-*- John Biles & Rod M. Present A Neon Genesis Evangelion Elseworlds Children of an Elder God Part 10 Parting the Veils -*- It was a shadowy chamber, its actual size hidden in darkness. The only illumination was a dull red glow coming from twelve holograms floating in place around a long table. Each hologram was a sigil, a fiery circle tangled in occult lines, no two being alike. At the head of the table, an elderly yet imposing figure sat. Clothed in sea-green robes, hair simply combed straight back, eyes hidden entirely by a cyclopean visor, he took a moment to look upon the holograms as a king would his subjects.
After being satisfied with what he saw, he turned his head up slightly to speak. "Ladies, gentlemen." //"Six are past and six await,"// said a voice from one of the holograms. The voice was male, and the sigil was a lidless eye with a burning flame in the center. //"The Eidoleons have surpassed our expectations."// //"However,"// said another, //"We sense treachery from within. Lorenz, can we really trust Ikari?"// This one was female, and old; her sigil was an inverted ankh. "Of course not," said the old man. "Then again, you can't trust anyone these days. However, he is doing his job well enough." //"Well enough?"// asked a sarcastic, accusing voice. This member of SEELE was male and young. His sign resembled a kanji, though it was actually a character of the language Aklo, which meant 'Scorpion'. //"The Children were nearly lost to us by He Who Is Not To Be Named! That is a serious lapse in security!"// Lorenz nodded. "I know, and I've sent a man to look into it." -*- "I am Abdul Kanephren," said the odd little man, "Inspector for SEELE." He had dark bronze skin and bright green eyes. His suit was old and slightly out of date; it would have been fashionable when Gendo was first learning to drive. The bowtie, which had golden fish on a bronze background first drew the eye in, then drove it away. It was hard to place his age, but he looked to be at least as old as Gendo. Perhaps he had simply never replaced his first suit. He stood at the center of Gendo's office, staring severely at Gendo and Fuyutsuki. Gendo was, as he always seemed to be, poised at his desk, elbows resting on the table, face veiled by his intertwined hands. It seemed to annoy Kanephren. "I see," said Gendo. "What can we do for you?" "My superiors are displeased. The incident with the King in Yellow displayed a severe lapse in security." His voice would have been deep if it hadn't tended to rise into a high-pitched whine. Gendo had to resist the urge to grind his teeth in response. The man could have told Gendo that he had just won a million dollars and Gendo still wouldn't have wanted to listen to him. "Every single book in that library was approved by our censors. Unfortunately, the teacher was subverted by one of his students with whom he was having an illicit love affair. He's now being held, along with the King in Yellow himself. The student has vanished." Gendo frowned slightly. "Posters were put up all over town advertising the play. Did you perhaps suffer temporary blindness and deafness?" Gendo's frown deepened slightly. "I was in Antarctica, directing the excavation. With what we have found there, it will be much easier to carry out the Plan." "While nothing can excuse this incompetent performance with regard to the King in Yellow,..." Abdul began. "Should I perhaps email a copy of the Plan to everyone in NERV? Open all the sealed files and reveal every secret to the entire populace? I was instructed to make sure that no one would be aware the play even existed. May I ask how SEELE's spies here ALSO failed to notice anything?" His stare was intent. Abdul smiled faintly. "Another mystery I must address. I wish to see the King, the teacher, and to talk to the Pilots." "I will make the arrangements." Abdul rose. "Very good. Perhaps you may convince me yet to give your masters a good report. Contact me when all is ready." He departed. Surely they are not stupid enough to think I can't tell who that is, Gendo thought. He never did have any talent at chosing false identities for himself. He picked up his phone and began to make some calls. -*- //"No comment?"