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Fear

By TailKinker

Scifi / Horror

Look To The Sky

Shin Seiki Evangelion was created by Hideki Anno, and is owned by Gainax.

Mythos elements were created by H. P. Lovecraft and owned by Arkham Publishing. Byatis was created by Robert Bloch. Ithaqua and Cthugha created by August Derleth. Summanus, Mnomquah and Cthylla created by Brian Lumley. Ythogtha was created by Lin Carter. Mordiggian created by Clarke Ashton Smith. Cyäegha was created by Eddy C. Burtin.

Use of the characters and situations therein are not intended as any challenge of their copyrights.

"Release me!"

Ikari Yui grabbed the uniformed man's wrist, and bent it backward until the bone cracked. A second guard tackled her about the waist; she brought her fist down on his skull, caving his skull in and dropping him lifeless to the ground. She turned and ran towards the water.

"Mommy!" Shinji twisted in his father's grip, but the man was far too strong for a five-year-old to break free.

"Let her go, Shinji. She's not your mother anymore."

Shinji stopped struggling, and watched as his mother dove headfirst into the waves. He waited, watching for her to surface, for long minutes, before turning and burying his face into his father's jacket.

Only to be shoved away, tripping and falling. He looked up at his father's cold eyes, and shivered.

"Never come back, Yui..."

Fear

One: Look To The Sky

"Five minutes to Tokyo-3 Station. All passengers, please ensure that your luggage is ready and prepare to de-train."

The announcement brought Shinji to wakefulness.

Always the same dream. I can barely remember it...

He recalled bits of it. His mother running towards the sea. Someone trying to stop her. His father—

He didn't want to think about his father. Always, it brought the anger, the rage, to the forefront.

And the fear.

Why do I fear my father? I know I have many reasons to hate him...but fear?

He flipped off his S-DAT, and grabbed his brown canvas bag. He unzipped it, and pulled out an envelope.

The letter had arrived quite unexpectedly; only once since his mother had drowned had his father communicated with him, and that had been a terse, two-line instruction. One he hadn't been comfortable following; he'd been forced to leave his home—such as it was—and move in with another family. This time, it was different. The letter was long, rambling, and showed mostly the bumbling attempts of an estranged father trying to find some contact with his son.

It didn't gel with what he remembered of his father. And neither did the last two paragraphs, which outlined an arranged marriage with a girl he'd never met.

What a stupid idea this was. Why would my father, or her parents, arrange an engagement for me? She must be a real freak if her parents had to resort to an arranged marriage.

Only his guardian's insistence that his father had in fact written this letter had gotten him on the train.

The letter had had two photographs paper-clipped to it; he had removed them in the course of trying to figure out what was on his father's mind. He looked down at the first one now.

The girl didn't look at all bad; if it wasn't for the expression on her face, she might even be cute. The angular lines of her face were offset by the mop of pale blue hair. From the colour of her hair, her pale complexion, and her eyes, he figured she had to be an albino. The red eyes were more than a bit disturbing, but they paled in comparison with her expression.

Or rather, her complete lack of expression. She almost looked bored, but even 'bored' was too strong an emotion to assign to the face in the picture.

Nowhere was a name included. His father's letter had listed her merely as, ´your new fiancee´.

He shuffled the second photograph to the top. The woman in this photo was visibly more animated than his 'fiancee'. A tall, leggy woman, wearing a loose top and leaning towards the camera, placing her not inconsiderable assets on display. Just in case the viewer was completely oblivious, she'd drawn an arrow on the photo, pointing at her cleavage and labelled 'Look here!'

He flipped the photo over, and read the words written on the back.

´Hi! I'm Misato Katsuragi, and I'll be picking you up from the train station! Aren't you the lucky one?´

Yeah. Lucky me.

The brakes screeched like a tortured cat, and the train ground to a halt. The doors slid open, and Shinji stepped hesistantly out onto the platform.

