Fear

Mankind Will Learn

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.

"A20 Nerve Interface completely disengaged!"

"Pilot sync dropping rapidly. We're showing fibrillation and EEG spiking!"

EVA-00 tore itself free of its housing, hands clutching at its head; no doubt a reflex action, as Rei was likely doing the same in the plug.

"It's gone berserk!"

"Jettison umbilical."

EVA-00 turned towards the viewport, where Gendo stood, watching the disaster unfold. It swung at him.

The tempered ceramiglass of the viewport cracked at the impact. Gendo continued to watch, his face completely impassive.

"Commander!" Ritsuko looked up at him, fear in her eyes. "The pilot is in fibrillation! Her heart might as well be stopped altogether, for all the good it's doing her!"

"Do you still have telemetry links to the EVA's operating system?"

"Yes, but-"

"Continue to monitor them, please."

The armoured fist struck the ceramiglass again, and the cracks widened.

Ritsuko turned to Aoba. "Pulmonary massage!"

The tech stabbed at his controls. "No response! We've lost all link to the pilot!"

"Hardware?"

"No, it's in the software!"

"Link up to the plug's software directly."

He smashed his fists down on the console. "I can't! EVA's blocking me!"

"Twenty seconds to automatic shutdown."

Ritsuko turned, flipped up the plastic lid that covered the emergency jettison button, and brought her fist down on it. The back armour of the EVA separated, and the entry plug was blasted free. It bounced off a wall, skidded to a corner, and came to a halt.

Gendo whirled, rage clouding his face, but Ritsuko stared at him impassively. He turned, and marched down the stairs towards the test chamber.

Ritsuko turned. "Time to shutdown?"

"Four seconds." There was a pause, then, "EVA has depleted its onboard power cells, and is quiet."

"Dispatch recovery."

The recovery teams had been forced to pry the hatch off the entry plug, and were now arranging the pilot on a stretcher. Gendo walked up to the stretcher.

"Will she live?"

"Damage to the orbital ridge - luckily, the eye is intact. Broken arm, many cuts and bruises." The medtech shook his head. "Beats me how the hell she survived at all."

He stared down at her.

"You failed."

Weakly, Rei lifted her good arm towards him. "Commander..."

"Weakness." He drew back his foot and kicked her.

Fear

Five: Mankind Will Learn

Shinji bolted upright at the sound of the scream. Just a sudden yelp, of fear, pain and betrayal.

No reasoned action was involved; he was through his door fast enough to knock it off its runners, then through hers, right across the hall.

Rei was sitting up in bed, one arm rubbing her side, gasping. He was astonished to see tears on her face.

He knelt next to her futon, far enough away that neither would accidentally touch the other.

"Bad dream?"

She looked over with a gasp, as though just realizing he was there. Her breathing calmed, and she nodded once.

"I apologize for disturbing you," she said.

"It's all right. I'm a heavy sleeper." He smiled tentatively, but the smile faded as she looked away from him.

"There is no need to mock me."

"I wasn't trying to." He sighed. "Look, can I get you something? Glass of water, or anything?"

"There is no need."

"You're worried about the activation test tomorrow, aren't you?"

She looked back at him, the surprise clear in her face.

He shrugged, and added, "Don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Something bad happened last time. You're worried it will again. Right?"

"I am...apprehensive." She looked down. "I do not wish to fail the Commander again."

"Don't worry. It'll be a walk in the park."

"You are trying to reassure me."

"Is it working?"

She looked up again, and his heart sank as he saw the mask descend again. "You do so without any knowledge of prior events. Nor of me. I do not believe I need this sort of reassurance. It does not help."

He sighed, and said, "You're right, I guess. If you're all right now, I'll go back to bed."

He stood, and turned and reset his door on its runners. As he closed the door, he nearly missed her whisper.

"Thank you."

Breakfast.

Toast, coffee, miso. Served with a side of ice.

Shinji glanced over at his 'fiancee'. She hadn't spoken at all this morning, ignoring everything around her as she worked on her morning meal.

Overall, the threesome had adjusted to living together remarkably well over the last month. However, this morning, it seemed that nothing had changed since the first few tension-filled days.

Misato lingered over her coffee, attempting as usual to make small talk.

"Big day, today, Rei. We're gonna get Unit Zero up and running once and for all."

Rei nodded, and took a bite of her toast.

"Looking forward to it?"

A negative shake of the head this time.

"Well, I can't say I'm really surprised. After all, you went through a hell of a lot last time."

No answer at all this time; Rei merely sipped her tea.

Shinji understood her silence; After the events of last night, he didn't really feel like talking, either.

Misato decided to change targets, and turned to Shinji. "You gonna be there for Rei's big day?"

"Yes." He had already finished his toast.

