The Kaiju war was over, we won, and the world took a collective sigh of relief as we took a step back from the coming apocalypse. With the closure of the Breach and cessation of Kaiju attacks, it seemed like all the tension in the world was released. Particularly in the cities that lined the Pacific Ocean, celebrations spontaneously erupted in the streets. My partner and I were hailed as heroes across the world.
All we wanted to do was fade into history, become a footnote. I had had enough of the spotlight in the years before the death of my brother. It’s amazing when I look back just how arrogant I was. But it was not to be. For the next year, we were whisked from one city to the next, celebrities on a worldwide victory tour.
It culminated in Hong Kong on the first anniversary of sealing the Breach, where we attended the unveiling of the first of many memorials to the Jaegers and pilots that fought in the war. It was agreed upon by the countries of the United Nations that this would be the largest of all of them since this was where we launched our last stand. It was a large building, with a façade modeled after the ‘Shatterdome’ that had protected the area and was the staging ground for our assault. Standing guard outside each of the two hanger style doors were ten foot tall statues of the last four Jaegers; Cherno Alpha, Crimson Typhoon, Stryker Eureka, and Gipsy Danger.
While the whole thing was rather overwhelming for those that had fought and survived, it was still a fitting tribute and a symbol that we had persevered in the face of an overwhelming adversary. All across the Rim, the celebrations lasted well into the night.
It all came crashing down the following day.
A Kaiju made land in the United States. The category five monster, dubbed “Lazarus”, came ashore near San Diego. As a show of force, it didn’t go for the city. It went straight to one of the most well known military bases in the world, Camp Pendleton. Despite the presence of over seventy-five thousand well equipped Marines with tanks, planes, and helicopters, they did not waste any time in nuking it. It took no less than ten tactical warheads to finally kill the thing. Rumor has it they were going to up the ante and drop an ICBM on it if the last one hadn’t done the job. Needless to say, the entire base and about eighty to ninety percent of the infrastructure, equipment, and personnel were gone.
In one attack, the world’s sense of security and superiority was destroyed.
The allied countries in the UN that had disbanded the Pan Pacific Defense Corps after the war scrambled to reactivate the organization. Unfortunately, there was a stark realization that was reached soon after: there were no active Jaegers. Stryker Eureka and Gipsy Danger were the last when they embarked on their heroic effort to seal the Breach, and while successful, both were destroyed in the attempt. Being the only survivors of that attack, Mako and I were the only intact pilot crew remaining in the world.
After a frantic search, it was later found that a secondary portal had been opened by the aliens when the ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska was lost with all hands approximately 350 miles from the site of the Breach. This one was named the ‘Rift’. Within weeks, sensors were redeployed around it to monitor and detect the unique biosigns of the Kaiju as they emerged. It was discovered that this new portal, while no less dangerous for what it could produce, was much smaller. Some postulated that it was a backup for the Breach while others felt that it had been opened to accommodate additional attacks. Whatever the reason for its existence, it represented a grave threat.
Then something interesting happened. Six months after Lazarus, a Kaiju emerged from the Rift, another category five. It started towards Sydney, but then disappeared, seemingly for no reason. Since it appeared this portal was not able to handle the large numbers the previous one did, it was postulated that the aliens were going to bring several through over a period of weeks and then launch a massive attack. When the second and third Kaiju also disappeared at four months intervals, it only seemed to confirm that hypothesis.
That is, until the corpse of what we think was the third Kaiju washed up in Japan.
Everyone scrambled to figure out what had happened to it. Whatever the reason, it was plainly obvious the beast died a violent death. There were long, raking claw and bite marks that could only have been inflicted by another Kaiju. Some theorized that there was another portal, from another species of aliens that were antagonistic to the first ones, and they had sent a Kaiju against their enemies instead of us. Still others had postulated that it was something natural. That the Earth itself had finally decided that enough was enough.
Whatever the reason, it gave us some breathing room. See, someone remembered that there was one complete Jaeger left, an old Mark I that had been decommissioned years earlier. It was quickly brought back into service with Mako and I as the pilots.
It wasn’t long before whatever was taking down the Kaiju, missed one.
Kaiju Warning, Category Five
Target: Tokyo, Japan
“Raleigh, wake up!”
My co-pilot Mako Mori’s enthusiasm didn’t used to get the best of her. Originally forbidden from piloting Jaegers by her guardian, she persevered and eventually convinced him. The experience changed her, for the better I think. Still a perfectionist, she helps to balance me out when it comes to my propensity to freelance with the Jaeger.
Maybe that’s why I love her.
