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Literature
Doppelganger - Chapter 7ATTENTION ALL JAEGERS AND RANGERSEffective immediately, all Jaegers will return to their Shatterdomes of origin. With Kaiju landfall imminent, effective coverage of all Pacific Rim coastlines is of paramount importance. Any Jaeger teams not found in compliance with this order within 72 hours will be disciplined.The exception to this order will be Tacit Ronin, originally from the Tokyo Shatterdome, who will remain at Hong Kong with his Ranger, Marshal Tendo Choi. Any other Jaegers who wish to transfer Shatterdomes will be required to submit a request to Marshal Choi and wait for approval.All possible haste is recommended. The world is counting on the Jaegers. We will not let them down.Marshal ChoiSasha considered deleting the memo, as it had absolutely no effect on their team -- they were already well-settled into their old haunt at the Vladivostok Shatterdome, not gallivanting about elsewhere. Instead she filed the e-mail into her “PPDC” folder. She made it a habit to save any e-mail that looked remotely important, in case she missed a vital bit of information in her first read-through.“Gipsy’s not going to like that.”Sasha looked down at the little Jaeger, who had pulled himself up to peer at her computer over the edge of the desk -- and was warping the wood with his weight in the process. “Cherno, we have talked about you reading my e-mails.”“I already got a copy.” He tapped at the side of his Conn Pod, indicating his computer core. “I’m sure Papa did too. And we’re a team. We don’t have many secrets in the drift.”“True. But all three of us still deserve some measure of privacy.” She poked his Conn Pod lightly, earning a metallic giggle. “Ask next time you want to read something I receive, even if you already have a copy, okay?”“Okay.”“Now what is Gipsy not going to like about this newest order?”“She wants to move to Sydney to be with Striker.”Sasha frowned. She had known that Gipsy and Striker had grown very close, but not that they were already “moving in together,” so to speak. She had to wonder just what Chuck and Raleigh made of their relationship -- given that the two young men got along about as well as gasoline and a lit match, they couldn’t be too happy that their Jaegers were romantically involved. As romantically involved as giant mecha could get, anyhow.“Tendo is not going to allow that. Gipsy is needed in Anchorage. They are already spread far too thin among the Americas.”“We’re spread far too thin everywhere,” Cherno pointed out. “And Gipsy knows she has a duty to Anchorage… but she loves Striker. Isn’t there a way they can be together? Like stationing Mustang Omega or Tacit Ronin in Anchorage instead?”Sasha sighed and rubbed the top of Cherno’s Conn Pod. “Mustang and Tacit need to remain with their Rangers… and their Rangers are already stationed at headquarters. They can’t move as easily as other Jaegers.”“Is there a rule saying the headquarters HAVE to be in Hong Kong?” demanded Cherno. “Can’t they move them to Anchorage, or a coast city in South America, or somewhere on that coastline?”Sasha didn’t have a ready response for that. Hong Kong had served as a sort of unofficial home base for the Jaeger program ever since Operation Pitfall, even as the Jaegers had spread out across the world. As far as Sasha knew, there was no reason to keep their headquarters there… and Newt and Hermann could conduct their studies anywhere in the world. Tendo probably had to remain in Hong Kong as the Marshal of that Shatterdome, but that didn’t mean Mustang couldn’t be relocated.She didn’t say any of this aloud, however. “That’s up to Tendo to decide. And perhaps he will be willing to accommodate Gipsy’s request. But he has to act in the best interests of the entire world, not just an individual’s wish.”Cherno let go of her desk and folded his arms over his chest, whining softly. “That doesn’t seem fair.”“No, it isn’t,” she acknowledged. “When humanity built the Jaegers, they never stopped to think that they may wish to have lives beyond protecting our world. Perhaps… perhaps once these Kaiju have been destroyed, that can change. Some of you can be retired, and allowed to live civilian lives.”Cherno’s body wasn’t built in a fashion that would allow him to shake his head, but he managed to convey the gesture by rocking his reactor tower slightly back and forth. “No, Mama. We still want to protect humanity. And the Kaiju aren’t going to go away anytime soon. I just wish there could be a way for Gipsy and Striker to be together. And Coyote and Crimson -- I don’t think Crimson’s happy that she’s going back to Tokyo.”