Fear

Ignorant Fools

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.

Misato stepped through the hatch and onto the command deck, pistol still in hand. She shoved it into her shoulder holster, and glowered at the screen. "What's the status?"

"The target is still two hours thirty minutes out. We have some time." Hyuuga glanced up at her. "Sensitives picked it up five minutes ago. They're all dead."

"How?"

"Brains leaking out their ears. Whatever that thing is, it's the most powerful Old One ever to come to this city."

"Order all conventional forces to stand by. In particular, I want the Atlas rocket batteries standing by. Full release of N2 weaponry, on my authority."

"That will not work." Gendo sat behind his desk, hands steepled before his face. "Cthulhu is, as with all the other Old Ones, immune to conventional weaponry."

"The Atlas missiles can engage the target when he reaches three hundred kilometers." Misato glanced at Fuyutsuki. "What does the Book tell us about Cthulhu?"

"That if you blast him into a million pieces, he'll just get angry."

"Anything helpful?"

"He is repelled by the Elder Sign," admitted Fuyutsuki. "It would not harm him, though, as it did Cyäegha."

"Then get it moved to Terminal Dogma," said Misato. "If Cthulhu gets past us, maybe he won't get past it." She stalked to Gendo's desk, and leaned towards him. "Why will he want to get to Terminal Dogma?"

Gendo scowled at her. "You know the answer. If he reaches Terminal Dogma, the planet will suffer a Third Impact."

"Why, dammit?" She was shouting at him now. "Goddamn it, you will fucking tell me what I need to know to kill this beast, or so help me—"

"You will kill me?" Gendo smirked. "If you fail to kill Cthulhu, we will all die anyway."

Fear

Eighteen: Ignorant Fools

Shinji touched the wrist-stud, and the plugsuit contracted, conforming to his body. "According to the Necronomicon, Cthulhu is the most powerful of the Old Ones on Earth. If we can take him out, we've basically won."

"Your copy is abridged," stated Rei. She stepped around the partition, hands clasped in front of her. "There is one more powerful, but he is contained and cannot attack us at this time."

"At this time?" He frowned.

"Yes. He will eventually break loose. But while he is immobilized, two Evangelions will be sufficient to destroy him." She looked down. "I am afraid I will be of no help in this battle; Commander Ikari has not yet authorized the release of Zerogoki."

"He will. Against Cthulhu, he will have to."

"Until he does, I will be ready to sortie at a moment's notice."

Shinji hesitated, then asked, "What are you afraid of?"

She looked up suddenly, and pulled her hands apart. "Fear will not influence my actions."

"I didn't ask that," he said softly. He stepped closer to her. "You're afraid. You never seem afraid before a battle, but I can see that you're scared out of your wits."

"I can feel him...in my mind." She rubbed her temple. "Like a song, a strange song, and the sound of drums..." She shook her head, and allowed it to sag again. "Even if Zerogoki is authorized for launch, I may be of no help to you."

"Don't worry," he said. He stepped closer again, placed his hands on her shoulders. "If I beat him, he can't affect you." He smiled faintly. "So I've got the most important reason to—"

"No!" She pushed his hands away roughly, and looked up at him. He was shocked to see tears coursing from her eyes.

"Rei—"

"Please, do not love me." Her tone was as neutral as ever, but her eyes were pleading. "I can only cause you pain. You have no idea how much."

They stood silently for a long minute, then Shinji stepped up to her. His arms encircled her gently, and he kissed her. When he drew away, he could see the fear in her eyes, warring with something stronger.

"Too late." He smiled again.

"I..." Rei looked down, and said, "We must proceed to the command deck to receive our briefing."

"Yes." He watched her leave the ready room, suddenly uncertain, then fell in behind her.

"Target is maintaining constant speed." Hyuuga frowned at his console, and added, "We've still got a few hours until it gets here."

"Begin startup sequence on Zerogoki and Shogoki."

Gendo scowled. "I have not authorized Unit Zero for release."

Misato scowled at him. "My operation, Sir."

"You may activate the unit, but do not deploy without my clearance."

The hatch opened, and Shinji and Rei stepped onto the command deck. Misato turned to face them. "We've got a bit of time still. Rei, Zerogoki has not yet been cleared for release, but I want you in the plug, the plug inserted, and ready to start on a second's notice."

"I understand."

"Shinji. We're going to hit the target with a full barrage of N2 warheads before it reaches the shore. We're hoping to weaken it, but it's more likely that we'll just piss it off."

Shinji swallowed the panic that warred inside of him. "What are my orders, Captain?"

"Kill it. Plain and simple. Hopefully, this is the last one we'll have to fight, so pull out all the stops. Whatever else happens, the target must be-Rei!" Misato's head turned back towards the albino Pilot. "What's wrong?"

