”

“There is only one previous example,” snapped July, the somewhat unfortunately-named amlati (there was already an August, a somewhat lazy, but benevolent, and so directly opposed to her in almost every way), her eyes narrowed. “You certainly can't make that kind of statement with that kind of confidence.”

“It's true that Cela overestimated the evidence...” began Clara, the other male amlati, his purple eyes almost pleading.

“... you mean he extrapolated from almost no evidence at all,” retorted July. “It's exceptionally annoying when people try to push their hypotheses as theories.”

“No, no, no,” whispered Ritsuko, “it's not that. It may quite well be self-preservation that would trigger that...”

Cela smirked at July, who merely glared back, orange eyes promising revenge.

“... but that's not the point. The point is that the EFCS Type-2 shouldn't permit that. That's why we used it for the MP Model, and Unit 01 is the Prototype.” She slumped down, head in hands. “You know, we're going to have to run another full immersion data dive on the blackbox, just as we did for Unit 01.”

There were groans all around.

“Should we do anything, doctor?” asked Maya, gingerly. “Anything else, I mean?”

The older woman sighed. “I am going to take those monster apart when they get back. Yes,” she said, louder, “yes, actually. I want all three Units shipped back to L2 in full ACXB hazard containment. 01 and 00 are going to need it anyway, from the damage, but I don't trust 02 now. If it's going to do things like that... I don't like it. It's always been the most predictable and reliable of the three, before.”



~'/|\'~




Fire fell down from the heavens, great newborn suns bought into nascent flaring life for one purpose; their own extinction. Through a moment that was an eternity, confined by arcane fields of magnetism that limited them, constrained them, and prevented their dispersion, they fell. Some might have compared them to figurative fallen angels, but, in truth, their function was to suppress the rising ape.

Far below, the stream of lesser stars cut off, no longer licking out to consume anything it could touch. Instead, a cloud of superheated gas and excreta rose, lit from below by the hellish glow of molten rock. The Swarm Ship did not cease its fire, however, the supercoolant carrying the heat radiated by the now-extinguished star away from the mechanisms of the ventral plasma cannon, and readying it for another shot.

In these kind of circumstances, it did not pay to make foolish assumptions and believe-without-evidence that such a capital grade threat was destroyed.

And it was not the only one doing it. From the heavens, the Swarm Ships unleashed their suns, while the Drone Ships and the destruction they wrought could not be seen by human or Deep One eyes, the ultraviolet lasers scoring their way across the landscape and cutting through the emfog that drifted on the winds that blew from the west, the micromachines slagged, briefly visible as tiny fireflies before they vanished forever as vapour.

Shinji threw himself to the left again as another impact thundered against the earth, the blastwave felt twice (once against the legs of the Evangelion, and once as a shift in the LCL) in a way which was rather disconcerting. He had seen what those things could do, seen the white-hot craters chewed out of the volcanic rock glowing in the dark, while above them fungoid clouds blossomed and molten rock rained down from the heavens.

The MBAMCIGA-2 was lying in a slagged pool of rock, somewhere back there. That had been far, far too, close; he had felt the wash of heat through the LCL, seen the ceramics on the front of the Evangelion glow cherry red, felt the agony as the flesh in his shoulder and face blistered as the wounded Evangelion cooked.

At least it hadn't hurt as much as Mot had. He really hoped nothing ever would again.

The earlier rage was gone, replaced with a much more sensible (he felt) blend of terror and fear. And, yes, they may have been the same emotion, but that just showed how scary it was being shot at by proper enemy capital ships, when he was in something which might best be described as a capital grade power armour; much more able to dish out damage than take it. He was just running towards Asuka and Unit 02. He wasn't even sure where Rei was, his haphazard and instinctual evasions taking him away from...

The terrible noise of the Evangelion-scaled charge beam sounded out. There was a flash of light, which remained, expanding slightly, as it faded, far above.

Well, she's still alive, he thought. And the Rei Gun's still working. It was a warm feeling inside, really, a mixture of hope and gratitude to know that at least they could do something against the figures above them.

Unit 01 picked up pace as it sprinted across this hell-torn landscape, almost dancing through the rain of fire from the sky.

Unit 02 huddled under the wreckage of the downed Drone Ship, surrounded by the melted remnants of what had been the best part of a brigade-equivalent of elite Migou forces. Above her, the underside of the ship stretched, slightly too low for her to stand upright, reaching in both directions. It had not been exactly hard to kill, in Asuka's opinion; they used hull material to form the ribcage-like structure that protruded from the underside of the ship and so effectively shielded the newly landed troops from counter-fire.

It was somewhat less efficacious against capital-grade mecha running underneath, even if they did have to stoop, and unleashing a frigate-grade reactor's worth of hot plasma into its guts. She had taken out its main A-Pod cluster on her first attempt, boring a tunnel, ringed by white-hot remnants of Migou construction material, into the thing. The fact that it had taken twelve more tries, even with the aid of her targeting overlays, to find enough of the distributed power grid on these things to actually cripple it, was in her opinion fully acceptable.

I guess the bugs never, ever expected to come across something like Unit 02 on Earth, she thought smugly, trying to hide even from herself the desperation she felt as the blasts on the upper hull made the underside vibrate. Clouds of hot gas vented through the holes she had dug into it. There was the terrible noise of vaporised metal, as the damage, melting through the hull and only being stopped by the internal superstructure, started to tell, and the middle of the covered landing place started sagging.

As far as Asuka could see it, there were two choices here.

I could wait here, and be crushed by the ship when it gives way, and then shot to pieces by the Migou, because the Evangelion would survive that, and I'm pretty sure they're not idiots. Or I could leave, and be shot to pieces by the Migou.

There were major drawbacks to either course of action. In fact, there was the same drawback. The “shot to pieces” bit, in fact, to labour on the same point.

If she died here, she was going to kill Misato for getting her into this kind of mess and not getting the proper kind of support.

And... she didn't want to leave this ruined cover. She was probably going to die either way, so why not hang onto life a little longer? Why not stay here, where, even when the mutilated remnants of the ship she herself had killed collapsed onto her, at least would provide cover. Grasp extended life, one second at a time.

So, despite what she portrayed herself as to the world, despite what others would think that she would do, despite what she might have even been thinking after they'd used the antimatter weapon against her... she was staying here. It was suicide to go out, and if there was one instinct that lay in her heart (and indeed, she suspected, in all hearts), it was the desire not to die. She'd do anything to stop that.

She didn't want to die. It was that simple. Keep on pushing it away, one second per second.

A few hundred metres along the hull, there was an explosion as the ultraviolet laser of one of the Drone Ships above cut through the remnants of the vessel and into the rock below. The wall of the entry plug sketched the line of its passage in purple; not much wider than the lines produced by a laser grid, but much, much more intense.

Asuka took a deep, slightly shuddery breath of LCL.

Okay.

Something smashed through the opposite wall of the cover, making the entire structure sag somewhat precipitously. The girl took a second to recognise it. It was Unit 01, but the top levels of armour were just gone. And the ones underneath it. In fact, the greyish-white hardplates were visible, the ablative armour fused and melted dribbles on its armour. Only one actinic eye gazed from the mask of the beast; the horn was torn off entirely, snapped at its base.

“Come on!” Shinji yelled at her.

“Why are you here?” she shouted back. “Do you know how much stuff is being shot at this thing?”

What are you doing, idiot? It was only going to be me stuck here; now they can concentrate fire here, and you probably dragged more. Now you're endangering yourself, too!

“Yes! I had to run through it!” he retorted. “Now come on!” He gulped down a mouthful of the liquid that enveloped him. “Asuka!”

“What?”

“You remember the training thing, yes?”

“Uh huh.”

“Remember,” he paused, “uh... 120-120-3?”

“No! Why should I!”

“The two charge beam ones?”

She frowned. “Oh, right. That was 140-140-3.”

“Not the time! Remember the solution!”

Her face went blank for a second, then she grinned. “Right! Think you're up to it?”

He grinned back, the smile infectious. “I'd better be. They got the minigun... that hurt. That's about all I can do to help you two now.”

Asuka frowned. “Where is Rei, anyway?”

Shinji winced. “Somewhere. I sort of got separated from her,” he admitted. “But... well, the Rei Gun is still firing and stuff is still blowing up.”

The far end of the ship began to sag; something not helped by the fact that Shinji reached up, and tore off one of the more intact panels of underhull, holding it above his head like a shield.

“Right,” he said. “Okay.”

“On the count of three,” she countered.

“Okay. Deep breath. Stay close, I'll shield us as best I can. One.”

“Two.”

“Three,” they shouted together, as together the Test Model and the Mass Production Model darted out of the cover, unwieldy section of hull held up by Unit 01, a weak AT-Field glimmering over its surface, synchronised together in their movements. The Migou units that had moved, on the ground, to surround the ruins of the ship, which sagged and twisted, were rather surprised.

And as the plasmathrower lit up the night again, Asuka smiled.

Thank you, dummy.

Thanks for coming for me.




~'/|\'~




The guns on the Unity roared in a manner quite unlike the name of the ship, each one of the six 150mm coilguns operating independently, LAI systems controlling the precise movements of the weapon to the general instructions of the command crew, who were actually ensconced deep within the hull. The cigar-shaped ship, bombardment coilguns forming a spine along the top was surrounded by the exhaust plumes of missiles; both its own, and the Migou ones which railed down from the sky, and its laser defence grid could be seen, shining through the smoke. The lesser weapons merely added to the fire, anti-air weapons ensuring that any overly confident bug who tried to move into range of the battlegroup was soon to be departing the mortal coil. The destroyer itself was elevated from the water, A-Pods lifting its bulk in defiance of gravity, its ventral plasma cannon discharging suns, one every 1.7 seconds, though the efficacy was dubious. At this range, the sheer infowar and volumes of emfog were enough that it was hard to acquire a target, even when they were throwing plasma back at you (in a similarly inaccurate fashion; you were doing the same antignostic techniques to them, naturally).

Deep with the hull of the Unity (actually named after one of the Nazzadi captains who had tried to crash her AW1-era picket ship into the Hive Ship at the start of the second Arcanotech War; the fact that it also meant something in English was a fortunate accident), the shift in pressure from a relatively nearby impact, vast volumes water flash-boiled in an instant could be felt, as the ship shifted slightly in the air. It did not matter; the crew were either in acceleration couches or operations exosuits, and the latter were magnetically clamped to the floor, the operator inside entrusting movement to the LAI, piloting it as opposed to wearing it.

“Target destroyed. New target data provided.”

Oh yes, thought Lieutenant Yukwiny, the missile officer on the Unity. And then there was them.

The four specialists... yes, she was going to call them 'specialists'... had been moved onto the destroyer just before the operation had started. The orders were valid, and were confirmed by NEGN CATO Command, but there was a certain... a certain feel to them, in the way that they were written and the slightly stressed way in which they had been validated, that suggested that they had come from outside the normal chain of command. They certainly won't exactly orthodox.

Neither the orders nor the specialists, come to think of it.

They were clearly divided, too. Three of them were in what looked like heavy Army combat armour, the blue-brown-grey-black of urban combat, of but the helmets looked nothing like the clear faceplated ones used in operations where danger wasn't expected, nor like the skull-like ones which were used in the kind of situation that grade of armour saw use. There was just this single, wide optical sensor that reached across the entire face. And they were just the technical staff; they sat at the commandeered stations as if they belonged there, talking in the flat mechanical voice of the external speakers on their armour, making them almost impossible to tell apart.

The other one, though... the one who actually seemed to be in charge, though she and her superiors had tried and failed to get a formal rank from the... Yukwiny was pretty sure that it was a woman, from the height, but the voice and the build were entirely masked by the even-heavier armour that she wore. And there was something terribly inhuman about the six eyes on her combat armour; about the way that they were the only features on the blank mask that obscured the visage.