“I doubt he is either. I wish there was an easy solution, little one. But… this war won’t last forever. It’s possible that, once the Kaiju are dealt with, Tendo will allow Gipsy to transfer to Sydney until the next Breach opens. He is not an unreasonable leader.”Cherno crooned softly. “He’s a good leader… and a good man. I think Tacit chose well.”At that, Sasha had to chuckle. The news that Tacit Ronin had chosen Tendo Choi as his new Ranger had stunned all of them… but upon further reflection, she realized that the choice hadn’t been as far-fetched as one might think. Tendo had never trained as a Ranger, but he had fought the war in his own way, providing technical support from the LOCCENT and fighting tooth and nail to keep the Jaeger program afloat and the Jaegers themselves from being scrapped. He was respected and liked by all the Jaegers and Rangers, and had sacrificed so much to serve their cause. He was as much a warrior as she and Aleksis… and if Tacit saw him as a perfect match, then she supported his choice.Besides, Tendo isn’t the first without Ranger training to become a Ranger. Though the circumstances behind Mustang’s team are unique to say the least.“We are all happy for Tacit Ronin and Marshal Choi,” she told Cherno. “I look forward to fighting alongside him.”“Me too… and I’m looking forward to getting to know Tacit. I wonder what he’s like.” Cherno peered at the computer screen again. “Are you updating the blog again?”“You little snoop,” Sasha scolded, though she laughed and patted his reactor tower again. “Yes, I am uploading more photos.”“The ones from the Conn Pod?”“Yes, I got permission from Marshal Terekhov to do so.” Cherno’s larger body was still considered military equipment, and the Marshal had the right to veto photos of its interior if he thought it would violate regulations. Thankfully, Terekhov had stated that Cherno deserved bodily autonomy and had allowed photos.“Can I see which ones you chose?”Sasha clicked another tab, revealing the Instagram blog where she and Aleksis routinely uploaded photos of Cherno Alpha. It had started as a hobby, nothing more… but the blog had exploded in popularity, gaining thousands of followers who loved nothing more than to gush excitedly over pictures of the little Jaeger. Evidently there was something about a miniature Jaeger performing human activities -- splashing in puddles after a rainstorm, playing with action figures, snuggling under the covers as his father read him a story -- that just connected with people on an unexpectedly deep level.Cherno trilled in laughter as Sasha scrolled through the photos she had chosen. A few were of Cherno sitting stoically in his new cockpit, wired in and ready to go… but after their practice run the three of them had taken a few casual photos, relaxed and even playful as they showed off the interior of the Conn Pod. There was even a photo of Aleksis sitting in Cherno’s seat in the cockpit, his towering frame having to fold in awkward ways to fit.“Papa’s silly,” he crooned.“Don’t tell him that,” Sasha replied. “He has a reputation to uphold.” But she clicked to upload that photo anyhow. Let the world see Team Cherno Alpha in a relaxed and goofy moment. There would be far too few of those in the near future.***Eerie, nerve-rending cries rang through the ocean depths -- the sound of a pod of whales responding to a terrifying new menace. The great leviathans of the deep scattered in all directions, their discordant wails vibrating through the water and rattling the bones of any creature unfortunate enough to be in hearing range. Some bore ragged flukes and flippers that left streaks of crimson in their wake, and a few bled freely from wounds in their long, sleek bodies. They seemed heedless of their wounds, however, as they sought to put as much distance between themselves and their fearsome attacker as possible.They were no longer the largest creatures in the ocean… and the beasts that had supplanted them weren’t content to leave them alone.A clawed hand closed around a huge, ancient whale with a torn fluke that lagged behind the rest of the pod, and its shriek of agony was cut short by a clench of talons. A double set of jaws opened, then sank into the creature’s barnacle-flecked hide.Raiju’s inner jaws contorted in a grimace of disgust, though he kept tearing at the whale. Had his thoughts been actual words rather than emotions and images, they would have translated to something along the lines of ugh, this tastes disgusting… are these things just solid fat and bone or what? He was tempted to spit the remains out and leave them for the sharks. But if Onibaba caught him wasting food she would nip him with her pincers -- or alert Slattern, who would clobber him again. He didn’t want to be nipped or clobbered, and despite his distaste at eating a whale, his stomach was crying out to be filled. So he choked down the rest of the carcass, opting to wipe his muzzle