Where They Extend
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.
"I know you're hiding in there."
Shinji stared down at the comatose body. Asuka still wore her plugsuit and A20 clips, looking as though she would rise to fight again at a moment's notice. The plugsuit contained rudimentary life-support systems, the A20 clips provided sensory for the EEG.
Just another illusion.
"Rei can sense you in there. She can hear your thoughts."
He forced himself not to think of the being in front of him as Asuka. It wasn't. He just prayed that Rei was right about who it was.
"Nigoki. Talk to me!
Her eyes opened.
"So determined this one was. Determined to die. I have preserved her mind. But her body weakens."
"Why are you doing this?" Shinji shook his head. "You know how badly it hurt her when you did it last time. How has she earned your punishment now?" His voice was rising. "Is it because she lived, and you died?"
"You should know us better than that now." Nigoki shook her head. "Even should I choose to do so, it is unlikely I could act on that choice."
"When the Old One seized control of my body, I knew that I was dead." Her eyes bored into his. "There is a certain...liberation that comes with acknowledging your own death. I made a choice then, that my Dreamer would not die with me.
"The choice at first seemed in vain; Cyäegha was carried in the Dreamer's very soul. But I saved her mind, pushed it into the Dreamlands, where it is now safe."
"So you saved her."
"Yes." She nodded. "Between my life and hers, I chose hers."
Seventeen: Where They Extend
The telephone rang.
It almost seemed to be too much trouble for her to answer it. Between losing Ritsuko, losing Asuka, and coming far too close for comfort to losing Shinji, she didn't have an awful lot of reason to bother with anything.
On the other hand, she was running out of things to lose. After the fifth ring, she picked it up.
"Are you alone in the house, Misato?"
She sat bolt upright. "Ritsuko!"
"Yes, it is I. Are you alone in the house?"
"Rei's in the next room, but there's no telephone there."
"Rei is safe. Of all the people we deal with, only the Dreamers are safe."
"Ritsuko, where are you? I can come and get you and keep you safe. Just tell me where you are."
There was a pause, and then Ritsuko said, "I am quite safe where I am. Nothing short of an N2 mine can touch me, and even then, I might survive."
"Where are you?"
"I am quite safe where I am. I need to tell you what you need to do next. This is very important, and you cannot tell anyone else. Except maybe Shinji. Of all the people we deal with, only the Dreamers are safe."
"Okay." Misato forced herself to calm down. "What do I need to do?"
"Kaji sent me a data card. It is hidden in my office, underneath my most commonly used piece of equipment. When I received it, I checked it out, and found that most of it was pornography. But there was a hidden, encrypted segment."
"What was on that segment?"
Another pause, then she said, "I haven't broken the encryption at the time I recorded this, so if I do not know what was in there, the odds are good that I was killed before I could update the personality file."
"Personality—You're a program."
"An excellent AI, used to preserve a person's knowledge and personality. Unfortunately, it's not much more than a toy. But I've used it as a sort of insurance policy." Her flat delivery and odd pauses were more easily explained now. "At this time, there is no ongoing alert, no crisis involving the Dreamers, and I have not updated the file in at least seven days. Under such conditions, the AI is programmed to act as I see fit."
"What's on the chip, Ritsuko?"
"When I received it, I checked it out, and found that most of it was pornography. But there was a hidden, encrypted segment. I haven't broken the encryption at the time I recorded this, so if I do not know what was in there, the odds are good that I was killed before I could update the personality file."
Misato bit her lip; she would have to ask the right questions to get the responses she needed. "Why is Shinji safe?"
"Shinji asked me for details on the Deep Ones. He put me on the right track. Kaji sent me some of the information I already had. When I unlock the chip, I'm going to tell Shinji what is on it."
She might have already done so, thought Misato wildly. "Ritsuko—"
"I miss you."
"I miss you too. My best friend." There was a pause, then she continued. "I kind of miss me, too."
"So, Asuka's essentially dead, right?" Shinji indicated the redheaded body in front of him. "You've commandeered her body, since she can't use it any more?"
"I cannot use it effectively, either." Nigoki shook her head. "I still lack the drive to do so. What is it that you humans have, this ability to choose to act? It is denied to my Brothers and Sisters."
"So how is it you could take over her before?"
"I merely acted on her own desires. To understand the people around her better, to demonstrate her superiority, and to act on her attraction to yourself and the Dreamer of Ice."
"Then how can you choose to speak to me now?"
"I did not choose, Dreamer. You made that choice."
Nigoki had terrified him in the past; now, he began to pity him. "So even with a body, with a functioning mind..."
