Fear

Old Ones Awake

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.

Suzuhara Toji stared through the glass at the nine-year-old girl lying on the bed.

She was naked, save for the tubes running in and out of every orifice. A respirator breathed for her; without it, she would suffocate. Nutrients and carbohydrates were carried by an IV; other tubes removed waste for analysis and disposal. A needle run through her chest delivered a cardio-monitor and stimulator right to her heart; she had had three cardiopulmonary failures in the last two weeks, and after the second one, the doctors had installed the hardware right inside her chest. Her head was shaved, and more probes were glued or taped to her scalp.

Why is it that hospitals feel the need to rob their patients of any dignity?

"She's in perfect health, despite the heart attacks. There's no reason why she shouldn't get right up and walk off that bed." The intern looked down at Toji. "Maybe she suffered some suffocation that caused brain damage, or perhaps some mental trauma induced the coma. We don't know. We can keep her alive indefinitely, but..."

"Is she in pain?"

"No." The doctor shook his head. "EEG came back completely negative for pain. There are some odd spikes we're still trying to get a handle on, but there's nothing from her pain center."

"Good."

The teen and the intern stood motionless together for a few minutes, then Toji clenched a fist.

"Whoever was driving that damn robot had better pray I never meet up with him."

Fear

Three: Old Ones Awake

Training.

"The gun pod will automatically compensate for recoil, windage and gravity. All you need to do is line the pipper up on the center of your target, and pull the switch."

A target appeared in his display; he traversed the gun mechanically and pulled the trigger. A simulated blast of gunfire destroyed it.

"Good. We're putting you in full automatic range mode; engage and destroy all targets as they appear."

Another appeared, and he brought the gun around and hosed it down.

Aim at the center. Pull the trigger.

It was all he needed to do. Just follow his instructions.

Aim at the center. Pull the trigger.

Just like a good little robot...

In the control center, Misato watched the control repeater with one eye and the EVA itself with the other. The EVA was twisting on the spot, a laser dot flashing on the dummy gun pod as Shinji methodically destroyed one target after another.

"How's his sync rate?"

"Forty-one." Ritsuko tapped a key. "But there's no spikes when he engages a target; I expected there would be."

"He knows they're virtual targets."

"That could be it." Ritsuko leaned back. "How's the domestic life?"

Misato sighed. "Neither one of them say more than five words a day. And almost never to each other."

"A bit late to start complaining."

"Shut up!" Misato rolled her eyes. "Hopefully, once they start school tomorrow, they'll be a little more animated."

"I hope so, for your sake. Though you're more likely to get animation from that thing than you are from Rei."

She jerked a thumb towards another window. Behind it, immersed to the neck in LCL, was EVA-00, still frozen in attack posture. Hardened Bakelite held it in place, rather than the usual magnetic clamps, for it had destroyed the clamps when it went berserk, and nobody dared try to move it.

"When are we going to reactivate EVA-00?"

Ritsuko laughed, and said, "Well, first, we need to find out why it went apeshit in the first place. Then, we need the funding required to bring it on-line again. Oh, and Rei has to heal up." Ritsuko nodded. "She's almost back to normal; the dressings can come off in five more days."

"So quickly?"

"Oh, yes. Her injuries should have taken most of a year to heal; instead, they're almost healed in only three weeks." She smiled. "I got a blood sample from Shinji two days ago, and the MAGI are chewing over the DNA chains. With samples from both him and Rei to compare, we might be able to isolate this healing factor."

"And do what with it?"

"Come on, Misato!" Ritsuko laughed. "If we can figure out the secret, and patent it, do you think we'll have any problems with funding in the future?"

"Rei! Shinji! Time to get up, you have school in an hour."

Shinji had been awake for almost ten minutes, but he ignored Misato's yelling and pounding of doors. There was no sense rushing; in the three weeks that he'd lived here, he'd never once beaten Rei to the bathroom. Always, he had to wait. It was like she had a sixth sense or something.

Pity it hadn't worked last week. It would have saved all of them a lot of embarrassment and pain.

From the bathroom, he heard Rei's voice. "I am already awake."

Yep. No sense in rushing.

"Gosh, Rei, that's four words, and you haven't even had breakfast. Aren't you worried you'll go over budget?"

As expected, there was no reply to Misato's snipe. His door opened, and Misato leaned in. "Yo! Get up!"

"I am up."

"You don't look it. Get up, get dressed, I'm sure Rei will have breakfast on the table by the time you get out of the bathroom." Misato closed the door, and Shinji sighed.

Division of chores had been less than fair; He and Rei got stuck with almost all of them. On the one occasion to date that the two had exchanged more than cold glares, they had re-divided their share of the chores. Rei did all the cooking, and Shinji did all the cleaning. It worked out well for him, and he hadn't heard Rei complaining yet.