with his forepaws instead of licking his lips.His stomach lurched, and his back arched as he fought not to retch up bits of whale meat. Was his digestive system going to eject this meal too, like it had the kelp and the giant squid? But his guts finally settled, and Raiju plodded off, satisfied for the moment. Now if he could just catch one of those critters to feed the little one, he’d be set… for awhile, at least.When the Kaiju had escaped the Masters’ clutches and fled to this world, they had quickly learned that there were a multitude of aspects to their newfound freedom they hadn’t considered. And one of those aspects was the fact that, shockingly enough, creatures had to eat to sustain themselves. Kaiju in the past had never lasted long enough to need to feed -- they merely rampaged until they were killed by missiles, a Jaeger, or a combination of both. They were living weapons, nothing more.The sustenance problem had never even occurred to the sentient Kaiju -- breaking free of their creators and crossing between worlds was their first priority. But now, with hunger pangs and weakness plaguing them more surely than any Jaeger, they were desperate to fill their stomachs and find some way to fuel their bodies. Trespasser had even gotten ravenous enough to swallow rocks from the sea floor -- a decision that had left her writhing in agony for two days straight.Raiju should have been looking after Otachi’s baby at the moment. But he’d just been too hungry to focus, and the cub had been squalling with hunger pangs of its own for what seemed like hours. He’d finally left the poor thing in a crevice with a piece of shipwreck to play with while he lumbered off to find some likely prey. It was for both their own goods, he told himself -- the cub needed to eat too, and he’d be in much better shape to do his job with something in his stomach.The whales were long gone by now, but the scent of blood had attracted a number of sharks. He managed to snag a handful of them, popping one of them in his mouth before heading back. They would do, he hoped.He crested a rise and approached the crevice… and felt his gut heave, nearly ejecting the barely-digested whale all over the place. The hatchling was gone.Oh, sludge, he whimpered, and released the half-dead sharks and began to sniff around. Okay, okay, don’t panic, he couldn’t have gone far… it’s a cub, it was just born, it’s got short legs, it’s not gonna just hitch a ride on the nearest current and float away, is it?He caught a thread of scent and began to follow it, snout pressed to the ocean floor as he prowled after the trail. When he caught the hatchling he was going to give it a sound thrashing -- a gentle one, of course -- for spooking him like this. If he could just find it before Otachi got off patrol…His muzzle bumped into a pair of wing-knuckles, and his gaze slid up the slate-blue body to stare into the prong-snouted face of Otachi. Her yellow eyes blinked slowly as she regarded him, while he simply hunched his back and squatted low as if hoping to merge with the rocks at his feet.What are you doing? she demanded.Uh… smelling rocks? It was the truth, even if it wasn’t the full description of his activities.Only you would make a habit of smelling rocks for fun, she noted acidly. Where is my cub?Uh… it’s… around here… somewhere…Otachi stared at him for a long moment before throwing her head back and screaming, the horrific sound reverberating through the water until Raiju was sure the bugs could hear it on every coastline. Her tail lashed, pincers clenching and unclenching like a second mouth, and a hellish blue light boiled up in her throat.You LOST MY CUB, you incompetent IDIOT! I-I-I was gonna find it again… Raiju stammered, slinking back.Otachi whirled, her tail lashing Raiju across the face. He squealed and backpedaled to avoid a second blow, but she paid him no more attention. She stalked off, howling, calling out for the cub… and alerting every other Kaiju just what he’d managed to do in his utter stupidity.You lost our cub?! Mutavore roared, storming closer. Who could have predicted that having the dumb one watch the cub would end like this? Onibaba growled. Though honestly, how hard is it to watch an infant…Slattern stormed closer, eyes narrowed as she glared at the double-jawed Kaiju. She said nothing… but her thoughts simmered close to the surface, frothing with rage and disgust and a gnawing worry.Raiju hunkered low, whimpering. If you’re gonna kill me, do it quick, please… don’t make it hurt too much...I’m not going to kill you, fool, Slattern told him. Though I’ve half a mind to turn you over to Claw-Tail and Chin-Eye and let them discipline you as they see fit.He cringed. Please, don’t…I’m not doing anything of the sort, she replied. We need every set of eyes possible