And she talked constantly. A babble of coordinate locations and positions, to a nearly impossible precision with the levels of emfog, already high from their own bombardment, let alone the volumes that the Migou were seeding the place with.

The ship rocked more this time. That one must have been close, even with the evasive manoeuvres that the ship was pulling. That was one of the wonderful advantages of the A-Pod, compared to conventional craft; since the thruster was reactionless, there was no need to put it on the outside of the vehicle (though they still were on things like aircraft, where the added manoeuvrability was worth the vulnerability). In this Type-31-S Destroyer, the main A-Pod was instead inside the hull, which could be armoured uniformly. And when shots were getting this close, it was worth it.

“Lieutenant.”

An AR window opened before her...the figure was staring right at her, those eyes...

Yukwiny shivered, and swallowed, unconsciously wetting her lips.

“Yes?”

“Inclination 089, azimuth 032, range 4.93 kilometres. Hostile Migou reconnaissance unit designate “Dragonfly”. Destroy.”

The window vanished, the armoured mask disappearing, and the Nazzadi woman breathed a sigh of relief. She was the missile officer, though... that wasn't actually her role.

It opened again.

“Disregard previous message. Message sent to wrong officer. Apologies,” the figure said, in that flat voice which contained no real hint of apology. “New target: landed Drone Ship, 65°38'44.13” North, 18°05'36.39”. Destroy.”

The figure was gone again. Yukwiny gritted her teeth, and selected the appropriate strike for such a target, confirming with the ranged data from the St. Petersburg that there actually was an appropriately shaped blob (damn those Drone Ships and their radar absorptive surfaces; when hugging the ground like they did when landed, they were very hard to target for a thing that was almost a kilometre long) on the ground there.

The salvo of missiles, an integrated mass of decoys, sensor-drones, anti-armour warheads, and the specialist anti-ship missiles, was vomited forth in a cloud from the ship, arcing up slightly before levelling off, the smart guidance systems aware that, in such an em-heavy environment, especially against the Migou, the best firing solution was one which bought them in low, hugging the ruins of the Dagonite city as best they could, while still retaining enough velocity to minimise acquisition by the Migou defences.

Turning in her acceleration couch, waiting for further orders, either from her proper command structure, or from the Army strangers on her ship, Yukwiny decided two things. Firstly, that she really didn't like the specialists, in their dehumanising armour (which wasn't even needed; why would they chose to wear it over a proper padded comms system? It wasn't like they were going to be boarded.).

And secondly, it had been bad enough when they weren't being briefed on what Nero was doing, there had been what looked to be teenagers in the briefing, and the Army Special Weapons Division, if they were to be believed, had apparently conjured an entire Corps from their arses, in direct contravention of their name. But this... the Dagonite nuclear weapons, the fact that they'd pressed the attack despite that, the fact that the Migou had shown up like this in a massive force, and now the fact that these strangers were getting implausibly good targeting data against the Migou, no less...

This was downright suspicious.

...

And then it got worse.



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2010-02-03 10:15pm
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Chapter 16

CATOcylsm: Cessation




~'/|\'~




Although the motive came from within, the form taken by the cult has appeared to many to be of non-Israelite origin. Babylonia and Assyria, however, seem to be out of the question: malik, “arbiter, decider,” is there an epithet of various gods, and as an appellative means “prince” and not king; further, little evidence for the prevalence of human sacrifice has as yet been found in those lands (A. Jeremias, Das Alte Test. im Lichte d. alten Orients, 2nd ed., p. 454). Among the Canaanite branch, the king-god is more prominent, and apart from the Ammonite variant Milcom, numerous names compounded with Milk- are found on Phoenician inscriptions and among western Semites mentioned in cuneiform literature (H. Zimmern, Keilinschr. u. das Alte Test., 3rd ed. pp. 470 sqq.). It is true that child-sacrifice in connexion with fire prevailed among the Phoenicians, and, according to the Greeks, the deity honoured with these grisly rites was Kronos (identified with the Phoenician El, “God”). On the other hand, the seat of the cult appears to have been at Jerusalem, and the period during which it flourished does not favour any strong Phoenician influence. Again, the form of the word Tophet and Ahaz's association with Damascus might point to an Aramaean origin for the cult; but it would not be safe to support this view by the statements and names in 2 Kings xvii. 31. On the whole, the biblical tradition that the Molech-cult was Canaanite and indigenous (Deut. xii. 29 sqq., xviii. 9 seq.) holds the ground. There was a tendency in time of misfortune to revert to earlier rites (illustrated in some ancient mourning customs), and it may have been some old disused practice revived under the pressure of national distress.

- Encyclopædia Britannica (1911). Rumours that the first printing was halted, and the books pulped, are entirely false; likewise, there was no scandal which was hushed up by the family of the editor-in-chief.



~'/|\'~




The Herald surfaced.

This was not a simple process. For, you see, the assumption had been made that the creature would be perhaps the size of an Evangelion, as per all the previous examples of such entities. Even the longest, Yam, had been only roughly an order of magnitude longer than the Evangelions.

Shinji felt a sudden pulse, one of sheer, unadulterated terror, as the crystalline fracture of an AT-Field emerged from over the horizon to the south. For a sudden timeless moment, he froze, as his brain refused to process the scale of the object. It tore through a mountain as it rose and rose and rose, its unnatural, impossible luminescence shining brightly through the clouds of ash and rock from the volcanoes that its passage had induced, magma spewing out around, like a veil of mist. A plume of dust that swirled and embraced it, climbed past the entity high into the stratosphere, lightning and thunder boomed as static charges gathered in the environment, the blast of debris rushing over the surface of the earth, roiling and boiling and tumbling.

As for the beast itself; how to describe it? It was not altogether akin to the bloated ray-like things which dwell at the bottoms of the deepest abysses of the tumescent oceans, consuming the constant shower of carcasses which rain down upon the depths, where no light is ever seen. Nor was is purely arachnid, many eyes staring forth beyond a hardened carapace covered in hair-like protrusions. It was not the long-dead carcass of a whale, rotting around bleached bones, nor the slime-coated bulk of a gastropod mollusc, shell stripped from it by evolutionary processes, nor was it a thing with the smooth, precise curves which normally came only from design and manufacture, from technological origin. It was none of these things, for it took elements from all, and combined them into an abominable form which became, in the eye of the viewer the original; something which ray and spider and scorpion and rotting whale and slug and even manufactured good all partook of, but did not encompass, it.

And its dimensions were best measured in kilometres. The precise size could not be judged, for the lack of objects to scale it to, combined with the way that it seemed to shift and pulsate as it moved, sometimes close and large, sometimes far away and absolutely massive, meant that no clear reference could be obtained.

With one colossal mass; not quite a tentacle, not quite a wing, not quite a protruding bone, it reached out, the air screaming as air molecules were torn half by the infinitesimal edge of the AT-Field that embraced the appendage. Such finesse was not needed, though, as the shear momentum behind the suddenly-flat plane of ruptured space-time crushed a Swarm Ship like a cardboard box, the D-Engines rupturing before being subsumed by the forced nature of the jagged and decidedly not flat Minskowski space-time that the Guard of Yog-Sothoth bore with it. The impact, brief though it was, gave a slight scale of the beast.

Shinji realised he was screaming only when his lungs emptied of LCL. He took a gulp, and continued, frozen to the spot.

Misato stared up at the autocensored image on the display, multiple angles from E-9s scattered all around the island, mouth open. With a sudden, violent swirl of motion, she turned, and, eyes filled with unconstrained rage, grabbed Agent Tome by the throat, lifting the albino off the floor, as he choked and struggled.

“How the fuck were we supposed to capture that, you bastard!” she screamed at him in Japanese, spittle spraying over his face.

“It... wasn't meant... be that,” he managed in the same language, around the hand clamped around his throat. “Also... no Migou.”

With the violence born of lack of restraint, she threw him to the ground, turning her back even before he had finished tumbling, panting heavily. The man just lay on the floor, clutching at his throat and gasping.

“Right!” the Major yelled. “Someone get CATO Command and tell those Admirals and Field Marshalls I want the Herald nuked until it's deader than... a very dead thing! And if the Migou are going to a-matter my pilots, they've got no damn reason to protest about this. And since I've seen Herald survive atomics before, they'd better use the big stuff.” She paused, coughing, and sucking in much needed air. “Listen to me, you three,” she said to the Evangelion pilots, a little bit of the rage leaving her voice. “You must run away. Listen to me. You must run away. Let the Migou get killed like this. We'll come up with a new plan when we can see what it can do,” she added, her voice unsteady as doubt infiltrated it. “Asuka and Shinji, meet up with Rei at the location we're transmitting. You two are closer to it; get away.”

“But what will that do?” protested Asuka, hyperventilating lungfuls of LCL. “What can we do...”

“Do... not be worried,” stated Rei, her voice somewhat shaky.

That seemed to drag Shinji back. “You... it'll turn out all right?” he asked, desperately. “Are you... have you... are you sure?”

“You misunderstand. Worry is not useful.” She coughed twice, a spluttering of LCL. “We... we should perform our orders to the best of our capabilities, without letting others...”

Schnauze! Halt die Schnauze!” roared Asuka over the communications, before switching back to English. “Just shut up! Not helping!”

“Both of you, do as I say and just run!” ordered the Major, her voice shaking with somewhat omnidirectional anger. “Don't bicker; get away from it! Get back to the resupply point”

The twin figures of the Test Model and the Mass Production model turned, and fled from the monstrosity which had torn its way from the flesh of the Earth, as, behind them, the radiance of the AT-Field and the burning glow of the magma that spewed from the open wound fought for dominance.



~'/|\'~




The column of Faithful survivors made their way through the tunnels beneath the city (although now, perhaps, the term “ruins” was more accurate) of Dagon'uvtu Oraribyrapr, a snaking column largely composed of children in heavy coats, their filtration masks covering their features. Less than one in seven of the individuals in the line were in the armour that they had taken from the military supplies; proper modern gear, not the Cold War II era equipment of the militia. That had been handed down, to the elder children, who now displayed a disparate mismatch of whatever gear could be spared; helmets and webbing over the civilian warm clothing and filtration masks. The very earth was shaking frequently now, even after the terrible set of earthquakes had seemingly stopped. The dust on the floors danced continuously, the air filled with a haze which was disturbingly similar to NEG emfog. The squalling of small children could be heard from all around.

One of these older children, sent back as a runner to the middle of the line, arrived, panting beneath his mask.

Veer'thyne'yrnq-re,” he managed, pronouncing it correctly, “up ahead... the tunnel's collapsed. It's just rocks and stuff.”

Khonatqa muttered curses to herself in Ry'lehan, then glanced to the shorter figures of her half-sisters beside her. Well, from the way that the elder one, a handgun on a sling around her neck that had originally been designed for carbines, was covering up the younger one's ears, she at the very least already knew what they meant.

“We're going to have to go up, use one of the hidden access tunnels to get out,” she said. “Look at the walls,” she pointed at a cluster of Ry'lehan hieroglyphics, “you can read that we're below...” she squinted, “... Cra-gr'k Industrial. It'll just be a short bit across the surface, and we can get back down. Spread the message that everyone has to be sure that all their gear is sealed, that their weapons are ready, and that the small children are under control.”

The runner nodded, and left. The noise level in the tunnels rose, as everyone checked their gear, or looked at the suits of the little ones, checking that the LEDs were still blue-green. If they went red, that meant that there was a breach. They were those colours, because that way it ensured that both human and Deep One alike could read them; yellow would have been unseen to Deep Ones, just as infra-red would have been to humans.

