Hopes Turn To Black
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.
Ryogi Kaji slid the small box across the desk. "Here it is. Smuggled it in in EVA-02, but I haven't had a chance to recover it before then."
"That was unwise." Gendo glared at Kaji from behind his hands. "EVA-02 was deployed for battle within minutes of its arrival. It could have been destroyed, the book lost."
"There was no other way for me to conceal it. EVA-02 was the only place off-limits to search teams. If it had been discovered, it would have been lost as well."
Gendo considered this, then stated, "Your performance is acceptable. The book was not lost."
He opened the box, and withdrew the book. It was old, its paper brittle, and its binding cracked and damaged. The cover was of leather, bound with a strap and buckle.
Kaji chuckled. "Why you had to have this one is beyond me."
"My scrolls are incomplete. I needed the entire book."
"You can pick up a copy at your local occult bookseller's."
Gendo looked up. "A simple forgery, building on the famous name, and relating to Babylonian mythology." One hand rested lightly on his prize.
"This is the oldest-known copy of the true Necronomicon."
Eight: Hopes Turn To Black
Asuka looked like death warmed over.
She staggered out of her room, her cutoff jeans and T-shirt soaked with sweat, and poured a cup of coffee. She collapsed into a chair at the dining room table, and sipped the coffee.
Shinji didn't feel much better than Asuka looked. His own coffee was halfway done, and he had started into his breakfast.
Rei set a bowl of miso in front of Asuka, then sat down to her own. Asuka looked at the bowl.
"What the hell is this?"
"Miso." Rei picked up her bowl and sipped her own.
"Looks like soup."
"It is soup."
"Soup for breakfast? What the hell is wrong with you?" Asuka was grumpier than usual. "What about bacon? Eggs? Toast?"
"I am a vegetarian," said Rei. "I have, however, prepared a fish miso for you and Shinji."
"And there's bread for toast on the counter," offered Shinji.
"You have been in Japan for almost a week," said Rei. "I would expect that you have had a chance to familiarize yourself with our culture."
Asuka looked down. "When I was at my own apartment, I had bacon and eggs for breakfast. Not soup!" She looked up at Rei. "Since you make a different soup for Shinji and me, surely you can make us bacon and eggs, too!"
Rei visibly recoiled at the suggestion.
"No? Then I will make my own breakfast!" She snorted down at the bowl. "Soup!"
"There is a saying in your country: Andere Länder, andere Sitten." Rei's eyes narrowed. "I believe that we would put it: The nail that sticks up gets pounded down."
"Are you threatening me, Wonder Girl? Because if so, you're gonna get a shut-up sandwich!"
Shinji flinched at the redhead's shout. "You're still wearing your A20 clip."
"Uh?" She reached up and detached the clip from her hair, and looked at it. "Oh."
"Bad dreams last night?"
"What the hell business is it of yours?"
"Pilot Ikari has been placed in charge of your training," Rei reminded her. "If he feels the need to ask about your dreams, the most objection that you can make is to ask if it is related to your training."
"That's what I did ask!"
"You could have been more polite."
"Shut up." She turned back to Shinji. "Well? Is it about training?"
"Then yes. I had bad dreams. And I do not wish to discuss them with you." She picked up her coffee again.
"Dreams about being eaten by a monster?"
She slammed her cup down on the table, sloshing coffee onto the table, then reached across the table to grab his collar. "Is that why you had us wear A20 clips? So you could invade my privacy?"
"I had the same dream," said Rei. Asuka dropped Shinji, and turned to face the albino girl, shock on her face.
"You..." She swallowed. "You saw my dream as well?"
"I believe it was a shared dream."
"What was that monster?"
"I believe it was an Old One." Rei did not drink coffee; she sipped her tea. "If I recall the dream properly, all of us were consumed by an Old One called Shub-Niggurath."
"You, me, Shinji, and Mutti—"
"That is not exactly whom I saw." Rei glanced over to Shinji. "Who did you see?"
"Ummm..." Shinji looked down. "You, Asuka, me and my mother."
"In place of your mothers, I saw Captain Katsuragi."
Asuka sat back down. "Well, Mister Instructor? What does it mean, this dream?"
"I don't know."
"Hah!" Asuka smirked. "I thought as much." She glanced over to Rei. "And those words you said, 'itchulhath nathram—'"
Asuka had never before seen Rei lose her composure. Her eyes widened as Rei leaped across the table and grabbed her.
