Fear

Season Of Doom

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.

The end was almost upon him now. He knew it; he could feel it coming. He didn't need to see the buzzards circling above him.

The sun was only a handsbreadth above the horizon, and already beating down on him mercilessly. Every bit of desert survival lore he knew had kept him alive to this point, but it was unlikely to help for much longer. He was running out of water, he was completely out of food, and he doubted that he'd find shelter soon.

The desert was going to win this one.

He thought again of the pistol in his pocket. He would have discarded it a while ago, but there was always the chance he could shoot something to eat. He hadn't seen much yet; whatever creatures lived in this desert, they were better at hiding than he was at finding them. But perhaps the pistol could serve another use. Certainly, death by his own hand would be preferable to death by exposure or dehydration. But he shied away from the thought. As long as he drew breath, there was a chance he could make it out of this alive.

Another cactus, twenty feet away. He crawled towards it, unable to stand upright. Another mouthful of water, and maybe he could keep going. He pulled himself to a crouch, broke off a branch, mindless of the thorns.

The rattlesnake was buried under the sand; frightened by his movement, it lashed out, sinking its fangs into his arm. He grabbed it, threw it away, and immediately started sucking at the wound.

Goddamn snakes... He spat, sucked out more blood and toxin and spat again.

At another time, in another place, he would have survived. But he already felt the tingling at the base of his neck; the rattlesnake's venom was affecting him swiftly. Weakened by water loss and heat exhaustion, he was losing the fight.

He fell over, his vision clouding as the sun burned into his retinas.

Sorry, Misato...I had a chance to...

Darkness took him before he could complete the thought.

Fear

Thirteen: Season Of Doom

"Cardiac arrest."

"Begin pulmonary resuscitation."

"Yes, Doctor."

Asuka ran over to the tube. Misato followed her closely; the German girl was still rather shaky on her feet. "What's happening? Is he all right?"

"He's had a heart attack." Misato scowled at the plug. "They're jumpstarting his heart."

"Oh, my God." Asuka collapsed to her knees. "Shinji, don't you dare die on me!"

Rei put a hand on her shoulder. "He will survive. We are harder to kill than you think."

"Please, Shinji, don't die. I take back the mean things I said about you. I don't want you to die." Asuka didn't seem to realize that she was babbling. "I don't want you to die, I don't want you to die..."

"His heart is stopped!" Misato yelled at the redhead. "He's already dead!"

Asuka paled in shock, and buried her head in her hands.

"EKG is solid. His heart is beating again."

"Gott im Himmel!"

Misato grabbed the redhead. "Come on, get back. They're going to extract the plug."

The massive cams ground into action, drawing the plug from the pool of LCL and placing it on its support rack. Two technicians worked the hatch, draining the plug and extracting the limp, unconscious form from within. Shinji spasmed, LCL spurting from his nose and mouth, and then fell still. Misato stepped forward quickly, touched two fingers to his neck.

"I've got a clean pulse." She leaned down, putting her cheek next to his face. "Respiration." She turned to the technicians. "Get me a gurney. Take him to ICU fifteen, get him hooked up stat."

The technicians manoeuvred him onto the gurney, and wheeled him out. Asuka watched him leave, hands clasped in her lap.

Misato glanced over at the redhead, and couldn't resist needling her. "Seemed kinda frantic there, Asuka. Maybe you don't hate him as much as you claim?"

Asuka stiffened, then sniffed. "Do you know how long it would take me to break in a new Pilot?"

Shinji, wake up.

Why should he wake up? He was dead. And rather comfortably, as well.

Shinji, wake up.

They stopped Mnomquah, they closed the Gate to the Dreamlands, and destroyed the Pool of Tears. Mission accomplished. Couldn't he just stay dead?

Shinji, wake up.

He blinked his eyes, and saw the hospital ceiling above him. Someone was holding his hand, but released it when his eyes opened. He looked to the side, and saw Rei sitting next to him, still in her plugsuit.

"...Rei?"

"You are awake." She stood. "I must inform Captain Katsuragi."

"Okay." He still felt weak; the questions he had would have to wait.

Misato walked in, looking every inch the superior military officer. "Pilot Ikari."