“Yhu, I want you to cover your ears,” Ghuhulia said to her little sister, once she had done her own and checked Yhughui'ne's. “I just want to talk to the Veer'thyne'yrnq-re, and I don't want you to get scared. 'kay? I'm not going to leave you.”

The five-year old nodded, the mask that covered her entire head under the hood sliding around, slightly too large, then she clamped overly large gloves over where her ears would be.

Khonatqa stared down at the CW2 gas-mask staring up at her, and momentarily suppressed a shiver.

“A lot of people are going to die doing this, aren't they?” the little girl said softly, muffled even further by the mask.”

“Maybe,” Khonatqa admitted. “But only if we stumble into the blasphemers.”

“Mummy's already dead, isn't she.” The words were not a question. “Gulifr'kre too, though he's not really that important, as he's not my real daddy.”

A blast shook the ceiling, the lights flickering.

Khonatqa nodded. Almost certainly; it was a mild shame. Raguelle hadn't been that bad a worker, though a little lazy. “And, no, he wasn't important.”

“I dr-dr-dreamed it, and I tried to explain it to her, and she didn't l-listen and I didn't tell h-her it properly because... because I was scared that she'd get worried,” the eight-year old let out in a burble. “She just th-th-thought I was talking about the fact that she wa-wasn't one of the Blooded and was going to die like that rather than like this. B-bu-but we're go-going to die. We're all going to d-die.”

The lights flickered again, the whispering buzzing noise of the panels audible as they flicked on and off repeatedly.

The older woman took in a breath, air rushing over her gills as well as into her lungs, and let it out. “Dreams are just dreams, most of the time. Only the most favoured among the Blooded and Chosen can ever become a sh'gher fr're and receive visions of the future from Cthulhu'ybeq or ]Dagon'ybeq. You're just feeling guilty because...”

Another runner appeared. “Veer'thyne'yrnq-re,” this one, this time a teenage girl, too young for her first pregnancy, said, “we've got the hatch open. We can start getting people up the ladder, the other Veer'thyne looked up, and it seemed to be safe.”

“W-what are you going to do about the sha'tbvq-nyvra,” said Ghuhalia, keeping her face turned away her little sister, who still obediently had her gloves clamped over the side of her filtration hood, stopping the little girl from seeing her tear-filled eyes.

“Get ready to move out, then,” ordered Khonatqa. She paused, as the words of her half-sister filtered through her ears. “Wait, what?”

“They're already h-here...” whispered Ghuhalia. “And there's... s-s-some w-w-worse th-things out there. I've seen them in m-m-my dreams.” She turned up, and locked wet eyes with the half-sister who she had not know about before today. “F-f-fire sweeping over the earth. And s-s-so many bodies.”



~'/|\'~




“You are instructed to obtain a strategic missile launch. It will always be possible to blame it on the Dagonites later. It has been deemed better for you to beg forgiveness over the corpse of a Herald than ask permission.”

“We're going to have to go through GATCN. The President is there.”

There was a pause.

“The President is aware of what is happening, and retains active control?”

“They had to bring her in, after the first Dagonite nuclear weapons. It's not as if you can keep that kind of thing secret.”

“That's a problem.” There was an intake of breath. “If there had not been contact, it would have been possible that a minister or command Triumvirate could have authorised it, in such an emergency. That would have been a trivial exercise”

“Yes.”

The drumming of fingers.

“Permission for a LANCE deployment will be refused.”

“Almost certainly.”

“That is an issue. Although other paths to obtain such a thing exist, it is not desirable that those methods be revealed yet.”

A shrug.

“We can still ask.”

“It is not that. It is merely that... well, she has the potential to be inconvenient. And if there is one thing that this situation does not need, it is... inconvenience.”



~'/|\'~




The soul-blasted remains of the Weny Komdy had been joined by another Loyalist, the look of profound horror on his face locked in by impossibly rapid rigour mortis.

“New target assigned,” stated Kantya-14. “Temporary Loyalist command centre located by other Eidelon Combat Units.”

“They are laying SCU cables for high emfog comms,” continued Kantya-15, in an identical monotone, without a break. “Any high value targets are to prepared for extraction, and the communications systems eliminated.”

“Objectives update understood,” answered Foxtrot-813, ensconced within the stolen Loyalist power armour. “Data squirt received. Route determined.” He paused. “Estimated threat levels noted,” he stated. “This unit will take vanguard position.”

“Agreed, Foxtrot-813,” said Kantya-12. “Note the presence of Loyalist Elites.”

“Presence was noted. Ready to move on command.”

The four Replica Elites, their changing colour of their armour blending into the surroundings, and the stolen power armour left through the breached door to the rest of the Dagonite tunnel network through which they had arrived. There were occasional wet noises, as the Oyanari stood on the corpses, torn apart by hypervelocity railgun slugs, energy weapons, or occasionally just riddled with bullets, that they had created in their arrival.

Somewhere in the ruins of a factory, a almost unnoticeable floor tile cracked, the dust covering it puffing into the air. A second blow served to clear the opening, before the power armour emerged from the hole, like a rather technophilic and militant Venus from the depths of the ocean. Only with more climbing and dust, and less sea-foam and naked babies with wings.

With a tinkling, the lock fell out of the ruined hatch.

Looking around, it could be seen that the battle had raged through here already. The roof was entirely missing, its remnants obscuring the scorched and melted remains of murals painted on the floor. The production line was a charred mess of metal and plastics, fused solid where the plastic had not burned. At one end of the room, superior senses of the Replicas could discern discarded shell casings of AW1-era automatic weapons, and a few of the pre-booster stages of anti-tank missiles; a few of their users scattered around in the area, unmoving. High above, the booms of supersonic air units spoke of their presence in the fire-lit smoke and clouds, as Migou [combat-form/networks], now deprived of their capital-grade support, still pushed back the New Earth Government Navy aircraft.

The two footprints dug deep into the floor, the right size for a forty-metre tall arcanocyberxenobiological war machine, drawing a line between two gaps in the walls, and the fact that one entire half of the building, and everything visible through the hole, was nothing more than flat slagged glass, was also a bit of a clue.

“Clear,” reported 813, as he swiftly moved into cover, lowering the profile of the armour next to what looked like the remains of an arm. “No hostiles visible. There's widespread devastation from unknown high energy discharge... plasma, probably. It appears too widespread for a charge beam, and the distribution is wrong for a laser.”

In pairs, the Elite followed him, dispersing behind the remnants of the infrastructure, their armour fading to a dusty splotchy grey, overlain with amorphous shapes which merely broke their image up further. All five of the Eidelon Units threw repeated glances at the slagged mess, and the footprints. The glass, digging down into the hellish landscape, was still radiating heat. It was fortunate that the tunnels they had used had not passed under that mess; they would have been fused solid.

“Potential threat or hazard to the mission?” asked Kantya-15 over the network, the Replicas in close enough proximity to punch through the emfog. “Negative. Projected probability is that damage was inflicted by prototype Evangelion Titan-class capital unit.”

“Affirmed,” added Kantya-14. “Projection matches personal estimates.”

“Dissenting opinion,” retorted, insofar as such a term can be applied to a monotone, Kantya-12. “It was the Mass Production model, not the Prototype.”

“I did not say that it was the Prototype,” said Kantya-15. “I did not specify which unit it was. I agree with your projection on the Unit ID, however.”

“Yes, you did,” responded Kantya-12.

“No, I did not. I stated that the Evangelion Units are prototypes.”

The earth shook, as the clouds above lit up briefly in a white light, only to die off again.

“The Mass Production Model is not. Hence the name. Technically, neither is the Test Model. The majority are not prototypes.”

“But they are still prototypes, compared to the Engel units, which have been implemented in much greater numbers and use the same fundamental technology as the base.”

“Both of you, shut up,” stated Kantya-13, in a way which would have been described as flat, had the Replica possessed a more expanded emotional repertoire. “Your behaviour is inefficient, abnormal, and not necessary for the mission. Desist.”

“I await further instructions,” said Foxtrot-813, who had been listening to the conversation with hints of confusion. This kind of internal debate was unusual among the normal Eidelon Combat Units. The fact that he had not been able to contact Command since the initial blast just made things more problematic; it meant that he was unable to receive or request the necessary support that the tightly organised powered armour units normally received. It was probably a consequence of the additional independence that a commando unit would require, although they seemed to have no problem receiving messages. “What formation should we use to advance?”

“Satru-4,” stated Kantya-15, as the six-eyed helmet poked above the entrance. “Ghost...” the Replica Elite stiffened and fell silent. “It comes.”

“It wakes,” agreed Kantya-13. “It can be felt.”

“Emergency protocol override, orders changed,” chorused all four Elites, in unison. “Regrouping at Point Alpha-Zulu-02. Preparing for evac. Switching to pseudo-independent mode.”

“Understood,” replied Foxtrot-813. “Eidelon Combat Unit ready to follow orders. New destination set.”

And the sky to the south lit up.



~'/|\'~




As one, the Migou fleet disengaged from the New Earth Government forces, discharging all their decoys and emptying their reservoirs of emfog as they did it. The vast clouds of micro-and-nanoparticles that bloomed around them hung like liquid in the air, more akin to a veil than to a cloud. The vortices and flows of the movement of the atmosphere, thrown and tossed by the passage of the vast ships and their lesser craft, and by the thermals from the war below, were made visible for all to see. It would not aid them against this foe, and they could but hope that the uplifted apes of Species ᵺᶙӎӎшѧ would have the self-preservation to permit them to engage the real foe without distraction or sapping vital troops. Even the [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft] in the process of landing troops began to shift in form, closing the spread-out ribcage on the underside of the massive ships which shielded their forces as they deployed

The <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> was already concerned. They had taken excessive casualties even before they had landed, and there were certainly {HAZARDS} active on the island. Certainly {HAZARDS}; potentially {THREATS}, albeit lesser ones than the the {SLEEPER IN FIRE}. Some reports were even coming in that they seemed to be equipped as scaled up versions of the converted {LESSER SERVITORS} that Species ᵺᶙӎӎшѧ was known to use.

If that were true, the <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> would be putting a motion for planetary sterilisation, and damn the consequences. The proliferation of {THREATS} was far beyond anything that could be permitted, even if it would wake other such foes. Attempting to harness the engine of their own destruction...only Species ᵺᶙӎӎшѧ could be so foolish.

Well, Species ᵺᶙӎӎшѧ and the Tsab.. And Species ǻdzǣǖȝ, though reports coming in from the far end of the spiral arm indicated that they were on the verge of being wiped out, contained after their contamination by a mere {HAZARD} resident on one of the planets in their system had enabled them to break a too-weak Exclusion Volume. And the... well, there were far too many suicidal young species that would bring entire star clusters down with them, if the Migou had not been there to ensure that the local area of space was one compatible with their own continued existence.

The <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> dismissed these thoughts with a slight buzz of the wings of the primary [body-form/individual] ensconced within the bridge of the [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Local Supremacy Craft], deep within its hull, and turned its collected attention to the [body-form/individual] integrated with the ships systems.

The reports were indeed dire, when the upcoming threat of the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} was taken into account. The casualties in such a hot-drop, against local capital-grade defences, were always going to be horrific, as the reduced detection signature necessary for any modern military unit to survive on the battlefield was completely incompatible with atmospheric re-entry at this kind of velocity. Especially when the [New Earth Government] appeared, from their best estimates, to have suspected that they were coming, and emplaced a specialist anti-capital charge beam at the centre of the island, which remained operational, despite their best efforts. Yes, they could certainly eliminate all the remaining [New Earth Government] and [Esoteric Order of Dagon] forces on the island; but that was not why they were there. They were there to contain the {THREAT} which had just surfaced, and the <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> was certain that they would take horrendous casualties

<Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves>: Of the initial [(one-36)] [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Local Supremacy Craft] (non-standard);

[(five)] have been [destroyed/eliminated] by unidentified (presumed [NEG]) relativistic particle beam fire from an unidentified capital grade unit.

