Fear

Stars Now Are Right

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.

Shinji screamed.

The Old One leapt forward, one claw raised to strike.

"Shinji! Get moving!"

He wanted to move, but his arms and legs—the arms and legs of the EVA, or his own—would not obey him. His heart thudded in his chest, and his breathing was even more laboured than before.

The Old One grabbed the EVA's arm, and twisted it savagely. The EVA's arm broke, and Shinji screamed again, the pain transmitted as clearly as any other sensation he'd received from the war machine. He grabbed his arm with the opposite hand, trying to pull it free.

"Calm down! It's not your arm." Misato's voice sounded like it was starting to fray.

What has she got to worry about? She's back safe in the office, or wherever, while I'm the one getting my arm ripped off.

The Old One tossed the EVA contemptuously to the side, and Shinji blacked out when it impacted a nearby building.

Fear

Two: Stars Are Now Right

When he awoke, he was staring at a ceiling.

I'm alive. I wonder how that happened?

He sat up slowly, then cursed and grabbed his head with both hands. The throbbing was intense, though not as painful as he would have expected. He looked around, and realized he was in a hospital.

Makes sense. I just got the crap kicked out of me by an Old One.

There was a bed next to his, but a privacy curtain was drawn; he could see nothing besides the head of the bed, but could hear someone breathing. He reached for the curtain, but found it to be just outside his reach.

Well, easily solved. He pulled the blanket back, then paused. He was naked under the sheets, and he now realized that he also had an IV needle in his left hand. He looked at it uncomfortably, but decided against trying to remove it.

There was a row of buttons under his right hand. He examined them, then toggled one, and the privacy curtain was withdrawn.

Rei.

I still don't have her family name.

Her pale blue hair glinted in the sunlight streaming in from the window, but the white sheets and bandages seemed to only emphasize her pale skin, making her look almost deathlike. She was as still as death, as well, either sleeping or unconscious. Only the slow rise and fall of her chest indicated that she was alive. He looked away guiltily, aware that he'd been looking a little too intently at her chest.

He glanced around the room, and scowled. His clothes were nowhere to be seen. He thumbed the page button, then leaned back.

The door opened, and a nurse walked in, followed by Dr. Akagi. The nurse wordlessly stuck a thermometer in his mouth, then started undoing the IV. Dr. Akagi looked him up and down.

"The bruising on your arm will fade. It's the result of being in sync with your EVA; you took sympathetic damage."

"I hadn't even noticed any bruises." His voice was rather muffled around the thermometer. He looked down at his arm, and noted the faint yellow marks. "They look old."

"Yes. Kind of surprising; you've only been out about a day. At first, we figured that when you healed the EVA—"

"Healed?" He mumbled the words around the mercury bulb, then yanked the thermometer out of his mouth, causing the nurse to frown at him. "Doctor, the last thing I remember was being tossed aside like a bag of potatoes."

"Really?" The Doctor's eyebrows rose. "You don't remember anything after that? We lost track of your vitals, because of damage to the relay systems, but you got right back up and went to town on Byatis."

"Byatis?"

"The Old One that you fought. Your father identified it as Byatis, also known as the Bearded Monstrosity."

Shinji shook his head. "No, I don't remember the rest of the fight."

"Very curious." She glanced down at the clipboard in her hands. "You had assorted cuts and bruises when we pulled you from the plug, as well as a nasty bump on the head. We were worried about concussion. The LCL cushions impacts, but Unit One was thrown into a building."

He looked down at his arms. "I heal very quickly."

"So we noted." She set down the clipboard, and sat on the side of the bed. "Rei has the same sort of healing factor. We think you heal at between ten and fifteen times the normal human rate. We're not sure why. But if I were you, I wouldn't rely on it."

"I know." Shinji nodded. "For one thing, it makes me very hungry."

"Yes. We had to keep you pumped full of nutrients while you were out."

"The other thing is that it hurts. A lot."

Akagi frowned. "What do you mean? How would you know—"

"How would I know it hurts more?" He smiled. "When I broke my leg, they told me it would hurt a bit, and they gave me painkillers for while it mended. But it still hurt a lot, even with the drugs. The doctor told me that I was imagining things, that with the painkillers working I couldn't really feel it at all."

"What kind of painkillers did they give you?"

"I don't really remember. Perk-something."

"Percocet, or Perkedan. With one of those in your system, you shouldn't have even been awake."

"Well, I was, and I still hurt. A lot. But in a week, the leg was healed, and they didn't believe me then either. I had to wear the cast the full eight weeks, and once it stopped hurting, it started itching."

"Odd. Rei hasn't complained of any discomfort." Dr. Akagi shrugged. "Mind you, she rarely complains about anything, and we've kept her on fairly heavy medication since her accident."

"What sort of accident?"

"Training," said Dr. Akagi. "It can be more dangerous than real combat."