The deserted platform. Not only was this Misato person not here to meet him, but there was not another living soul anywhere in the station. He jumped as the train's whistle sounded, and turned to watch as it pulled out of the station. And sighed. He pulled out the letter again, and glanced at the letterhead.

He kept the hundred yen coin in his pocket for emergencies. At the moment, he was stranded in a city that he didn't know at all, in a deserted train station, with no ride to wherever he was supposed to go, and his only line of retreat had just rattled out of town. If this didn't qualify as an emergency, he had no idea just what would. He dropped the coin into the pay phone and dialled the telephone number listed in the letterhead.

´Due to the current emergency, no line is available to complete your call. We do apologize for the inconvenience.´

The machine dutifully spat out the hundred-yen coin, and he collected it mechanically.

At least my emergency isn't the only one.

He looked around the station again. The wires hanging tiredly overhead were heavier than in most towns, and he could only assume that whatever this city was using them for, it was more than just telephone and video signals. Massive transformers sat atop the poles, much heavier again that he was used to seeing. And not a person moved in sight, nor were there any cars. In fact, he couldn't hear even the slightest sound.

It was as if the entire city was dead.

Then abruptly, there was too much sound.

The four tilt-wing aircraft were flying far too low. One paused overhead, swinging its engines to hover directly overtop of him. The downblast of the jets nearly knocked him over, and he clung to the pay phone to keep his balance. The deep roar of the engines found a counterpart in the snarl of rocket motors, as the VTOL rippled off a salvo of missiles. He couldn't see what they were firing at, but heard and felt the rumble as they detonated.

But he did see a tank. Rather than rolling along the ground as was only right for a tank to do, it was tumbling through the sky, as though it had been thrown. One of the aircraft attempted to dodge the multi-tonne projectile, but its pilot was obviously as startled as Shinji was to see an airborne tank. The VTOL's wing was ripped off, and it started spiralling downward.

Shinji turned and ran as fast as he could, as the VTOL smashed into a nearby building. The impact set off something explosive within the aircraft—perhaps its fuel tanks?—and the blast propelled him bodily across the deserted parking lot.

A blue sports car came to a brake-screeching halt inches from his head. The passenger-side door popped open, aand a voice yelled at him from within.

"Sorry I'm late. Get in, quick!"

He needed no prompting, and scrambled into the car, slamming the door shut behind him. The driver—he realized it was the woman from the photo, Misato—stood on the gas pedal and peeled out.

"Jesus, they're taking a pounding." Misato shifted gears as they pulled out. "Don't look at it, whatever you do."

"Don't look at what?" He craned his neck to look out the back window...and froze.

The VTOLs were still firing rockets, but a massive form strode through the smoke and flame, obviously unhurt. It walked on four segmented legs, and in one crablike claw it carried a bus. Its head was a deformed mass of tissue, one eye glaring balefully from the center. A writhing mass of tentacles, each as thick as a man, hung like a beard beneath the eye.

A scream forced itself from his throat.

"Oh, shit. Eyes front, kid. I told you not to look." Misato was keeping her eyes fixed forward. "The very sight of that thing can drive a person mad."

"No kidding." Shinji dragged his eyes forward. "What the hell is it?"

"It's the enemy. Your father calls them the Old Ones."

"All artillery and rocket units have proven ineffective."

The General slammed his fist down on the table, causing the overflowing ashtray to bounce and disgorge its contents all over the surface. "What do we have that might affect it? The laser cannons?"

"Not yet operational, and I'm not sure that it'd work anyway." The Colonel shook his head. "We've hit it with Harpoons, artillery—"

"I know what we've hit it with!"

"My point is," said the Colonel, "most of the weapons we've hit it with pack more punch than the lasers."

One man on the dias was not in uniform. He turned now, the light glinting off his tinted glasses. "Conventional weapons are of no use against the Old Ones."

The General glared at the interruption. "And I'm certain you believe that your toy can stop it?"

"Only my toy, as you put it, has any chance at all."