I rolled out of the chair I had been sleeping in a looked around. The pilot’s lounge was a small room off the main dining hall. In its heyday, it would have been packed with as many as ten crews, the eight primaries and two backups. Now it was just Mako and me. I liked going there because it reminded me of old times, good and bad. The ghosts of times past.
“What do they make of this one?” I asked as I followed Mako out the door.
She didn’t stop as she replied. “So far, all they know is that it’s a cat five.”
Category five, the largest of the Kaiju detected to date. This one would be the fifth of this size unleashed on our world. When Mako and I piloted Gipsy Danger to the Breach to seal it, we encountered the first one that came to be known as Slattern. That beast survived a point blank nuclear blast and nearly finished us off afterwards. Then there was Lazarus, who came from the Rift and was the first one to actually make landfall. It looked for the entire world like it was invincible. Then there were also the two that mysteriously disappeared, and the one that washed up.
We bypassed the Hong Kong Shatterdome’s LOCCENT (Local Command Center) and went straight to the drivesuit room. Upon entering, the four assistants that were waiting began to prep us. Because intercepting the Kaiju as far from land as possible was paramount, they had seven minutes from the time we got to the room to have us fully ready to start the Drift, which is the neural connection the pilots make in order to control the Jaeger.
“Have they named this one yet, Fred?” I asked after a few minutes as one of them inserted the spinal interface into the back of my suit.
“Not yet, sir,” he replied as the devices settled into its groove and began to connect. I felt a tickle running up my spine as it progressed. Involuntarily, I shuddered as it completed.
“Hey, I can’t make it easy on you,” announced a familiar voice over the intercom.
I smile to myself. Tendo Choi , the Chinese-Peruvian J-Tech Chief was our eyes and ears when we were piloting the Jaeger. Part of his duties was to classify the Kaiju, and name them sometimes. He was also one of my best friends. “Come on man, you know I’m dying with anticipation.”
I heard a snort of amusement over the intercom. “No great loss there, eh Mako?”
Sneaking a glance over to my copilot, I saw her smile and roll her eyes. The techs had just finished with her and she had stepped to the side to go over some status updates on our Jaeger. “Sorry buddy, she doesn’t speak imbecile!”
“Ah-hem,” came another voice. “Rangers, you have two minutes.”
A wry smile formed across my face. Marshall Hercules ‘Herc’ Hansen from Australia was formerly the copilot of Striker Eureka. It was arguably the best Jaeger ever built, although I still prefer my old girl, Gipsy Danger. He took over as Marshall of the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps after his son Chuck and the former Marshall, Stacker Pentecost, were both killed in Striker when they set off the nuclear bomb it was carrying in an attempt to kill two Kaiju that were defending the Breach.
“Yes sir! Right away sir! With all due haste, sir!” I quipped as I started to walk towards the Coyote Tango’s Conn-Pod. She was one of the very first Jaegers built. During the Kaiju War, it was the only one that was not destroyed outright. It was a great honor for me and Mako to drive her, as it was also the mech Stacker Pentecost drove when he saved Mako from the Kaiju known as Onibaba. Later on, he adopted Mako and raised her as his daughter.
After that battle, Tango was retired because of a design flaw in the Mark I jaegers that made them inherently dangerous to pilot (as if using the things to fight giant monsters wasn’t dangerous enough). Because of a lack of shielding for their nuclear reactors, many of the pilots died of radiation poisoning or cancer.
So why am I ok with piloting it? Because Mako oversaw the refit after they pulled her out of Oblivion Bay. After the incredible job she did with Gipsy Danger, it was a no brainer. In addition to shielding to protect us from the leaky reactor, Tango’s right arm was upgraded with the same chain sword that Gipsy had, and the shoulder cannons were replaced. On the left side was a four pack of the WMB2x90 Anti-Kaiju Missiles that Striker Eureka carried as they were deemed more effective than the mortars she carried originally.
On the right was an experimental cannon that fired a 355mm slug. That’s fourteen inches for you English measurement types. A weapon like it hasn’t been produced in over eighty years, when similar and larger weapons were the main guns on battleships. The shell itself is as tall as I am, with another ten feet added for the case that held the charge. It was a single shot weapon and while we were in transit, it was rotated onto Tango’s back.
These improvements alone upgraded Coyote Tango to the equivalent of a Mark III Jaeger. But that was just the start of it.
“Good morning, Raiden,” I announce as I entered the Conn-Pod.
“Good morning, Ranger Becket. Once again I must ask that you use my proper name, Raijin.”
The gravely, electronic sounding male voice was Tango’s A.I., named Raijin, after the Japanese god of thunder. It was far and away the most advanced of any A.I. in any of the previous Jaegers. Developed by Mako, it was originally supposed to go into Gipsy Danger, but time constraints would not allow it to be completed on time. She finished it anyway, and it’s a damn good thing she did. Since we were forced to reactivate Tango, it was a no brainer that it would be used. Where the previous A.I. mostly just reported on what was going on, Raijin was much more interactive.