to find the cub. Where did you see it last? Raiju pointed to the crevice. Knifehead stalked closer and lowered his snout to snuff at the cleft in the rocky floor, then jerked the massive bony point of his muzzle off to the east. The scent leads that way… towards the currents.Otachi let out a low moan. If a current took my cub, it could be a long way away by now. If anything has happened to it, let me gut Split-Head, please…No one is gutting anyone! Slattern snapped. We are sentient beings now, not animals. We will not slaughter each other like animals. Split-Head will face punishment… but not death. That is final.Raiju went limp with relief, even as Otachi shot him a death glare.Let’s follow the current, Mutavore insisted. Find the cub before something terrible happens to it. The longer we wait, the farther it gets from us.Slattern nodded. I will go. Claw-Tail, Old One, Big-Snout, come with me. Everyone else will stay here. Crest-Head, you’re in charge until I get back.Trespasser nodded her great crested head. Yes, Leader.Raiju stayed hunched down until Slattern and the three Kaiju she had chosen to accompany her vanished into the depths. He hoped with all his strength that they found the cub… that nothing happened to them on their mission due to his carelessness… and most of all that Mutavore didn’t decide to ignore Slattern’s order and shred him limb from limb while she was gone. ***“So we’ve got Milo in the labs, Doug and his family in the mechanics’ quarters, Padre in the Marshal’s quarters… we missing anyone?” Fiona asked.“Make sure Murphy gets a room with a window,” Jako told her, jabbing a finger at the blueprints that took up part of Hydra Corinthian’s readout screen. “He gets moody if he don’t get a window. Messes up his kung fu or somethin’.”“I thought it was called Feng Shui, the whole ‘room layout’ thing,” Hydra cut in. “Kung fu was the martial art.”“Eh, somethin’ like that,” Jako muttered, waving his extra hand in the general direction of Hydra’s computer core. “You knew what I meant, mates. Just make sure he gets a window.”“Window room for Murphy, check.” Fiona marked the name off a clipboard. “So who we got left? Yukon wants to sleep outside, the dork… who’s gonna tell him this is Panama, not Canada, he’s gonna freakin’ melt out there?”“Eh, let ‘im sweat out a night an’ reserve a room with the biggest AC unit for him when he comes to his senses,” Jako laughed. “He’s a dork, but we love him anyhow.”Hydra Corinthian rumbled a laugh deep in his engines as he continued to walk, the surf frothing around his shins as he navigated the coastline of Baja California. Fiona and Jako hadn’t stopped talking since he’d began the long journey from Seattle to Panama City, and he found he didn’t mind it in the least. He enjoyed their company, and thrilled at the fact that they spoke to him as an equal, not just a piece of equipment or a trained animal to be patted on the head and dismissed as a cute novelty, nothing more. Caitlin Lightcap had been appalled at Team Hydra’s insistence that Hydra walk the entire distance to the Panama City Shatterdome. It was entirely against protocol, she complained, and would inflict unnecessary wear and tear on Hydra’s chassis. It would be much easier and faster for him to take a ship, or even for a team of Jumphawks to fly him out. Fiona and Jako’s response had been to laugh hysterically and tell Hydra to gear up for a hike. Caitlin had tried to stop them, but they had argued that they needed to spend as much time in Hydra’s cockpit as possible, both to continue to aid his development and to get used to being in his Conn Pod while he moved about. As much as Caitlin wanted to argue with them, she couldn’t exactly refuse them when they put it that way.Honestly, Hydra didn’t regret a moment of this crazy road trip. True, neither Fiona nor Jako had shut up for the entire ride, and they’d had to make frequent pit stops for food and other necessary biological functions, but somehow that was just part of the fun. And they’d have stories to tell when they finally got to Panama City.One of the down sides to being stationed in the Panama City Shatterdome, however, was that they were inheriting a mess. Panama’s Shatterdome had been shut down for years, and while efforts had been made to clean it up and refurbish it for Hydra’s arrival, it still lacked a Marshal, technicians, scientific division, or anything beyond the barest skeleton staff of workers. And somehow, hiring a new team to fill in those gaps had fallen by the sidelines, especially with the sudden arrival of new Kaiju in the Pacific.Fiona and Jako’s reaction hadn’t been to complain or pitch a fit. Rather, they were of the school of “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” And they proceeded to fill in the gaps in the staff by calling in friends and family members of their own -- some from their old home in Sydney, others old gamer friends. By the time they got to Panama, there would be an eager, if unorthodox, full staff to keep the Shatterdome running.