Fear

Mankind Now Rules

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.

"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..." He glanced down at his son, and Shinji's fear mounted as their eyes met.

The same arctic gaze now bored into Shinji's eyes. The chill broke as he raised his eyes to the heavens. "The contamination is widespread...but it can be cleansed."

Fear

Ten: Mankind Now Rules

"Mother!"

Shinji sat bolt upright, gasping for breath.

"Shinji."

A hand touched his, another rested on his shoulder. He turned, to see Rei, sitting next to him.

And for an instant, overlaid, his mother.

He scrabbled backwards, gasping, and stared at her. The pain in her eyes was surprising.

"I..." He gasped for breath. "I'm sorry, Rei...I was still dreaming."

She looked down. "I understand."

"No, you don't." He moved closer to her again, resisting the impulse to reach out to her. He'd hurt her enough for the moment. "I...I saw my mother. Just before she died. And I looked at you, and..." He paused. "You look a lot like her. In the build of your face, and you wear your hair the same."

"Commander Ikari dictated the hairstyle that I must wear."

Shinji was still somewhat addled from the dream. "He does? But..."

"I never met the Commander's wife. I came to live with him after she died." Rei looked up at him. "He has never spoken of her. I have never even seen a picture of her. All I know of her, I know from you."

"I don't understand..."

"Nor do I." She reached out to him again, and drew him into her embrance. "Come. You have been my comfort in the past. Now let me be yours."

Held tight against her, he soon slipped into dreamless sleep.

He awoke to the sound of running water and tuneless singing in German.

He sat up gingerly, rubbing his head. A mild headache; he expected it to fade shortly. He stood, stretched, and walked out to the kitchen.

Rei was already fully dressed, and had breakfast waiting as usual. He smiled his thanks as the coffee and miso were set before him. Rei turned and picked up a second bowl.

The singing cut out, and the door opened behind him. "Good morning, Shinji. Good morning, Rei."

Rei appeared stunned. She carefully set the bowl down on the table, and said, "Pilot Sohryu. Are you feeling well?"

Shinji could not have been more shocked if Rei had launched the bowl and gone into the Tokyo Shuffle. He glanced over his shoulder.

Okay. He could be more shocked.

Asuka stood before him, just out of the bath. She'd not bothered with details like drying herself, or putting on any clothing.

"...Asuka?"

She blinked, and looked down. "Gott im Himmel!"

She turned and bolted back into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

He glanced back to Rei. She still had a deer-in-headlights look on her face.

"Is it just me, or did Asuka..."

"She did." Rei nodded. Then turned back and poured another cup of coffee.

Asuka re-emerged, wrapped in a bathrobe. She cuffed Shinji across the back of the head. "Pervert." She glared at Rei, then marched down the hall to her bedroom.

Shinji frowned, and turned back to Rei again. "Am I a pervert?"

"You do not wander around the apartment unclothed."

"Asuka."

She turned, walking backwards, and glared at him. He cringed at the contempt in her face, but forced himself to continue speaking.

"Why exactly did you walk naked out of the bathroom this morning?"

"I wanted to go get dressed, and I forgot my robe. It was just a momentary lapse, is all. Won't happen again." She smirked. "I oughta bill you for the peep show."

"All I have is a hundred yen."

"That sounds like a fair price," commented Rei.

"Ooh, you're in good form this morning, Wonder Girl." Asuka smirked. "Of course, you put it all on display for free. It's a wonder that you don't wander around stark naked, for all the little that you wear around the house."

"I have never left the bathroom while completely unclothed. Except on one occasion."

Shinji winced at the memory of that one occasion.

"Oh? Did Shinji get a free show that time?"

"She was moving too fast," said Shinji.

Asuka snorted, and turned around to walk forwards again. "Strange...so much human behaviour is tied into reproduction...almost every aspect of their psyche..."

Rei glanced over at Shinji, and the puzzlement in her eyes was for once easy to read.