"Never say those words!" Her eyes were wide and staring.
Shinji's eyes widened. "Rei!"
Rei calmed down. She released Asuka, and crawled back off the table. "I apologize, Pilot Sohryu."
"It's all right...guess I should stick to Japanese around here. It's safer." Asuka rubbed her shoulders. "What do they mean?"
Rei shook her head. "I do not know."
Asuka scowled at her. "If you don't know, why did you get so angry?"
"She wasn't angry, Asuka." Shinji looked down. "She was scared." He could feel Rei staring at him now, like drops of liquid nitrogen on his skin. "Those words scare me, too. And I don't know what they mean, any more than she does."
"Sync ratios are matched."
Ritsuko looked up from her terminal, faint surprise in her face. "I'm not sure what Shinji is doing, but it seems to be having a positive effect."
"Oh, sure. Positive for you." Misato yawned. "You haven't been on my end of it. Constant nightmares among all three all night, and then constant bickering in the morning. It's been a long week."
"I'd offer to spell you, but I don't feel like spending my night in a toxic waste dump."
"Really?" Misato perked up. "You mean that?"
"Sure." Ritsuko shrugged. "Of course, your house is the worst pigsty I've ever seen. Before I'd do it, I'd insist you clean it up."
"Between those three neat freaks, the place is spotless." Misato sipped her coffee. "So you got the duty tonight, Doctor."
"Crap." Ritsuko grinned. "Hoist by my own petard." She frowned. "Your apartment has only three bedrooms, and I'm certain that despite their best efforts, your room is still a disaster. So I'll have to sleep on the couch. So who gets displaced to your room?"
"No need. Heck, I'll be sleeping there myself. But with earplugs to drown out the screaming."
"So you have Asuka and Rei sharing a room?"
Misato shook her head. "They refused. So I moved Rei into Shinji's room."
Ritsuko's eyes bugged out. "She agreed to that?"
"Given that the alternative was bunking with Asuka, she agreed most readily." Misato snickered and added, "Though on one night, Shinji spent the night in Asuka's room. Rei had problems with that; she said that she slept better with Shinji there. But Shinji was adamant about it; he said he wanted to see how badly Asuka's nightmares disturbed her sleep."
"Does Commander Ikari know about this?"
"Not to the best of my knowledge."
"Don't tell him." Ritsuko set down her coffee cup, and scowled. "I'm not sure how he'd react, but I doubt that it would be to your benefit. Or theirs."
A scream echoed throughout the apartment.
Ritsuko sat bolt upright, disoriented. Then she heard the words.
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"
Ice formed around her heart, and she jumped up and ran to Shinji's room. There, she saw Shinji and Rei, the pale girl wrapped around him, shuddering.
He looked up at the Doctor, sleep still clouding his eyes. "A nightmare. I'd not come closer, Doc."
"I know." She stood, and waited, until Rei fell back to sleep. Shinji gently lay her back down, and covered her back up.
"Shinji. Can I talk with you a bit?"
"Sure, Doc." He stood, and followed her out to the living room.
"Shinji, what I have to tell you, I don't have all the pieces of yet. So I will apologize in advance if I confuse you."
Shinji nodded warily.
"First off, do you have any idea what Rei's dream was about?"
He nodded again. "A city. The shapes of the building were...impossible. And a massive shadowy form over it..."
"R'lyeh." She sighed. "In the nineteen-twenties, a boat came across an island in what was supposedly open waters. On the island, there was a city much as you described. The boat's log doesn't detail what happened after that, but when the boat was found, only two crewmembers remained aboard. One was completely insane, the other was dead."
"Further investigation of this incident led me to a report filed back in the eighteenth century. An Inspector LeGrasse, of the Louisiana State Police. He witnessed cult activity, and heard a sentence used. The one Rei just shouted out. According to one of the captured cultists, it means, 'In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.'"
Shinji considered this. "So...she's having dreams about something that happened over a hundred years ago?"
"About a year after the incident with the island," continued Ritsuko, "an expedition to the Antarctic found another city. Again, only two people escaped. Both survived, but were judged mad as hatters." Ritsuko leaned closer. "But someone else decided that the Antarctic needed looking at, and in 1998, the Katsuragi Expedition followed in the footsteps of the Miskatronic Expedition."
