Fear

Madness Will Reign

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 blue Alpine screeched to a halt, sliding through a 180-degree turn and coming to rest just outside the main doors. Misato threw on the parking brake and leaped out of the car. She turned back as the two girls got out behind her.

"Get to the cages, suit up, and get ready for battle."

"Yes, ma'am!" Asuka threw a credible salute, then turned and ran off.

"Commander Ikari has not authorized the release of Zerogoki." Rei looked down. "I can sense the Old One coming, and I believe we will need all three."

"Get below, and suit up. If it gets bad enough, we'll launch Zerogoki, no matter what the Commander says."

Rei nodded. Misato turned and ran through the gates.

The elevator seemed to take forever to reach the command deck. The doors finally opened, and Misato ran in, grabbed a headset, and tucked it in place. She turned to Aoba.

"Any word from Shinji?"

"He's at the cages, already in his plugsuit." Aoba tucked a lock of hair back behind his ear, and tapped a command into his terminal. "EVA Unit One is charging now."

"Maya." Misato turned to the technician. "Any ID on the approaching Old One?"

"Not yet." Maya shook her head, and added, "The MAGI database is incomplete, however."

"Where the hell is Ritsuko?"

Gendo's voice cut through the calamity. "Doctor Akagi will not be joining us."

She turned, to face him. He was seated at his desk, Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki standing nearby. "Where is she?"

"She is not currently able to assume her duties." Gendo's hands folded in front of his face. "You will need to proceed without her."

Fear

Fourteen: Madness Will Reign

Asuka stalked into the cage, to see Shinji seated in his still-open plug.

"Why haven't they launched you yet?"

"I dunno." He shrugged. "The Commander decided to send you and Nigoki first."

"Oh, well that makes sense." She grinned. "If he sends the best first, he doesn't have to send you."

"Yeah..." Shinji looked away.

Asuka frowned, and asked, "Did something happen?"

"I—" He sighed. "I'll tell you later."

"Asuka reports ready, Captain."

"Insert the plug."

"Plug insertion."

"Captain!" Hyuuga turned to face her. "We have a gate forming inside the Geofront!"

"Polarize." The windows immediately fogged, preventing a view of the Geofront. "Status of Unit Two?"

"Internal power charging, now at sixty percent."

"Plug fully inserted."

"Start A20 induction."

"Command language set to German."

"Route to Geofront confirmed clear by visual inspection."

"Captain Katsuragi."

She turned to face the Commander. "Sir?"

"I have identified the Old One. Destruction of this target is your primary goal." He frowned. "All other considerations, including pilot survival, are to be considered secondary."

"Aye, sir." She turned back. "Status of power systems of Unit Two?"

"Fully charged, ma'am," reported Aoba. "Disengaging internal power supply, and Evangelion is now on batteries, five minutes run-time...mark."

"Evangelion Unit Two, launch!"

He rose from the depths, to find himself in the strange alien city. Deep below the surface still, but no longer caged like a beast.

His Dreamer hungered for the Dream, now. She gave herself willingly and consciously, her berserker fury a match for his own. At her silent suggestion, he readied the strange weapon that travelled alongside him in the elevating cage.

Neither matter nor energy have effect on the Old Ones. I would think that you had learned this now.

Others, less enlightened than I, have not yet learned. The red-haired Dreamer smirked. And who knows? Perhaps, this time they have come up with something that will work.

He stepped around the elevator cage, and snapped up the gun pod.

Cthylla.

The Old One had six long tentacles, each tipped with a razor sharp talon, as long as his hand. Two small membranous wings sprouted from an ugly red lump of a body. As he watched, the wings lengthened, stretching out towards the dome above.

She is changing, so that she may fly.

Not if we can help it.

The gun pod responded to their will, directed by the armour. It roared, pumping round after round into the vile being. To his mild surprise, it actually seemed to be hurting her. She squalled, retracting her tentacles, and traced a sign in the air.

A barrier sprang up between them, and further projectiles bounced harmlessly off of it. He discarded the gun pod; it would not breach this barrier. But if the barrier was attuned to stop matter or energy, the Flow might be able to pierce it.

He raised his hands, and traced the patterns. The air between his hands began to heat, reaching massive temperatures. Within less than a second, he now held at bay a fury to match this world's star. But mere energy alone would not pierce Cthylla's barrier.

He stepped forward, and pushed a tendril of the Flow towards the barrier. It weakened, and he allowed the superheated air to blast through the newly-formed hole. The barrier contained the fusion-hot air, save where it had been pierced, and formed the resulting blast into a dome, with Cthylla trapped in the centre.