Shinji looked over, and his heart leaped into his throat. Rei's expression was one of mindless panic, the only time she'd ever displayed emotion this clearly.

"He's in my mind—"

"AP and trank!" Misato turned to Maya. "Do it, now!"

Maya fumbled around at her desk, and brought up a syringe. "How do I—"

"Give it to me!" Misato snagged the syringe, and turned and grabbed Rei's shoulder. Rei's hand came up, backhanding Misato. The Captain flew across the command deck, crumpling over a console. Rei slowly turned towards Gendo, her expression shifting to one of murderous anger.

"This Child could kill you with ease, Mortal." Her normally expressionless face twisted into a sneer. "You created her; you know her strength, her limits. You know that they far exceed your own."

Gendo lowered his hands from his face. "Yes, I do."

"You have abused her, knowing it would wake me. And you have abused the Father, knowing I would come."

"You and your kind are a threat to my people."

"We are as far above your kind as you are above mosquitoes. And so we slap you, just as you would when bitten." She took a step towards him. "I will crush the life from you with your own creation. Such bittersweet vengeance."

"Not today."

The pistol roared, and Rei staggered back, blood flying from her shoulder. Gendo stood and raised the pistol to full extension, and fired again. The slug caught her in the thigh, and she fell to her knees. Again the pistol spoke, and this time, the bullet blew through her abdomen, spraying blood across the floor. Rei collapsed forward, one arm wrapped around her gut.

"You fucking bastard!" Shinji leaped towards him, heedless of the pistol, but Gendo slapped him aside. He smacked into the bulkhead, and staggered to his feet.

Gendo holstered the pistol, and sat down. "Captain Katsuragi."

Misato had finally caught her breath. "Yeah."

"Trauma team to the command deck." He glanced over at Shinji. "Calm yourself, boy. The girl is not fatally injured, and she will heal."

Shinji gritted his teeth, then went over to Rei. He slowly rolled the girl over, and saw with relief that she was still breathing. Her expression showed nothing now, but he could feel the tension in her muscles; she was in terrible pain.

He touched her face, and felt her now-familiar presence. He looked up at Misato. "Cthulhu has left her."

Misato nodded. "Get to your plug."

"But Rei—"

"Trauma team will be here in seconds. Go."

He stood, and nodded. "Aye, ma'am." He turned and ran from the command deck.

Misato glared at Gendo. "I'm surprised you didn't simply kill her. It would follow from your past actions."

"With Rei dead, I would have no further control over Shinji. Or you."

They rose from the depths, certain that it was for the last time.

The Father is still held below the city. But within his barrier, he can easily be destroyed.

Does it not bother us, that we would destroy our Father?

Part of us relishes the thought of destroying the Father. But Shub-Niggurath is this side of immortal. Even if completely vapourized, he will re-form in time. But a million years, while nothing to an Old One, could see the natural death of the human species.

A brilliant glare flared to the east, as the bombs on the Atlas rockets exploded.

He has increased speed. He will reach us in minutes now. And he is very angry.

Has he been injured by the blasts?

Yes, but the battle will be far from easy.

The gurney smashed through the swinging doors, into the emergency surgery room. Two medtechs began cutting Rei's plugsuit away from her, while the surgeon started attaching sensors to various parts of her body.

"No damage to lungs, but we need to intubate for surgery."

"Get some morphine into her, she's in a helluva lot of pain!"

"Start a unit, O negative. She's lost a lot of blood."

One of the technicians paused. "Abdominal wound is closing."

"What? You can't be serious."

"Jesus, it's just closing right over!"

The surgeon looked over, and frowned. "She's a fast healer, but not this fast. Is the bullet still in her?"

"No. Exit wound out the back. But the leg—"

"It's already healed." The other technician cut away the leg of the plugsuit, to expose the healed skin beneath. "The bullet is still lodged inside, and she's got a shattered femur that won't set right."

"Can we get it out?"

"At the rate she's healing, no way."

"What about the shoulder?"

"Clavicle's solid again, but twisted. She won't be able to use that arm very well."

Rei's eyes opened.

"Jesus, she—"

Her arm came up, tearing the restraints like tissue paper, and shoved a medtech aside. The surgeon grabbed a syringe, and fumbled for the IV line, but she tore the needle from her skin, then ripped the remaining restraints apart. Slowly she stood, the tattered remnants of the plugsuit hanging from her body.

The surgeon backed away slowly, placing himself between her and the door. "We're trying to help you."

"Another requires more assistance." She pulled the remains of the plugsuit off and tossed it aside, leaving her completely naked. "Get out of my way. I do not wish to cause you injury."

The surgeon hesitated, then stepped aside.

"A wise choice."

She limped towards the exit, then paused, and launched a fist into the communications panel. It shattered under the impact.

The weather reached the shore before Cthulhu. Clouds swept in ahead of the Old One, lashing the city with toxic rain and lightning. In the midst of it, They stood, Barrier raised and Lance at the ready.