Nor was he about to; Rei was a good, if uninspired, cook, even though she rarely made anything with meat in it. Misato, on the other hand, could burn water.

Breakfast was, as usual, toast, miso and coffee. The threesome ate in silence. Misato had, in the past, tried to inspire dialogue at the breakfast table; she had apparently given up.

While Shinji was clearing away the breakfast things, Misato set a bookbag on the table. "Shinji, it's your first day at this school, so Rei will have to show you the way. Here's your bookbag, and I got you a cell phone. You'll need it should we be attacked."

"Yes, Misato."

"Rei, are you all done?"

The albino girl nodded, and Misato turned back to Shinji. "Have fun, stay out of trouble, and don't do anything that I wouldn't do."

Shinji picked up the bookbag, and glanced over to Rei. She scowled at him, grabbed her own bag, and said, "Hurry."

The two ran out the door, and Misato rolled her eyes. "Five each. Dinner's gonna be quiet."

"Rei."

The girl stopped, and turned towards him.

"Um." Shinji rubbed the back of his head. "You know, we've been living together for three weeks now, and...I don't even know your family name."

"Is it important?"

"Well, I suppose not especially, but—hey!"

Rei had turned back and started walking towards the school.

"Rei! Hold on!"

Again, she turned, and faced him. Her face remained neutral, but he'd learned the hard way that this was a mask to keep her contempt hidden.

"Look, I'm just trying to be friendly. If we can maybe stop being so hostile towards each other, we can..." He paused. "I dunno. Wouldn't it be good to not..."

"What would have been good is if I had been allowed to remain at my apartment. However, the Commander decided that I should live with you."

"And that bothers you."

"Yes."

"Why?" asked Shinji. "Was it the accident in the bathroom? Is it just that you wanted your independence? Is it me, or Misato? Do we bother you in some way?"

"Living alone was preferable to living with you." She turned and started walking again. "More than that, you do not need to know. As long as you accept this fact, I will be satisfied."

They walked in silence for a few minutes, then Shinji offered, "You know, this is the closest that we've come yet to having a conversation."

She stopped again, and turned to glare at him.

"Sorry."

"My family name is Ayanami."

He blinked. "Pleased to meet you, Ayanami Rei." He smiled tentatively.

"Now that you know my family name, there is no need to call me 'Rei.'"

She turned again, and resumed walking.

"Hey. New kid."

Shinji looked up warily. The two kids approaching were classmates of his. The tall skinny one looked like a jock. The shorter one wore round-rimmed spectacles, and was looking a bit nervous.

His identity, as the pilot of EVA-01, had been exposed—he was certain by Rei—and he'd had to fend off hordes of fans, well-wishers and jealous cretins all morning. However, this guy didn't look like a fan. In fact, he seemed very angry. Not jealous, either; he looked angry about something in particular. He sighed, and stood up from his lunch.

"Yeah? What do you—"

The fist caught him square on the nose. He fell backwards, hand clutching his face.

The tall boy stood over him, fists clenched.

"Because of you, my sister's not much more than a vegetable. She's catatonic, and the docs say she ain't gonna get better."

"What did I—"

His antagonist kicked him, catching him in the ribs. He yelped, and rolled into a ball.

"Goddamn prick. You went stompin' through the buildings like they didn't matter, and your giant robot nearly stepped on my sister. As it was, she was buried in rubble for an hour until they pulled her out."

He kicked him again, this time in the head.

"Toji, come on. He's had enough."

"Not by half." Toji cracked his knuckles. "Better watch your back, New Kid. I'm far from done with you. I still owe you a whole lot of pain."

The jock turned and stalked off, and the other boy leaned down and offered him a hand.

"Sorry about this. Toji's an okay guy, but he's really worked up about his sister."

Shinji stared up at the boy, unmoving. Finally, the bespectacled boy sighed and pulled back his hand.

"Fine. Just take my advice, and try to stay out of Toji's way."

When he was certain that the boy had left, he rolled back onto his back, holding his nose with his hands.

At least one kid in school doesn't think it's cool that I pilot EVA.

He had no idea how long he lay there, staring up at the sky. Eventually, a shadow fell over him. He squinted, and looked up at Rei.

"An Old One is coming." Rei adjusted her sling. "I will need to go to the Headquarters." She paused. "When you are done bleeding and feeling sorry for yourself, perhaps you might join us?"

"We've got a positive response from our sensitives near the shore. Whatever is causing that fog, we can be reasonably certain that it's related to an Old One."