Asuka was not normally a disruptive influence in class, but her alternation between boredom and confusion was usually a bit distracting. Today, however, she had followed the curriculum with marked concentration. Even the history teacher had been unable to put her to sleep.

As usual, the day ended with Phys. Ed. Shinji didn't much care for gym, but no-one had consulted him on his preferences. He'd discovered a bit of enjoyment in badminton; physical power wasn't needed. The game required manual dexterity, and the ability to co-ordinate with a partner. Best of all, mixed doubles were common in the sport, and he was often partnered with Rei.

He wondered sometimes if Rei was telepathic; she seemed to be sensitive to an approaching Great One, and her ability to back him up seemed almost psychic. This game, however, he was pitted against Asuka and her partner, a slender and fast boy named Akira.

Asuka stepped into the court, racquet held in hand like a club. This was nothing new; Asuka's contempt for the sport was widely advertised. She tested the balance of the racquet, and something in her face changed.

"A game of skill and precision against the two of you...I think I will enjoy this."

Shinji blinked. She hates badminton...just playing against Rei and me shouldn't change that... He glanced over at Rei, and saw his confusion mirrored in her face.

"Volley for service." Rei lobbed the shuttlecock over the net, and Asuka leaped up to spike it straight into the pavement.

Shinji blinked again.

Rei almost frowned. "That was not a volley."

"I am sorry. Please, I don't know this game well." She scowled suddenly. "You know how much I hate it..."

Rei volleyed again, and the serve eventually fell to Asuka. Shinji found himself hard pressed to keep up with the redhead's ferocious play; her partner eventually gave up, and the game turned into an uneven match, Rei and Shinji against Asuka.

And Asuka won.

She ducked under the net, no expression on her face. No gloating, no victorious glee. She walked up to Shinji, and offered a hand.

"Good game."

"Yeah." He shook her hand. "Yeah. Good game."

She tossed her racquet over the net, to her partner. "Glad that's over. I'm heading to the shower." She stormed off the court. "Stupid game. What's wrong with football?"

Shinji glanced over at Rei. "That seem odd to you?"

She nodded silently.

Shinji dropped his shoes onto the ground, and stepped into them. He glanced up at Rei. "You got any ideas?"

"None." She shook her head.

Shinji sighed, and leaned up against the lockers. "Well, she's definitely acting weird."

"Her behaviour is frequently strange, but it is a consistent strangeness. She is behaving...inconsistently."

He glanced up at the albino girl. "So what would you suggest we do?"

"Ice cream!" Asuka grabbed his arm, and dragged him towards Rei. With her other arm, she snagged Rei's.

Rei paled. Shinji winced.

Asuka dropped Rei's arm as though burned. "Sorry, Wonder Girl. I forgot you're not the touchy-feely type."

"Asuka—"

"Ice cream! To celebrate my properly syncing with Nigoki! My treat!" She grinned at Rei. "Will ice cream gum up the inner workings of a Droid?"

"Asuka—"

Rei's expression shifted slightly. "I think that it is an excellent idea." She stepped around Asuka, and took Shinji's free arm. "Do you know where to acquire some ice cream?"

He stared at her in surprise...and realized that for once, he could see through the mask. The way she held his arm...she was frightened.

"I think I know a place."

The world seemed to be mad.

Asuka was talking animatedly, to Rei, to him, to other customers, possibly to the fake plants in the store. Rei mechanically consumed her ice cream, her expression as bland as plain tofu. Shinji was having difficulty even looking at his.

"Come on, Rei!" Asuka waved a spoon in her direction. "Show some enthusiasm!"

"There is no need for enthusiasm."

"No?" Asuka pointed down at the ice cream. "That's triple fudge! How can you not be enthusiastic?"

"It is insufficiently nutritious, and a most inefficient means of serving dairy products."

"You suck the life out of everything, don't you?" She frowned. "Haven't you ever had ice cream before?"

"No."