Shinji had his doubts.

"But now we have three of you with the same healing factor. If we can get some bloodwork from the Second Child—"

"There's another pilot?" Shinji darkened. "If there's another one, why did you send me out?"

"Because the Second Child is in Germany," said Dr. Akagi.

"Oh."

"That's also the reason we haven't been able to get bloodwork from her so far," continued Akagi. "Otherwise, I could have at least done a baseline genetic comparison. But now that you're here...I can tell that you and I will be spending some quality time together." She smiled at him. "But right now, I imagine you will want to get dressed, and check out of this place."

"Doctor Akagi—"

"Call me Ritsuko."

"Ritsuko." He bowed, as best he could from the bed. "Can I ask a few questions before you leave?"

"Sure."

"You work with my dad, right?"

"Yes, quite closely."

Shinji jerked a thumb towards the silent Rei. "Why did he engage me to this girl?"

Ritsuko blinked. She looked at Rei, and he was puzzled to see something flash across her features. Something unpleasant. "I'm certain that your father feels it's best for you, and for her. He is her legal guardian, and I assume that he wants the best for her." She grinned, and looked back at him. "Why? You object to being engaged to Rei? Is she not good enough for you?"

"How should I know that?" He shook his head. "All I really know about her is that she doesn't like being engaged to me."

Ritsuko's smile faded, and in a more serious voice, she said, "Rei had a hard time before she came to live with your father." She shook her head. "I don't have the whole story—I only met her two years ago. But apparently, she's been badly abused, emotionally. She doesn't trust anyone. So don't feel bad." Her grin returned. "At least she's cute, though."

"Great." He rolled his eyes. "I don't know anything about her, except that she's been abused, and she's cute. But she's now my fiancee."

"Don't worry." Ritsuko stood. "You can't legally get married for at least two years. In that time, either you'll grow to love each other, or Gendo will realize it was a less than stellar move."

"But why would he do it?"

"Really, I don't know," said Ritsuko. "But you want my honest opinion? I think that he wants you to be kind to her, care for her, and generally let her know that not everyone is going to abuse her." The doctor smiled gently. "Even if you two don't fall in love, or get married, it should be rewarding for you to help someone out, right?"

"I'll just make a mess of things."

"Don't be a coward." Ritsuko slapped his shoulder playfully. "You just went toe to toe with a giant monster, killed it and saved my life and hers. I think you've proven that you're a man. Now if you don't mind," she continued, "I need to finish my rounds."

"Okay."

"Misato will be in to check on you in a half an hour. I'll talk to you later."

"Doc?"

Ritsuko paused at the door, and turned to look back. "Yes?"

"Thanks."

She waved a hand, and she and the nurse departed, closing the door behind them.

Shinji looked at the door, then over at Rei.

"I bet the Doc is right." He smiled at the unconscious girl. "I'll try to be nice to you. Probably we won't get married, but this engagement wasn't your idea. There's no reason why I should be unpleasant towards you."

The girl moaned, and shuddered under her sheet.

"What have we learned?"

Ritsuko set down her cup. "Well, there wasn't a lot left of it. Shinji blew it completely to hell, and what was left decayed too rapidly for us to get a proper sample."

Misato shrugged, and said, "Not entirely surprising. The Commander stated that they were not composed of matter as we know it."

"Yes." Ritsuko nodded. "That's why conventional weapons don't hurt them. The Commander told me that someone once rammed an Old One with a fishing trawler at full speed. All it did was knock it out for a few minutes."

"Where does he get his information, anyway?"

"He has a book," said Ritsuko. "The very existence of the book was believed to be a myth for the longest time. It was written by an Arabic Fakir, a hermit who apparently encountered the Old Ones."

"Have you seen this book?"

Ritsuko shook her head. "No. He keeps it guarded in a safe in his office. He won't let anyone even look at it, not even Fuyutsuki."

"Ah." Misato scratched absentmindedly underneath a breast. "You seem to have an inside line into Commander Ikari's head."

Ritsuko arched an eyebrow. "As head of Project E, I have to have certain information."

"So what's next?"

"Next," said Ritsuko, "we need to get the boy installed in his new apartment."

"Where's he going?"

"The Commander has decided that since he's engaged to Rei, he might as well live right next door to her."

"In that slum? I don't think so."

"The Commander has stated-"

"Well, the Commander is wrong!" Misato snatched up the telephone. "That building is crawling with sub-human parasites. At the moment, he's the only fully capable pilot we have at this site, and I don't want to risk losing him."

"What are you-"

"Shhh..." Misato dialed the telephone. "Extension thirteen, please. Yeah, I'll hold." She paused, worrying her lip with her teeth. "Commander? Captain Katsuragi. I understand that you want Pilot Ikari to reside in the slums?"

Another pause, then, "I disagree, sir. I think he is too valuable to risk in such a manner."