// The reporter sounded irritated. "No comment," Maya repeated over the phone. She wished she had no memory to go with the no comment. She tried to remember the woman's name, but she'd said no comment to enough reporters that they had all blurred together in her mind by now. "Investigation continues. Have a nice day. Keep your laser handy." She hung up and sagged back in her desk. Did I really say something about lasers? she asked herself. She sat and picked pointlessly at the bandage on her arm; she couldn't even remember how she had been hurt. She didn't think Aoba had done it, although she felt nervous around him now; what he had tried to do hadn't been his fault, but it had been an extension of what he wanted to do anyway. She never had quite figured out how to deal with men, and this whole disaster had just made matters worse. The phone rang again and she sighed. She picked up the phone. "No comment." //"On what?"// Commander Ikari asked. "..." -*- "I can't drop the story!" Megumi said. "We had a riot and the EVA Pilots nearly died!" She leaned forward on her boss' desk. "NERV completely fumbled this. The public needs to know!" "The public doesn't need to panic. And there's no proof Angels had anything to do with the riot. Probably some juvenile prank involving drugs, anyway." Megumi frowned. If only I could remember more of what happened, she thought. She remembered shouting about the truth, and making out with some guy, though what he looked like... The riot hadn't even made Tokyo-3's local news; it was almost as if it had never happened. Almost. NERV was stonewalling, but whispers were circulating around the journalistic underground; every one she knew in the business had tried to get information from NERV, but NERV was being silent. "NERV wouldn't be this quiet if they didn't know something." "Do you actually know anything about what happened besides 'There was a riot and orgy at the school play'?" "NERV arrested the teacher who organized it, and confiscated all copies of the script." "Anything else?" "I'm hoping to talk to some people who were there." "Do you remember what happened?" She laughed nervously. "Not very well." "Forget it. Go work on that corruption case with Judge Anzaka. If we can nail him, we'll be doing Japan a major service." "You've already got three reporters on that case!" "The better to nail his corrupt ass to the wall," her boss said, then gagged when he accidentally bit through his usual cigar and swallowed half of it. "Bleah!" Bleah exactly, Megumi thought. Maybe I can corner one of the pilots at school. -*- //"How long must we wait for this report?"// The sigil was a floating red cadeceucus; the voice was middle-aged, male, and sombre. "A few days at most. The agent I have sent is quite reliable." Keele smiled a tiny smile. "He has a great interest in the success of our Plan. Neptune, Tethys, where is your report on the aftermath of the defeat of Ghatanathoa?" Those two sigils hung near each other in the air. One was a blue trident, the other a spiral of irregular lines, somewhat like a whirlpool. Neptune spoke with a warbling voice that reverberated strangely. //"We have collected what could be salvaged of His remains."// The woman's voice was deep and throaty. //"All of His power was gone. It was utterly harmless to gaze upon what was left of Him. Still, I fear what devouring his power may do to the Eidoleon which fed upon him."// "They all did to some extent," Keele said. "Which likely diluted the effects." //"While the Eidoleons will need their Gifts to achieve our ends, perhaps it is better that such a Gift be lost forever; it is too dangerous to one's friends."// "The Medusa had no friends," Keele said. "Which is why He has fallen." //"The King in Yellow had friends and servants. They did not save him. What guarantee do we have that the Eidoleons will not turn on us?"// The old woman's voice came from a floating image of a great cauldron. "They do not know we exist. And they will not, until they are ready to join us." Keele smiled. "They are but children." //"They are Children,"// the old woman said, her emphasis subtly different. //"In the fullness of their power, they could crush us."// "It will not come to that." Keele's voice was confident. "Even the Children cannot escape what is to be. The Stars are Right. However they struggle to escape, they will be pulled back to their destiny." -*- Asuka bowed to Kensuke's father, Aida Hideo. He was short and thin, with red rimmed glasses, dressed in a slightly battered suit. "It is a pleasure to meet you," he said. "My son left something for you." He sighed. "They won't tell me anything about him, just that he went mad and...The not knowing is worse than the knowing." "We'll find a way to make him okay again," she said firmly. "I don't know how, but there has to be some way to help him." The man nodded; he looked weary, with dark smudges under his eyes. He took her back to Kensuke's room, which was a mess, with books everywhere. The walls were covered with