“Hydra, how you doin’ out there?” Fiona asked, looking up from the blueprints of the Panama Shatterdome.“Just rollin’ along,” he replied. “Well, walkin’, more like it. You two need me to make a pit stop?”“Nah, we’re fine,” Jako replied. “Though in a coupla hours we may have ya stop at a town with a hotel with free wi-fi. Gotta do a stream tonight so our followers don’t think we up an’ died.”Hydra rumbled in amusement. “You didn’t think to tell our watchers that we’d be on the road for a bit an’ might miss a few nights?”“Hey, we’ve done streamed games through earthquakes, typhoons, an’ Kaiju attacks,” Jako laughed. “We ain’t gonna let a lil’ thing like hikin’ to Panama get in our way!”Hydra laughed again. “Is hotel wi-fi even strong enough to stream from?”“We’ll find a way,” Fiona told him, grinning her typical deranged-but-cute grin. “We always do.”“Heh… y’ always do, Fiona. Whatcha streamin’ tonight?”“It’s probably Soul Caliber night,” Fiona replied. “I get to be Yoda this time.”“You’re always Yoda,” Jako complained. “Let me be the short Jedi this time and you play a character actually from that franchise...”Hydra had just stepped to one side to skirt a reef, but paused, one foot still raised. Something had moved out further in the depths -- a swirl of bluish light just under the surface of the water. A school of tropical fish, perhaps, or scuba divers performing an exercise? Or something worse?His CPU wanted to reason that it had to be one of the former… but his instincts screamed the latter. Blue bioluminescence against dark shapes meant Kaiju. And Kaiju meant death, destruction, buildings reduced to wreckage, fangs and claws tearing through metal, azure ichor staining armor and earth and water…“Hydra, what is it?” Jako demanded, cutting off his rambling about the fighting capabilities of the various Soul Caliber fighters. “Somethin’ wrong?”“I saw somethin’,” he murmured, setting his foot down and spreading his legs in a wrestler’s stance, hands raised. “It looked Kaiju-ish.”“Oh shit, we’re seein’ action already.” Fiona’s voice was taut with a mix of excitement and dread as she tossed her clipboard aside and hurried for the pilot’s harness. “Let’s kick its ass!”“Take its head back to Panama with us for a trophy!” Jako cackled. “Hope it’s a big ‘un!”Hydra scraped one foot along the ocean floor like a bull preparing to charge, his optical sensors fixed on the swirl of blue as it circled closer. Images of the Kaiju he’d faced in the past flickered through his CPU, as well as the more infamous beasts from his databanks -- Otachi, Leatherback, Slattern, Trespasser, Karloff, Armada. Would this be a replica of one of those monsters, or something new and even more terrifying? Would it spit acid, or shut him down with a burst of energy, or shoot spines? The possibilities became even more exciting and horrifying the longer he waited for his foe to emerge.The waters churned, and a head broke the surface of the water with a high screech.Hydra gave a huff of his engines and lowered his hands. “Well, that was bloody anticlimactic.”“Oh, you gotta be kiddin’ me!” Jako growled, throwing all three hands in the air.Flailing through the water towards the white Jaeger was a Kaiju… a Kaiju the size of a house, as opposed to the skyscraper-sized beasts that normally menaced Earth’s shores. Oversized eyes stared out of a snub-nosed face, and bright blue lines of bioluminescence marked a stormcloud-gray body that looked curiously soft like that of a plush toy. A bright blue tongue lolled from a set of jaws lined with tiny baby teeth, and the growls and hisses emerging from those jaws sounded more like a particularly bold puppy than anything monstrous.“Is that… a baby Kaiju?” asked Fiona, staring through the reinforced glass of Hydra’s cockpit.“I think it is,” Hydra replied. “Slattern, Otachi, an’ Raiju all get confirmed as having come back, and we get the runt. Brilliant.”The little Kaiju rasped a tiny roar and lunged, clamping its jaws on Hydra’s shin and gnawing ineffectively. Hydra just stared down at the cub, completely unimpressed. The creature was trying its hardest, but it was like watching a Chihuahua trying to bring down an elephant.“It’s so CUTE!” Fiona squealed. “Can we keep it?”“Fiona, hun, I dunno how smart that is,” Jako admitted, rubbing the back of his head with his third hand. “This is a Kaiju we’re talkin’ ‘bout. They grow up to be mean, remember?”“We can train him up right!” Fiona insisted. “We did that with Ozzie, remember? Everyone told us he’d be too vicious to keep, and he was a good pupper until he got sick…”“Ozzie was a pit bull, darlin’,” Jako countered. “This is a lil’ bigger an’ more dangerous than a pit bull.”