Misato stared at the screen and scowled. She turned to Ritsuko and asked, "Status of EVA-01?"

"Fully equipped, ready to go."

"Have you reported this to the Commander?"

"We were unable to reach him." Ritsuko sighed. "Both he and Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki were in the field, and commo couldn't reach him."

"Understood." She turned back to the screen. "What's the status of the U.N. Forces?"

"They're pulling back in an orderly fashion. General Akihara immediately passed this on to us."

"I guess we made an impression," muttered Misato.

The command deck hatch opened, and Rei and Shinji entered. Misato turned to face them.

"Shinji, I gave you that cell phone so we could reach you at times like this."

He shrugged. "Rei said she already phoned in, so I didn't answer it. I was only five minutes away when it rang."

"Answer it next time, even if you feel it's a complete waste of time. Rei neglected to mention that she collected you." She turned back to the monitor. "Something wicked this way comes...Get suited up, Shinji."

"Okay." The teen turned and left the command deck.

"Rei."

"Yes."

"Is that an Old One approaching?"

"Yes."

"The Commander isn't here. Can you tell me anything about it?"

Rei closed her eyes, then said. "It is the Wendigo, the Wind Walker."

Misato turned to Hyuga. "Lieutenant. Sound evacuation. Get all the civilians to their shelters."

The cloud cleared, and the Old One stepped onto the beach.

Roughly humanoid, it stood much taller than any of the buildings. Two red eyes glowed among the shaggy hair that covered its entire body.

Misato swallowed. She didn't know why she wasn't panicked, the way most people were, by the sight of an Old One. But it was the only reason why she commanded the EVAs in battle. No other officer could do so. Others may have been more experienced, more competent, or more talented, but only she seemed to be immune to their aura of absolute terror.

Of course, this didn't mean that she didn't feel fear. It just meant that she could function...more or less.

"EVA-01 is reporting active, thirty-five percent sync rate."

"Clear to catapults."

"Launch tube is confirmed clear by visual inspection."

She kept one eye on the EVA's repeaters, the other on the Old One.

"Catapult jammed!"

She snapped her head around. "Can it be cleared?"

"Not in time. Rerouting to cat three."

"You'll need more time." She picked up the phone. "General Akihara. We need you to slow that thing down."

"We'll do our best." The General's voice was wary. "The cost may be high."

"We'll make sure it's worth it."

"Akihara, clear."

She set down the phone, and watched as the tanks and VTOLs opened up on the Wendigo.

"Two minutes."

"Launch tube three confirmed clear by visual inspection."

"Capacitors at maximum charge."

The tanks were taking a beating; the Old One appeared to be attacking with a directed stream of energy, freezing them hard enough to shatter. The VTOLs were scattering like startled birds; they would be nothing more than sitting ducks against the Wendigo. The screen jumped, as the U.N. missile sites started raining firepower on the Old One.

"Locked down at catapult, and ready to launch."

She snatched up the phone. "General, get your men out of there."

"At once."

She slammed the phone down, and turned to Maya. "EVA-01, launch!"

Arcs of electricity surrounded the catapult, and the EVA slammed upwards through the launch tube.

"Twenty seconds."

"The Old One is directly above Command Central."

"EVA-01 deployed; umbilical attached."

The elevator doors snapped open.

"Shinji. The Old One is on the other side of the elevator."

"Understood." He readied the battle rifle, and stepped around the elevator.

Aim at the center. Pull the trigger.

The gun pod disgorged a stream of heavy-calibre high-explosive rounds. They struck the beast dead-center, exploding on impact.

"Shinji, the smoke from your rounds will obscure the target. Cease fire, until the smoke clears."

He ignored her, held down the trigger until the magazine ran dry, then ejected it and mechanically loaded another.

The smoke cleared, and the Old One was unharmed.

"No damage. Do we have a bigger gun pod?"

"Fall back! We're sending another weapon."

But there was no time. The Old One swung at him. He blocked with the rifle, and watched in horror as it froze and shattered in the Old One's grip. He stumbled backwards, and the Old One swung again. It was too far away to connect, but a sudden blast of force sent him careening.

"Umbilical severed! EVA is on internal power, five minutes remaining."

"Shinji!" Misato was starting to sound frantic. "Fall back, and we can—"

"I can't! It's between me and the elevator!"

"Dammit, with your umbilical cut, you're on battery power. You need to get reconnected, get another—"

The Old One swung again, and this time, the force knocked him flying. He passed over several buildings, finally impacting on the mountain behind the town.

Shinji shook his head to clear it, and glanced about to take stock of his surroundings. He noticed something between the fingers of the EVA. To his shock, he realized that it was two of his classmates...one of them being the jock that had taken the boots to him.