"Katsu—" He blinked. "Misato was the only survivor of that expedition!" He jumped to his feet. "It all fits together now! The EVAs are—" He gaped. "They're connected to the Old Ones. That...thing that Mom and my father found—"
"I think so." Ritsuko shook her head. "There's still a lot of information I don't have. The torpedoing of the reefs outside of Imboca, Innsmouth and Okinawa; I don't know how they fit in. Why you, and the other two pilots, are having these nightmares...I can only guess that it's due to your links to EVA."
"Should I stop—"
"No." Ritsuko sighed. "Whatever else is being planned, you, Rei and Asuka are all that is keeping us alive. Until we can learn more, I have to trust you."
"Stupid dreams. Stupid Shinji. Stupid EVA. Stupid Misato." Asuka stalked back and forth across the living room. "So what if my sync rates are going up? They would anyway. Practise makes perfect." She stopped, and clenched her fists. "Stupid Shinji has no practise, no training...all he has is luck! Luck isn't training! I don't need more training! Gelernt ist gelernt!"
"Then why did you panic in your first battle?"
"Shut up, Wonder Girl! You're just supporting him because he's your fiance!"
"The fact that we are engaged is both against our will, and completely irrelevant." Neither Rei's tone nor her expression changed at all. "I am supporting him because, unlike you, he has proven himself."
"You never support him when he's around to appreciate it. Why are you always so nasty to him?"
Rei looked away. "I do not wish to become close to Pilot Ikari."
"I have my reasons, and they are private."
Asuka stepped closer, and grinned. "Oh. I see. The Droid doesn't want to admit her feelings."
"Not to you."
"You do love him, don't you?"
Rei looked back. "What is love?"
"You're kidding me, right?" Asuka stepped back, a look of surprise on her face. "You don't know what love is?"
"I did not say that. I asked you for your definition."
"That's easy! When you cannot live without another person, that's love!"
"In that case, I submit to you that you love Pilot Ikari."
"Uh?" Asuka blinked. "What are you, stupid? I don't love that idiot!"
"Were he not there to protect you in battle, you could not live." Rei turned back to her book.
Asuka ground her teeth, then declared, "I could do a lot better at training than Shinji! I know these units better than anyone else alive!"
"I do not believe that this is so."
"Oh? Why not put it to a challenge, then!" Asuka levelled a finger at Rei. "I will train you! If you don't gain at least ten percent on the next sync test, I will concede that Shinji is the better pilot."
"I would accept that challenge."
"You gotta try! You gotta listen to what I say, and you gotta do it like you mean it!"
"I have already accepted." Rei stood. "How shall we begin?"
"Asuka!" Misato's voice cut the air like a whip. The redhead gulped; she had forgotten that the Captain was in the next room. Now, Misato stalked towards her, anger etched in her face.
"You have forgotten that I placed Shinji in charge of both your training."
"No, Captain. I didn't forget. I was—"
"You were trying to undermine his position." Misato scowled. "He might have even let you get away with it. I won't."
"No." Misato shook her head. "May I remind you that with less than a minute's discussion, Shinji nearly doubled Rei's sync rate? Even your own has gone up twenty percent since he started training you."
"I refuse to accept it!" Asuka was screaming now. "He's a complete fluke, a freak of nature! I won't accept that he is better than me!"
Rei took a step forward, and backhanded her. The impact knocked her reeling. Misato winced; she knew Rei's strength, and knew well that she'd pulled the slap. As it was, Asuka staggered a step, before collapsing to her knees.
Silence reigned for long seconds, before Rei broke it.
"You are a coward." Her voice was cold. She paused, then turned away. "Nigoki deserves better than you."
"Why did you hit her, Rei?"
Rei glanced up from her futon. "She refused to accept your superiority."
Shinji shook his head. "I'm no better than her, really. She's got all the training. I just happened to figure the EVA out before her. Once she's fully submerged to the Dream, she will surpass me."
"Until she accepts that you are correct, she will be unable to Dream." Rei looked down, and continued to work on the futon. "I apologize, Pilot Ikari. I should not have interfered."
He reached out, and touched her hand. She shivered, involuntarily, and looked up. The mask was gone; there was fear in her eyes.
"Please..." she whispered. "I'm sorry..."
"Thank you for sticking up for me, Rei." He smiled. "I'm not sure I could have."
She snatched her hand away as though his touch was painful. "You...will not punish me for this?"
He frowned. "No. Why would I?"
"I showed weakness." She looked down. "I allowed my...feelings...to dictate my actions."
"It's all right, Rei." He lay down, facing the ceiling, and pulled the blanket to his chin. "Everyone gets angry sometimes."