And I loved teasing it. “Come on, what would be the fun in that?” I quipped as I stepped into the foot controls. One of the technicians behind me activated the locking mechanism when I was finished.
“For me, there is none.”
Oh yeah, it doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. Mako seems to think it will develop one, eventually. Not sure when eventually will be, though.
“So, are you ready to go kick some Kaiju ass?”
“I am not sure, the word “some” might infer that there are multiple Kaiju asses to kick. Since there is only one, it would be more appropriate to say ‘a Kaiju ass’. Also, we must consider that it is unknown if this Kaiju has an ass to kick.”
I smiled underneath my helmet. “Yeah, Mako programmed you alright.”
“Thank you Ranger Becket, I will consider that a compliment.”
As the holographic monitors around me began to come alive, I turned to see Mako being attached to the left Pilot Control Rig. There were twin units in the Conn-Pod that translated our movements into the movement of the Jaeger. “Hi honey, we’ve been waiting!”
“What are you two talking about?” she asked with a smile. For a moment, I got lost in the dainty features of her face, which was framed by blue bangs in her short black hair.
“Oh nothing, just the semantics of the term ‘kick some Kaiju ass’.”
“As usual, Ranger Becket demonstrates a need for remedial English classes.”
The intercom crackled with laughter. “I thought that thing doesn’t have a sense of humor!”
“I fail to see what is so funny about this, Mr. Choi.”
At the same time I heard a groan from Tendo, a light snicker over the intercom told me that Mako had donned her helmet. Before I could respond, I felt a tap on mine. I turned my head to see the technician named Fred giving me a thumbs up. I glanced over again, and saw that the technicians had just finished connecting her as well. They beat a hasty retreat.
“I hate this part,” Commented Mako. I tried to take her to an amusement park once, but she would not go on the roller coasters. Very odd for someone who drives a giant power suit that is eighty-five meters tall!
Marshal Hansen’s booming voice came over the intercom. “Engage drop.”
“Engaging Conn-pod drop sequence in three…two…one.”
Suddenly, my stomach was in my throat as the Conn-pod dropped from the staging area, slipping down a set of rails to the Jaeger that was waiting for us below. It was one of my favorite parts of the sequence. The adrenalin rush from suddenly feeling like you were in free-fall was, for lack of a better word, awesome. With a lurch, we made contact with the body of Coyote Tango. A series of snaps, clangs, and bangs later, and we became the head of the most powerful fighting machine in the world.
“We are going to be airlifting you guys to Tokyo,” reported Tendo. “So prepare for neural handshake.”
“Pilot to pilot connection engaging in three…two…one.”
When Raijin finished the countdown, I felt the familiar sucking sensation as my consciousness was pulled into the machine. I watched as black and white images of my memories played out before me. After a moment, new images of a young Japanese girl flashed through my mind. These were Mako’s memories. This was all the result of the neural link that was required to control a Jaeger. It takes two to pilot one of these things because, with very few exceptions, a single person’s brain did not have the capability to control the entire machine.
The world snapped back into focus when Mako and I completed the Drift. We were one with the machine now, linked in the most intimate of ways to over two hundred and eighty feet of pure power. In front of us, an image of our two brains overlapped each other, showing our status.
“Two pilots engaged in neural bridge at one hundred percent synchronization.”
“Right hemisphere ready!” I announced after Raijin reported our status.
“Left hemisphere ready!” reported Mako immediately after.
Experimentally, we rolled our shoulders and raised our arms, completely in synch with each other. Coyote Tango followed suit. Shifting our hands, we took up a fighting position. As expected, Tango’s arms followed. Finally, I balled up my right fist while Mako opened her left hand, palm facing right. Because of the Drift, our opposite hands mimicked what the other was doing. We smacked them together in a show of respect, the sound reverberating throughout the shatterdome when the mighty Jaeger did the same. Through the external speakers, we heard a bunch of whooping and hollering at the display, which caused both of us to smile.
“Coyote Tango ready for deployment,” announced Mako.
“Acknowledged,” replied Tendo.
I muted the comm and looked over to Mako with a sly smile. “She’s a little sluggish in the right pinky,” I teased. She had been overseeing the refit for almost six months. We suited up before to test, but never on a hot deployment. Before she could reply, Raijin came to her defense.
“Motor controls are within normal parameters, Ranger Becket. Perhaps it is you that is a little sluggish?”
“That’s ok, it is not the only thing he is sluggish at,” added Mako with a smile. Ouch, she was going to pay for that one later.