"Suzuhara Toji and Kensuke Aida. Two of his classmates."

"What the hell are they doing there? They should be in shelters."

"The target is approaching EVA."

Misato considered, then said, "All right. Shinji. Get them into the entry plug with you, then fall back to the elevators."

"No."

"Uh?" Misato blinked. "Shinji, that was an order."

"I don't have time." His voice was a bit distant. "The Old One is almost on top of me."

"Shinji—"

"EVA-01 is moving again."

Shinji slowly brought the EVA to an upright position, and considered his foe.

It wants to kill me.

The Old One was less than two hundred meters away.

It will kill everyone in the Command Center.

The Old One paused, and raised its hands.

Come on, wake up!

It started tracing patterns in the air.

It wants to kill Father!

Ithaqua. The Wind Walker. The Wendigo. Source of mythology to the Humans, though none of them could truly understand the horror that he represented.

He, too, had come to this strange city to destroy her Father.

This time, the Dreamer was awake. This time, he surrendered himself willingly to her. Perhaps he may some day prove himself worthy of the Dream, though she felt that he was not yet ready.

But he was ready to do battle.

She brought up a barrier, just as Ithaqua struck with a cone of negative energy. The barrier stopped the cone nicely, and as with Byatis, he paused to reassess the threat that she posed.

Below, two Humans cowered and gibbered; They were not Dreamers, and the sight of an Old One had collapsed their minds. But the Dreamer within valued their lives, so she created a second barrier, surrounding them and protecting them from harm.

The Wind Walker struck us with a blast of force, that threw us here. Can we do this to him, to protect the innocents here?

She raised an arm, channeling the Flow into a ball, then threw it, catching Ithaqua directly in the center. He had no barrier to protect him; he was lauched back into the city.

Yes, it seems that we can.

She leaped after him. A part of her mind noted that her armour was powered only for a short time, and would soon fail; when that happened, she would be immobilized.

She landed practically on top of him, and started pounding him with both fists. An unreasoned action, it proved futile; he blasted her away with another kinetic attack, but she landed on her feet. Ithaqua stood up and raised his barrier.

No energy attacks can cross that barrier, and his energy is negative; we cannot cancel it with our barrier.

Then use the Lance.

It appeared, unbidden, in her hand. She stepped forward, and the blade passed through his field, deforming it as it did so. She drove the energy blade into his chest. Ithaqua howled, his hands scrabbling at the Lance, but this accomplished nothing. She began to dump the Flow through the Lance, directly into his body.

Preserve the body, if we can.

She attuned the Lance's Flow, attacking his spirit. Now she started dumping power from the armour, draining its reserves, but she needed every scrap she had.

Ithaqua screamed, and opened his mind to attack the Dreamer directly, but she shielded him as best she could, and continued to drive the Flow into the Wendigo. Finally, the Flow pierced the Soul Shell that housed the Wind Walker's essence, and cast it upon the winds, just as the armour's power source failed.

The Lance's Flow interrupted, it failed, and she toppled forward onto the inert body of Ithaqua.

You did it.

We did it, Dreamer. We are one.

I am one. You are one. My name is Shinji.

So even Dreamers had names. Shinji. The Dreamer is Shinji. But who am I?

Shogoki. Unit One.

Before sleep took her again, she asked, Why is it that you know who I am, when I do not?

"The target is silent."

Misato swallowed, and tore her eyes away from the tableau on the screen. "Has Shinji reported in?"

"EVA-01 is out of power, Captain. We're dispatching recovery teams."

"Is the pilot alive?"

"Yes." Maya turned away from her screens. "Positive biofeedback from the pilot. However, he appears to be in a coma."

"I hope that doesn't become a habit for him. What about the two kids?"

"They're not moving. Recovery teams will be picking them up as well."

"Good." Misato considered the events of the battle. "Any idea what just happened here?"

"Ummm...we won."

"That'll do for the official report, I think." Misato sighed.

Ritsuko tapped her on the shoulder. "For the official report...well, there's going to be a problem."

"Do tell."

"Two problems, really. The first is that Shinji disobeyed a direct order from you."

"He was right to do so."

"It doesn't matter, and you know it."

"I know." Misato rubbed her eyes. "What's the second problem?"

"I downloaded the cockpit voice recorder data." She handed Misato an earbug. "Better listen to it."

Misato eyed her warily, then tucked the earbug into place.

All she heard was screaming. Screams of complete and utter horror and panic, lasting almost three minutes. She listened until the screams were silenced. She looked up at Ritsuko, alarm in her eyes.

"When did-"

"Just after the EVA stood up again."

"Oh, God in Heaven." She shuddered. "What the hell happened in there?"

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