The air cooled rapidly, once released from the Flow. But it was immediately apparent that this tactic had failed; Cthylla remained unharmed.

She is still proof against energy and matter; whatever was in that rifle worked, but we are out of ammunition.

The Dreamer withdrew momentarily, and spoke to her Sleeper companions. "Misato! Send up another palette rifle."

"We're all out of the new ammunition, Asuka. We can send you up a standard rifle."

The Dreamer was upset. "Never mind then, let's not waste any more ammo."

It will have to be the Flow again. I have a doubt, my Dreamer.

We cannot afford doubts. The Dreamer opened herself completely again, and battle rage suffused him.

His hand flexed, and the Lance appeared. We shall carve our way through the Barrier. His legs tensed, and he sprang forward, Lance held on high.

Asuka's screams of rage returned, as EVA-02 charged the beast. There was a visible flash as it cut through whatever field was protecting the Old One, and the glowing crowbill that it had summoned from thin air vanished. EVA-02 raised a gauntleted fist, and a beam of energy flashed between it and the Old One. The monster howled, the noise reaching even down to the Command Deck. And then it retaliated.

One massive tentacle wrapped around EVA-02, trapping an arm against its torso. Another wrapped around the legs, and a third slashed down, severing its free arm. Blood spilled from the wound, a veritable river, and it screamed in pain.

Misato paled at the sight. "Sweet merciful God."

Maya put a hand against her mouth. "Massive intra-neural trauma. The pilot's sync rate is well over one hundred percent; she can feel that!"

The claw struck again, this time severing the EVA's head.

"Cranial trauma! Sync rate is now dropping. What the hell is going on out there?" Maya turned towards Misato's monitor.

"Eyes front, Ibuki!" Misato snapped. She watched as the Old One dropped the EVA. "Stand by recovery. Begin startup sequence on Evangelion Unit One."

"You cannot recover Unit Two while the Old One is still active," said Commander Ikari.

Misato turned to glare at the Commander. It affected him not at all; he continued to sit behind his desk, hands folded before his face.

"Once Unit One has engaged the enemy, Commander, we can safely recover Unit Two."

"Recovery teams will not be able to face Cthylla without losing their sanity," said Ikari.

"We can get Unit Two under cover before sending recovery."

"That will not assist in defeating the Old One."

Misato's glare darkened into a scowl. "Unit Two is no longer combat capable. His head and arm have been chopped off!"

"You can still detonate the core," said the Commander.

"No." Misato shook her head. "I'm not about to kill Asuka just yet."

"Pilot survival is secondary to—"

"Blowing up the EVA won't even scratch the Old One." Misato turned and glared at him. "I'm not going to sacrifice a Pilot and an EVA to no effect."

There was a cold silence, then the Commander nodded. "You are correct. Continue."

The plug sealed, much to Shinji's surprise. He tapped the communications net. "What's going on?"

"We're deploying you and Unit One," said Misato. "Get ready."

The LCL flooded into the tube, and he fought down the panic.

"As usual, conventional weapons are not working." Misato's voice was calm. "Unit Two is down, and we're working on recovering it, but the GeoFront is still a combat zone."

"Is Asuka—"

"We don't know." Misato looked away. "EVA-02 is badly damaged, and she was over a hundred percent sync. She is not responding to messages, but the commo gear could have been damaged."

"I can get her out of there."

"No." She shook her head. "Destruction of the Old One must be our top priority. You can assist with pickup after you destroy the target. If we get a chance, we'll isolate Unit Two and send recovery in after her."

A second screen flared into existence, Rei's ghostly face wavering in the LCL. "Captain Katsuragi. I can make pickup on Pilot Sohryu while Pilot Ikari is engaged in combat."

"We need you as our reserve, Rei."

"If I am making pickup, I am not in combat."

"I'm sorry." She shook her head. "Unit Zero is still under lockdown."

"Misato!" Shinji leaned forwards. "We can always build more EVA. But trust me: There are no more Dreamers!"

"The decision is not in my hands, Pilot Ikari."

He bit down a retort, and said, "Understood, Captain."

"Stand by for plug insertion."

The massive cams rotated the plug into position, and he felt the familiar tumbling, falling sensation as it locked into place. The tube flooded with colours, before clearing and allowing him to see the cages.

"Beginning A20 nerve induction."

"Set command language to Japanese."

"Route to Geofront confirmed clear by—wait!" Aoba's voice held a note of panic. "The target has reached the planned launch point, and is beginning to descend."