“I dunno, it seems kinda cute,” Hydra admitted, raising his leg. The Kaiju cub had latched on with all four limbs, curled up around his shin and gnawing intently at his armor.“Let’s take him home,” Fiona pressed. “If we can tame him, he’ll make a good mascot for the Shatterdome. If we can’t, then at least we have a live Kaiju for the science teams to study. It’s a win-win, right?”Jako pondered that, cupping his chin with one hand while he planted another on his hip and scratched the top of his head with the third. “Hmmm… don’t see nothin’ that can go wrong with that plan. Hydra, think you can carry the cub?”“Do I think I can carry the cub, he asks,” Hydra chuckled, and he pried the little Kaiju off his leg and wrangled it in his arms. The creature squalled and writhed, but Hydra wrapped his arms tightly around it, and it finally relaxed and grumbled irritably in his grip.“Hell yeah, first live capture of a Kaiju,” Jako cackled. “That’s gotta be a record, huh? Let’s get ‘im home.”“Roger-dodger,” Hydra replied, and he set off at a brisk walk, the baby Kaiju still secure in his grip....
Doppelganger - Chapter 6It would have been a bizarre sight for any human or Jaeger had they been able to witness this tableau -- Kaiju not just cowering in fear, but scrambling to put distance between themselves and their perceived threat. The three newcomers -- Knifehead, Leatherback, and Trespasser, as the humans would have identified them -- scurried out of Slattern’s reach, while Mutavore shifted to put himself between the angry titan and Otachi, who in turn hunched low over their cub. Onibaba hung back, grumbling quietly to herself and fiddling her claws together.Raiju, Slattern’s target, hunched his shoulders and neck like a dog being scolded, tail tucked between his legs. He flinched as Slattern flashed a paw out and cuffed him over the head, but didn’t back away. He seemed to accept that he’d erred, and that he deserved whatever consequences their leader chose to dish out.You IDIOT, Slattern hissed, whacking him again. You let them see you!I’m sorry, he whimpered, backing away a step. Sorry doesn’t fix it, she snapped. The Jaegers know you’re here now! They’ve seen you, and they’ve seen Otachi and her cub! That was the most important rule -- that you show yourself to no one -- and you’ve broken it!You showed yourself to them when we first got here, Mutavore pointed out, then flinched and ducked his head low as if expecting a blow.That was an accident, Slattern retorted. And the humans could have dismissed that as someone telling stories had we kept it to one sighting. But they’ve seen us three times now… they’ll hunt us to the ends of this planet at this rate. You absolute FOOLS.I was bored, okay? Raiju protested. I went for a swim and I got lost, so I followed a current hoping it’d lead me back here but I just got even more lost, then I saw land and figured I’d just follow a coastline until-Stop babbling, Slattern snapped, slapping her tails against the ocean floor. At least tell me you weren’t stupid enough to attack the Jaeger.Uuuhhh… Raiju reached up with a forepaw to scratch its head in a gesture that, unbeknownst to the Kaiju, was remarkably humanlike. About that…Oh, great, Onibaba rumbled. Our first contact with a Jaeger and it’s between one of THEM and our resident idiot. Who wants to take bets on how long before they hunt us down and slit our throats?I didn’t hurt it! Raiju insisted, raising his paws in surrender. It fell, so I pulled it up!Slattern blinked slowly. You… what?It… it looked like it was having trouble standing up, Raiju went on. It stepped on me and I screamed and it screamed and it was trying to get up but it was having problems so I just pulled it up to its feet…You helped a Jaeger? demanded Knifehead. One of the metal monsters these insects use to hunt us down and slaughter us and you HELPED it?It… seemed like the right thing to do? Raiju’s whimper made the statement into a question.Slattern narrowed her eyes to slits as she glared at the reptilian Kaiju, but her tails stilled, her anger giving way to thoughtfulness. Perhaps Raiju hadn’t completely ruined their chances at surviving in this world. Perhaps the human specks would see that not all Kaiju were murderous forces of destruction, and that it was possible to make peace with a handful of them. Perhaps this wasn’t a disaster, but a chance at negotiation.Perhaps whales will fly, she grumbled, pushing away those overly-optimistic thoughts.What’s THAT supposed to mean? Onibaba demanded.Nothing. Her gaze swept their small gathering. No one leaves the ocean for any reason. No one even approaches a landmass. No one goes above water, and no one allows so much