"I am still not truly alive." Her voice took on a wistful tone. "With the Dreamer alive in me, I was a god of battle, an Angel of death, praying for war. She gave me what I lacked, and made me complete. Without her...even with this body, I am an empty shell."
"You almost sound like you loved her."
"More than life itself." She looked up at him. "You know what you and the Dreamer of Water must do. This body must end."
"Yeah." He choked back the tears. "I know."
"Dreamer. When the moment comes...I would have it be by your hand. And so would she."
"The destruction of Cthylla was a mistake."
Gendo scowled. "It was also unavoidable. As long as the Master remains unharmed, Cthylla will reform."
"But what of her soul?" Like the other eleven, the man wore a long cowl to conceal his face, even over the videoconference. "If it is lost, she may not be able to return to Earth."
"Her soul is safe within the Evangelion Unit One." Gendo smiled. "I shall dispatch that unit to do battle with the Master. They will reunite, and the Master shall have the strength of both until the time is right for her to be reborn."
"You have proven far too efficient at destroying the Old Ones," commented another. "You have destroyed both the allies and the enemies of the Master."
"I cannot attack some Old Ones, and let others pass unharmed."
"We understand that, but you had the opportunity to sacrifice an Evangelion, without harming the Old One. A plausible loss. You passed up that opportunity."
"Had I done so, even this council could have kept my position at NERV. I might not even have survived the day."
"You are the thirteenth member of the Order," said a third cowled figure. "As such, you must recognize that you are the most...expendable."
"That was true when I was assigned to NERV," argued Gendo. "But not now. Now, you need me."
"Not so much that you cannot be replaced should you test our limits. Remember, that, Ikari."
"I shall remember."
"The stars are nearly right. Great R'lyeh has risen from its watery grave, and the Master shall again walk the face of the Earth.
No-one had looked into tidying Ritsuko's office in the five weeks that she had been dead. Moldy coffee cups, incomplete forms, and small computerized gadgets sat in a cluster around the huge ashtray that dominated the desk.
She didn't want to touch anything. Not until she was certain. The problem was that Ritsuko hadn't ever been seen to use the same gadget more than once a day.
Hell, she never even finished a cup of coffee! Misato glared at the messy desk. First thing she did in the morning was to dump her half-finished coffees and her ashtray—
Her train of thought abruptly derailed, and she stared at the ashtray. She poked through it carefully, to ensure that it contained nothing but charred tobacco and cigarette butts. Hands shaking, she picked it up, and looked underneath.
She cursed her stupidity, then turned and dumped the ashtray into the garbage. As she flipped it over, her eye was caught by the large label on the underside, loudly proclaiming that the ashtray was Made In China.
A very large sticker. Much larger than a data card. She peeled it off.
Underneath was a hollow, a natural artifact of the forming process. And within the hollow was the data card.
"It's an obsolete format, replaced by our new high-density disks." Maya examined the card carefully. "Sixty-four megs maximum capacity. The overall storage density is lower, but they were a lot smaller. How much porn could he have on it?"
"Ignore the porn. I want you to find that encrypted sector."
Maya bit her lip. "Captain, I'm not really sure that this is a good idea."
"You're worried that they'll kill you? Like Ritsuko?"
"No." Maya's lips twitched. "If Doctor Akagi thought it was important, then I'm with you. The problem is that encrypted data often self-destructs if it's not read properly. I don't wanna be the one to screw it up."
"I have faith in you, Maya. Besides," added Misato, "if I try to access it, I certainly will screw it up."
"Okay. This card uses a destructive-read method. Part of the reason they were phased out. Once you read something from the card, you have to write it back if you want it to stay there."
"Why would they design something like that?"
"It's a limitation of the technology of the time. The only way they could get decent data storage density. Problem is that the standard reader/writer interface for the card uses a checksum algorithm, to ensure that data is stored properly. Encrypted data would fail the checksum, and wouldn't be written. So I get one shot."
"How would the data get on the card in the first place?"
Maya shrugged. "You could modify the interface to skip the checksum, but then you run the risk of data corruption. And with this card, the risk was significant. One in about a hundred thousand."
"When you're discussing millions of bits of data, yes."
"Ritsuko read what was on the card, and then put it back on. What would you need to accomplish the same?"
"A hardware and a software hack. But that could take days to lash up, especially on my own."
Misato handed her Ritsuko's laptop. "What are the odds that Ritsuko could do it?"
Maya stared at the laptop in surprise, then took it. "A lot better than the odds that I could." She considered the laptop carefully. "You've heard that data stored on a computer is never truly lost, right?"
"Yeah. Unless someone uses a scrubbing program."