military and anime posters; a large poster of the three EVAs caught her atention. A half finished battleship model sat on a table in the corner, surrounded by parts and glue; a faint sheen of dust sat on it. The computer was surrounded by empty soda cans and crumpled junk food wrappers. Hideo walked over to a clipboard by the computer and handed it to her. "This is it." He sighed. "Let me know...if you hear anything." "I will." She waited until she had said her goodbyes and departed to start reading. The first page was simply a coldmail account name and password, along with several message numbers. She resolved to check these later. What came next was labelled, 'Working Theory'. ['Nor is it to be thought that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone.' Angels predate humanity. They came to Earth and seeded it with life. There was some sort of war among them, and many of them were cast into eons of slumber. 'That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die'. They are now waking up. Theory: NERV found a sleeper and studied him, but he woke up and caused Second Impact, which knocked him back out. NERV is using technology he had lying around, so to speak. Theory: The Angels plan to resume their war. This is why they don't cooperate...they don't like each other, either. The thing singing in my dreams is one of them...waking them up? Why don't they all wake up at once? Connection to the dog-like tribes of Polaris? Each Angel has a cult, like the one destroyed at Innsmouth. Founded by the Angels? Spontaneous human tendency to worship power? Them reaching out as they sleep and influencing humans? Latter seems likely. Do they like their cults, or would they freely destroy them?] "Destroy them," Asuka muttered, remembering the vision she had had when fighting Rahab...Ghatanathoa. She began to skim the notes, planning to read them more thoroughly later. They gradually became more and more incoherent, a maze of strange runes, ramblings, and nonsense words. [Ia Ia Salbogoroth pwnee ilyariato shngr la!] Whatever that meant. One final item caught her eye in the first skimming, however. [Four Lords or Five? Asuka must be Fire. Shinji is...Earth? Plant? Air? Rei could be Water or Air. Who is the Fourth Child? Someone I know? Probably male, for balance...but then, their goal is not that of balance. Story repeats itself? Xoth's defenders betrayed them for power. As did those of Yhtill. Can fire be fought with fire? Let he who hunts monsters beware. I can feel the abyss gazing into me. Will they save or damn us all?] Asuka wished she knew the answer to that herself. -*- //"The Stars did not save any of the rest of the Great Old Ones,"// Cauldron said. //"The Wind Walker has fallen. He may have been older than the planet we live on, and certainly older than our species. Three fourteen year olds killed him. If they decide we have to die, we cannot stop them."// "Children armed with Eidoleons. Without them, they would be no threat. And we control their access to the Eidoleons." //"Do we?"// -*- Kaji stood in the EVA berth observation room. They stood silently, unable to move in theory, as they were not plugged in and no pilot rode in them. While they had internal batteries, they were not capable of independent action even while the batteries were charged. In theory.
The window glass had been replaced from an incident in which one of them had gone berserk; Unit00 he believed. It was cleaner and shinier than the rest of the room. They were just human enough in appearance to make him feel doubt that they could be as completely passive as the scientists claimed. And they were just inhuman enough to make him fear what might happen if the scientists were wrong. There was too much he didn't know about them; too much that no one knew about them. He wanted to know. NERV was a maze of feints hidden behind masks wrapped in enigmas. Somewhere, there had to be a thread to follow through the maze. "Inspector Kaji," a voice spoke from behind him. Kaji spun and blinked. It was that Abdul fellow. Nehru. Something like that. He'd seen him around at a few NERV facilities; like Kaji, he was an Inspector. "Inspector Nehru." "Kanephren." "Sorry. What can I do for you?" He leaned against the glass. "What is your opinion on the King in Yellow disaster?" "That when necessary information is too heavily restricted, it leads to disaster." "You're Throne clearance, correct?" "Dominion, normally. I've been cleared up to Throne for specific investigations at times. The information that would have been needed to forsee this disaster was ranked Seraphim, which meant only