He sat up as best he could. "Yes, Captain."

"Report on mission status?"

"Mission complete." He nodded. "We destroyed the means of accessing the real world from the Dreamlands."

"Excellent." She pulled off her beret and collapsed into a nearby chair. "Don't take this the wrong way, Shinji, but I'm glad as hell that they've got you doing this job and not me."

"I wish I could say the same." He glanced over at Rei. "But the job has its perks."

"Heh." Misato picked at a ball of lint on her beret. "Asuka and Rei have already been formally debriefed, but you've been unconscious since we pulled you from the plug four hours ago. Your formal debriefing is scheduled for oh-eight-hundred tomorrow."

"I have school tomorrow."

Misato sniffed. "I think that a formal NERV debriefing is a little more important than school."

"I was merely reminding you that you'll need to call the school and inform them that I won't be available."

Misato frowned, and glanced over at Rei, then back to Shinji. "Are you sure you two aren't already married?"

Shinji chuckled at that, and then asked, "Can you pull up some records for me?"

"Depends." Misato shrugged. "What do you need?"

"Imboca, Innsmouth and Okinawa." Shinji frowned. "I got some information from the Dreamlands. I think it has to do with the Old Ones. The United States Navy torpedoed Innsmouth in the thirties, and the Spanish Government hit Imboca in 2005. The coral reef outside of Okinawa was depth-charged with an N2 mine in 2006. I need to know everything that you can find about this."

"I'll see what I can dig up." Misato considered, and then added, "If I speak to your father—"

"No." Shinji shook his head. "My...contact...in the Dreamlands warned me not to trust him."

"That is unfair." Rei spoke up. "The Commander has the defeat of the Old Ones as his primary goal."

"I don't think so," said Shinji. "My contact stated that he was after one only. He doesn't care about the rest, save that if they destroy NERV, he won't have the means to kill the one he wants."

The city was, unlike many others he'd seen in dreams, remarkably normal. Houses, office buildings, all the usual city-like structures. Save that many of the houses clung to the side of cliffs, rather than resting on the ground. There was no stairs, no elevators, to reach these houses.

But given that the city was completely underwater, there was no reason for there to be any.

Creatures moved from building to building. They looked like fish, at first glance. But they were humanoid—two arms, two legs, a head, no tail. They swam swiftly, though they did not look as though they'd be as nimble on dry land.

One of them paused, and began to shift. The fish-like features faded, as the creature became fully human.

His mother.

His eyes snapped open.

They had insisted on keeping him overnight for observation. Rei had wanted to stay with him, citing her concern for her instructor, but Misato had overruled her. He hoped that she wouldn't have a nightmare tonight.

There was a movement at the door; he came more fully awake and looked over. His father stood there, a scroll in his hand. It seemed rather out of place in this technological fortress, but there it was: a scroll of some delicate material, aged and frayed, wrapped with a red cloth ribbon.

"How are you doing, son?" His father looked concerned.

Shinji just stared back at him.

"They only told me a short while ago that you'd had a heart attack. I came down as soon as I could." He fidgeted, scratching his beard lightly. "If you had died—"

"If I had died," said Shinji coldly, "you would have replaced me."

"That—" His father looked shocked. "How could I replace you? My own son—"

"You cast Mother aside, when you saw what she was becoming." Shinji scowled, and looked away. "Why did you engage me to Rei?"

"She's been abused, and I felt that—"

"Don't lie to me!" Shinji's voice rose. "She looks identical to Mother. Like me and Asuka, she heals fast. She is fearsomely strong. Anyone who could abuse her would likely have to kill her, or give up sleeping."

"Abuse takes many forms, Shinji." Gendo looked down. "I am not proud of what I did to you. I only felt that I had to, because I would not be a good father to you. Not after losing your mother."

"Don't change the subject," he snapped. Gendo looked up again, the surprise showing through the mask. "Why did you engage me to Rei?"

"It was for your benefit, and hers," he said. His voice firmed up. "At all times, I have had your benefit, and hers, at heart. All that I have done, I have done for you and for her!"

"That's what worries me the most," said Shinji.