"I don't think so, Ikari. We've still got one trump card left." He glanced over at the Colonel. "Launch the B-2. We'll hit it with the N2 Mine."

Ikari adjusted his glasses, and turned back to the monitor.

Misato stood on the brake pedal, and gaped at the black form moving overhead.

"They can't be...Oh, shit, they are." She grabbed Shinji, forcing his head down. "Shield your eyes!"

The world turned white.

All Shinji knew was that the car was tumbling like a leaf in a hurricane. When his world stopped spinning, he hazarded a look, and realized that the car was on its side. Misato was suspended above him by her seat belt, looking dazed.

"What was that?"

"N2 Mine. A boosted thermonuclear warhead." She fought with the buckle. "Gimme a hand with this, and we'll get the car back on its wheels."

He helped her unbuckle, and they fought their way clear of the wreck.

"Come on, put your back against the top, and we'll push it back over. Hurry!"

"If they nuked it, why do we have to hurry?"

Misato scowled. "Trust me. A little thing like a nuclear warhead isn't going to slow it down."

"Got it!"

The table full of brass jumped to its feet. Around them, dust was falling from cracks in the ceiling, and the lamps overhead were swinging wildly. The monitor dissolved into a spray of static.

The Colonel raised a defiant fist. "Do not mess with the JSSDF!"

"Bring back the picture!" yelled the General. "We need confirmation that the target was destroyed."

"EMP has knocked out telemetry. Circuits will be restored in thirty seconds."

"Confirmation? We just nuked the bastard," stated the Brigadier. "Nothing could live through a direct hit from an N2 mine."

Ikari kept silent, staring at the screen.

"Visual contact re-established."

The screen cleared, to show the monster in the middle of the blast crater. Still intact. Still breathing. The picture was good enough to show what looked like gills, fluttering, capturing the air.

The General sat down, dismayed. "That was our trump card..."

The Colonel shook his head. "Looks like he over-trumped us."

The Brigadier collapsed into his chair. "Gentlemen, we have no weapon in our arsenal more powerful than an N2 Mine."

"You're right." The General glanced over at Ikari. "I hate to say this, Ikari, but it's become painfully obvious that we can't stop this thing. It's in your hands now."

"Do we have authorization from the JSSDF to deploy?"

"Yes." The General pulled a notebook from his pocket, and scrawled on it. "Here. Written and signed. Deploy."

"Thank you." Ikari turned to his assistant. "Fuyutsuki. Prepare Unit 01."

"We don't have a pilot yet." Fuyutsuki watched as Ikari turned and walked towards the elevator.

"One is on his way."

Misato stared at the map and pursed her lips. She glanced over at Shinji, then inverted the map.

"Now you are holding it upside-down."

"I was afraid of that." She folded the map back up and stuffed it into her purse. "I hate to admit it, but I don't really know this base as well as I should."

"I can tell."

"Well, all systems exist to be used, right?" She laughed.

Shinji looked pointedly at a telephone mounted on the wall. "Maybe you should use this system over here, and call someone who knows where they're going."

"Paging Dr. Akagi. Line fourteen internal."

Ritsuko set her breath mask down on the deck, and pulled herself out of the pool. "Since Misato is late, I can assume that that's her."

"I have a good feeling about this door."

Shinji sighed. Again. "You've said that for the last four doors. Maybe we should wait for this Dr. Akagi to find us."

"Don't worry, I can get us out of—"

The door opened suddenly, to reveal a tall blonde woman. She wore a bathing suit with a lab coat thrown over it, but managed not to look terribly silly. The look that she gave Misato was one of long-suffering amusement.

"Lost again?"

"Well...we were on the right track, right?" Misato laughed nervously. "After all, we caught up with you."

"You were considerably off track, and I had to double back to catch up with you." She glanced over at Shinji. "Is this him?"

"Yes."

"Good we're running out of time." She turned and strolled briskly down the corridor. "Commander Ikari has ordered the activation of Unit 01."

"Really?" Misato had to hurry to keep up with the taller woman. "What are the odds it will work?"