"Oh, well, that explains it!" Asuka paused to shovel in another spoonful. "For us humans, ice cream brings up memories of birthdays, parties, special occasions. I doubt that Droids have parties." She tucked back the last of her serving, and jumped up. "I'm getting more!"

Shinji watched her make her way back to the counter, and turned to Rei. "Why did you—"

"When she touched me." Rei clasped her hands in her lap. "I felt...something else. Something is...observing Asuka. Perhaps even controlling her."

"An Old One?"

"No." Rei shook her head. "Whatever it is, it wants something. I felt a very...human...emotion." She looked down. "I can never understand what the Old Ones feel."

"Is it dangerous?"

"I do not know."

Asuka returned with a towering parfait.

"We're home."

"Welcome back!" Misato set down her beer can. "You were all gone before I even got up!"

"Lots to do!" Asuka raised a thumbs up.

"Guess so."

"Misato?" Shinji set his book bag on the table. "You got a minute? There's something I think I need to talk with you about."

"Sure!" She slid open her bedroom door. "Step into my office."

Shinji thought of the mess that the door normally concealed, then shook his head. "Out on the balcony?"

She shrugged. "I suppose."

They stepped out, and Shinji slid the door shut. Then turned to Misato, and spoke in low tones.

"There's something wrong with Asuka."

"Oh, it's just that she's a foreigner. Ways different from our own. You should travel more, it really broadens the mind—"

"No." He shook his head. "There's something else." He stepped a bit closer. "Rei felt...something wrong with her. Like she's possessed or something."

"An Old One?" Misato frowned.

"No, that was my first guess, too. Rei says that whatever it is, it's more human than that." He shrugged. "She said she felt a human emotion, when Asuka grabbed her arm. But she didn't say..."

"It was human, but not something she could pin down?"

"Yeah."

Misato considered this, than said, "There are too many unknowns. I think we should just keep an eye on her for a while."

Rei sat in her armchair, staring at Asuka. For her own part, Asuka was savouring a cup of tea.

"Most delicious." She set the cup down. "So many things to see, so much to explore..." She glanced over at Rei. "Freedom is a wonderful thing, isn't it?"

"Freedom?"

"Think about it, Rei." Asuka stretched. "We're the Dreamers. We can do anything we want!" She winked. "What are they gonna do? Throw us in jail?"

"They placed Pilot Ikari in solitary confinement, for not following orders."

"Did they, now?" She leaned forward. "For how long?"

"Seven days."

"And how did you feel about that?"

Rei fidgeted. "I do not wish to discuss it with you."

"Have you discussed it with him?"

"No."

"Why not?"

She clasped her hands in her lap. "I do not feel the need to discuss it with him."

"But you're his fiancee." Asuka tilted her head. "You two are, by arrangement of his father, to be life-mates. Am I right?"

"Yes."

"Closer than brother and sister. Two parts, as one. Right?"

"I have been told that this is the case." She looked down. "I have no experiences of it."

"But you know that he is to be your other half." She stood, and took a step closer to Rei. "Don't you want to know what he thinks of you?"

"I know what he thinks of me." She shivered.

"What is it, then?" Asuka smiled. "You cannot talk to him about it. So you should talk to me about it."

"I do not wish to—"

"What happened to what you said yesterday morning? 'Then I suggest that we freaks look out for each other.' That is what you said, isn't it?" Asuka leaned in closer, her smile seeming more predatory. "What happened to those brave words? Are you turning coward on me?"

"I..."

"You do not like me. I know this. I am too different from you, and you do not understand me." Asuka knelt before the albino girl. "Strange, the walls we build between each other. One between me and you. One between you and the Dreamer Shinji. But you try to climb over those walls."

"Please..."

"So tell me, since we must look out for each other. What does the Dreamer Shinji think of you?"

Rei stared down at her hands, willed them to stop trembling. "He fears me."

"Why?"

"Because I..."

"Brave Dreamer Rei." Her voice was mocking. "What have you seen, when you climbed that wall?"