"You cannot pretend that you feel nothing for her." Gendo sat down on a nearby chair. "I've seen you two, and I've received reports from Captain Katsuragi."

"I'm not going to discuss my relationship with Rei." Shinji looked away. "That's my responsibility, not yours."

"My responsibility is to ensure that you and she have a world to live in. The Old Ones—"

Shinji looked back at him again. "The Old Ones. You have some kind of source, don't you? A book. Something that tells you what to expect, when they will come."

"Yes." Gendo held up the scroll. "I was coming to give you these. Six pages from the Necronomicon."

He couldn't help it; he laughed. "The Necronomicon? Give me a break!"

"The book has been given many names over its long history. The Necronomicon is the most common name, and it has given rise to its own body of myth. But the original Necronomicon has never been gathered in one place until now."

"And it tells of the Old Ones?" He couldn't help his curiosity now.

"Yes." Gendo laid the scrolls on the nightstand. "I am entrusting these to you; let no-one else see them, especially Rei."

"Why not Rei?"

"I cannot say." He shook his head. "These scrolls will tell you what you need to know of the next Old One...as well as information on the Deep Ones."

"What are the Deep Ones?"

"It's in the scrolls." He tapped them gently. "With the information you requested from Captain Katsuragi, you should be able to piece together what you need to know."

"Katsuragi residence." Misato frowned, then said, "Yeah. She's here. Why didn't you just call her cell?" She paused, then shrugged. "Okay, gimme a second."

She walked down the hall to the room that Rei and Shinji shared, and knocked on the door. "Rei? Phone call. It's the Commander."

Rei opened the door, a confused look on her face, and took the portable phone. "Yes." She paused, then frowned slightly. "Is this the result of the last battle?"

Misato frowned as well.

"I understand." She killed the phone, then turned to Misato. "Commander Ikari believes it may be necessary to deactivate Zerogoki."

"Oh, Rei..."

"He believes that his actions during the last battle displayed an uncharacteristic element that may render him unstable." Rei looked down. "He may have to be destroyed."

"I found the connection." Shinji tossed the scroll onto Ritsuko's desk.

Ritsuko looked up. "What connection?"

"Imboca. Innsmouth. Okinawa." Shinji indicated the scroll. "Three cities of underwater creatures, that the writer of this scroll called Deep Ones."

"Oh." Ritsuko nodded. "So what's the connection?"

"Deep Ones are apparently cross-fertile with Humans."

"You're kidding!" The Doctor paused as she took in the cold mask of his face. "No, I see that you are not."

"Mom was from Okinawa. I saw her city. So was Asuka's mother." Shinji shuddered. "The description of the Deep Ones...it seems that my mother was slowly turning into one. Apparently, when they start turning, they feel an uncontrollable urge to go to the sea. Asuka's mother..." He swallowed. "She went insane, because they prevented her from returning to the sea."

"So they were Deep One hybrids."

"Yeah." He laughed, a bit unsteadily. "And that makes me and Asuka Deep One hybrids as well, but not as strongly. We still heal fast, and I imagine..." He swallowed. "I figure we'll start turning into them as well, eventually."

"Oh, Shinji..." Ritsuko looked down. "I—"

"But Rei." Shinji shook his head. "She heals fast, as well, and she's frightfully strong. I think she might be half Deep One."

"No." Ritsuko shook her head. "Rei is something else." She reached into a pocket, and extracted a data card. "Kaji sent this to Misato, but she asked me to check it for viruses and such before she used it."

Shinji smirked. "Curiosity killed the cat, Ritsuko."

"I know." She stood up. "Follow me."

"By the way. Tiger says hi."

Her eyebrows shot up to her hairline.

Asuka knocked hesitantly on the door. "Rei?" She scowled; she wasn't used to being the first up. "There's no coffee, no toast, no stupid soup..." She yanked open the bedroom door, and stormed in. "Hey! Wonder Girl!"

Her jaw dropped in surprise. Rei was seated on the futon, knees pulled up against her chest. Clutched between her knees and breasts was a pillow; her arms were wrapped around it, and her face buried in it. She rocked back and forth slowly, making not a sound.

Asuka took a step back, slowly. "Never mind. I can make breakfast."