[(two)] have been [destroyed/eliminated] by known [NEG] local fleet actions.

[(one)] has been [destroyed/eliminated] by unknown causes.

[(one)] has been [destroyed/eliminated] by the actions of the {SLEEPER IN FIRE}.

[(seven)] have been [damaged/rendered] such that they are incapable of full [action/deed] for this operation by unidentified (presumed [NEG]) relativistic particle beam fire from an unidentified capital grade unit, although will be able to [conduct/perform] support duties.

[(five)] have been [damaged/rendered] such that they are incapable of full [action/deed] for this operation by known [NEG] local fleet actions, although will be able to [conduct/perform] support duties.

[(six)] have suffered [minor/limited] damage, and are capable of fulfilling the mission objectives.

[(nine)] remain intact and fully combat-ready.

<Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves>: Of the initial [(one-36) and (nine)] [Terrestrial Planet Combat] [Deployment Craft] (non-standard);

[(six)] have been [destroyed/eliminated] by unidentified (presumed [NEG]) relativistic particle beam fire from an unidentified capital grade unit.

[(six)] have been [destroyed/eliminated] by known [NEG] local fleet actions.

[(one)] has been [destroyed/eliminated] by unknown causes while [landed/unloading].

[(two)] have landed, and suffered such [damage/injury] that they are incapable of sustained flight until [repairs/replacements] are made, but have or are deploying troops in full.

[(eight)] have been [damaged/rendered] such that they are incapable of full [action/deed] for this operation by unidentified (presumed [NEG]) relativistic particle beam fire from an unidentified capital grade unit, although will be able to [conduct/perform] support duties.

[(seven)] have been [damaged/rendered] such that they are incapable of full [action/deed] for this operation by known [NEG] local fleet actions, although will be able to [conduct/perform] support duties.

[(eleven)] have suffered [minor/limited] damage, and are capable of fulfilling the mission objectives.

[(four)] remain intact and fully combat-ready.

<Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves>: Of the initial [(two)] [General Out-System] [Local Supremacy Craft];

[(two)] remain intact and fully combat-ready.

The <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> made a buzz of irritation, at the reminder of how they had suffered in the approach. That relativistic particle beam fire had broken up their line of approach, directed at the ones that had been ordered to land close to the target zones, even before they had broken from the main formation. Even before they should have known such a thing. It was... concerning. It was known that Species ᵺᶙӎӎшѧ possessed the ability to manifest precognitive powers; of course they would. But they were normally rare in such a species at this level of development and sapience, and there had been a non-negligible rise, over the previous [(two-36th)] of a Yuggothian cycle. It was not the rise that was the alarming thing; such species often did unstable things akin to this, as they experimented with themselves and with the arcane. Indeed, Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ was somewhat unusually reluctant to engage in [body-form/self] modifications; most dangerous young species normally radically altered themselves, especially if they were {TAINTED} or {CONTAMINATED}. No, it was the ratio of certain extranormal abilities which had left the wise among the sorcerer-scientists, like the <Handler of Xenobiological Organisms> (who spoke on this manner across the networks on every opportunity, incessantly and at great length) disturbed.

The increasing use of such phenomena on the battlefield was merely another manifestation of the malaise that afflicted this planet. The <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves> would be glad when Three was properly Contained, and they could move away from this place, back to the outer system and the Oort Cloud, rather than be forced to spend time in a dense atmospheric, high gravity environment like this. It expressed a great dislike of such places; even Three-Orbital-First and Four were unpleasant in a combat body-form, as opposed to an acceleration body-form of the type used for long-distance travel or a micro-gravity body-form like those used all throughout the Oort Cloud.

The [body-form/individual] buzzed its wings, settling its mind. It was getting distracted, its mind already repelled by the thought of the {THREAT} and the fact that it, most likely, faced [self-form/death] against such a thing as this. It did not matter. It was quite willing to face cessation if it could have the consolation that it had fulfilled its role and sent the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} back to the [dreaming/death] from where it had came.

It felt a twinge in the [body-form/individual] that was plugged directly into the communications network, aiding the synchronisation of the fleet, that indicated an external contact authorised by the [Void Forces]. It acknowledged the message, from one of the two [General Out-System] [Local Supremacy Craft] that still hung, fusion drives burning, high above this planet, barely in the atmosphere.

<Commodore of Orbital Supremacy>: This [combat-form/individual] wishes to pass [information/warning] to the Deployed Strategic Reserves.

<Adjunct D. S. R>: This [body-form/individual] acknowledges the [request/message], and [authorises/grants] the <Commodore of Orbital Supremacy> access to communications.

<Commodore O. S.>: This [combat-form/individual] thanks the <Adjunct of Deployed Strategic Reserves>.

The <Commodore of Orbital Supremacy>, its body (like that of its crew) so rebuilt for the high accelerations that a warship must handle, that they were incompatible of forming a [self-form/network] network with the most common phenotype among the local Migou, vibrated. Eyes, which to Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ would have been glowing an odd reddish-green, but to the Migou had a very strong ultraviolet component, stared forth from the outside of the armoured shell in which its nervous system, held in place, existed. It didn't really matter. It wasn't really attached to this shell except in a metaphysical sense; it was a distributed intellect in the warship, able to survive accelerations that would have left its base form a thinly smeared mess against the wall, let alone what Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ or the loyal examples of Species ᵺᶙӎшѧ-[α] could have tolerated. Its senses were the ship's senses. Its body was the ship's body.

And so it opened a channel to the rest of the fleet with nothing more than a thought, because the ship's communications organs were its communications organs

<Commodore O. S.>: This [combat-form/individual] wishes to inform the [surviving/remaining] [self-form/individuals] of the Deployed Strategic Reserves that [containment/sterilisation] of the {THREAT} of the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} is about to [commence/begin]. All [self-form/individuals] should have at least one [body-form/individual] outside the projected blast radius. [Sterilisation/containment] begins in [(three-36) and (twelve)] lesser time units.

And with that said, it cut the link. Oh, the Deployed Strategic Reserves had been inept in a way that had imperilled that all! The <Commodore of Orbital Supremacy> was terrified by what it was going to do, for it bore the risk of waking more of the {THREATS}. But if it need be done, it was best that it be done quickly, for who knew what the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} would do with wakefulness?



~'/|\'~




There was a crunch, loud in the deathly silence which had just fallen, as the President slammed the PCPU she had just been handed down against the table. A tiny amount of fluid oozed out from the broken device, the synthetic odour immediately bonded to by the nanoscrubbers that filled the air.

“Would anyone care to tell me what the hell is going on in Iceland!” she yelled at the ceiling.

“Certainly, Madam President,” began one of the Field Marshalls, an haggard woman with a full head of snow-white hair said. The youthful brightness of her eyes all but stated that they were not her first pair, but were instead a vat-grown replacement. “If you will but...”

“Please, don't patronise me, Fazil,” snapped President Nyanda. “I was informed of the very existence of this massive military deployment all of... oh,” she said, putting a finger to her mouth to match her expression of mock puzzlement, “yesterday, and then only because you lot couldn't keep the fact that the fish-fucke... men had used nuclear weapons from the Cabinet. Now the damn Migou have dropped from orbit pulling accelerations which, if I recall my school days,” she said, exaggerating her youth compared to the average age of the room, “should be leaving them as red jam...”

“Ma'am, Migou ichor isn't actually red...”

“...shut up. Where was I? Oh yes. The Migou have dropped from orbit with the largest single deployment ever in a way that intelligence reports assure me means they must be desperate. They are making use of antimatter weapons in a tactical capacity. They have bought two of their six warships into the atmosphere. I'm surprised they haven't just crashing the damn Hive Ship into Iceland the way they're acting.” She pointed down at the wrecked PCPU on the table, panting in a rather deliberate way. “And now you tell me that a massive ship-sized ENE with some kind of sorcerous shield has appeared, and you want to deploy the strategic nuclear arsenal!” The last words were almost shrieked.

The government officials and military leaders around the table glanced at each other. They were actually physically here; there was no way that the bandwidth for AR-projecting would be allowed in and out of this bunker, which had (unbeknownst to almost everyone around the table) defences both mundane and sorcerous which were almost as good as those in a Vault. It was an understandable reaction from the President, although a little heavy in sarcasm. It was, unfortunately, at the moment rather unhelpful, when launch authority was needed

“Yes, Madam President,” said the Minster of War, Genevieve Aristide, finally. “I am requesting permission for the strategic arsenal to be deployed on behalf of the CATO ground forces, against the ENE. We do not intend to target the Migou, and they seem as keen to kill it as we are, so they should not retaliate... at least according to the xenopsych experts. And, actually, we don't want to just use the fusion weapons. If you hadn't... if you check further down on the list,” she said, trying to ignore the damage to the PCPU, given the way that the President's hand was twitching, “the Mixcoatl warheads were to be the 'decoy'.” She paused, trying not to push Helen Nyanda too far, before she said the next thing.

Unfortunately, the President glared at her, as if she were reading her mind. For a pretty face, who, it was widely agreed, had got the position after only after her predecessor had been embroiled in a nasty funding scandal, and the assassination of her husband (whose first name she now used as a surname) earned her sympathy, she was too sharp by far. “You want to use one of the LANCE systems?” she snapped, still panting. “Are you insane?”

“No.” Geniveve Aristide paused, tucking an errant hair back behind her ear. “By our estimates, we need to use something of that potential yield to be sure that we take down something like...”

“The LANCEs are vital for GODSPEAR,” interrupted the dark-skinned woman. “And I don't want to waste the best shot we have at killing that Hive Ship, once and for all, by letting the Migou find out about GODSPEAR because you, Genevieve, authorised a secret military operation without any reference to the Cabinet or me! Damn it, you're near the line! You may even be on the far side of it!”

The rest of the room stared at the two woman; the President and the Minister of War (one enraged, the other keeping her expression mask-like) locked together. There was a cough from the end of the table. A male Nazzadi, a single, asymmetric curving tattoo on his left cheek a contrast to the hints of white starting to creep into his hair, just at the roots, glanced over at the President.

“Madam President,” he said, not a trace of a Nazzadi accent in his flawless Reformed accent, “I have just received information which I believe that you would wish to hear, before you make your decision.”

The President blinked first, and sat down. “Certainly, Representative,” she said, unconsciously smoothing out her jacket, and favouring him with a faint, albeit slightly fixed, smile.

The Representative from the Ashcroft Foundation for North America (and, technically speaking, the first among equals of the continental Representatives, as the individual responsible for the capital of the New Earth Government) nodded. “I will be brief, as this is an emergency. I have just received information that the true aim of CATO was accomplished.” He raised his hands at the uproar. “Please,” he said, turning up the volume on his microphone to drown out the noise.

“Shut up, everyone” ordered the President, glaring at the Representative as she did so. The room fell silent; there was something disturbingly teacher-like about that tone. “What do you mean?”

“Yes. CATO was never about the reconquest of Iceland, not really. The GIA had received information that there was a high-value target, attempting some kind of summoning ritual, on the island. The rest of CATO was a distraction, to permit a team consisting of the Foundation's three capital-grade Evangelion Titan-class ACXB mecha to spearhead an assault, with the primary goal being the elimination of the target, and the prevention of the ritual. By precedent, they have had noted successes in such roles, including the destruction of the ENE which nearly breached the naval defences near Chicago-2 on the 13th last month.”

“You failed then, Jara!” interrupted Field Marshal Fazil. “Look at the ENE here!”