"The latest calibrations give it a 0.0000000001% chance of working." She smirked. "Zero-Nine might be a good name for it."

"And Rei?"

Akagi scowled. "She's not in great shape. Her healing factor is helping with that, but simply put, her injuries are too great to allow her to pilot, even assuming that we successfully activate Unit 01."

"So we're done for, is what you're telling me?"

"Don't be rude." Dr. Akagi tossed her a cold look. "I didn't say the odds were zero."

The doors closed behind them, plunging them into total darkness.

"It's pitch black in here." Shinji rubbed the gooseflesh on his arms. "I can't see a thing."

The lights switched on.

Shinji found himself facing a monster. He yelled, and took a step back, only to meet Misato's hand. She said something about a bridge, but he could only stare at the beast in front of him.

It was covered in purple armour of some sort. The head was flared out at the base, and a single horn projected from its forehead. Two eyes, dark and closed, sat beneath armoured ridges, and its teeth appeared to be made of solid steel.

It took a moment for it to sink in that this was not a creature, but a machine.

"What the hell is that?"

"NERV's Armoured Humanoid All-Purpose Fighting Machine. Code-named EVANGELION." Dr. Akagi looked up at the robot. "We still don't understand half of the technology that went into its creation. It is your father's greatest work."

Shinji took a hesitant step towards it. "Does it need a pilot?"

Before Dr. Akagi could answer him, a voice floated down from above.

"Yes. It does."

Shinji looked up, to see his father. He stood in a small observation deck, about fifteen feet above the bridge.

"Good to see you again, son." He smiled down warmly at the boy.

Shinji blinked.

"I'm glad that you have decided to join us today." He held a hand out towards the Evangelion. "But our time is limited. The Old One approaches, and must be stopped. I need you to pilot this machine."

"Pilot—" Shinji looked up at the robot. "You've got to be kidding me! I haven't had any training, I never even saw it before five seconds ago. I can't drive this!"

The building shook beneath his feet, waves forming in the liquid around the bridge.

"You feel that?" Gendo pointed upwards. "The Old One has found us. And unless you do something about this, it is going to destroy everyone here. Only you can stop it."

"You toss me aside like a piece of garbage eight years ago, but now you call me in because you need me?" Fear and rage battled within him, but rage was winning out. "Am I just a tool to you?"

"I haven't been a good father, I'll admit it," said Gendo. "But I'm going to try to do better. But unless you stop the Old One—"

"That's insane!" Shinji shook his head. "There's no way I can do this."

"Unfortunate." Gendo looked down. "I was hoping that you were ready to be a man." He turned, and addressed someone through communications device.

"He's too much of a coward. You'll need to wake up Rei."

"Will she be of any use?"

Gendo glanced down at Shinji. "She knows the odds. She won't let cowardice paralyze her."

Shinji scowled down at the deck.

The doors at the far end of the bridge opened again, and two people wheeled in a gurney. A plasma bag was suspended from the gurney's rack. As the gurney approached, Shinji realized with some surprise that its occupant was the albino girl from his photograph.

He turned back to his father. "You're gonna make her drive it?"

"Since you are too much of a coward, yes."

He looked back at the girl. One eye was covered with a bandage, and her abdomen was completely wrapped. One arm was splinted tightly.

"She can't! Look at her."

"Be quiet. You had your say."

The room shook again, and the gurney tipped over, dumping the girl on the deck. Shinji ran up to her, alarmed. He reached down to touch her, and she shied away.

"No!" She shook her head, fear showing in her one good eye. She took a wild swing in his direction with her hand, and he pulled his hand back. "No! Don't touch me!"

"I'm not going to hurt you." He reached forward again, but she rolled over, shivering, away from his touch. He knelt down and put his hand on her shoulder.

She screamed. Just once, a short yelp like a kicked puppy, and he snatched his hand back as though it had been burned.

Shinji stood slowly, and turned again to his father. "This girl is Rei? And she's the girl you engaged to me?"