three people were actually cleared for it. And since none of them were present, we had a disaster." Kaji frowned. "That's my recommendation. Too much information has been classed too high for no good reason." "Are you sure you don't just think that because there's secrets you wish you knew?" Abdul's voice had just a hint of insinuation. "Don't you wish YOU had more clearance? Would make this investigation easier, I'm sure." "What do you know about Sector 13?" "It's Seraphim Clearance, so I can't get in." Abdul smiled. "But you've tried." "Something in there interests Ikari, but hardly anyone else ever goes there. I'd suggest asking him about it." The man made a note on his pad. "Any other areas of the base you think might contain...things that shouldn't be there?" "Not that I'm aware of, but this place is so huge, you could hide a small army in it." Abdul walked over to the glass and stared at the EVAs. "No security system?" "Given that you can't operate them without a full staff backing you up and there's no way to steal them...but there is a lot of security. Simply sophisticated enough to elude detection." He frowned slightly. "But you should know that." "I often know the answers to questions before I ask them. The purpose is sometimes simply to see how people answer them, rather than to learn the answer." -*- The meeting was beginning to degenerate into multiple shouting matches, as five arguments broke out at once. Keele raised a hand. "ENOUGH! Is there any here who would choose to abandon the Plan at this time?" All was silent. "We cannot back out now. We ride the tiger, and we must ride it until our enemies are trampled into the dust. Rhan-Tegoth has fallen, never to return." //"You call that an accomplishment?"// Scorpion sneered. "I suppose you planned to hunt him with an elephant gun yourself?" Silence. -*-
Studying the remains they had collected from the defeated Angels hadn't told them very much, except for one thing. While the remains all looked the same, grey, flaking, and slowly crumbling to powder, chemically, none of the Angels had much to do with each other. Amaliel (while Ritsuko knew his true name now, he remained Amaliel in the reports) seemed to have been methane-based, or possibly generated methane; his remains were laced with it, along with traces of the noble gases, sometimes bound impossibly into compounds, and various heavy metals. What little remained of the dead Cherubim was full of silicon, lead, gold, and a variety of rapidly decaying radioactive materials, which would likely completely vanish very soon. The gold itself was decaying into lead, which was completely impossible for a variety of reasons. Ritsuko shook her head, and turned to one of the lab technicians, a woman named Ryoko. Ryoko was in her early thirties, with short brown hair and thick glasses. "Is there anything left of the sample from the first Angel?" Ryoko frowned. "Come and look." They went over to one of the remote operation waldoes. The sample itself, all that remained of the first Angel, was inside a lead box, itself inside a small room where everything could be manipulated using the remote hands. The sample box, however, as Ryoko showed to Ritsuko, not contained only a web and a tiny red and black spider. "It turned into that?" "We hadn't checked it in a few weeks. I suppose it will starve." Ritsuko wished she believed that. "What are we looking at, ladies?" Ritsuko nearly jumped out of her flesh, spinning around. It was only Inspector Kanephren. He was a good twenty minutes late, but didn't seem to care. "I was wondering if you would come." "I had a fascinating discussion with one of the bridge crew, Mr. Shigeru." Mr. Kanephren paused to adjust his bow tie. It was blue with little gold sphinxes on it. Ritsuko found it tacky. Ritsuko pointed to a chair and went over to one of the tables and sat down herself. "Fire away." "A direct woman. I like that. What were you working on the night of the riot at the school?" "The Cherubim had been reviving, and we wanted to know why." "The Cherubim. Ahh, yes. I'd like to see it." "Follow me. Ryoko, can you continue this analysis for me?" She pointed to the half-finished work. "Sure." They walked through the hallways, and Ritsuko explained in detail the various ways in which they had studied the Cherubim. They reached the observation room just as she said, "It is mostly comatose, though it still looks fairly healthy, so it likely won't do anything but sleep." She peered down at it through the window, as did Kanephren. The Cherubim visibly started, stood, and sniffed the air, looking around. "Rather lively