“I fail to see how…wait, was a veiled reference to his performance in…”
“TIME TO MOVE OUT!” we both screamed in unison. Sometimes Raijin was too smart for his own good.
Above our Jaeger, the massive doors to the shatterdome parted as the huge crawler under us, similar in design to the ones that took the space shuttle and the Saturn V rockets to their launch pads, begins to roll us out of our bay and into the center of the launch area. After a few moments, we were directly underneath the doors. Gigantic cranes began to make the connections needed for the transport aircraft to get us to our destination. On the platforms outside sat four brand new transports. Designed in the latter days of the war, these machines used four huge gas turbine engines that could swivel from zero to ninety degrees. This allowed for more lifting power and greater speed.
“So, you want the good news or the bad news?” asked Tendo over the intercom.
I shook my head and rolled my eyes as I flipped the intercom switch back on. I hate this game. “Bad news first I guess.”
“It’s going to take about six hours to get you there, but the Kaiju will be there in a little over five.”
Damn. Tokyo was just over four hours via commercial airliner. While six hours was way better that what we would get with the old helicopters we used to use, a Kaiju could do a lot of damage in an hour. I just hope those people had the sense to run before it got there.
“What’s the good news, Tendo?” asked Mako.
“We came up with a name for it: ‘Mimic’.” He sounded so proud, must have been his idea.
“Why ‘Mimic’?” I asked as the final linkages were connecting to Tango’s frame.
“It’s better to show you,” was the reply from theJ-Tech Chief.
On the holographic displays in front of us, a grainy image appeared. Along with the seismic and displacement sensors used to track the Kaiju, there were a number of optical sensors as well. One of them apparently got a descent enough look at it. The creature was standing on top of four legs, looking a lot like Onibaba. It had a single, long tail tipped with a three pronged spearhead like Slattern. Its arms were long, exceptionally so, like Leatherback. At the end of each was what looked like four thumbs in an X shape. And its head… “It looks like…”
“…Knifehead,” completes Mako, having felt my immediate apprehension through the Drift.
“Warning! Neural bridge destabilizing, synchronization at eighty-two point one percent and falling.”
Despite Raijin’s warning, I was locked in. Upon seeing the resemblance to the Kaiju that killed my brother Yancy, I involuntarily latched on to that memory, and found myself in a white drivesuit piloting Gipsy Danger. I remembered the searing pain that was transmitted to me through the link with the giant mech as its left arm was torn off by Knifehead. I heard my brother try to give me instructions as the monster tore into our Conn-pod. I felt his pain on top of my own and the sudden sense of loss as he was forcibly ripped out, along with the entire right side pilot control rig, and thrown into the sea. Just as I began experiencing his death all over again, I heard a voice.
It’s ok, Raleigh, I’ve got you!
I blinked, and the whole world stopped. Glancing around at the frozen chaos, I saw a woman, a Japanese woman in a black drivesuit standing next to me. She smiled.
It’s a memory, let it go.
I ask her how it can be a memory, it’s so real! She merely smiles at me, then reached up and touched my faceplate. Before my eyes, the cockpit began to change. I changed as well, my drivesuit going from white to black. It was all completely foreign to me.
Or was it?
“Neural bridge stabilizing, synchronization rising to seventy-eight point nine percent.”
As I looked around, Raijin and Mako’s voices helped me to realize where I was: in Coyote Tango’s Conn-Pod, not Gipsy Danger’s. That was not Knifehead, that was Mimic, a bastardized hodgepodge of Kaiju parts. It looked like they had just slapped it together from the remains of the other monsters that the Jaegers had killed over the years.
I glanced over to Mako, who was smiling at me from the other side of the pod. “Thanks.”
“Just don’t let it happen again.”
“Dude, you’ve got to be more careful, you almost destroyed one of the transports!”
“Sorry Tendo, looks like that rabbit got away from me.” I glanced up at the holographic images in front of me, one of them showing our overlapping brains. “Raijin, what is the status of the Drift?”
“Synchronization at ninety seven point one percent and climbing. Full synch is expected in twenty two seconds“
I smiled despite what had happened. Random Access Brain Impulse Triggers (R.A.B.I.T.) were an occurrence where one of the pilots latched on to a memory. Focusing on a single memory is discouraged while piloting a Jaeger. That’s because the emotions from the memory typically translate into actions for the Jaeger depending on how strong the memory is and the hemisphere the pilot is calibrated to. As a result pilots were advised never to ‘chase the rabbit’. Apparently when I did, Tango almost jerked one of the transports off the landing pad above us.
“Rangers, prepare for liftoff,” calls out Marshall Hansen. “And no more funny business! We got work to do! I want you to drive that thing back into the bay and kill it.”