"Yes."

He squeezed his eyes shut. "Is this why you engaged me to her? You thought that you could use her to control me?"

"No."

The response came not from his father, but from the girl. He opened his eyes again, to see her staring at him.

Then she looked away, up at his father.

"Commander, I will pilot." She bit the words out around her pain. "Attempts to use me as a lever on your son are unnecessary."

"You forget your place, Rei." His father's expression hardened again.

"I apologize. But I will pilot."

Shinji shook his head, squeezed his eyes shut. She can't pilot this thing. Not in her state—she can't even stand up!

Why do I care? Sure, she's my fiancee, according to my father, but it's not like I actually know her.

But somehow, the thought didn't help.

I can't do this. I don't know how. He thought of the girl. But if I run now, I'll be proving I'm a coward. She will think I'm a coward.

"Bastard." He spat the word, for once forgetting his fear of his father. "I'll do it."

Gendo smiled.

His misgivings returned when they sealed the tube, locking him in pitch blackness.

What the hell am I thinking? I don't know jack squat about piloting giant robots. He nervously fingered the clips they'd put in his hair. And going out to do battle with some evil monster that can take a nuke hit and keep going? I must have been out of my mind.

Lights switched on in the tube, and liquid of some sort started rushing into the compartment.

"Guys, this tube is filling with water or something."

"Don't worry." Dr. Akagi's voice was not reassuring, but he grasped at the words. "The Link Connection Liquid will oxegenate your blood directly, and help absorb impacts."

"But it's..." He watched in horror as the liquid reached his knees. "I'm gonna drown in here! Help!"

"Be a man!" Misato's voice reached him.

"No! I've changed—Help! Open this fucking thing!" He clawed at the hatch, but it was sealed tightly from the outside. "Open it!" The liquid reached his neck, and he scrabbled up onto the top of the seat. "I'm gonna drown!"

"Calm down, Shinji. You breathed liquid for the first nine months of your life."

"No!"

The liquid washed over his head. He held his breath until his lungs burned, then gasped. He coughed, choking as the liquid filled his lungs, but somehow, he was still able to breathe. The liquid smelled and tasted vile, and his chest felt heavy, as though someone were standing on it, but he could breathe.

"Sit down. We're going to start the activation."

His heart still pounding in his chest, he sat back down in the seat. The tube flooded with colours.

"Set command interface to Japanese. A20 Nerve link established."

The sides of the plug glowed, and cleared, to show his surroundings. He looked down, saw a massive purple hand at the end of an arm.

"Thirty-nine percent sync rate. That's a lot better than we expected," said Dr. Akagi. "Release the locks."

There was a dull thud from outside, and Shinji felt something on his arms, as though someone had been grasping them and had just released them. Then he shifted, as the EVA began to move.

"Clear to catapult two."

There was another thud, and the EVA stopped moving. Then the feeling of constriction returned to his arms.

I'm feeling what it feels...so I guess I can pilot it. Just think of it as...me.

"Catapult locks engaged. Route to surface confirmed cleared by visual inspection."

"Shinji?" It was Misato again. "Are you ready?"

"As ready as I can be."

"Good. Evangelion Unit One, launch!"

With bone-crushing suddenness, the EVA rocketed towards the surface. Twice, the gee-forces lurched forwards and backwards during its ascent, and then, with equal suddenness, it reached the top. Shinji shook his head, trying to recover from the acceleration. A door sprang forwards in front of him, causing him to blink in the sudden brightness of the light.

A short distance ahead of him stood the Old One.

"All right, Shinji. I want you to concentrate on walking. Just one small step."

Shinji stared at the Old One, shaking.

The Old One...

"Shinji, come on. Just one step."

Memories flooded into him, alien memories. He saw places where parallel lines intersected, where music was harsh, discordant and atonal. He saw ropy tentacles, staring eyes, gibbering mouths.

He saw his mother's face, as it was before—

The creature reached for him with one vast crablike claw, and he screamed.

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