"Not even then. Ritsuko broke into a high-security zone. She must have programmed a keycard to do so. She probably used this laptop to do it, since she could hardly use the MAGI."
"So the data might still be in there?"
"Yes." Maya set the data card on her desk, and picked up a disk. "First thing I'm gonna do is see if I can't persuade this thing to give up its secrets."
"You risk antagonizing them," stated Fuyutsuki. "I merely wish to suggest that you be a bit more conciliatory with them."
"Are you siding with them, Kouzou?"
"No!" The older man shook his head. "You know I oppose their plans. If they had any idea of what you intended—"
"Then neither of us would be here." Gendo looked up from his desk. "They want to bring back the greatest of the Old Ones. They don't realize the threat to humanity that Cthulhu represents."
"But they do. And they hunger for it."
"No!" Gendo stood, began pacing behind his desk. "They see themselves as favoured by Cthulhu, that he will allow them to rule over the remains of Humanity. What they don't see is that he will destroy them as well! He destroys everything!"
"If it were not for Cthulhu, my wife would still be with us." Gendo clenched his fist. "She would have been fully human, not some half-breed freak. She wouldn't have turned her back on me."
"If I recall correctly, you turned on her when she started to change."
"She wasn't Yui anymore!"
Silence ruled the office for long moment, then Gendo continued.
"She was taken from me. What remained in her place was a Deep One, spawn of Cthulhu. The same blood taints my son. Eventually, he will turn as well."
"Once, he was the second greatest joy in my life." Gendo shook his head. "The single point of pride in the wreckage of my life. But he will be taken from me. Because of who he is." He looked up. "I have caused him great pain, but it will spare him greater pain later."
"He may not turn. He is only one-quarter Deep One."
"Even ten generations later, they always turn." Gendo shook his head. "The scrolls told me that, even before I had the complete Book. The Innsmouth Report confirmed it. Genetic testing in Imboca and Okinawa added further evidence. He will go into the sea."
"But he is your son!" Kouzou shook his head. "Doesn't he mean anything to you?"
"He will not be my son for much longer," roared Gendo. "He will become an abomination. He will forget his surface life. He will be as lost to me as Yui!"
"And what of Rei?" asked Kouzou quietly.
"She is a tool. Nothing more."
"Don't lie to me, Gendo." Kouzou stared at him coldly. "You've had a hand in her raising, since she was first created. She looks so much like Yui—"
"I needed the taint. Only the spawn of the Old Ones can merge with the Young."
"Then why did you select the genetic markers to make her look like Yui?"
"I don't need to explain myself to you."
"Yes, you do!" Kouzou leaned on the desk. "Do you think you were the only one who loved her? The only one who felt pain at her loss?"
Gendo shook his head. "No. That is why you are at my side. And so is Shinji."
"Do not antagonize the DAGON council, Gendo! If they knew our plans, they would kill us instantly."
Shinji ran down the companionway, glancing into each compartment as he passed. She had not been in any of her usual haunts - not the galley, nor her office, nor even at her post on the command deck.
Most likely lost again.
He stopped, and took a step back, and stared at a hatch.
He thumbed the hatch release, and it slid back into its pocket. Within, Misato was sitting at Ritsuko's desk, a laptop computer in front of her. He head lay across the keyboard, her eyes streaked with tears, and most disturbingly, her pistol was clenched in her hand.
She sat up slowly, and blinked at him. "Shinji. Why are you here?"
"I was looking for you. Nigoki—"
She shook her head. "Doesn't matter."
She waved her hand at the computer. "Kaji's final message to me. They used my eggs."
He blinked at the apparent non-sequitur. "What are you—"
"I don't remember what it was that knocked me out. Father told me, just before he put me in the escape pod, that he'd had to perform emergency surgery to close me up." She shuddered. "I always carried that image in my head...him giving his life, struggling to save mine."
"He lied to me!" She stood up suddenly, and holstered her pistol. "I'm gonna find out what the hell Kaji was talking about." She pulled a card from the computer—a standard NERV security card, it looked like—and stalked from the office.
Shinji fell in beside her. "But if he saved you—"
"A lie." Her voice was ugly. "They smuggled something out of Antarctica, a piece of an Old One! Sewn up inside my guts. When they rescued me, they performed another operation. An emergency hysterectomy, they said, because I'd gone septic. They scooped out my ovaries, my uterus, pretty much everything above the cervix. And they used the eggs to make some kind of artificial life form." She shuddered again. "He spent his last minutes planting some monster in me."
A sudden chill washed over Shinji. "Where are we going?"
"No!" He stepped around her, blocking her path. "Misato, trust me, you don't want to go there."
"Out of my way."