The Nazzadi nodded. “Sadly, we were unable to get there before the target could complete the ritual. However, the primary target was successfully killed. Madam President, Dagon is dead.”

“Dagon... you mean?” whispered the President.

“Yes,” he nodded. “Dagon, as in, 'Esoteric Order of' was successfully eliminated.”

A deathly hush fell over the room. Slowly, the cheers started, only to die out as they remembered the fact that there was a massive extra-normal entity rampaging through the area.

The Representative bowed. “That is all.”

There was a pause.

“We estimate that only one LANCE would be required to take down the target,” interjected a young-looking, bald male amlati in the uniform of a GIA analyst, trying to keep the original conversation running despite the interruption. “That would still leave us with ei...”

“No,” said Helen Nyanda, flatly, clamping down on the bubbly glee that she could feel at the news. “I am not going to endanger GODSPEAR, when it could rid us of the Hive Ship, even with this good news. That is it. No discussion. I am prepared to unlock the strategic nuclear arsenal, but I expressly refuse to unlock the orbital systems.” She raised one hand, underskin command implants already shining through her skin. “Are you aware of how long it took us to get those things into orbit?” she asked rhetorically, as she immersed her hand in the blue-gloop of the suitcase-like device an aide had placed in front of her. “Limited Release; authorised by New Earth Government President Helen Nyanda. Unlock Strategic Arsenal, up to Tonatiuh-category weapons,” she said calmly, ignoring the squirming feelings on top of, and underneath the skin, running all the way up her arm and throughout her body, as the systems they'd installed in her even before she had been inaugurated confirmed the lack of Blank-modifications or uncharacteristic mental influences. “Six hour Release.”

There was a nod from the aide beside her.

The authorisation was valid.



~'/|\'~




Unit 01 and 02 raced, side-by-side, eating up the distance almost as quickly as they tore up the surfaces below them, as directly behind them the bulk of the Herald cast its unnatural radiance over the land, the intensity akin to that of a false moon.

“I must run away,” muttered Shinji. “I must run away.”

“I think it might be... it's following us,” groaned Asuka, as she managed to squeeze a little more velocity out of the towering behemoth which now seemed very small. “This is just ridiculous! Run away faster! Although,” she added, a faint smirk on her lips which was betrayed by the worry in her voice, “at least it's bright enough to know what the real threats are.”

And, indeed, the bulk of Moloch, twisted appendages writhing and twisting so that they sometimes passed through each other in a way which was oddly repetitive despite its initially random appearance was coming closer. The burning suns of the Migou plasma cannons seemed to be doing nothing; the smears of ionised gas dispersing upon contact with the fractured light of the AT-Field.

“I'd prefer if it were more stupid in that case,” retorted Shinji, matching pace with her, and overtaking again, as Unit 01 was no longer weighed down by the main weapon. “Mot took damage from less firepower than that. And we don't have a spare arcology power grid!

“Less banter, more running,” commanded Asuka. “Misato! Misato! Can you hear us? Shinji! How far away is it?”

There was no response from command; not even a crackle. What did occur was a series of blasts against the AT-Field, as tactical antimatter-warheads began to burst against the side and top of the monstrosity, the fireballs lopsided as the violated space-time refused the annihilation passage.

“Uh...” the boy paused, looking at the wall of the entry plug. “Um. It's... I don't know! It's jumping around! The system is all confused! Anywhere from 1600 metres to 120 km!”

“Brilliant,” Asuka snarled. “Is it actually teleporting, or is it just screwing with your sensors?”

“How would I know?” he responded. “How could I tell the difference? It... it... argh!” he gasped, as Migou fightercraft opened up, the laser cannons cutting down with the snap of superheated air. The Evangelion stumbled, more from the shock than from any damage, before picking up the pace again. The laser defence grid lashed out, incepting the accompanying wave of missiles; it was fortunate that they seemed to be using all their larger munitions against the Herald.

“Ignore them, Shinji,” said Asuka. “Just keep runni... Scheiße!” The laser pulse which had prompted the exclamation, the mid-ultraviolet electromagnetic radiation scoring down her left arm before she could manifest just enough of an AT the tarmac had been cold under her feet, the shoes really not suitable for this. They had walked past row after row of abandoned car, almost all old petchems, and her mother had told her to be careful Field to get her out of the way. “Drone!”

The two Evangelions scattered. “Yeah! I know!” said Shinji, as he threw himself back, right arm of the Evangelion clutched over the damage from that charge beam, head angled as so to maximise what the one functional eye of the Evangelion could see. “Kill it!”

“It's out of range!” snapped Asuka. “Just distract it!”

“Distract it!” he retorted, the head-mounted lasers now back under manual control, but not even scratching the surface of the capital ship. “How am I meant to do that?”

“Keep firing uselessly at it,” she shouted back, breaking into a sprint that quickly turned into a dive to the side, when the laser cut a path back towards her. “Do it more!”

“They're not idiots,” he yelled, as warning signals bloomed across the projection, tracking the hostile projectiles as best they could, “... and missiles! The ships just launched a swarm! They can see that you have the big gun!”

“Damn it! Where is Rei?” snapped the girl. “Just run. We can see if we can get it in denser terrain.”

“Denser terrain? Denser terrain? We're in forty-metre giant robots! About the only dense terrain we can get is a high-rise city...”

“You know what I meant!”

“... and even then, the stuff that can hurt us just shoots straight through buildings and an entire Swarm Ship to get you!” The boy took a deep breath. “It ripped through like it was tissue paper,” he added in a softer voice, unconsciously raising a hand from his controls to rest it over his chest. Yes, the vat-cultured flash had repaired the damage that the sympathetic feedback from the hole that Mot had torn in his... in the Evangelion's body (he had merely suffered burns). But that didn't mean that it hadn't hurt, or that he couldn't remember that horrifying spike of agony that had coruscated through his mind in the tiny fraction of a second (according to Dr Akagi) that it had taken the neurons in his brain to fire and the corresponding breakdown in synchronisation to minimise the damage.

Actually, now that he though about it... that was really odd. How could he have felt it, if there hadn't been time for his brain to react? He could ask Ritsuko for more details, but, Shinji was fairly sure, even if he didn't merely get exposed to either brusque preoccupation or somewhat patronising condescension, any explanation that he did get would firstly not make much sense unless you had some kind of high level degree in arcane sciences (probably multiple ones), and secondly overuse the prefixes 'arcano-' and 'anima-'. And probably various terms in German, too. Why was it that no-one had the decency to overthrow the supremacy of the Germanic languages in the field of obfuscatory scientific jargon, anyway? He was sure that he'd do a lot better at understanding them if they used Japanese, like he was sure, deep down, that they were meant to.

Of course, there were probably times to discuss the nature of languages, and how they evolved, shifted, and, as both a carrier of memes and a memeplex in their own right, vied for supremacy. When crouched down in as low a profile as possible, in a fissure opened by the surfacing of some ancient alien thing, to avoid a spaceship crewed by a different kind of alien shooting you with a giant laser was not one of those times, and served only to distract one from more important tasks.

Sometimes Shinji hated his own mind. And it returned the favour, and suggested a few new ways that he could die in the next few minutes. With pictures.



~'/|\'~




“Can you get through to them!” asked Misato, her knuckles white as she grasped the railing in front of her. On the map of Iceland, the entire area around the Herald was shockingly low resolution, the entire area surrounded in a bright-red dome cascading warnings and odd image corruptions, though the fires and the clouds, meshing and shredding each other with each new blastwave, could be picked out. The marker for Unit 00 was the only one visible; the other two Evangelions were somewhere in that hell.

Lieutenant Aoba, looking decidedly queasy, shook his head. “No,” he called back. “We're not even getting sigcors.” He paused. “It could mean that either their comms are down, that they're not even getting them, or...”

“... or 01 and 02 have been destroyed,” said Captain Martello, flatly. “Each of those shots from the warships are in the seventy to eighty megaton range, and there's no way that the Eva could take being at ground zero of that. If they were too close to them...”

The [VOICE ONLY] connection back to London-2 symbol turned green on the mainscreen. “That's not true,” interjected Ritsuko, the multi-second latency slowing down any attempts to communicate. “An AT-Field could theoretically withstand it... no, let's rephrase it. An Eva's AT-Field could theoretically withstand it, given a high enough synch-ratio and... well, luck. We can actually see that a Herald's one can,” she added morosely. “Our own strategic weapons aren't going to do a thing, if the Migou can't kill it.” There was a pause. “Unit 00 is far too damaged to be able to face that thing,” she said, slowly. “You have to pull it out, Misato; we can't lose all three Evas.”

“Ritsuko, have you got a look at the interface yet?” the Major asked, coldly. “It's not going to matter if someone doesn't kill it. Even if the Herald doesn't kill us all, look what the Migou are doing. They're chucking megatonnes around like water, and they've never done that before. They want Moloch dead ” She smiled grimly. “They may be a bunch of alien bug bastards, but they have a certain sense of style, I can grant them that. It's what I'd do if I had orbital weapons.”

“Yes, yes you would,” remarked Ritsuko, a dry note in her voice. “I think it's for the best that you weren't serving in CW2. But that's why Unit 00, in the state that it's in, shouldn't move in. After all, if it's destroyed, and the Migou kill the Herald, we'll have no defences against any later ones.”

The static portrait of Rei joined Ritsuko's on the screen, the profile of Unit 00 beside her picture covered in red warning lights. “I remain functional,” the girl said, her voice weak. There were several deep breaths of LCL, an odd gurgling noise that echoed oddly around the control room. “I... will fulfil my assigned role. I... will... fulfil my purpose. I... I... I am I.”

“Unit 00 is moving towards the interface boundary,” reported one of the forwards technicians. “Major... she's... it's barely holding together. We've got complete ablative epidermis failure, multiple hardplate ruptures which have breached the organism itself...”

“I can see that,” the black-haired woman replied, jaw locked. “But... Ritsuko, have you seen that interface around the area? Look at it. It's like POLLEN. It's forming a ASZ.”

There was the pause, as words made their way to L2 and back again.

“I know!” Ritsuko almost shrieked. “But you know what, Misato? We can't do anything about it! The Evas can't operate in that kind of environment; not with the Migou doing that! Pull back Rei, and we can get a salvage team to stop the Eva falling apart or dying under her, while the Migou try to kill the... it! But now, right now? We can't do anything about a ASZ, or the Herald, or the Migou. About all we can do is stomp on the fucking fishmen in their stupid CW2 gear! You understand? They're too damaged!

The Major paused, tendons straining on the back of her hands and in her neck. “You! Tome!” she commanded. “Do you have anything at all on Moloch? Any secret weaknesses you OSS bastards have forgotten to mention, or any hidden superweapons?”

The albino glared back, from the seat which he was slumped into, PCPU open on his lap. “No!” he snapped back, in a hoarse voice, hand still clutched protectively over the finger-print bruises on his throat. “It... Moloch wasn't meant to be like this. There was one thing we could have used, but it need the Solomon Throne intact. And the known details, on the... on the Herald; we woke it up too fast, as you ordered, rather than in a controlled fashion as we had planned. It was meant to be smaller than an Eva, and barely aware!”

The woman sighed. “Oh.” She made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat. “Rei, you are to hold where you are, and wait for us to pull up some repair craft. You can't help the other two now, and we can't risk losing you too.”

There was no response from Unit 00.

“Pilot Ayanami!” ordered the Major. “Respond! Acknowledge the orders!”

“I... I have other instructions which overwrite those... those orders,” Rei responded, eventually. “I h-have been instructed by Representative Ikari to ensure...” she gasped in pain, “....that the integrity of Unit 01 is maintained. It is *crssssshhh*” Unit 00's location marker entered the flagged area on the map, and vanished, just as the communications ceased.

“Shut it down! Stop her going any further!”