Ritsuko rolled her eyes.

"Yes, sir, three rooms."

Ritsuko stopped rolling her eyes, and started bugging them at Misato.

"That will be acceptable, sir. Thank you." Misato set the phone down on its cradle, and turned to Ritsuko. "There. All settled."

"Unless I am quite mistaken, Misato, you've just moved him into your apartment."

"That's right."

Ritsuko smirked. "Kinda young, ain't he?"

"It's not like that!" Misato raised her hands. "But he's got no-one he knows in this town, and he's just a kid. The Commander doesn't believe he'd be comfortable at his house, so he assigned him to live with me."

"Just like that."

"Well, no...there was one other condition..."

The door opened again, and Misato walked in, just as Shinji finished buckling his belt.

"Lookin' good, kid. Ready to blow this joint?"

"Close enough, I think."

"Good." Misato grabbed his brown canvas bag. "My car is out of the shop. We'll be home in no time flat."

"Home..." Shinji scratched his head. "Sorry for asking, but..."

"You'll be staying with me for the immediate future. I've already cleared it with your father. I've got a room you can use."

"All right." He shrugged. "I had no idea what I'd be doing for a place to stay."

He grabbed his brown canvas bag, and turned towards the door...and stopped cold.

His father stood in the doorway.

Silence held for long moments, then his father spoke.

"I'm glad you're looking better. I was very worried when they pulled you from the entry plug. They told me you were in a coma."

He wanted to scream his rage at the man. "I heal quickly."

"I know." His father nodded once. "I realize that you're not very happy with me at the moment..."

He trailed off, and Shinji almost took the opening. Almost. Instead, he cursed himself silently for his cowardice.

"Trust me, Shinji. I regret not being there for you in the past, but I'm going to try to make up for it in the future."

"I understand." His words sounded flat and lifeless, even to his own ears. He turned to Misato. "Can we go?"

The drive to Misato's place was silent. Though Shinji had a hundred questions to ask, he kept silent.

The very idea of living with Misato filled him with dread. He knew almost nothing about her. His first impression was that she was a complete airhead, but she had directed the activation of the EVA, and the first stages of the battle, with chilly efficiency. Granted, she had started to come unglued when the wheels fell off, but...

With my luck, she's some kind of militant Nazi freak, who keeps a ´sterile environment´ and has a schedule for when I'm allowed to pee. Well, hopefully, she has some books, at least.

The elevator ride to the fifteenth floor was similarly silent. The apartment door was five down from the elevator. Misato unlocked the door, and slid it open.

"Here we are." She paused, and waited. "Shinji. This is your home now."

He stepped nervously over the threshold.

"Good." She led him down the hall, to the dining room. He followed her, eyes downcast, not really taking in his surroundings. She indicated another hallway. "There's two empty rooms down there. Pick one, and dump your stuff in it."

"I don't have much stuff," he said, and held up his canvas bag. "A couple of changes of clothing, and that's it."

"We'll get you some more stuff later. Right now, I've got an errand to run, and I'll be back shortly." She waved, and stepped back. "It's a bit messy in here, so watch your step."

He nodded, and she walked back down the hall. He waited until he heard the door close behind her, then turned to take his first proper look at the apartment.

And stopped in shock.

Piles of newspapers and magazines.

Beer cans and empty liquor bottles, scattered around.

Take-out containers and frozen dinner wrappers piled on the table.

"This is certainly not a sterile environment."

"I don't believe it." Shinji sat down heavily on the sofa. And winced, and pulled an empty whiskey bottle from under himself. "Not a single book in this place." He sighed. "She must be a television addict, or something."

"I'm back!"

"Oh, good." Shinji sighed again, and stood up again. "Hey, Misato, have you got any—"

He broke off. Standing beside Misato was the albino girl, Rei. His fiancee. Her eye was still patched, and her arm in a sling.

"Um...hi. Come to visit?"

"Nope!" Misato raised a finger. "Your father agreed to let you stay at my place, on one condition. Rei is moving in, too."

"Oh. Uh..." He turned to Rei. "Are you all right with this?"

"The Commander has ordered me to move here. So I shall move here." She looked down. "I would rather not."

"Misato, I don't think—"

"Oh, hush! You two will get along fine. Besides, there's still one room available, so it's not like you two will be sharing a bed." She poked a finger at Shinji. "Now I have a rule about teenagers under my roof. If you're getting busy, put a clothes-hanger on the door."

"Doctor Akagi told me that you do not own any clothes-hangers," said Rei. She looked up at Shinji, the expression in her eyes arctic. "There will be no need for any such precautions in any case." She walked past him and into her bedroom.

Misato watched her until she closed the door, then turned to Shinji. "Kid, your dad must hate your guts."

He stared up at the ceiling.