Rei looked up at her. Asuka was expecting a tear-streaked face, but Rei's expression was composed.

"Pilot Sohryu." She hesitated, then continued. "I would ask for your assistance."

"Ummm...sure." Asuka walked back into the bedroom, and sat down in front of Rei. "I..." She scratched her head. "Misato told me they were thinking of deactivating—"

"I do not wish to speak of this." Rei shook her head. "In fact, I most specifically insist that we not speak of this."

"All right." Asuka shrugged. "Then what do you want to talk about?"

"Anything else." Rei looked down. "Tell me of something happy in your past."

"Happy in my past?" Asuka snickered. "Not a lot, really." She sighed, and shuffled her feet. "The happiest I remember being is the day that I first synced with Nigoki. I ran home to tell Mutti...and..." Asuka shook her head. "Not a good memory."

"What about your first victory with Nigoki?"

"Yeah. Real happy time." Asuka's voice dripped venom. "I needed Shinji's help to be able to sync enough to fight, and then I got possessed by Nigoki. And he didn't even find me worthy of possession." She snorted. "Even you were creeped out over that. How do you think I felt?"

Rei smiled slightly. "I do recall that I was...disturbed."

"You were cowering in the closet!" Asuka giggled. "And then Misato and Shinji tried to get me in that group hug!"

"It was only fitting. After all, you had already kissed me. The other two needed some affection."

"Was that a joke?" Asuka snickered again. "Wow, make a note of the date and time!" She sobered. "But there's not a lot of happy times, really. Except after I came here, there were a few times that were...less painful." She looked down. "You've probably had a lot happier times than me."

"It was only recently that I learned that life need not be painful," said Rei.

"Really?" Asuka looked up.

"My earliest memory is of being told by Commander Ikari that my parents would not care for me, because I had no purpose." Rei looked down again. "He acted as my Guardian...and I felt that the way he acted must be right. Until I came here." She smiled softly. "Misato treated me more kindly than anyone else here. She lives a life free of discipline, where her whim is the only rule. Freedom and kindness are the mainstays of her life." She looked up at Asuka, and the redhead was surprised to see sadness in the albino's eyes. "I was afraid of her. I was afraid of Shinji, who only wanted to offer me kindness."

"Sure he did," muttered Asuka sarcastically. "All teenage boys are suffused with kindness...until they get your bra unhooked."

"I was taken from my apartment, where I was alone. I was placed in a situation where physical contact was frequent...and Commander Ikari had never touched me, save to punish me." Rei clenched the pillow more tightly to her chest. "I was so afraid..."

"You know, Rei..." Asuka cleared her throat. "I'm kind of honoured that you're willing to tell me all this. I mean, you don't seem the sort to really open up to anyone...least of all me."

Rei smiled bitterly. "This is true."

"Why can't you tell Shinji any of this?"

"I..." She shook her head. "He is not here, and I must tell someone."

"Why not Misato?"

"No." She shook her head again. "In a lot of ways, I still fear Misato. Even Shinji, I still fear sometimes."

"Not me?" Asuka smirked. "Should I be offended?"

"Probably." Rei's voice turned a bit frosty. "You have gone out of your way to offend and aggravate me since you arrived...and I have done much the same to you. And I apologize."

Asuka shrugged. "Hey, if Wonder Girl can make mistakes, surely us lesser mortals can do the same, right?"

"Indeed. However, I was counting on you to make my share of mistakes as well as your own."

"Two in one day!" Asuka grinned. "There's hope for you yet!" She reached forward to tousle Rei's hair.

It was a mistake.

The instant that her hand fell on Rei's head, the other girl stiffened, then scrabbled away backwards. The pillow fell to the floor, and Rei came hard up against the wall, gulping huge breaths of air.

"What the hell?" Asuka scowled, feeling her good mood evaporate instantly. "All I do is—"

"No!" Rei shook her head. "No, it's not right!"

"What—"

Rei squeezed her eyes shut. "Calm..." She shook her head again. "No!" Her eyes snapped open, and Asuka was shocked to see cold, naked fear shining out through the mask.

"You should not have done that." Rei swallowed, and said, "He's coming now."

"Who?" Asuka was nearly yelling.