sleeping." "This is almost certainly a bad sign," Ritsuko said, getting out her cellular. "It likely means the security on the other prisoner has slipped." "The King in Yellow?" "Yes." She frowned, and dialed security. The creature was now staring straight at them. Through the speaker, she could hear it give a strangled cry. What followed seemed, to Ritsuko, to happen in slow motion. The Cherubim launched itself into the air, charging at the window. In the instant it took to cross the room, she could see some of the skin on its wings had flaked off, revealing bright multi-colored scales. It gave an angry screech and smashed head first into the window. Kanephren stood and looked quietly at it, not reacting at all as it struck repeatedly at the window, struggling to stay aloft in the room. By the time her phone connected to security, the creature suddenly stiffened and plummeted. Kanephren shook his head. "I wonder what it was thinking." //"Security Post 4."// "Can you check on the King?" There was a pause, and while they waited, Ritsuko said, "It gave up on that a long time ago. As far as we could tell." "Sometimes, hope is renewed unexpectedly before it is crushed again." //"He's still frozen solid. No change."// "I shall have to see him next. So this creature was the clue you needed to figure out what was going on?" "Yes." "Along with information obtained using secret codes your mother installed in MAGI." "..." "You could be executed for that, you know. Breaching Seraphim clearance is a major offence." "We'd all be dead if I hadn't, and you know it." She said, frowning intensely at the man. How did he know about Mother's codes? "Commander Ikari has chosen to ignore this since all was well that ended well, but I cannot afford to be so blase. Especially since I have the following information." He pulled several sheets of access times, dates, and locations. "You've been doing some interesting reading. I can't quite see the connection between all of these." Ritsuko began to sweat. "What do you want from me?" "Sector 13, to start with." "I can't take you there! Commander Ikari has expressly..." "Forbidden anyone to look at all these files. But you have anyway. You will take me. Now." "If he's in there, we'll both die." "He will not be." "Then what?" "I'm sure I'll think of more favors you can do me, Doctor Akagi." He smiled amusedly and turned to go. "Lead on." -*- "The chasm between the World of Dreams and the World of Waking has been bridged by the great Weaver, whose power we have stolen. Even now our servants cross it freely, guarding it for our sole use." Keele's voice was confident, and he sought to instil it into all those who had been frightened by Cauldron's loose words. Her children wander lost, and die one by one. Both worlds will be open for us to rule." -*- //"Ready, Shinji?"// He nodded to the small image of Misato on his HUD. "I'm ready."
The darkness around him came to life, revealing a surprisingly realistic Tokyo-3. //"How's it look?"// asked Misato. "Like the real thing. It's... it's great." //"You've got me and Dr. Akagi to thank for that,"// said Maya proudly. The EvaSim, as Maya called it, was designed to be an alternate training method for the pilots to use, and its development was pushed up further after the Evangelions ran wild. Approval for their usage became extremely difficult to obtain unless there was an angel attack. The simulator was, in Shinji's opinion, a little too real. It also required LCL. //"Okay, Shinji, I'm bringing up the angel now."// In the distance, he could see a distortion in the air. A moment later, the first 'Angel' that he fought, Matriel, appeared. A voice in his head whispered insistantly, 'Atlach-Nacha'. //"You okay, Shinji?"// "Yeah, just a little shaky," he replied. //"Okay. Just relax,"// said Misato. //"There's a weapons cache in the buliding to your right. Give it a try."// He looked to his right, and a building emerged from the ground containing various weapons. After a moment of thought, he chose a very long, powerful looking rifle. It looked like something Kensuke would've liked. //"Okay, that piece should be augmented with some targeting software in the Eva. It'll come on-line once you turn on the gun."// Shinji gripped the gun in both of the Eva's arms, depressing a button on the handle as he did so. Two seconds later, a line appeared, projected on his field of vision, starting at the barrel of the gun and stretching off into infinity. "Okay, I see it," he said. Taking aim with the rifle, he pulled the trigger. A tremendous blast came from it, jolting Shinji with surprising force. "Whoa!" //"Felt the kick of the gun?"