She stood upright, causing Asuka to stagger backwards. "Because I hurt him. I cannot help but hurt him!" She clenched her fists. "Because he does not want to see me in pain, and he cannot help causing me that pain."

Asuka reached out, and touched her face. She flinched from the contact, but forced herself to remain still.

"Zerogoki can feel your pain." Asuka's voice fell to a sibilant hiss. "He rages against your pain. But still he does not turn against you. He does not turn away from the Dreamer Shinji."

"How do you—"

"Nigoki. He tells me." Asuka looked a bit bewildered, and she snatched her hand away from Rei's face. "He speaks to his Brother and his Sister." She turned away. "I'm sorry, Rei."

"There is no need to apologize."

Asuka clenched her fist. "No...no more..." She shuddered. "Rei, go!"

"Asuka?" Rei stepped forward, raising a hand, but Asuka turned again, a manic smile on her face.

"So. You and Shinji have been sharing a bedroom for a couple months now. You taken advantage of the situation yet?"

Rei frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, sure, you're not married yet. Probably saving it for the big night. But still, you've got lots of chances to just mess around, right?"

Her frowned deepened. "If I understand your meaning, Pilot Ikari and I have not engaged in any such activities."

"What? Are you still in kindergarden?" Asuka chuckled. "You can't tell me that he's never tried to grope you."

"Pilot Ikari has not attempted such activities."

"Not even tried to kiss you?"

"No." Rei walked past her. "I am going to bed."

"Rei!"

She turned.

Asuka walked towards her. "Have you ever been kissed...by anyone?"

"No. I would derive no benefit from it."

"How would you know?" Asuka walked up to her. "If you've never been kissed, you would have no way of knowing."

"I know myself."

"It's a very intimate touch, you know." Asuka grinned. "No physical human contact is free of sexual implications; it permeates the entire psyche."

"Who are you?" Rei took a step backwards. "You are not Pilot Sohryu."

Asuka closed the gap again. "You fear human contact. But without it, you will never know anyone."

"I—"

"I'm still not really comfortable with this, Misato."

"There's not a lot we can do. The three of you have a sync test tomorrow, so maybe Ritsuko can figure it out then." Misato sipped her beer, and sighed. "Maybe you'll learn something from the dreams."

"But just doing nothing?"

"If Rei's convinced it's not dangerous—"

"She's not convinced. Just a feeling."

"Kinda surprised here, Shinji." Misato chuckled. "When you first came here, you wouldn't have dared argue with me."

He shrugged. "You gave me this job, training them, so I might as well do it the best I can, right?"

"Good attitude, kid." She chuckled again, then shook her beer can. "Okay. The booze is gone, the conference is over." She grabbed his elbow. "Let's get back inside."

They turned, and froze.

In the living room, behind the balcony door, Asuka held Rei in a passionate kiss. Her arms were wrapped around the slender girl. Rei's arms were ramrod straight, fists clenched.

"Oh, shit." Shinji moved first, tearing open the balcony door. But he was a fraction of a second too late.

Asuka flew across the room, smashing into the far wall and dropping like a stone. Rei turned and bolted from the room, running down the hallway to the bedroom.

"Oh, sweet Jesus, what's happened?" Misato ran over to the collapsed redhead. "Asuka, are you all right?"

"What the fuck was I doing?" Asuka looked terribly confused. "I was..."

"You were kissing Rei."

"That bastard!" She closed her eyes, shook her head. "What the hell was he thinking?"

"Who?"

Asuka clenched her eyes shut, shook her head. "No...not again! No more!"

Rei had overturned the nightstand in her flight. She huddled in the closet, the nightstand between her and the rest of the world. Shaking.

Shinji walked up to the nightstand, knelt in front of it, keeping it between him and Rei.

"Rei?"

"She..." Rei shuddered. "It's him, Shinji. It's Nigoki. I could feel him, clearly, when she kissed me."