"Listen to me!" He grabbed her arm. "I can tell you what's in there. You don't have to go. Ritsuko died because she saw what was in there. Father would have killed me, if he didn't need me to pilot!"
"I have to see." Misato's eyes were welling with tears. "They took away my chance to be a mother. Something I wanted, ever since I was old enough to understand. They turned my egg cells into—" She shook her head. "Probably the EVAs. I have to see it for myself."
"It wasn't the EVAs." He sighed, and stepped aside. "I'm coming with you. If Father finds out you're down there, maybe I can save you."
"I don't care." Her voice was bleak. "What he's taken from me—"
"I care." He fell in beside her again. "We need you, Misato. Rei and I both need you. Remember that, please."
"Contact." Maya leaned in, staring at her screen. "Extreme range, seven hundred kilometers. Closing very fast."
"Great." Hyuuga thumbed his communications stud. "Captain Katsuragi to the command deck. Pilots to their ready room." He released the stud. "How long do we have?"
The hatch slid open, and Gendo's voice filled the compartment. "It is Cthulhu. The time is now right."
"Sir!" Hyuuga glanced over at him. "I've paged the Captain to the command deck, and the Pilots to their ready room. Should I order the conventional troops to stand by?"
"No." He sat down behind his desk, hands steepled in front of him. "There is no way for them to destroy Cthulhu. This is the battle that the EVAs were created for."
"He comes!" Keel threw back his cowl, an unholy glee in his eyes. "Finally, he comes, and will be welcomed by his servants!"
"Misato, we've been ordered to report in."
"Not yet." She ran the security card through the terminal, and the doors slowly started to open. "Not until I've seen Terminal Dogma."
"If we go to fight, it will still be here when we get back."
"Shut up." She stepped through the doors, and paused. "What the hell...?"
He followed her through the doors. "This is the nursery. This is where...the artificial life form was kept."
"Only one? I had hundreds of egg cells!" She glanced around, and spotted the other door. "What's through here?"
She had already stepped through, and paused in shock.
Hundreds of clones. All Rei.
"She's part Old One, but she's also part of you, Misato." Shinji's voice was sad. "And she's partially my mother as well. Three sources of genetic material."
Misato's face crumpled. "No, this can't be..." She shook her head. "Why are they in the tanks?"
"I don't know," said Shinji. "Maybe they can't survive outside of the LCL?"
Her face twisted, and she brought up the gun. Shinji started. "No—"
The roar of the HK 40 was deafening in the room, and a glass partition was shattered by the bullet. LCL spilled out into the room, and the clones within the tank crumpled. She brought it around, put another round through the second tank, then the third. All around them, clones died silently, their bodies breaking up slowly. Misato brought the gun up to her shoulder, turned to leave...and froze.
Rei stood at the door.
"Did you know about this?" Misato's voice was harsh, very rough.
"I learned only in the last week that I was a clone." Rei stared at the dying clones. "I have seen this place in Shinji's nightmares. But only a day ago did I learn of these clones."
Misato slowly brought the gun down, until it pointed at Rei. "Only one left now."
"No!" Shinji stepped between the two. "You can't kill her!"
"She's one of them! An Old One!"
"She can't help who she is! She's fighting the Old Ones. She's saved your life and mine!"
"She's your daughter!" Shinji's voice was hard. "Your eggs, remember?"
"My daughter..." Her voice wavered, her gun hand drooped, then came back up firmly. "They mixed up your mother's DNA with that of an Old One, planted it in my egg cell, and grew this...thing! She's not my child."
"I won't let you kill her."
"Misato! You're distraught!"
"Distraught? Why would that be?" She laughed bitterly. "I learn that everything I've ever been told is a lie, and that I've been living with a monster? Could that be it?"
"I won't let you do it." His voice lowered. "You forced me to make a choice. I'm putting it right back on you. If you can shoot your own daughter, surely you'd have no problems shooting me too."
Misato's tears flowed freely now. "You—"
"I wanted to kill a madman. You want to kill an innocent girl." He stepped closer to her, grabbed the gun barrel and pointed it at his heart. "Go on! Shoot!"
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because I don't want her to die. And I don't think you could live with yourself if you shot her."
Misato stared at him, then slowly brought the gun back and clicked the safety on. She glanced up at Rei. "I..."
Rei nodded. "You are my mother."
"I should have...I shouldn't have said such things about you." Misato shook her head. "Even if I wasn't your mother, I...I had no right."
"But you do." Her eyes were sad. "I am what I am."
"No. The real monster is Gendo." She holstered the pistol. "And we're going, right now, to get rid of him."
"No." Rei shook her head. "We are out of time. Cthulhu approaches. We have another monster to kill first."