“Won't work, Major,” said Makota, shaking his head. “The Evangelion's in autistic mode, even if we could contact it. It's specifically set up to prevent Migou-induced forced shutdown.”

Misato's grasp on the railing went slack, and her shoulders slumped. She could feel the pain coursing through her palms, banded bruises from where she had been squeezing too hard, but it was nothing compared to the mental anguish.

No. No. No. It's all going wrong. All three of the Evas are in one of those places. We can't contact them. We don't even know if Shinji and Asuka are still alive. It's happening again; I'm going to lose them too. And it's my fault again. I can't take this again. Not after China, and NKL, and before. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2010-02-03 10:16pm
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~'/|\'~




The other two Evangelions spun to hear the roaring, tearing noise that the cockpit systems rendered the charge-beam shot as. It reached out, green aftertrail tracing out a path to Moloch.

Unit 00... was not in a good state. That much was certain. And considering the level of damage that it had sustained before it had been left on its own, surrounded by hostile forces that were specifically targeting it, while low on coolant for its primary weapon, that was saying something. It was barely recognisable as an Evangelion. The first layer of hardplates were, in the patches where they had not already been punched through, slagged and melted, direct hits from the ventral plasma weapons slagging even the heat resistant ceramics. The second layer and the third were in similar states; in some points, the naked flesh and machinery of the Evangelion was exposed. The head had almost been clean torn off; it lolled to the side, a charge beam shot having glanced the side. A gaping wound in the abdomen of the Unit looked like it had been dangerously close to the entry plug, clean into the sternum. The right arm looked like it was being held together purely by the blackish crystals that could be seen within the flesh, knitting it together. Almost nothing could be seen of it original colouration; it was the grey of metal, the blackish brown of slagged heat shielding, and, everywhere, coating it like poorly applied paint, the reddish-purple of the ichor of the Evangelion, oozing down the body to pool in the footprints that the monstrosity left as it walked.

Frankly, the fact that the charge beam remained operational spoke that Rei had chosen to shield it with her own body, rather than permit it to be damaged in the same way that Unit 01's weapon had been.

“Rei!” shouted Shinji. “Are you all right?”

“I... remain myself,” said Rei, weakly, hyperventilating lungfuls of LCL. “I... remain functional.” There was the sound of her swallowing. “Hit. Cooling cycle in process. The supercooled gas hurts,” she said, a shiver running through her voice. The other two Children could see the frozen patches of the ichor of the Evangelion, which cracked and fell to the floor as she limped closer to them. “Additional damage sustained to Unit 00's right arm due to recoil.” She paused. “I... am sorry. I am distracted. Hit. Shot was blocked by an AT-Field. No damage to target Moloch inflicted. I apologise for my...”

The pause was fully justified, as time seemed to slow to a crawl. On the ground before the Evangelions, the shadows of the titans were suddenly as black as pitch, solid, dark and all consuming, compared to the brilliance that filled the rest of the view. The screens on the entry plugs began to cascade with warnings, even as the walls dimmed, clamping down near instantly on the excessive brightness and normalising the image. Shinji felt an ice-hot knife stab into his right eye, and Unit 01 fell, its mass slamming into the ground (again). Something cracked, the snapping of a giant's ribcage. Unit 02 fared better, Asuka reflexively dropping down at the bright light, as training told her to minimise her profile as best she could. After all, she'd already had her fair share of Migou heavy weapons thrown at her today, and as the glimmering diamond mesh of the AT-Field together, they had trudged along the side of the road, she holding onto her mother's hand. Her daddy had already been called up, to help fight off the invaders. She had squeezed tight, because, when she looked back, she could see the mass of the landing ships hanging above the city. And a light had flared, and the city had died, because the humans had decided that the invaders could not be allowed to keep that which they had taken. enveloped her, forming a radiant wall that hopefully would cover Unit 01 too, she looked back.

If the ventral plasma weapons of the Migou Swarm Ships had been nascent stars in the night, living briefly only to extinguish themselves, then what now blossomed over the horizon was a newborn sun, the vast fireball enveloping Moloch in its entirety, consuming the Herald and blotting out even the light of its AT-Field. And visible through the darkened projection against the wall of the entry plug, even as sirens screamed their warning of dangerous levels of gamma radiation as the ionising radiation punched through the opaque atmosphere, was the oncoming blast wave. It tore apart the sparse vegetation that grew up in the interior of Iceland, instantly carbonised vegetation disintegrating like dust in the wind. The eponymous ice subliminated into plasma, only adding to the wave. It tore off layers of rock, the boulder-sized shrapnel and excreta tossed around like dice in a giant game of the gods. The spares clouds were torn asunder, whipped away like sea mist on a warm day by the newborn sun.

And the fireball rose and rose, and expanded and expanded, and from this cosmic bulb a fungous spire blossomed.

Asuka stared at the inferno that had enveloped Moloch. “That wasn't us,” she whispered, softly, awed by the immensity of the sight. “The gamma spike... that's the Migou.”

Well, at least the bugs were doing something useful, she thought, as the spire of dust and ash rose from the now-fading sun, thinning slightly to reveal the glittering within.

Wait.

...

...

Oh no.


That was, of course, when the second Migou warship opened up, and the dying sun produced by the first impact of the relativistic antihydrogen-cored projectile was joined by a new one. And another. And another.

As fireballs which measured in the kilometres bloomed against the Herald, Moloch immersed in fire, Asuka was aware of just how small the Evangelions were. Of how small she was. Over the radio, she heard Shinji start swearing, in a mixture of Japanese, English, and Nazzadi, but she remained silent. There was something almost religious about this moment, as she pulled herself up, braced against the hellish winds that threatened to sweep her off her feet.

No, forget that. There was something truly religious about this.



~'/|\'~




The diminished column of Faithful refugees made their way through the ruins of what had once been their home, before so many monstrous beings had filled the seas and the skies and the land. They were almost being ignored, it seemed; the war passing around them, as Migou and NEG aircraft fought in the skies above, and tanks, mecha and power armour clashed in the streets, firing straight through thin walls to hit targets on the other sides of buildings. No-one seemed to care enough about a cluster of infantry to target them with airstrikes, and although it had been stressful, they had managed to get to cover each time there had been land forces passing. There had been casualties, inevitably, but the strategic positioning of the slowest and weakest had minimised the losses of the useful ones.

And now they were huddled down in the ruins of a school, as the sky to the south was lit by unnaturally bright lights. They could feel the earth shake, both the pulses from the aftershocks of the massive earthquakes, and an almost regular pounding, thuds with a not-dissimilar frequency to the dust filled winds that blew up towards them, that set the Geiger counters screaming. And in the lights, they could see that the entire sky in that direction was filled with massive clouds, vast spires reaching up, intermingling and twisting, like battling sky-giants.

It felt like the world was ending.

The dust from the ruins and the winds and from the emfog that both sides had been using in such vast quantities, would have been choking if Khonatqa had not been wearing the breathing apparatus, especially since she had obtained the superior, modern-military level gear, rather than the CW2-era stuff, which hadn't been designed for this kind of thing. The people who had built the first models (and they had actually constructed it from hand, in virtuous labour; the reason for the use of such old gear was that it did not require precious nanofactory time to manufacture) had never expected for nanoweapons to see battlefield use. It had been before the First Arcanotech War, after all, that strange prototype for the later arcane wars, where all those theoretical designs that the Second Cold War powers had been stockpiling for use against each other saw use against an alien species that had turned out to not be so alien after all. And so, thanks to the inferior protective capacity of the older designs against such volumes, filtration systems and namzappers were giving out, overwhelmed by the volumes that flowed and billowed around them, a hint of silver in the concrete and brick dust. Many of the smaller children were already suffering from emfog inhalation, as well as from nastier agents that were mixed in among the nebulous clouds.

“C-c-come on, Yhu,” muttered Ghuhalia, keeping her voice lowered, as they crouched in the remnants of a school building, the bright colours barely visible under the bullet holes. “Just k-k-keep on breathing. It's okay, right? Right? I c-can-can c-carry you, Yhu.” She let out a giggle that sounded more like a sob. “Yhu'll be okay. Right? Right?”

The smaller girl didn't respond to the joke, that would have normally had her at the very least hitting her sister. She just kept on breathing, as best she could, in and out, wet gasps from under the over-large gas mask.

“We're at Yr-neavat-v'fsha Primary,” the elder girl continued, just talking, almost mindlessly. “You r-r-remember that, Yhu? You w-wanted to... go there, but then mummy... m-m-mummy,” Ghulalia began to sob muffled sobs, uselessly trying to wipe her protected eyes with a sleeve, “m-m-mummy is de... no. M-mummy g-got... that new job, and w-w-we had to m-move.”

Khonatqa looked down at the pair; her half-sisters. The younger one wasn't going to last much longer, by her reckoning. From the wet sound of the breathing, there was a lethal amount of one of the fast-acting NaM agents in her lungs, probably em-hardened, making it slightly resilient to the older models of emzapper. Once there... well, the enzyme-action was busy tearing apart cell walls. Yhughui'ne was going to drown on her own blood, and fast enough that, even if they could have gotten her to a sorcerer, the lengthy ritual would have taken time that she didn't have.

The older woman, almost one of the Chosen, let her hand fall idly to the pistol at her side. It was far too cruel to let someone go like this, she knew. There wasn't a cure, not one that they could get. And it was a very, very nasty way to die. As part of her training in the Veer'thyne, they had had all the militia commanders for their sections watch exactly what happened on an attempted rebel. It had taken the man fifteen minutes to die, and he had screamed until they had administered a paralytic compound to his vocal cords, as he was making too much noise.

But she couldn't do it. She wasn't sure if it was her human instincts, or the deeper ones that came from her emerging Chosen heritage, but, despite the fact that she intellectually knew that this was the kinder option; quick and painless, she couldn't do it. It was almost ridiculous; although they were relatives, she had only met them today, had only found out about them yesterday. And yet, because they happened to have the same father, she was going to let the younger one suffer a painful death merely because she didn't have the damn bravery to face the stare from Ghuhalia.

She hadn't hesitated to gun down that idiot Ubeevoyr, just because he was a jerk and a threat to her position. Now, why wouldn't she provide a mercy killing, and save the girl agony, just because they shared some blood?

Yhughui'ne gurgled, then coughed, a spot of blood somehow making its way to splatter against the clear plating of the eyepiece. “Ghu,” she croaked. “Ghu. Hurts... hurts!” She coughed again, hacking fluid up. “Help! Mummy! Help!”

Helplessly, her hand loosened and tightened around the handle of the gun, feeling the webbing between her fingers rub. She merely turned her back in the dying girl, trying her hardest to put it out of her mind, so she could work out how to save the rest. And herself, obviously. Behind her, she could hear Ghulalia sobbing, no longer restrained.

A gunshot.

Khonatqa twirled, weapon raised. The pistol, hanging away by its strap, and comically oversized on the eight year old, was pointed at the ground, the hole in the damaged floor smoking and evident. Ghulalia stared up, eyes red but defiant at the woman. “I c-c-couldn't do it,” she wailed. “I can't! It's hurting her, but I can't! And they told.... told us at sc-school that it was b-b-better to do it than let someone hurt like that, but I can't! I couldn't h-help Fr-fraenkis or Ulf or Kair or M-m-mummy and now they're all d-d-dead and I can't even help Yhu by making it stop h-h-hurting!”

Awkwardly, Khonatqa lowered her weapon. She felt like crying, but she couldn't; not any more. Her tear ducts had sealed themselves as part of her transformation, relying on modified eyelids to keep them wet, but she still had enough human in her for the tar-black melancholy to make demands of her body that she do so.