"What?" Shinji's panic grew worse.

"Activate catapult tube defenses."

"No effect, Captain."

Misato paused, then asked, "Charge status of Unit One?"

"Full charge. Disengaging internal power supply, and Evangelion is now on batteries."

"Good. Shinji, can you and Shogoki dislodge that thing?"

Kinetic strike?

Yes, I think so.

Shogoki raised a hand, and a bolt of force slammed into the Old One. The force pushed the creature back from the opening, and it quickly moved off. Shinji stepped back from the Dream, and said to Misato, "Route to Geofront is now clear by visual inspection."

"Roger." Even in full battle, Misato couldn't help grinning at that. "EVA Unit One, launch!"

The acceleration forced him back into the seat, and Shogoki rocketed to the surface.

Cthylla fought to right herself as Shogoki stepped clear of the launch platform. The umbilicus that carried power to the armour was now attached, feeding the armour directly. And her Dreamer was one with her at this time, his worry over the Dreamer of Fire, Asuka, casting only a small shadow over his desire to fight.

She took the force bolt on a barrier; she is unharmed, and will be after us in a moment's time.

We should not give her that moment.

The Lance formed in her hand, and she leaped into motion. The Lance slammed into her barrier, and bounced off harmlessly.

Not good.

She stepped back, and raised her own barrier, just as Cthylla struck. The creature's claws raked the barrier, weakening it, but failing to penetrate. She increased the Flow, reinforcing the Barrier, and reached inward to the Dreamer.

Reverse the polarity, Shogoki. Erode her Barrier, as we did to Byatis.

Cthylla is much more powerful than Byatis. We will be vulnerable.

We have little choice but to risk it.

The Dreamer was correct; she could not hold the barrier for much longer against the might of Cthylla. She stepped forward, and reversed the Flow in the barrier.

Cthylla's barrier dissolved, but so did her own; the Old One struck, two claws slamming into her abdomen. One bounced harmlessly off her armour, but the other pierced through, meeting flesh. The Dreamer screamed, as he felt her pain, but did not fall away from the Dream.

No; instead, he reached deeper.

Her hands moved under the Dreamer's influence, grasping the tentacle that impaled her. Slowly, she pulled herself along the tentacle, closer to the abomination which now fought to escape her. Closer, until she was almost nose-to-nose with her.

We cannot form the Lance this close; she is cancelling the Flow!

We do not need the Lance.

The Dreamer was closer than ever before; their minds were as one. They reached up, and tore off their helmet, discarding it. Their jaws opened, roaring Their battle fury.

We will watch this one's demise with our own eyes.

Their hands grasped the Old One, and tore. A tentacle slammed into a building, spilling the vile thing's fluids across the streets. Another was hurled, to splash into the lake.

She brought on the madness of the Father.

Their fists slammed into Cthylla's eyes, crushing them and blinding her. Gobs of flesh were pulled from the protean form, and thrown carelessly aside.

She comes to bring death to those we hold dear.

Their hands jammed into her maw, grasping opposite jaws and pulling until the lower mandible was torn from its roots.

And she has power, that we can take for our own.

Cthylla's soul flickered, a candle in the raging wind of the Flow, and they grasped it with both hands, and drew it into themselves.

"Target is silent."

"No response from the Pilot at all. Biometrics are returning nothing."

"Plug cam."

A screen flickered to life, to show the darkened plug interior. The white and blue of Shinji's plugsuit.

His empty plugsuit.

Misato gaped. "Where—"

"Unit One is coming about...approaching the primary recovery hatch."

The Commander spoke. "Jettison umbilicus."

Maya flipped a plastic cover, and slammed a fist down on the red button. "Clear jettison. Unit One is now on batteries, five minutes remain."

Misato turned to the Commander. "Sir, the Pilot of—"

"I am aware, Captain."

"We're talking about your son, Commander!"

There was no response from Ikari. Misato turned, and watched as Shogoki knelt by the downed Nigoki. Almost reverently, she turned her Brother over, and carefully extracted Asuka's plug. She placed it on a recovery cradle, and stepped back.

Misato nodded. "Recover Asuka's plug."

"Plug is descending."

Misato stepped over to Maya's console, and punched a communications button. "Shinji. Shogoki. Your job is done, and we've recovered Asuka. Proceed to recovery."

There was no answer from the purple-armoured behemoth. She knelt again, picked up the fallen EVA's palette rifle, ejected the spent magazine, and loaded it with a fresh clip.