"The Old One!"

Shinji looked at the signs posted around the door. "Are you sure we should be here?"

"I am quite certain that we should not be." Ritsuko glanced about, then slid the card through a reader. The door opened, and Ritsuko stepped through.

"Most of the card was full of pornographic pictures. It seemed very like Kaji to send something like that to Misato." She smirked. "So of course, I got suspicious."

"You knew him?"

"Misato, Kaji and I were friends all through college." She looked over her shoulder. "Trust me, he was very much the womanizer."

"Why is this room so dark?"

"You'll see in a minute." She stopped by another door. "I dug a little deeper into the card, and found some concealed, encrypted files. Took me most of the day to crack them. What I found was...disturbing."

She flicked a switch, and the room was flooded with light. Shinji glanced around.

There was a small, rather poor-quality bed, a chair, and a chest of drawers. He walked over, and put a hand on the drawers.

Memories flooded into his mind...not his own memories, but someone else's. Rei's; he felt her presence. "This was Rei's room, wasn't it?"

"Yes." Ritsuko nodded. "She was born in the next room, and lived her first seven years here."

"Seven-?"

"Until your father 'adopted' her."

He turned to face the Doctor. "What is—" He shook his head. "There's something not right."

Ritsuko slid the card through another reader, and the second door opened. "The answers are in here."

Shinji hesitated. "I'm not sure I want to—"

"You need to." Ritsuko's face hardened. "If you want to truly understand what's going on here, you need to go through this door."

He took a faltering step towards the door; his legs were not co-operating.

"Shinji, we don't have all night." Ritsuko looked more scared than impatient.

He swallowed, and walked through the door.

The room beyond was poorly lit, but most of the light was focused on the three large tanks. Shinji stared at them, his gaze moving along the rows of humanoid figures within.

Rei. Hundreds of times over, Rei. Every one of them a carbon copy of his fiancee.

"What the fuck is this?" His voice was weak and unsteady.

"Rei is a clone," said Ritsuko. "I knew that she was artificial in nature, but I had no idea how much so. From what Kaji learned, she was a composite clone of three beings."

"Mom was one of them." It was not a question. "That's why Rei looks so much like her."

"Yes. Another was Misato. She doesn't know; Kaji planned to tell her. And the third—"

"Rei has had dreams, involving Misato," interrupted Shinji. "And I think she suspects that she's somehow tied to Mom."

"The third life-form is the dangerous one." Ritsuko seemed to steel herself. "Part of Rei's DNA pattern is Evangelion."

"...What?"

"The same process that was used to create the Evangelions was used to create Rei." Ritsuko shook her head. "She is a descendant of an Old One."

"Does she know?"

Ritsuko shook her head. "I don't think so."

"No, she doesn't."

Shinji gasped, and whirled to see his father standing behind them.

"Bastard!" spat Ritsuko. "You're worse than the Old Ones. At least they have the power to get away with playing at God. You'll cast her aside, once you've gotten what you need. Just like me. Just like Yui."

"Be very cautious, Akagi." Gendo's voice was cold and hard.

"Fuck you." She turned and stalked towards him. "I'm gonna do exactly what I should have done hours ago."

The shot echoed loudly in the cavernous chamber. Ritsuko's anger gave way to surprise, as the blood welled out of the sudden hole in her tunic. She dropped to her knees, then slumped to the side.

Shinji whirled to face Gendo. "You son of a—"

He turned the gun towards Shinji. "Do not make the same mistake she did."

"Gonna gun me down too?" He laughed bitterly. "We both know you hate my kind."

Gendo uncocked the pistol, flipped the safety on and returned it to his pocket. "You still have your part to play."

"Oh, that's right," sneered Shinji. "You need me to kill an Old One. Just one; the others are window dressing." He waved a hand towards the massive tanks. "What's to stop me from telling everyone what you have going on down here?"

Gendo smirked, and asked him, "Do you look forward to telling Rei?"

Ice formed around his heart. "Bastard." He looked down. "That's why you engaged me to her...you knew I couldn't tell her."

"As I said...for your good, and hers." He turned and walked from the chamber. "An Old One will be here in minutes. It is time to play your part."

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