// asked Maya. "It surprised me." //"It has to be realistic,"// said Misato. In the distance, Matriel was knocked to its side by the shot, crashing into a building. Shinji approached carefully, then jumped back as it suddenly sprang in the air, landing where he was a moment ago. //"Good reflexes,"// said Misato. Shinji opened fire again, lighting up the sky with a rain of gunfire. Most shots missed, but enough found their mark to put Matriel ('Atlach-Nacha' his mind whispered) down for good. //"Good, very good."// "Misato?" //"Yeah?"// "Why didn't you let me use one of these things the first time?" //"Take a look at how many buildings you shot up."// He looked, and realized that he'd managed to destroy more of Tokyo-3 than Matriel did. "Oh... I see." //"Keep on practicing, kiddo. Okay, Maya, shut'em down."// The view of Tokyo-3 disappeared, and Shinji felt the entry plug rise up. A moment later he was back in open air, and puking out LCL. "Jeez, that stuff still makes you sick?" asked Misato. He glared at her a moment, then coughed up some more LCL into a bucket. They'd learned to keep one handy whenever Shinji and LCL was involved. After a few more minutes of retching and spitting, he showered, dressed, and was driven back to school by Misato. As they rode, he looked out at the city. It always reminded him of that first battle. "Misato?" "Hm?" "Does the name Atlach-Nacha mean anything to you?" "Um... dunno. Sounds Mexican. Why?" "Nothing, nevermind." -*- //"Why has DAGON not been activated?"// Scorpion demanded. "We would have no need for unreliable human children then." "Because DAGON has yet to produce a workable substitute," Keele replied. "A pilot who goes mad when first synchronizing with EVA and eats ten technicians is little use to us." //"And why have more resources not been put into it?"// "What more resources? Our cash resources are stretched thin as it is. And we knew all along that it was possible that DAGON might never repeat our first success. Especially since we've lost everyone truly responsible for that." //"And what of her?"// Ankh asked. "She is well." -*- In the inner depths of NERV headquarters, a single figure walked in absolute darkness, with no light to guide her steps. Rei walked through gantries and stairways silently, her glowing red eyes the only hint of her presence in the dark. Every few minutes, her progress would be halted by a formidable looking steel doorway. At these intervals, she would stop to run her hand by fingerprint ID system or a retinal scan. At the final doorway, she merely drew a sigil upon the doorway with her finger. She was alone here, one of a few with clearance to be in this section of the base. Her expression seemed troubled, as if she was pondering a great dilema. Whatever it was, she gave no hint of it, instead remaining silent. At last she came upon a large glass wall, stretching from one side of the room to another. Whatever laid beyond that wall was hidden in further darkness, though the sloshing and flowing of liquid could be heard. She slowly walked towards the glass, then laid a hand upon it. A moment later, she laid her forehead to rest against the wall as well. The waters behind the glass stirred, churning slowly to life. Far within those depths, a pair of red eyes glowed in the dark and peered at Rei. And another. And another. And another. The previously dark waters came to life with countless red eyes, shining brilliantly like stars in the night sky, all peering curiously at their lone visitor.
From the obsidian depths of the other side of the glass, a pale hand reached out to the glass, mirroring hers. Rei closed her eyes and sighed. -*- Ankh spoke again now. //"And what was Ikari doing in Antarctica? There is nothing more to be found there."// A new voice spoke, young and female with a bit of a lisp. Her sigil looked somewhat like a bio-hazard sign, but organically curved instead of straight lines and arcs. //"He went at my suggestion. And he has brought us something valuable."// //"Namely?"