~'/|\'~




Another blast; another sun blossoming over the horizon, lighting up the abused night of the northern winter. Moloch remained intact; worse, it was striking back. Those loathsome tendrils lashed out, waving through the air to puncture the lesser Migou which were still maintaining a flow of steady plasma and laser fire into it. The warships were keeping it pinned, true, unable to move without lessening its AT-Field such that it could die, but they would surely only have a finite supply of antimatter warheads for their railguns. And every shot they fired increased the risk that... other things would wake from the dreaming sleep of unbeing. It was a stalemate which the Herald could only win. And so, now, the {SLEEPER IN FIRE}, Moloch, weathered the storm of annihilating particle and antiparticle, AT-Field bright.

“Don't you see it!” shouted Asuka, a sudden tone of excitement in her voice. “Yes! It's so obvious!”

“Yes... I have no idea what you're talking about,” managed Shinji.

“Shut up, and let me explain, idiot,” she said, equal parts stress and elation in her voice. She was on fire, it seemed, the stress pushing her mind towards conclusions that she never would have been able to reach had the danger of death been so severe. This was not an adrenaline rush, no, because adrenaline inhibited higher cognitive functions to allow flood flow to vital muscles; this was a sudden clarity that came from the necessity for survival, and all those things she had read slotting together when given a physical specimen. “You remember Mot, you two.” It was not a question. “Remember how it concentrated the AT-Field at specific points, in order to deal with the concentrated fire from the Migou ships first, and then your laser, Shinji?”

“That... that is what it did,” managed Rei.

“If we assume that the average AT-Field density over the surface is conserved...”

“Why sh-should we do... such a thing,” asked the pale girl.

“The Xu-Nordsstrom Principle,” was the quickfire answer. “The r-state of local space is such that the X-N tensor is necessarily limited to a finite value if the Herald doesn't want a Zone-like ASZ. As we found with the last one.”

“That is... logical.”

“I'm so glad you agree,” Asuka replied, a hint of acid in her tone. “Logically, therefore, to survive a bombardment like this, when the resilience that it is demonstrating is compared to previous such entities, it will have its AT-Field at a maximum, because it's surviving stuff that all the others wouldn't have stood a chance against. Now, Migou antimatter weapons use element-n-s with an n-value matrix which is fairly close to, if not identical to, that of conventional matter, and the r-state of local space is, again, such that the Weyl and Ricci tensors approximate to that of flat Minskowski space-time”

“Yes,” said Rei.”

“I have no idea what you are saying!” blurted out Shinji. These were just... words, strung together. In fact, he was fairly sure that Asuka was in fact just making it upon the spot. In his opinion, the fact that she wasn't bothering to think up words, and just saying things like 'element-n-s' was a dead giveaway. And the fact that Rei seemed to be playing along with it...

... no that wasn't fair. It was just that, well, in the land of the geniuses, the normally-bright one gets the low-paid menial jobs. Of course, spraying microcleanser would actually be a lot safer than piloting a giant robot-thing.

“Yes. That's because I'm the one with the degree, not you. And Rei cheats.” Asuka paused. “How to put this... ah. The big bad monster thing has a magical shield, which has a discrete and finite... which can only be so strong, and it has it mostly facing the direction that the Migou are shooting from. And space-time isn't so bendy that we can't say that straight lines are straight.”

Shinji made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat. “Okay, okay. I get it. There's no need to be offensively patronising like that.”

Asuka shrugged. “The dumbed-down explanation was, technically speaking, wrong. Anyway. Yes, there was a need, because you weren't going to understand it any other way.”

Shinji managed to bite back a retort since, technically speaking (only technically, though, he reassured himself), she was right.

“You... you suggest that w-we connect the mD/D-Engines of the Evangelions together, and... then move to a p-p-position where I can t-target the underside,” asked Rei, the pain in her voice evident.

“Yes.”

“The... the... Unit 00 has sustained c-critical damage. The charge beam will not withstand a shot of that yield.”

“Neither will it withstand the Herald, when it deals with the Migou. This is the only way we can kill that thing, when it's distracted! You will do it, First Child, because I'm telling you to!”

“I know who you are,” Rei whispered, in a soft tone. “Are you sure?”

“Yes! Yes I am! It's our only hope to survive!”

There was a moment of silence. Then;

“I will do it.”

Shinji felt it was time to make another contribution. “So, basically, we're going to run underneath it and shoot it with all of us plugged into the Rei Gun?”

“That is not its...”

“Yes,” interrupted Asuka. “Except, you know, I'll actually put some thought into it.”

“And, why, exactly, have we not already tried this?”

“Because, in case you don't remember, Third Child, there is a antimatter double-digit megatonne-yield bombardment in process. That means that getting under will be really hard.”

“We... we will not need to get directly under the a-assigned target,” corrected Rei. “A valid firing solution... can be obtained from further away.”

“Where?”

“I know where.”

Footstep after footstep, the three Children dove into the fire that surrounded Moloch, knights wrapped in shining light. One vast wall, as all three AT-Fields merged and blurred, discrete yet unified in the way that they covered each other, through the hellish opaque landscape that had painted itself upon the surface of the Earth. The scales were confusing, as if reality itself was breaking down; at one moment, the Herald was so close, and barely larger than an Eva; the next, it was a sky-leviathan on the distant horizon.

“I... think I'm going to be sick,” groaned Shinji, but he did not let up his pace, just concentrating at best he could upon the feeling of running, of the pounding, jerking motion as the LCL-filled capsule swayed to and fro with the steps of the armoured titan.

Asuka stared up at the Migou-spawned suns before her, eyes reflecting even the dimmed light which the entry-plug wall displayed. It was amazing, and it was beautiful in its cold, dispassionate way. It was the beauty of large numbers and of geometry. As the AT-Field, those shimmering, cracked fractures in reality itself, that was projected from her out-reached palm, grew brighter and brighter, she was sure that she had never felt more alive, more complete. She lived for these moments, on the edge of her seat in the entry plug, caught between one moment and the next, burning so bright. When you had seen newborn suns and killed beings that some would have called god-like, was there any wonder that the world outside the Eva was cold and grey?

And Rei? She did not think. She reacted. She performed the optimal task at each moment, as if she had drilled for years. Because, in a sense, she had. She knew what was necessary, and what was coming next; what had to happen, and what would happen. Thought was not necessary, because it was obsolete, an automaton in her own body, to escape the damage and the agony from what the Migou had done to her and Unit 00.

But all too soon, she opened her eyes, and returned to the pain of her body and of the Evangelion.

“Stop,” she said, flatly. “We are here. Please grant full access to your internal mD/D-Engine to Unit 00.”

Shinji swallowed, watching as the [limitedpower] icon emerged, the torso-strands of the image of the Evangelion on the plug wall turning red. “Okay,” he said, keenly aware of the fact that he could not run away any more; at least without tapping into the internal batteries and their pathetically limited five minutes of power. “Do it.”

“Yes,” echoed Asuka, almost identical emotions flowing through her head. It was the loss of control, she felt; the fact that you might be dependent on some external power for your Evangelion's (and thus your own) well being, that was so bad, she decided.

Rei lifted the charge beam, wincing as the mass of the weapon pulled at her heavily damaged arm. The gun was not pointed anywhere near the Herald. That was fully intentional. She could feel what it was doing to space-time What the Second Child had intellectually called the Xu-Nordsstrom tensor, Rei could feel, in the same way as others could detect a limited spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. It was tearing the worldlines of the things within its Domain apart, shredding space and time at a level far beyond the tight manipulations of the AT-Fields of the Evangelions.

And it was going to win. The fact was simple. It was fully awake before the celestial conjunction, and the Migou would not be able to kill it properly. It would reign over the Earth and the stars, as a fully awake {THREAT} (for the Migou named their foes well, Rei felt), awakened early by human and Deep One stupidity. Dagon had felt that the {SLEEPER IN FIRE} was an ally of his master. Dagon had been wrong. It was not an ally; it was a rival, an opponent.

But there was a way through the mess of timelike curves that it was spinning to save itself from anti-matter annihilation. A way to ensure that the Herald would be slain.

She raised her fingers from the control yokes, and flexed them, taking a deep, shuddering gulp of LCL.

“Hurry up, Rei,” shouted Asuka, her voice far away. “The D-Cells are starting to show signs of incipient avalanche breakdowns. We don't want a Horizon Event!”

Ignoring the other girl, Rei reached down, and made a few fine adjustments on an AR-interface before her, adjusting the aim manually; the LAIs in the software shutdown due to the impossible, as they saw it, physical conditions.

A single tear trickled into the LCL as she fired.

The stream of relativistic protons propagated outwards through space, the path from their own frame of reference perfectly straight, but from the eyes of the Evangelions an impossible sequence of tight curves that could only be seen by the green aftertrail of ionised air. It bent underneath the Herald, rising to hit its bulk (for it seemed to be massive, and far away at the moment) in the centre, punching up through the weakened underside of the AT-Field.

The Herald exploded into a vast amorphous cloud of sepulchral gas; the greens of a punctured tomb blended with purples and impossible fluorescences that should not be, and would have not been had it not been for what Moloch had been doing to the universe.

And the charge beam, damaged, out of coolant, abused and overcharged, tore itself apart; white-hot shrapnel tearing into the heavily damaged Unit 00 and through it, reddish-purple blood painting arcs in the air.



~'/|\'~




Rei Ayanami was still alive. That surprised her. She should be dead; she knew that for a fact. The shrapnel had scythed its way through the entry plug, and she had felt the shards punch through her body as they tore through both walls, as the LCL that had filled the plug flowed out through the holes. The mangled remains of her body were wedged under the control yoke, and Rei gazed up, unmoving, at the interface between the air and the fluid, her own reflection showing just how injured she was. As if she was not already fully aware of this fact.

There was no pain, and that was a bad sign, for there had been pain aplenty in the synchronicity accident with the Evangelion.

And she should be dead.

Ah. I know you are there, brother.

A mental chuckle, filled with strain.

Hah. Not brother, not really. There is no term in any human language for how we are related.

Half-brother approximates the best, though.

Yes. Yes it does.

A pause.

You should not be able to do this.

I know. I am killing the others to keep you alive.

It will not last forever.

But it can work for now. For long enough.

A bubbling cough from a punctured lung.

No. I am already dead. I know it in my past, in my present, and my future.

You cannot be. I am going to keep you alive, if it kills... oh.

Yes. This can only end one way. She is already awake, for they roused her with all that contact. And now her rage will be focussed. It... it is necessary.

I know what will happen. You know what will happen.

Yes.

It is inevitable.

It has already happened. You are just keeping her from noticing it. And she will notice the deaths of the others, eventually.

A bitter laugh.

And then she will notice you. And then she will notice me, and I will not be able to hold out. She's already won, hasn't she.

Yes. It was better than all the alternatives I could see.

A pause, a timeless moment of gulped LCL.

And now she's here.

The girl, eyes fading to blackness, felt a pair of cool arms encircle her, felt the rage and the horror and the pain and the agony and the hatred and the disgust and the sorrow and the loathing and the love through the soft lips on her cheek.

my baby

Rei Ayanami died with the faintest smile on her face.



~'/|\'~




my baby! give her back!
Zwar du erschrakst ihm das Herz; doch ältere Schrecken
she's scared of her touch
stürzten in ihn bei dem berührenden Anstoß.
she's scared. she said no.
Ruf ihn... du rufst ihn nicht ganz aus dunkelem Umgang.
she died in mind and soul when she tried to touch her
Freilich, er will, er entspringt; erleichtert gewöhnt er
to hug her
sich in dein heimliches Herz und nimmt und beginnt sich.
just like everyone else
Aber begann er sich je?
what kind of thing spawns itself?
Mutter, du machtest ihn klein, du warsts, die ihn anfing;
and so she prepared a meal for that which had carried her
dir war er neu, du beugtest über die neuen
willing or not, it makes no difference
Augen die freundliche Welt und wehrtest der fremden.
who can scare away the darkness
Wo, ach, hin sind die Jahre, da du ihm einfach
when they have not seen the light of day for forty years?
mit der schlanken Gestalt wallendes Chaos vertratst?