"Gonna support your fiancee during her trials?" Misato grinned. "Show her you're concerned, that you're behind her a hundred and ten percent?"

He shook his head.

Misato blinked. "Well, that's some way for a fiance to talk! Aren't you worried how this will turn out?"

"Nope."

Misato looked over at Rei, then back at Shinji, and asked, "I know you weren't there for the first activation, but you did see the aftermath."

He nodded, then drained his coffee.

"So how can you sit there and say such heartless things?"

He shrugged, and said, "She'll do fine."

Rei dropped the remains of her toast on her plate, glared at Shinji, then stood and said, "I must prepare for school." She stepped away from the table and headed for her room.

Shinji watched her go, and noticed the way her hands were clasped in front of her as she walked. He had come to know that telltale all too well.

She was more than nervous; she was terrified.

He stood, grabbed his bookbag, and headed for the front door.

Misato watched him walk off, then turned back as Rei reappeared, bookbag in hand. She bowed to her, then followed Shinji towards the front door.

Misato quickly counted on her fingers, sighed, and drained her coffee.

Rei had bolted from the elevator like a startled rabbit. Shinji struggled to keep up with her, gasping for breath. Finally, she slowed, then whirled to face him, her eyes flashing dangerously.

"I do not need your support, Pilot Ikari. I do not need your faith, your sympathy or your understanding!"

Shinji was still struggling to regain his wind. "I know, Rei. I thought—"

"No. You did not think."

"I thought maybe we were past the anger. I thought maybe I could try to be friendly, without..." Words failed him, as they often did when dealing with Rei.

"Perhaps you can try being further away from me. It would please me greatly." She turned and stalked away from him, hands clasped in front of her.

"What are you afraid of, Rei?"

She whirled to face him again, and this time, the fear was obvious on her face.

He took a step closer. "Every time I try to understand you, you retreat behind that mask of yours. Why?"

Rei's face hardened again. "Attempts to understand me are unwanted."

The rest of the day saw nothing but stony silence between the two. And now, Shinji sat in the observation deck, watching the crew scurry about like ants.

Misato was grumbling, "Why the hell are we in such a rush, Ritsuko?"

"Commander Ikari returns in two hours." Ritsuko double-checked a set of figures, reprogrammed one back into the computer. "I don't want him here in case something goes wrong with the activation."

"Don't want him to see you fail, eh?"

Ritsuko dropped her clipboard on the console, and turned to Misato. "No. I don't want him to see Rei fail. You weren't here last time. It was not a pretty sight."

"She was busted up-"

"It was worse than that." Ritsuko turned back to her computer. "Commander Ikari was...less than pleased."

"You failed."

Weakly, Rei lifted her good arm towards him. "Commander..."

"Weakness." He drew back his foot and kicked her.

Shinji shook his head. Something danced at the edge of consciousness, but he had lost it. He stood up, and walked over to Ritsuko.

"Doc? What happened last time she—"

"You don't need to know."

He scowled. Here he was, doing an adult's job, and they were still treating him like a kid. Worse, if this had to do with Rei—he might object to this farce of an engagement, but—

"I think I do."

Ritsuko paused, and turned to the boy. "What is your opinion of the Commander?"

"I—" Shinji paused, and looked down.

Ritsuko snorted. "That's what I thought. You don't need to know." She turned back to the console with an air of finality.

Maya spoke up. "All protocols enabled, and we are ready to start."

"Insert the plug."

A massive cam rotated the entry plug into position, and a piston gently extended it, pushing it into the socket.

"Entry plug locked in and engaged."

"Activating A20 nerve interface."

"Set command interface language to Japanese."

"Check harmonics, and stand by." Ritsuko pulled out a cigarette, and stuck it in her mouth. "Misato, you're on."

"Audio check. Rei, can you hear me?"

The girl's voice was relayed to earbuds throughout the command center; Shinji heard her words in his own, quiet as always.

"Yes."

"Harmonics are green and clear."

"Primary sync induction standing by."

"Bring up the A20 stimulation rate by two percent per second, hold at forty."

"Roger."

On Maya's screen, three sine waves began creeping together.

"I've got a faint red harmonic on the plug wave."

"Compensate."

"The plug's operating system is compensating automatically."

"Good." Ritsuko grinned. "The patch to the plug's operating system is performing exactly as planned. Good work, Aoba."

There was no reply from the computer tech; he had his own systems to monitor.

"A20 stimulation rate holding at forty," stated Maya. "Sync ratio is climbing...it's past the absolute borderline, and still climbing...hold on...okay, it's hovering at forty-five percent."

"Good. That should give her gross motor control at this point." Ritsuko considered, then said, "Harmonics are still clear. Bring up the A20 stimulation to full."

"Roger." Maya ran her hand along a control, and Rei's sync rate jumped up.