"What the hell is she—"

Shogoki turned, and ran towards the central pyramid.

"Oh, hell." Misato turned to Maya. "How much time left on the batteries?"

"Four minutes, twenty seconds."

"Lance!"

Shogoki's Lance slammed into the hatch, tearing it like tin foil. Another strike opened it completely, and Shogoki stepped through.

"Ma'am..." Hyuuga turned to face Misato. "That entryway leads to the cages. Unit Zero is still in there, and Rei."

"I doubt very much she's going to harm Rei."

"She?"

She glanced over at Maya. "Time?"

"Three minutes, twenty seconds remain."

Misato turned back to the screen. "Seal all emergency bulkheads between the entryway and the cages."

"What the hell is going on?"

"She's gone berserk." Misato scowled. "And Shinji's...gone, so we can't just knock him out."

"Eject the plug," ordered Ikari.

"Fuck that," snapped Misato. "We don't know what happened to Shinji, and I will not risk his life!"

"That is a direct order, Captain Katsuragi."

Misato whirled, her HK 40 leaping almost of its own accord into her hand. She pointed it at Commander Ikari's head. "I refuse that order, Commander."

"Ma'am. Shogoki has breached the first bulkhead...barely slowed her down." Aoba tapped a control, then froze. "She's not going to the cages."

"What?" Misato whirled, and asked, "Where the hell is she going?"

"Main ventilation shaft...she's—"

The floor shuddered beneath their feet.

"She just dropped sixteen levels; she's right behind—"

The glowing Lance sliced throught the bulkhead, breaching the Command Deck.

Screams filled the deck, enlisted personnell fleeing before the oncoming giant. Maya was cowering under the command console; Aoba was readying a submachine gun. Hyuuga grabbed her arm.

"Ma'am, we can fall back—"

"She won't hurt us." Misato calmly replaced her pistol in its holster.

The Lance struck again, peeling back more of the bulkhead, and Shogoki stepped through the gap. The Lance faded, and she cocked the palette rifle. And brought it up, pointed straight at the Commander.

He stared back at her, hands still folded before him.

Misato stepped between them. She fought to keep her features still, not to betray the terror she felt, staring down the muzzle of a 60mm cannon.

"I won't let you do that."

Shogoki spoke. Her voice, though deep and echoing, was soft, but the words were cold and hard as a blade.

"The golden-haired Healer, no Dreamer, but of all the Sleepers, I valued her the most." Her face was difficult to read, being so completely non-human, but the contempt in her voice was obvious. "He killed her."

"And what of me?"

Her voice was more uncertain now, and held some of Shinji's patterns. "I do not want to kill you, Misato. But he's evil, and he needs to be stopped. I can't do it on my own."

"You will have to kill me to reach him." God, she hoped he wouldn't take her up on that. "Will you let Shogoki kill me?"

"We are not Shogoki. We are not Shinji. We are One." She leaned closer. "Do not allow us to harm you. We would grieve for you."

"I can't let you kill him."

"We know you grieve for the Healer as well."

"Yes. I do." She crossed her arms. "But I swore an oath, that I must uphold."

"He is no better than the Old Ones himself. He is worse. We will stop him, before he kills all the Sleepers."

"Then pull the trigger," Misato yelled defiantly. "Go on! If it's that important, then I don't matter, right?"

Her gaze bored into Misato's, the massive forty-meter being, held at bay by a woman not even a twentieth her height. And perhaps, by something more. The massive gun pod drooped, the muzzle coming to rest on the command deck, and the searing light of hatred faded from her eyes.

The EVA buckled under her own weight, collapsing across the command deck, her head coming to rest beside Misato.

Silence reigned across the deck.

Misato gasped, and fought to keep her knees from shaking as the adrenaline slowly faded from her system. She turned to Maya.

"Status?"

Maya pulled herself from under the console, and ran a quick check of her board. "Power exhausted, EVA is silent. No biometrics on the Pilot."

"Notify recovery." She turned back to Ikari. "Operation concluded, Commander."

"So noted." Gendo nodded. "I want to thank you, Captain. Despite your earlier...insubordination...you have held true to the mission of this organization."

Misato carefully kept her voice neutral. "As I stated to Shogoki, sir, I took an oath."

"Nonetheless. I believe you showed valour today above and beyond the call of duty." He stood up. "A promotion to the rank of Major seems appropriate."

"All due respect, sir." She allowed the ice to creep into her voice. "I believe the rank of Captain more suits me."

She turned and stalked off the Command Deck.

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