Cthulhu plunged through the clouds, wings flared, and he slammed into the ground near the shore. The impact raised dust and debris to mix with the rain. When it cleared, They saw him crouched in the crater.

Slowly he stood.

Massive batlike wings unfurled, many times larger than Their own. Titanic arms ended in very human hands, save for the razor-sharp talon on each fingertip. Legs the size of the largest tree-trunks supported his misshapen body. His head was bulbous, with two glaring eyes shrouded by a heavy ridge of bone. No mouth was visible; in its place, eight massive tentacles, each as long as They were tall, writhed and weaved. He stepped from the crater, contemptuously knocking one of the strange buildings aside, and flexed his muscles.

He is considerably larger than We are.

Power and size are not always the same. We have defeated larger foes.

Confidence is good, but We must not become overconfident.

They felt his presence at Their mind. Part of Them remembered the Dreamer Rei, and the other part fought to keep him out. But his mental power was overwhelming.

WE NEED NOT DO BATTLE. DO NOT SACRIFICE YOURSELF. THERE ARE SO FEW OF OUR KIND REMAINING, THAT ANY FURTHER LOSS IS A TRAGEDY BEYOND WORDS.

We do not wish to do battle. But your actions will cause harm to those that We value. And therefore, We must destroy you.

IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT WE FIND OURSELVES AT CROSS PURPOSES. BUT THIS IS A BATTLE THAT YOU CANNOT WIN. IF YOU VALUE YOUR OWN LIFE, DO NOT OPPOSE ME.

We have no choice. They readied the Lance. If we can destroy you, then we can rest.

SO BE IT.

His hand came up, and the Flow wrapped itself around him like a long-separated lover. A torrent of ruinous energy splashed into Their Barrier, eroding it in seconds.

They did not hesitate, but immediately ran towards him. The Lance swung, and impacted the crown of his head, tearing a long, bloody furrow. He howled in pain, the force of his voice shattering windows all through the city. Again the Flow gathered, and he blasted Them directly, melting Their armour and throwing them aside like a dry leaf.

Our armour is badly damaged; its systems are no longer functioning.

We no longer need it.

They flexed, and the armour shattered like glass, falling away from Them. Their wings extended, freed for only the second time. The numbing that had accompanied the loss of Their armour in the battle against Ythogtha did not return; They were now One, and the armour was no longer required to control Their actions.

Cthulhu's mind hammered against Their own, threatening to drive Them insane, but Their minds were two as much as they were one, and he could not pierce their defenses enough to damage them. They knew that part of them, the part that provided their drive, was screaming in terror, but that part still gave them the need to fight, to live.

They leaped into the air, wings biting the wind, and gathered the Flow. A globe of pure hatred flashed into being, slamming into Cthulhu. Again he howled, but rather than respond with the Flow, he merely ripped a building from its moorings and threw it at Them. They dodged it, and struck again. This time, the Flow gathered at the ground beneath his feet, altering its electrical charges, and massive bolts of electricity jumped from the clouds to the earth. Arcs of lightning rippled along the Old One's frame, illuminating him clearly in the gloom.

They summoned a Lance, and threw it, piercing him through the torso. Another slammed into his head, and a third tore a wing off at the root. Losing Their lift, they touched down atop a building, and paused.

Cthulhu rose again. The severed wing dissolved, and from the stump grew a replacement. The Lance wound to the head closed, the one to the torso followed suit moments later.

YOU BEGIN TO ANNOY ME.

He stomped once. They felt the Flow ripple through the earth, and the building atop which they stood crumbled. Their wings spread again, and they touched down, but Cthulhu was upon them in an instant. One massive hand closed over Their head, the talons digging into Their skin. His tentacles lashed out, piercing Their body.

YOU HOLD THE SOUL OF MY MOTHER/DAUGHTER WITHIN YOU. WITH HER POWER, I WILL BE TRULY IMMORTAL.

They twisted, lashing out with a foot, and propelled Themselves away from him. The tentacles tore at Their flesh, but They concentrated the Flow and closed the wounds.

Cthulhu stalked towards Them, and They could hear the hate and anger in his thoughts.

STILL YOU PERSIST IN DOING BATTLE. YOU CANNOT HEAL AS FAST AS I, AND EVEN COULD YOU DO SO, YOU CANNOT MATCH THE DAMAGE I CAN INFLICT. YOUR DESTRUCTION WILL FREE THE SOUL OF CTHYLLA, AND I SHALL BECOME EVEN MORE POWERFUL THAN SHUB-NIGGURATH.

Again, he strode forward, and backhanded Them. They flew, smashing through a building and coming to rest against the one behind it. He leaped towards Them, and pinned Them against the building.

IT IS OVER.

The tentacles dug into Their flesh again, and this time, They had no way to escape.