"Fifty percent now...fifty five...fifty eight...hovering at fifty-eight. Doctor, she's not crossed the critical point."

"Damn." Ritsuko scowled. "Shinji couldn't fight his unit unless it was well past the critical point."

"What's the critical point?" asked Shinji.

"The point where the ego is in direct link with the EVA." Ritsuko frowned. "Until you can identify with EVA, you can't fight."

"Identify?"

Ritsuko nodded. "EVA has to accept you as part of itself, you the brain and it the body."

Shinji frowned, and said, "That's not how it felt to me."

"Hm?"

"Shogoki and I were two, working to the same purpose."

Misato broke in. "Shinji, you're just anthropomorphising. EVA is a machine, not a living being."

Ritsuko, on the other hand, looked thoughtful. "What do you suggest?"

"I had to work with Shogoki, find out what she wanted." He looked up at the video screen, at Rei's face. "It might not be alive, but it..." He shrugged.

"Find out what she wants, eh?" Misato frowned. "And how do you find out what a machine wants?"

"Let me talk to Rei."

Ritsuko looked over at Misato, and raised her eyebrows. Misato shrugged, and handed Shinji her headset. "Can't hurt, at this stage."

He donned the headset, and touched the transmit button. "Rei?"

Nothing. He imagined his was a most unwelcome voice, but he pressed on.

"Rei, can you hear me?"

"Yes."

The cold in her voice cut like a wind, but he pressed on. "What do you want, Rei? You don't need to tell me. You just have to think about it."

There was a long pause. He glanced at the monitor, and saw her head bowed, her eyes clenched shut. Was she crying? He would never know; the tears would vanish in the LCL, unseen.

"Now ask yourself what EVA wants."

"I do not know."

"Ask her."

"Holy shit!" Maya's eyes snapped open. "Perfect harmonic lock, all three waves! Ninety-seven percent sync ratio; she blew past the critical point like a..." Analogies apparently failed. "Doctor, she's got more control over that thing now than Shinji does over EVA-01."

Ritsuko's gaze locked onto Shinji, and her eyes hardened. "Young man, we need to talk."

"Summanus comes." Rei's voice echoed in their ears. Misato grabbed the headset away from Shinji, and jammed it back on her head.

"Rei? What do you mean?"

"The Old One, Summanus, comes. He comes to destroy EVA."

Ritsuko turned, and slapped a control. Monitors flashed to life all over the command deck.

"Cam fifteen." Misato spotted it, and pointed. "There's something there..."

"Jesus, it's right inside the Geofront!"

Ritsuko, Misato and Shinji watched, as reality seemed to tear, and a horrific form stepped through. Ritsuko screamed, and shoved the monitor away. She gasped, shaking, her eyes wide with fright.

"Calm down, Ritsuko." Misato grabbed her, forced her down in a chair. "AP! Now!"

Maya fumbled at her desk, finally producing an inhaler. She tossed it to Shinji, who handed it to Misato.

"Grab her arm!"

Shinji grabbed an arm, and hissed in pain as the blonde's heel came down on his foot. Ritsuko twisted and fought, but he hung on grimly.

Misato pushed an arm against the scientist's chest, forcing her back into her chair. Her other arm, the inhaler balanced between forefinger and thumb, hooked into her lip, then forced her jaws open. She jammed the inhaler into Ritsuko's mouth, and pumped it. There was a short hiss, and Ritsuko shuddered.

"It'll take about a minute to work into her system." Misato glanced over to Shinji. "Get suited up. Rei will join you."

"I can't leave you to hold her—"

The command deck shook, and a distant boom sounded. Misato scowled at Shinji.

"Hurry!"

She was elevated to the underground portion of the city, not clear to the surface. Beside her, her Brother was freed from his bonds, his Dreamer in tune with his desires.

Summanus.

He is evil in a way that you cannot possibly comprehend, Dreamer Shinji. Byatis and Ithaqua merely opposed us; Summanus takes pleasure in pain and anguish.

Why is he here?

He felt the pain in my Brother's Dreamer, the one you name Rei.

I do not wish her to be in pain.

You are the cause of it. My Brother has told me of this.

She felt his shame at the thought.

Fear not. It was pain she needed. And though it has brought Summanus to us, we will defeat him.

Can I speak with Rei while we are one?

"I can hear you, Pilot Ikari. And I can hear her."

"Gun pods are worthless. You must use the Flow."

"I understand."

Summanus was a massive humanoid, faceless, but with four long tentacles sprouting from his back. His skin was bone-white, and covered with a thin layer of mucus.

Beside her, her Brother raised a barrier, and summoned his Lance. She did the same, and touched the Dreamer's mind.

Brother. We shall move to place him between us, and I shall attempt to keep him immobile. You shall destroy him.

Freedom

Dreamer, my Brother is still unstable. Can your Dreamer Rei hold him to her will?