~'/|\'~




The vast nebulous cloud of that which had-been-and-would-be Moloch hung in the air, a stinking presence that devoured light only to spew it forth in colours and spectra not native to Earth. The sound was not indescribable, but to make such an attempt was impossible, for the minds of men could not know its ear-tearing immensity nor its sheer spectral range. The venomous seething of the radiance that was all too familiar to those who had gazed upon an AT-Field before expanded, then contracted, hints of solidity impossibly forming once again before another expansion tore them back into nothingness and left only the reality-saturated gas.

The mind within the amorphous thing, that in a sense was it, thought; in no manner akin to that of mortal man, but still it thought.

I Exist
Therefore I Exist.

I Exist
Therefore I Feel.

I Feel
Therefore I Know.

I Know
Therefore I Am Aware That There Are Those
Who Would Oppose Me

I Am Aware
Therefore I Understand Them.

I Understand Them
Therefore They Are Weak

They Are Weak
Therefore I Prevail.


But all was not right in the sepulchral cloud. It could feel the weakened shards of a rival nearby, and longed to consume and devour them. It could feel the death all around it, as things warred.

And it could feel something else. Watching. Waiting. Hungry.

one footstep. another, on no solid ground, nor within the normal set of dimensions. bloody footprints in space and time and souls.

The great beast felt another mind brush up against his. Smaller, yes, and massively weaker.

But awake. So awake, even in this time before the necessary time of rightness. It could feel itself being summoned to the deathless sleep of nothingness once again, because the conditions were not right to live again. But that mind... it was awake, and aware, and was viable under such cruel conditions.

But where was it?

The {SLEEPER IN FIRE} searched around, reaching out from beyond the protective barrier of its soul to hunt for this rival that stalked it while it was still too weak to act as it wished, still forced into a barren, cold reality with horrifically low ambient energy levels that forced it to rest in the core of this ball of rock if it wished to live-sleep, remain alive though of limited awarness.

No sign. No trace. But around it... the world was wrong. It could feel that there was the absense of the sense of certain rivals, ceratain abominable enemies it had known before, and that they were not where they should be. Dead? Perhaps. It had slept for over sixty million cycles of this ball of rock; perhaps such things had come to past.

But where was the rival?

It must think! It must drive away the fog of sleep and of this rude awakening from its mind, and function as best it can!

I Exist
There I Will Prevail.

I Will Prevail
Therefore I Will Eliminate All Foes
Regardless of Their Esteem

I Will Eliminate All Foes
Therefore I Shall Discover Where
no


a door which is open is not guarded

you deserve to die

you killed her

you are not
not anymore


And so that which-had-been-called-Moloch died, and was consumed.

A new god's in her heaven, all's right with the world.



~'/|\'~



The sky was wracked with blinding light, as the cloud dispersed, full-spectrum em radiation flooding the sensors of the Evangelions as the Herald died. There may have been whoops of joy elsewhere, but both the Second and Third Children were silent.

Suddenly, the communications systems in Unit 01 flared to life. A sibilant, whispering crackle filled them, from which no discernible words could be heard.

“Asuka! Misato?” yelped Shinji, the coppery taste of his own blood, from the bitten lip, discernible even through the already-bloodlike LCL. “Did you just see that? What... why... what just happened?” He swallowed, the LCL momentarily overpowering his own blood, before the tears came, completely unnoticeable in the fluid around him. “Well... the Herald is dead. Whatever happened. But... but... Rei. She's dead. Th-there's no way that.... that she could have survived that/ It... it... it,” he gulped, “...it went right through the entry plug. Oh... oh...”and he began to sob, uncontrollable breathless shakes that made communication impossible.

A cool hand reached out, and stroked him on the cheek. Reflexively wiping his eyes against the sleeve of the plug suit, for what little good it did, he looked up.

A naked, emaciated woman, her dark hair hanging around her head like dead seaweed in the currents of the orange fluid, hung before him. From under the veil of her hair, two hate-filled eyes glared, accusing him of unknown deeds. Behind her, the wall of the entry plug was malfunctioning, red and yellow and orange coloured warnings flowing flamelike over a blank metal wall.

Shinji screamed then, screamed even as the unnoticeable tears flowed from his eyes, and pulled back, cowering back into the seat in the entry plug to get away from the figure of horror before him. That was when the pain hit him, and the screams changed from ones of terror, to ones of agony.

The human body is an incredibly complicated structure. For one, it is not one specific thing, unlike some other xenobiological lifeforms, but in fact, a broad category of so many components, which covers the organs, muscles, skeletal structure, nervous system, viscera, fat reserves... and even these things are broad categories in their own right. It is an ensemble of any different types of cell, no longer homogeneous, as their forebears once were, and each cell type approaches the complexity of entire organisms. Just compare a bacterium to the smooth muscle cells in the heart, say, or even the ultra-specialised nature of the red blood cell, evolved to maximise its own surface area to volume ratio such that it does not even had a nucleus any more, and the wonders of emergent structure can be seen. Who would have thought that crude bacteria-like lifeforms could end up as something so incredibly complex? And that is before the amazing structure of the brain, a matrix of water and trace elements that somehow produces, through the emergent interaction of its components, the seeming of consciousness. Marvellous.

It does not survive well when it is torn apart from the inside, blood superheated and muscles torn internally by precise telekinetic movements. All that was left... that that she left were the bones, scraps of flesh clinging to the the smooth surface, bound together by the shredded remnants of the plug suit, floating in an expanding cloud of discoloured LCL. The light in Unit 01's one remaining eye evaporated, and it slumped, falling to the ground with an earth-shattering thud.

And the Evangelion suffered the same fate as its pilot, painting the landscape with the ichor of the thing.

Asuka watched the Test Model fall, and spun, firing wildly, melting the earth, trying to find whatever was doing this. She couldn't even see; the blood from Unit 01 smeared her sensors, and even the light of the star-matter that came forth from the plasmathrower was not enough to burn through; in fact, it caked the ichor of the fallen beast to her armour and over her sensors.

“Die!” she screamed, as she blindly searched for her unknown target, operating barely above an instinctual level. “Die! Die! Die! D...”

Something hammered straight into her AT-Field she had spoken withey had taken her baby from her and tore straight through, radiance nullified by an opposed field, already prodigious capacities empowered by the consumed Herald and Unit 01.

She was the second death. The second, of the human species and its subspecies.

They all deserved to die.



~'/|\'~




This was no peaceful oblivion. The poet was wrong. The world died not with a whimper (unless it was the final yelp of an abused puppy, beaten to death by callous children), but with a bang.

The mother was everywhere. In every shadow, behind every window, the newborn godling attuned to the race which had spawned her. Which had treated her like this.

The walls were painted red, bodies rent asunder across the globe, as the extermination occurred. Flesh liquefied, leaving only charred skeletal remains where they had fallen. And with each death, each consumption, she grew more than she had been, and she was great indeed.

There was no closure. No explanation. No happy endings. Only death.

And retaliation.

Soon, it was done. How soon, was a somewhat dubious question. Time was a human concept, and there were no more humans. Out of... what would it be? Boredom? Amusement? A realisation that they might pose a threat? Some residual human feelings, passed up from her own devoured children? Whatever the reason, she turned her attentions to the Deep Ones.

The seas ran red with blood.

The Migou, horrified by what had happened, tried to kill the planet, negating all attempts at subtlety in a desperate bid to contain the {THREAT}. Blank-faced, she danced inside the continent-sized blossoms of flame, as all turned to ash and dust, the bloody footprints she left behind infused into the glass of what had once been a world.

Soon, empty tombs drifted through the void, Migou flesh just as weak as human flesh.

Other things woke.

She killed and ate them too, just as she had Moloch, for they were weak and newly stirred from the sleep that was death, while she was strong. Something that could be made incorporeal by a mere physical impact when newly awakened stood no chance against her, fortified as she was by an entire biosphere and so many other, greater beings. On a dead world, of barren rock and ruined cities and endless desert and dead seas, the atmosphere once again returning to its natural, anaerobic state, she played.

Soon, she grew bored. How soon, it could not be said, because time was a human concept, and she was far, far from that now-forgotten dead species, which only existed as lased archival records stored by nearby Migou systems; a number and record, buried deep. So she moved on.

Idols were built by the things that were driven mad by her passage through their worlds. She did not care, and did not spare them for it; nor did she target them for it. They were so far beneath her comprehension now, that she did not understand such a thing. If she ever had; what kind of a being was locked in time, unable to feel the past or see the future? What kind of being could not understand the simple mechanical awareness of a matrix of dirty water, feel the universe that flowed around it and change it as it saw fit, or simply go where it wished, how it wished? And against eternity, such a being was brief, transitory, such that it was almost a rounding error. And she could make it so it was.

Soon, she grew bored. How soon, it could not be said, because against the immensity of aeons, time itself withered and died. She chose to sleep then, in the deathless sleep of unbeing that was filled with dreams.

Across the galaxy, statues would be found in the crafts of primitive, now-dead cultures, on many different worlds. And yet they all shared some characteristics. A roughly bipedal form; swathed in some crude kind of garment that many such races had painted using iron oxide; two eyes that stared forth from under a veil of hair in chiselled granite and cave painting alike, positioned on the upper appendage, above a maw which remained sealed in a blank expression which gave the poor archaeologists who found it a feeling that they were but insects.

And they grew afraid, for cults spoke of the time that this being would awake, and break down the old laws, dancing free and unconstrained, in killing and bloodshed and amoral apathy.

Soon, she awoke. How soon, it could not be said, for even the stars burned dim with aeons past. Some even tried to stop her, in crude mechanisms and with poorly understood sciences and sorceries, to valiantly hold her off for just one more day of survival, or even to steal the powers of that which they knew of only as a god.

They died too.

Nyarlathotep watched all this. And a slight frown marred his undying mask.

How boring.


~*/|\*~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Natum Engel (NGE cross-over) PostPosted: 2010-02-04 04:38am
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Padawan Learner
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Joined: 2008-09-25 02:54pm
Posts: 209
Location: London
I have to say, yes, that is pretty much the reaction I expected. And, yes, I do deserve this.

This isn't the planned end. This is just how it ends. It's disappointing, leaves more questions unanswered than answered, and, of course, Everybody Dies.

It's perfectly fitting for something based on FEAR, NGE and the Mythos. :wink:

But, no, in more seriousness, this is just the end for ANE. I reread the earlier chapters, and so much of it is rather obvious with things that I chose not to do, that, after all, this is my first major fiction, and I have improved a lot since the start, where I didn't work out what I was doing until Chapter 5, at the very least.

So the rewrite begins, to actually sit down and tie everything together, and upgrade the early chapters to the same writing standards as the most recent ones. I just wanted to give a bit of closure, and so show what could happen if the Evangelions fail (or Rei feels it necessary to use the nuclear option).

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entelechy (plural entelechies)


1. The complete actualization and final form of a potency or potentiality, or of a conception. [Aristotelian philosophy.]

2. The final form as already in the potency or matter and awaiting actualization.A particular type of motivation, need for self-determination, and inner strength directing life and growth to become all one is capable of being.

3. It is the need to actualize one's beliefs. It is having a personal vision and being able to actualize that vision from within.

4. Something complex that emerges when you put a large number of simple objects together

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Aeon Entelechy Evangelion

A Rewrite of Aeon Natum Engel

Coming Soon



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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