She slipped between the covers of her own bed, pulling the blankets around her tightly, as though they were a defense. She rolled onto her side, facing away from him.
"It was not anger."
Their sleep was dreamless, but when he awoke, he found her in his futon, back pressed against his chest. He carefully drew his arm from between her hands, stood, and walked as quietly as he could to the kitchen.
"Long range radar has reported no contact with any Old Ones." Misato tapped her console. "Nonetheless, Commander Ikari believes that they will attack today."
"Shinji, how would you evaluate the readiness of the other two pilots?"
"Rei still needs more control." He frowned. "Asuka is..." He sighed, and looked down.
"She won't surrender to the EVA." He shook his head. "If she is placed in combat, I don't know what will happen."
Misato considered this, then stated, "We'll have to see what happens." She touched a control on the desk. "Pilots Sohryu and Ayanami. Ready room."
The doors opened, and the two girls entered. Misato looked up at them.
"We expect an attack by the Old Ones today. Two of them."
"Nug and Yeb," said Rei.
"Can you sense them, Rei?"
She shook her head. "No. They are far more powerful, individually, than any that have come before. They are masking their presence from me."
"Can EVA handle them?"
She nodded. "Zerogoki will want to destroy them."
"Good." She glanced over at Asuka. "I'm putting Rei on backup. You and Shinji will be our advance units. Evacuation was completed thirty minutes ago, and the city is locked down."
"Got it!" Asuka snapped to attention. "Who has the lead?"
"Ja!" Asuka clenched a fist. "I won't let you down!"
Misato's expression was cold. "For all our sakes, I hope not."
You do not Dream, Shinji.
Not yet. Shinji looked around the city. It is draining on both of us, when we are one.
You wish to wait for the battle.
You no longer fear me.
He smiled sadly. I fear myself more.
"Unit Two, in position." Asuka hefted the gun pod. "Unit One, remain under cover. I'll flush, you shoot."
She does not Dream.
"Asuka. Remember that last time, the gun pod was useless."
"Don't worry. I have been completely retrained, remember?" Her voice was acid. "I'm ready this time."
"Contact! Screen Thirteen!"
"Asuka! Your vector to intercept is north thirty for two hundred!"
"Gotcha!" Asuka maneuvered her EVA to the indicated point. "I got it."
She switched on her camera; the monstrosity approaching appeared on Shinji's screen. Half the height of the EVAs, it was much more broadly built. Thirty or more tentacles waved in all directions; four had formed cloven hooves, and propelled the beast towards EVA-02. The others appeared less certain of their final form.
"Target haloed, and..." She levelled the gun pod and pulled the trigger. The creature bucked, blown backward by the high-explosive rounds, then fell and began to dissolve into liquid.
Asuka snapped up her targeting hood, and grinned. "Piece of cake."
"That was not an Old One."
"Eh?" Asuka glared down at her comm screen, which showed Rei's face. "What do you mean? What the hell else could it have been?"
"The other!" Asuka grinned fiercely, and snapped the targeting hood down. "Vector!"
"North forty-five for one hundred."
"Right on top—" She traversed the gun, and hosed down another beast. "That's both."
It is the Thousand Young.
"Vector north fifteen for three hundred. Contact. Shinji, vector east eighty for four hundred. Contact..."
Shinji gaped as his threat board registered target after target. He lost track after a hundred.
"Kill them all!" Asuka roared, and thumbed her trigger. The gun pod chattered, chewing two more targets to paste. She moved, and fired again, destroying another.
Shinji maneuvered, and brought his own gun pod to bear. Two more creatures died under a hail of high-explosive rounds. He glanced up, seeing another diving towards him. "Oh, no! Asuka, they can fly!"
The gun pod snarled again, shattering the flying creature. Asuka had run her gun pod dry; she snapped another clip into place, kicked a squalling horror away, then destroyed it with another burst. "More! Bring me more! Bringt sie zu mir und ich werde sie allesamt töten!"
Shinji slammed his second clip home, then leaped to the top of a building. He haloed three targets, and dispatched them with precision fire.
There is no Flow. The Thousand Young are disrupting it.
"Rei, prepare to launch." Misato's voice cut through the comm system chatter.
"Shinji. We're sending up gyroc rifles. They should do better against these things."
"Understood." He drilled two more, then discarded the empty rifle pod.
"Piece of cake!" Asuka was almost singing her triumph. "I can handle anything they send me!"