I have faith in her.

We had best make this quick, lest that faith prove unfounded.

FREEDOM

She moved quickly to the side, and wrapped the Flow around the Lance. She darted forward, and drove it into Summanus, but he turned, tearing it from her hand.

Envelop him!

The Lance expanded, curved back on itself, and coiled around him. Zerogoki dashed forward, Lance held on high to strike.

Summanus twitched, and Shogoki's Lance shattered, feeding itself back into the Flow. The energy in its pattern rippled outwards, damaging her armour and that of her Brother.

And then three of Summanus' tentacles lashed out, wrapping themselves around her Brother.

Rei screamed; the Dreamer's fear peaked in her mind, and the Flow responded. The tentacles were severed, torn away from her Brother, and she found herself locked in physical combat with Summanus. She picked him up, the terror-inspired Flow lending her strength, and smashed him to the ground.

Her Brother was down; blood flowed from his wounds, and his Dreamer slept. And now Summanus' remaining tentacle wrapped itself around her arm.

Pain etched every nerve in her arm, as the secretions on the tentacle burned through the armour, then started in on her skin. And she felt the pure, sadistic glee of Summanus, battering her mind. Her own Dreamer was teetering on the edge of madness; it was all she could do to hold him from the precipice.

And now Zerogoki was rising again. She wrapped her arms around the vile creature, and held him against her. The pain was all over now, and the Dreamer cried out in anguish, but still she held the Old One. Through his pain and fear, the Dreamer called out to her.

Keep him still, and Rei can finish him off.

The Dreamer Rei sleeps; my Brother is free.

Zerogoki! Help us!

FREEDOM

He is not stable, Dreamer Shinji.

She felt her Dreamer's mind reach out, through the link to her Brother.

"Rei. We need you. You won't fail us. I have faith in you."

And she felt the backlash of fear, horror, mistrust and betrayal.

The sleeper awakens.

Her Brother's Lance reformed, and he smashed it down on Summanus' head, burying it clear down to his heart. And then the Lance returned to the Flow, its pattern's energy tearing Summanus to fragments and scattering his Soul on the winds.

The screaming died down over the headset. Misato stared at the screens in horror. Shinji's eyes were closed, as they had been throughout the battle, and the spasms that wracked his body as he cried out in terror had stilled.

Rei was curled into a fetal position, hands wrapped around her body, not touching the controls. But EVA-00 had fought, haltingly at first, then with more authority. And Rei had spoken only once in the battle.

Not spoken. Cried out, in a voice that had caused her heart to jump in her chest.

She had called out his name. Shinji's. Not in fear, not with concern. As a battle cry, that had rattled Misato's soul.

"The target is destroyed."

She swallowed, and glanced over at Ritsuko. The blonde looked a bit logy, still under the influence of the anti-panic drugs, but she was again functional.

"Send out recovery teams." Misato's voice was mechanical; the horror of the Old One was nothing compared to the terror that stirred inside her.

And I share my apartment with these two. There's a happy thought.

"Entry plugs expelled. Recovery team en route."

Why does she fear you so?

I don't know.

She fears my Brother as much as you fear me.

We don't understand you. And I think all humans are afraid of things they don't understand.

Is this why you fear the Old Ones?

Maybe. I know you want to stop them from killing your creator/my father—

Your father is not why they come. They come for my Father. If I am not human, then what am I?

You're a machine. My father created you.

I am not a machine, my Dreamer Shinji.

Shinji awoke to find himself floating in liquid.

He panicked, and fought his way to the hatch. He kicked and punched it for long moments, before remembering the jettison. He smashed the button, and the hatch flew off. He fell from the plug to the ground, coughing up LCL until his lungs were clear.

"Rei!"

He staggered towards her plug, and worked the hatch. LCL sloshed around his legs as the plug drained, and he pulled the hatch open.

Rei lay on the control seat, curled into a ball. He reached for her, to pull her free.

His hand touched her.

She screamed.

He found himself lying on his back, a good two meters from the plug, with no idea how he got there. He staggered to his feet, and ran back to the plug.

"Rei!"

She was still screaming. He gritted his teeth, and grabbed her wrist.

Whatever she had done last time, she didn't do this time, and her screams stopped. She stared at him, her eyes huge and luminescent against her pale skin.

He gently coaxed her from the plug. As soon as her feet touched ground, she jerked her arm from his grasp, and collapsed to the ground, head buried in her hands.

This time, he could see the tears, flowing around her fingers.

"It's okay, Rei. You did it. And you saved me."

She looked up at him, and the loneliness, despair, and fear in her eyes struck him to the core.

Then the mask slid back into place.

She stood, and straightened her plug suit.

"I did not wish you to die, Pilot Ikari. If that happened, I would have to do all the chores."

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