// "Not all of the Old Ones died when their civilization crumbled. If that Miskatonic expedition could find ones who had survived, I was sure we could. And we have. With his help, voluntary or not, we can finally unlock the last secrets we need to ensure the success of the Prophecy. His will be done." -*- Shinji blinked as he walked in the door. He'd gone shopping for various supplies; Asuka had left a shopping list they'd found when they got home. Misato had stayed behind to work on some reports, in theory. In practice, he was sure she was being lazy. The air was full of wonderful smells which made his stomach rumble. Asuka must be cooking something good, he thought. Much to his shock, it was Misato, who was wearing an apron over her t-shirt and shorts, in the throes of sprinkling spices into a pot. She paused and looked down at the cookbook, shook her head, and added more of some herb Shinji couldn't recognize, but which smelled nice. "Hi, Shinji," she said. "I hope you like goulash." "What's goulash?" "I'm not sure, but it smells good. I just felt the urge to cook. Since this only happens about once in a blue moon, I never know what anything I'm making is until I'm done." "..." She began to stir the pot. "This is turned on, right...yes." Shinji began putting away the groceries. "Can I ask you a question?" "Sure." She turned back to the book. "Do you have any idea what oregano is?" "It's a state in the United States, I think." "..." "Must be an herb too, I guess," Shinji said, shrugging. "Anyway, what I wanted to ask was...why are you in NERV? You just don't seem like the soldier type." "I was in Antarctica when Second Impact happened," she said, digging through the spice rack, which thanks to Asuka, was no longer only home to salt and pepper. "Ahh! Oregano!" She sprinkled some into the pot. "And you got out alive?" I never realized she was so tough, Shinji thought. "I've forgotten a lot of it, but I'll never forget the moment of Second Impact." -*- Misato screamed. "Daddy! What's going on?" She could feel the air throbbing. Waves of heat were coming from the mountains, and the ice was visibly melting. She stood on the docks, trying to gaze off towards where she knew the scientists had been working. The fur parka she wore was uncomfortably hot for once; sweat ran in rivers down her face. "Do you have the lucky necklace I gave you?" Her father was sweating as well; Dr. Katsuragi was balding, and the dome of his forehead looked like a waterfall. His voice was urgent, and she could see the panic in his eyes. "Uh huh. Has there been an accident, Daddy?" "A massive one. I never should have brought you, but I..." He sighed. "I should have let you stay with your aunt like you wanted. Get in the boat, Misato-chan." She got in, though the motorboat wouldn't go very far, it would get her out to the expedition's ship, which was anchored a ways out from the shore. "What about you, Daddy?" "I'm going to try to stop it, but I think it's too late. At least I'll die like a man," he muttered. "Go, Misato-chan. Tell them...the Doomsday clock has reached midnight, and now it's beginning to chime." He turned back to face his doom. "I don't understand!" "I pray you never have to," he said quietly, then began to stride away from the dock. She started up the boat, praying she was going the right direction; she soon spotted the larger boat off in the distance, which was a relief. It grew larger as she approached, and she looked back nervously towards the land, praying her father would be okay. The entire mountain range exploded, as far as she could tell, erupting into the sky, becoming a black cloud held up by endless streams of lightning erupting into the sky. For a moment, all was silent, and then the shockwave hit. The waters moved away from the shore in a great wave, upon which her tiny boat rode the crest. Fire rumbled forth across the icy wastes of Antarctica, and the land vanished in steam and fire and lightning. The dark cloud blotted out the sun, and the wave upon which she was borne blotted out the ship from which she hoped for rescue. The last thing she remembered were screams of terror from the boat, neverending thunders from the land, and an unholy song that echoed behind the thunder in the sky. -*- "They found me floating in the boat, which somehow made it without capsizing. I had nearly frozen to death, and I should have died of dehydration and maybe even starvation. They never figured out why I survived. For a year, I was catatonic. Then one day, I just woke up in my bed. I was the only survivor." Misato's voice was flat, but Shinji could hear she was holding back emotion. "You were really lucky." "I sometimes wish I'd died with Father. I was so excited he finally took me along on one of his archaeological trips. Except then I wasn't allowed to go near the site. So I was bored as hell...the last time I saw Father before the last day of his life, we had a big screaming match, and I told him I wished he was dead." She winced. "Be careful what you wish for, Shinji." Shinji felt he ought to do something, but wasn't sure what. "He must be proud of you now." "I hope so," she said quietly. "I've done my