The guards that Gendo had posted around the Evangelion cages could prove a problem. Rei could still feel the pain of her damaged bones, as they fought to keep her upright despite their improper healing. Both guards carried automatic weapons, and had undoubtably been told to keep her away from Zerogoki. Should one of them succeed in injuring her, she doubted that she could heal herself again; her energy was almost completely drained. She was recharging, could feel the Flow gathering in her veins, but healing took a lot of the Flow.

Cthulhu's mental touch had opened the floodgates to the Flow; she had access to more power now than she had ever had before, even in the Dreamlands. But her control was erratic; she had wasted three times as much of the Flow as she should have needed in healing. She could not attack with the Flow, without risking harm to Zerogoki; nor could she conceal herself, nor create a Barrier. Her control was not yet sufficiently fine.

But she needed to get past the guards.

A hand fell on her shoulder, and she felt the touch of a familiar mind. She turned, to see Asuka's face, framed by her unkempt red hair.

"Asuka?" No, she recalled. Asuka's mind was gone. "Nigoki." She whispered the Evangelion's name in shock.

"Yes, Dreamer Rei." Asuka's body was draped in a hospital sheet, and she could see the infiltration marks on the girl's hand from the IV. "My Dreamer is safe, and cannot return to this body."

"Asuka is—"

"As I told the Dreamer Shinji, she is now in the Dreamlands. The Dreamer Shinji gave me a gift."

"What did he do?"

"He gave me purpose, the final goal for this body."

"How?"

"With the strength of his connection to you. Even now, I can feel his mind." She touched her face. "He lives only to protect the Dreamers. Not even the Sleepers matter to him. Only you and the Dreamer of Water." She lowered her hand. "I watched you leave the doctors. I followed you, as Shinji wished. I can help you now."

She stood, and ran towards the guards. Rei jumped to her feet.

"No!"

Nigoki slammed into the first guard, catching him completely by surprise. His gun clattered to the ground, discharging one round when it hit the deck. The bark of the submachine gun made Rei wince. The guard stumbled, but recovered his footing. One hand locked onto Nigoki's arm.

"Release me!"

Nigoki grabbed the uniformed man's wrist, and bent it backward until the bone cracked. The second guard tackled him/her about the waist; she brought her fist down on his head, caving his skull in and dropping him lifeless to the ground.

The first guard staggered back, his right hand hanging limp at his side. But the left hand still worked; he clumsily drew his sidearm and brought it to bear on Nigoki. She whirled and leaped towards him.

The pistol barked, one round driving into her stomach. A second pistol shot was answered by the chatter of the submachine gun. The guard staggered back, and looked in shock at Rei, standing nude before him, his own weapon held in her hands. Slowly, he crumpled and fell.

Rei dropped the gun, and ran to Nigoki. The second bullet had gone through her chest, and blood bubbled around the wound with every gasping breath she drew.

"I can heal you, if you hold still."

"No." Nigoki shook her head. "This body was meant to die. And you will need all your power for what is to come." She shakily raised a hand, and caressed Rei's cheek, leaving a trail of blood. "Never did my Dreamer truly hate you." She smiled, and continued thickly. "Go save the Dreamer Shinji. This is the death that the Dreamer of Fire would wish."

"Still no feedback from Unit One! And I've lost pilot bio-telemetry as well."

"We've lost them from the radar. They're not moving."

Misato fumed, and turned to Aoba. "Give me a visual." She knelt over the hood, and scowled. "I can't see a bloody thing." She turned to Gendo. "We need another sensing platform above. Can we launch Unit Zero strictly for his sensors? Without a Pilot, he will not be able to engage the target."

Gendo scowled. "Do what you must."

Misato turned. "Attach umbilical to Unit Zero."

"Startup sequence engaged."

"Stop plug is already removed. Should I insert the drive plug?"

Misato considered, then nodded. "We'll probably need it for the telemetry links."

"Clear to catapult three. Primary and secondary restraints are removed."

"Unit Zero is in motion."

Misato turned to Gendo. "Is there any way to control Unit Zero by remote?"

"Yes. A dummy plug would have allowed that." Gendo scowled. "However, the dummy plug system required a powerful biological computer, and not three hours ago, someone destroyed that system."

"Oh, the irony." Misato's tone was mocking. "Instead of belittling me, why not—"

"I have a sync harmonic!"

"What?" Misato turned back to Aoba. "What the hell are you—"

"The A20 nerve interface is coming up on its own."

"Abort!"

Aoba stabbed at a key, then hammered it with his fist. "It's not responding!"

"Patch me into the plug."

The commo screen flared to life, to reveal Rei. Nude save for the A20 clips, she floated in the LCL. The wounds she'd suffered at Gendo's hands were gone.

"Evangelion, Unit Zero." Her voice was as calm as ever. "Prepared to launch."

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