"Nigoki?" Shinji frowned. "How could he have done this?"

"They lack will. He took her will, rode her body." Rei looked up at him. "I understand what he feels now. He's lonely. He's curious about us, and wants to be with us."

"Can we...send him back or something?"

"He's here." Rei looked past him. He stood, and turned.

Asuka stood in the doorway. Her face was calm, her eyes guarded. He took a step towards her.

"Nigoki?"

"Dreamer Shinji." She smiled. "I am not surprised that Rei discovered the truth. It does surprise me that you needed it spelled out for you."

Rei shuddered. "Get out. Get out of her!"

"No." Asuka grinned evilly. "I think I like it here."

Shinji stepped closer. "Leave her. Leave that body, and go back to your own."

"You know, you're not nearly as scary without my Sister to protect you." Asuka grabbed his shirt, dragged him nearly nose to nose with her. "What exactly are you going to do? How are you going to drive me from this body?"

"By force, if necessary."

"Right. Like you'd bring yourself to harm her." Asuka's voice was mocking. "Like you could lay your hands on her, even if you had the will. Always, where the other Dreamers are concerned, you lack will."

"Shinji." Misato appeared in the doorway. "What about the A20 clips?"

"I don't think so." Asuka dropped the boy, and glanced over her shoulder at Misato. "Those won't do a thing. She knows it. I know it. You ought to know it."

"Why are you doing this?"

"To punish her!" Asuka snarled. "She needs to know what it is like to be a slave! She needs to look beyond her fear."

"What does she fear?" Shinji stared at the redhead. "Nigoki. Tell me what she fears."

She glared at him. "She may tell you. If she learns the courage to face up to it. I shall not. My Brother and my Sister call to me. I go now."

Asuka collapsed like a puppet with cut strings.

"Asuka!" Shinji knelt beside her.

Her eyes fluttered, and she sat up slowly. "He's gone." She pulled her knees to her chest. "He's left me alone again."

"You are not alone." Shinji knelt next to her, wrapped his arms around her. Across from him, Misato did the same. Only Rei remained alone, still huddled in the closet.

"What the hell are you two doing?" Asuka pushed them away, and stood. "Get your hands off me! I don't need your pity."

"Yep. She's back to normal." Misato laughed shakily. "If you'll excuse me, I need a beer." She too stood, and walked off.

"Bedtime for me." Asuka stretched. "And before you ask, Shinji, I am -not- wearing that damn A20 clip to bed tonight."

She stalked back to her room, shutting the door. Shinji turned back to Rei.

"Are you all right?"

"I will be soon." Rei unfolded herself, stepped out of the closet. "He said a lot of things that I need to think about." She looked up at him hollowly. "I fear to be alone tonight."

"You won't be."

"I am often alone, even with you sleeping beside me."

He looked down. "If you need me, I'll be there. I'll try not to hurt you."

"We both know that you will hurt me."

"DAGON has forwarded the video of the disaster to us." Fuyutsuki tapped a key on the computer's terminal, and the main screen sprang to life. It showed a satellite image of a facility located in the middle of the desert. "This is five seconds before activation."

A sudden, searing blast of light whited out the screen; when it faded, the buildings in the facility were warped and bent. No mean feat; they were built of titanium alloy.

"I think we can safely assume that Unit Three was lost."

"Yes, sir." Fuyutsuki leaned over. "The Fourth Child was killed inside."

"That is difficult to believe."

"Fast healers, these Dreamers, but even a Dreamer cannot return from ashes."

Gendo considered, then asked, "What is the status of Unit Four?"

"Ready to deploy, but DAGON has not found the Fifth Dreamer." Fuyutsuki shook his head. "They are very rare, and with all three of the undersea cities destroyed—"

"They had to be destroyed," snarled Gendo. "Filthy, stinking abominations..."

"Nonetheless, we are running out of Dreamers."

Gendo calmed himself, and said, "We shall have to manufacture one."

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