best to avenge him. I just wish I could get in an EVA and fight with you, instead of sending you all off in my place. But I can't. So I have to be the one who stays home and worries, while you three, who ought to be able to be normal children, risk your lives." "We'd have died by now without your advice," Shinji said. "Especially me." "Don't be down on yourself, Shinji. I wasted my college years doing that." She stared at the goulash. "I wonder how I'm supposed to know it's done." "Taste it?" "Thanks for volunteering." It was actually quite good, though Shinji feared disaster. However, it was also quite hot. "AAAA!!!!!!" "That bad?" "WATER!!!!!" Soon, he soothed his mouth. "I just...sometimes I wonder if I just got this because my father is in charge." "You really think your father would do that?" "Well, no, but..." "With all his flaws, your father would never commit nepotism. He's a bastard, but he does make a good commander for NERV." "I guess so." "Do you think he's done something badly? Besides lacking any ability to be nice?" She stared at the goulash. "Where's Asuka?" "She should be home soon. She ran off to visit Kensuke's father or something." They both sighed, and that killed the conversation, as they both drifted off into their own thoughts. -*- "So, what are your conclusions?" Gendo asked Abdul. The two of them and Fuyuutsuki were in one of the small conference rooms. "You won't be needing the gun in your coat," Abdul said calmly. "Not that you'd use it if you have any sense at all. I have satisfied myself that there won't be a repeat of the disaster. In the end, it all worked out as it needed to." "Was your conversation with our new acquisition satisfactory?" Fuyuutsuki asked. "Quite fascinating, though not easy to communicate with. Perhaps later...But that is a story for another day. You'll be getting a copy of my report when I complete it." He rose. "I have much to do, and miles to go before I sleep. You will be keeping your jobs for now. And soon, all things will come to their appointed end." He swept out of the room, and as soon as the door closed, Fuyuutsuki said, "He didn't even try to drive us mad. He must be slipping in his old age." "We are doing what he wants. Of course he didn't do anything to us. If he knew our true objectives, there would be very little left of us." "I'm surprised he didn't tatoo his name on his forehead," Fuyuutsuki said. "No need. Only a tiny handful of people could actually understand the hints he gave. Now, why he is playing errand boy to SEELE...that intrigues me. It's a remarkably menial task. Now, if he had used it as an excuse to sabotage something critical..." Gendo frowned. "We're going to have to check everything." Fuyuutsuki nodded. "This makes a good excuse for a top to bottom cleaning and inspection anyway." Gendo nodded. "I will inspect Sectors 13 and 52 myself. Start laying out the orders for the inspection of the other sectors." "What about those hacked files?" "I shall have to have a little talk with Dr. Akagi in addition to the official reprimand I gave her. For that matter, I need to look into some of these files. I'm sure most of these are related to her medical research, but a fair number of these would be of no relevance to her quest. We shall see." He rose. "We must be extra careful now. We grow closer to victory, but there is still time for them to thwart us." "I think he knows what we intend to do, but doesn't care," Fuyuutsuki said quietly. "We can't count on that. We can count on him blackmailing Akagi, however. I shall have to think of something to do about that." "Him? Stooping to petty blackmail?" "If the King in Yellow can exploit a junior high teacher with a thing for young girls..." "I suppose so. It just seems too low." "He does what he must, and so shall we." -*- "The Stars move in their courses, and the heavens sing the music of the spheres. The time has come for the hidden to be made clear, for the mountains to fall and the valleys to rise. Let the book of truth be opened, and the thirteen verses sung." And with those words, the chant began. Thirteen voices, each hidden behind a mask from the others, opened themselves and their secrets to the one they served. From every continent they came, from every race of man and other races besides. Male and female they were numbered, Regnants they had become. For time beyond measure, SEELE had existed to bring about what would come to pass. It had worn a thousand masks in ten thousand lands, but in all that time, it had one purpose, to bring about the Prophecy. Their time had come. The Stars were Right. -*- - end part 10 - -*-