What the hell am I doing here? I should be trying to get away from this ghost town as fast as I can.

The S-DAT clicked in his hand, reversing direction to read the other side of the tape. But the music wasn't calming him at all.

And that Rei girl...she obviously doesn't want anything to do with me. Or anyone at all, according to Dr. Akagi. He sighed. Why am I still here?

He could think of no good reason. The music wasn't calming him. He faded into a fitful sleep.

She was in a city. The buildings around her were tiny, and shaped oddly. The armour that had been placed on her restricted her movements, but she could still move.

Within her, a mind slept. That mind had controlled her until moments before, but now it was quiet. She stood slowly, and regarded the Old One.

Byatis. The Serpent-Bearded Monstrosity. Not the weakest of the Old Ones, but far from the strongest. He was here, seeking to destroy her Father at the moment of his weakness. This could not be permitted.

Others were coming, she knew, intending to free her Father. This also could not be permitted. But this one was here now.

She strode slowly towards him. He turned, surprised that she had risen, and raised his hands. Quickly, he traced the Elder Sign before her, but he could not know that there would be no effect. She leaped forwards, propelling herself through the Flow, and slammed into him.

The two giants flew across the city, smashing into a building, demolishing it. She grabbed him, and as he had done, threw him away, smashing into another building.

Byatis rose from the rubble; mere physical damage could not destroy an Old One. His hands traced again, and she sensed the Flow gathering between them. A simple barrier, proof against the Elements.

She smiled, feeling the metal helm buckle and crack around her head as she did so. She raised one arm, the damaged arm, and concentrated the Flow into it. The bone straightened and healed, the bruised flesh restored itself, and even the armour reformed around the limb. Again, she concentrated the Flow, and launched an electrical blast at the barrier. Lightning crackled and raged along the barrier, weakening it.

She strode forward, and reached into the mind that slumbered within her.

Inverted fields cancel each other out.

A lesson from their sciences. It might prove a viable tactic. She summoned her own barrier, then reversed its polarity. As she stepped into his field, the two barriers both failed.

Byatis was obviously alarmed by this change in fortune. She summoned an energy lance, and charged forwards again, ramming it into him.

It pierced him straight through, but he began to pull himself along it, reaching towards her. She knew his plan; self-destruction. Other Old Ones would be drawn here, to destroy or to free her Father; if she died, there would be nothing to stop them. Her Brother could not fight; it was all in her hands.

She had one gamble left; it could well prove fatal, and she hoped that the mind within her could withstand the effects, and save her life.

She gathered the Flow into her, summoning every dram within her reach, and expelled it into one massive wave of lightning, flooding Byatis with radiant energy. Byatis glowed, then shattered into a thousand fragments.

She stumbled backwards, the lance vanishing as she sought to scavenge every dram of the Flow left in the area. It may not be enough; she would have to tap into the reserves of her attendant mind. He would be wracked with nightmares, but she may survive.

He stood in a city. The buildings were twisted and deformed, reaching into the sky around him. He touched one, and though his eyes reported that it was convoluted, to his hand it felt perfectly flat.

He looked up at the sky, and saw two moons floating in the cloud-tossed sky. To the east, the sky was lightening. He walked in that direction, until he reached the edge of the city.

The forest stretched out before him was beautiful and alive, but just as strange to him as the city beyond. The trees had silver bark and golden leaves, but lacked any symmetry that he could comprehend. A river ran through it, emptying into a lake in the distance; he could see sails on the lake.

"Shinji."

He turned, to see his mother. She looked beautiful, her dark hair floating on the breeze and her skin shining like bronze. He took a step towards her...

"Release me!"

Ikari Yui grabbed the uniformed man's wrist, and bent it backward until the bone cracked. A second guard tackled her about the waist; she brought her fist down on his head, caving his skull in and dropping him lifeless to the ground. She turned and ran towards the water.

"Mommy!" Shinji twisted in his father's grip, but the man was far too strong for a five-year-old to break free. But Yui heard him, and turned to glance at him.

Her face was changed. Her nostrils had grown over with skin, and her eyes were larger. Her mouth opened, he was certain she said his name, but the sight drove the words from his hearing.

Her mouth was filled with needle-like teeth.

"No!"

Shinji sat bolt upright in bed. He gasped for air, grabbed his chest with his hand. He could feel his heart pounding, as though it were trying to escape.

"I never saw that before." He rubbed his chest, willing his heart to slow. "Why couldn't I remember that before?"

His door opened, and he turned with a yelp. In the doorway was Rei. She wore only panties and a t-shirt, and her arm, while still splinted, was free from its sling.

"Rei..." He caught his breath. "I'm all right."

"Bad dream?"

"Yes." He blinked in surprise. It almost sounded as though she were worried about him.

"Next time you have a nightmare, please do not scream. I am a light sleeper, and dislike being disturbed."

She shut the door.

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