The pavement beneath her EVA's feet cracked, and a mass of tentacles, each twice as long as the EVA, rose up. They shifted, forming huge claws that grasped the limbs of the EVA.
"Get off me, you slimy—" EVA-02 fought in the grasp of the Old One, but was lifted bodily off the ground.
"EVA-02 has lost umbilicus, and is on batteries!"
An elevator opened, and EVA-00 stepped from it, gun pod ready. Rei emptied the ammo clip into the Old One, but the wounds closed as fast as they appeared. She discarded the rifle, not even bothering with the spare clip.
Then the building next to her exploded, and more tentacles wrapped themselves around Zerogoki.
Yes. The Old Ones have brought the Flow back to focus. Now we Dream.
One Brother was lifted off the ground, his scarlet armour cracking under Nug's indelicate embrace.
Her other Brother struggled, pinned against a massive building, as Yeb did his best to tear him in half.
They come not to destroy the Father, but to free him.
Will you still fight?
Yes. Each for our own reasons.
The fiery one still refuses to submit to the Dream.
She formed her Lance, and charged Nug. A swing of the lance severed the tentacles holding her Brother aloft. They dissolved into Primal state, but flowed back to Nug, reabsorbed.
Zerogoki tore forward, tearing himself free, then turned and drew his own Lance from the Flow.
They would enslave us, Dreamer. We will fight them.
How can we beat them?
They are twin souls. Both must be destroyed within less than two of your heartbeats of each other.
No. Zerogoki is still too unstable for this. Nigoki must awaken.
She is withdrawn.
"Asuka! If you want to prove yourself, this is the time!"
There was no answer from the Dreamer.
Her Dreamer touched the other's mind. She was paralyzed with fear. She was failing, and she could not fail. Unmöglich.
She must move past fear.
Her Dreamer paused. That could be very dangerous.
My Brother still sleeps.
Can you allow me to speak to those outside the Dream?
"Misato. I'm sorry, but I misjudged Asuka."
Shinji, you bastard.
"You've got to recover EVA-02 before she loses it."
"Understood, Shinji. What's happening up there?"
"She froze. She's forgotten all of her training."
The blast of rage from the Dreamer Asuka was almost tangible, and Nigoki rose, eyes blazing.
I shall be free!
Brothers, we must destroy these two as one. Zerogoki, listen to your Dreamer. Nigoki, destroy Nug.
Nigoki formed his Lance; in place of the spears of Flow that his siblings used, his Lance was split at the end, like a pick. My Dreamer will bring me freedom.
More of the Thousand Young approached, but Zerogoki was now rampaging through them, using Lance and kinetic blasts to destroy them. He cleared a path for her, to Yeb.
Hear my Dreamer's heartbeat. It sang in her ears, a counterpart to her own. Five.
She raised her lance, and charged towards Yeb.
Nigoki swung his Lance, destroying a Young before it could latch onto him.
Zerogoki howled his rage, and his Barrier rippled outwards, destroying the Young around him.
Nigoki stepped towards Nug, Lance on high.
She gathered the Flow, allowed it to propel her towards Yeb.
The Lances struck home.
The sheer power contained in the Twin Monstrosities was far more than her Barrier could absorb; the resulting blast hurled her backward, away from Yeb and out of the Dream.
"Both targets are silent. All three EVA are down."
"Moderate damage to Unit Two, light damage to Unit One." She checked her scanners. "The smaller creatures appear to have died with their leaders."
"Good." Misato sat down, and indulged in a case of the shakes.
Nigoki was gently lowered into its cage, and the entry plug extracted. Shinji watched nervously as it opened.
Asuka came boiling out of the plug, rage written across her face. She raised a fist, and charged him, striking him across the face. The impact knocked him right around, and he fell to his hands and knees, facing away from her.
He heard her breathing, deep and gasping. He turned back around, and looked up to her.
"How could you do that?" She shuddered. "He was trying to take me over!"
"He needed your drive, to fight properly." Shinji rubbed his jaw. "Without you, he cannot act. Without him, you cannot fight. You must be equals."
"Equals!" She spat, and turned away from him. "It's a machine! I don't care if it has flesh or blood. It will do as I say!"
Nigoki's head turned to face her. She gasped, as his eyes opened. The armour around the head deformed and cracked, as he opened its mouth.
Shinji's blood ran cold, as Nigoki spoke.
"Ich bin Niemandes Sklave!"