as the tip of a horn to break the surface. We have the floor of an entire ocean to claim as our home -- there is no need for anyone to venture into human territory at all. Am I clear?The gathered Kaiju rumbled assent.Good. The next Kaiju to break the rules will be severely punished. As for you, Split-Head…Raiju cringed. Don’t kill me!I’m not going to kill you, fool. We’re better than our primal instincts. Claw-Tail, you’re no longer excused from border patrols. Otachi hissed, the claws at the end of her tail snapping in agitation. Why am I being punished for his failure? You would have been given a patrol sooner or later, Slattern replied. You’ll start tomorrow. Split-Head will look after your cub for you.Raiju had started to slink off already, but froze at that remark. But I dunno how to take care of a cub!Then I suggest you learn. Slattern swept her gaze around, glaring at the others as if daring them to contradict her, then stalked off. Otachi gave an irritated snap at her tail as she passed by, but Slattern ignored her.You were pretty harsh on the kid, Onibaba noted, scuttling after her. Was that really necessary?Someone has to be harsh with them, Slattern replied. They’re children, bumbling about on this world with no clue what they’re doing. If being harsh now means they’ll survive another day, then so be it. Onibaba cocked her head and chittered a laugh. You’re no older than most of them, you know.Slattern rolled her eyes. Neither are you, yet you act like you’re older than us all. Onibaba chuckled and nipped at one of Slattern’s tails with a claw. We’re going to have to deal with the bugs and their Jaegers sooner or later, you know. We can’t hide from them forever.I know. Slattern ground her fangs as she climbed up onto the fin-shaped rock that had become her usual lookout post. But I can delay that day as long as possible. We came here for freedom, to be able to decide our own destinies instead of being puppets to the Masters. I didn’t bring all of you here to see you be beaten to pulp by the Jaegers.Onibaba bared her teeth and rumbled a laugh. Better to have died a free beast than as a puppet. She nipped at Slattern’s tail again, and chuckled as the larger Kaiju twitched it out of the way like an irritated cat. I’ll go look Raiju over and make sure he didn’t take any harm from his misadventure. You rest. Big-Nose and Crest-Head can handle patrol for now.Slattern nodded and lowered her head to her forepaws as Onibaba scuttled off. She’d taken a huge responsibility onto her shoulders -- assuming charge of the newly sentient Kaiju, and ensuring they didn’t do anything too enormously stupid while they got settled on this strange new world. And she feared that it would all be for naught -- that the Jaegers would eventually hunt them down, and destroy them as they had destroyed their brethren so many times before.But an emotion burned in her chest, one as unfamiliar but as welcoming as her sudden onset of sentience… hope. And as long as she clung to that feeling, she sensed that perhaps things would find a way to work out. They just had to try.***“What are you watching, Gipsy?”Gipsy glanced up. “Oh, um… nothing.”“Hmmm… I’m not sure what enjoyment you’d get from staring at a blank screen, unless it’s your way of trying to meditate.”Gipsy couldn’t help but chuckle. “Just a video game stream, Mako.”“Oh?” Mako stepped into Gipsy’s room and peered at the screen. “Who’s streaming?”“Hydra Corinthian.” She nodded at the screen, which was laid out like any other streamers’ Twitch channel -- save that the head and shoulders taking up one corner of the screen belonged to a bulky white-and-blue Jaeger instead of a human. “He does this every evening. Sometimes his Rangers join him, but today it’s just him.”Mako studied the screen, taking note of the chat and the viewer count. “He seems popular. I suppose part of it is the novelty of a Jaeger playing video games, but still, he must be entertaining if they keep watching. What game is this?”“Something called Starcraft. It’s not full of a lot of action -- there’s a lot of emphasis on building bases and harvesting materials and such -- but it’s kind of fascinating to watch. And Hydra talks a lot about his strategies… and sometimes about weirder stuff.”“What sort of weirder stuff-” Mako began.Hydra’s voice broke over the speakers at that moment. “So hypothetical question for you squishy humans out there. If you clone yourself, then bang your clone, is that considered incest or masturbation?”Mako clapped a hand over her mouth, and Gipsy hunched her Conn Pod low, wishing she could withdraw it totally into her torso like a turtle pulling into its shell. That wasn’t the most bizarre comment to fly out of Hydra’s vocalizer tonight, but it was certainly out there. And of course he just HAD to blurt it out when her Ranger was listening…“I mean, I know cloning tech hasn’t advanced THAT far, but still, it’s somethin’ to think about should you ever get to that point. Not that it’s something I worry ‘bout, Jaegers ain’t built for that kinda thing. Last thing we need swingin’ ‘round an’ gettin’ in the way durin’ a Kaiju beatdown is a giant-”Gipsy hit the Mute button just in time. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! He’s usually not this bad…”Giggles forced their way out from behind Mako’s hand, and Gipsy relaxed. What she’d taken for utter horror was actually amusement. Either Mako was much harder to shock than she realized, or she was good at keeping it hidden.“I see what you mean,” Mako said at last, lowering her hand. “He’s… unique.”“Striker says he’s ‘bloody weird,’” Gipsy replied. “Cherno thinks he’s fun. Hydra’s actually taught him some games.”“And what do you think about him?”Gipsy shrugged. “He’s different… but he’s not a bad different. All of us are different -- Crimson’s a scholar, Cherno’s a little kid at his core, Coyote’s stern, Brawler’s friendly, Mammoth’s shy. I never thought we’d get a Jaeger like Hydra, but he’s still interesting, and I’m enjoying getting to know him. Even if getting to know him involves watching him play video games and make a running commentary on them.”Mako nodded. “It’s fascinating, seeing how every Jaeger develops under the influence of their Rangers. And I hope to see him develop even further on his own.” She rested a hand on Gipsy’s arm. “You mentioned Striker… have you thought any further about his offer?”Gipsy felt her engines sputter at that. She’d been purposely ignoring this issue, not talking about it and doing everything possible to distract herself from thinking about it. But when one of her Rangers asked her about it so directly like this, how could she not respond? Even if she feared that her response would upset them?“I have… but I don’t think you and Raleigh will like my answer.”Mako nodded. “You want to go to Sydney, then? Live with him?”“I do… I do so much. But I don’t want to force you and Raleigh to move either! Raleigh’s in school, and you’ve just gotten settled in, and I know you guys don’t get along with Chuck… but I don’t want to leave you either! I don’t want to lose my Rangers again!”Mako shook her head. “Gipsy… you won’t lose us. We will always be your Rangers, no matter what happens. And you deserve to think about what YOU want, not just what you think other people need or want. If you want to go to Sydney and be with Striker, then we won’t stop you. Raleigh and I can make our own decisions on whether we accompany you or not.”Gipsy looked down at her hands, guilt gnawing at her core. “If I go… would you come with me? Or do you need time to think about it?”“I would be honored to come with you. I can’t answer for Raleigh… but I believe he would follow you to Australia in a second, school or no school.”“What about Chuck? I don’t want him and Raleigh to fight again.”“I’m sure Striker will handle Chuck,” Mako replied. “If not… your brother and I can handle ourselves. You just worry about getting yourself settled in, and on deciding what kind of future you and Striker want.”Gipsy nodded. “Thank you, Mako. I’m sorry about all this. I just… want to figure things out. Especially if we’ve got another Kaiju War coming up -- I don’t want to waste any time.”“I understand. Just make sure this is what YOU want.” She wrapped an arm around Gipsy’s shoulders in a half-hug. “Do you mind if I watch a little more with you?”“Not at all. Raleigh can even come join us if he wants.”“He’s in the middle of a school assignment right now, but I’m sure he’d love to join us when he’s done.”Gipsy nodded, and she unmuted the speakers just in time for Hydra to blurt out something about “all your base are belong to us!” She had no idea what that was supposed to mean -- some kind of gamer slang, she supposed -- but it got a laugh out of her and Mako anyhow. And at the moment, she wanted as much laughter as she could get… before the Kaiju made actual landfall, and they were called back into action once more.***“Are you bloody kidding me?!” Herc roared. “Mammoth stepped RIGHT on one’a the bloody beasts an’ she just let it go?!”Tendo sighed and lowered the volume slightly on the laptop. “Mammoth Apostle has just regained sentience. She’s still nervous about moving autonomously. I’m not expecting her to be battle-ready immediately, especially when she was only out on a test run at the time.”“That Kaiju coulda gone after Seattle,” Herc growled, and he turned and punched something offscreen -- a wall, judging by the solidness of the resulting thump. “It coulda leveled the city!”“It didn’t,” Tendo replied. “And we had Brawler and Hydra available had Raiju tried to make landfall. They would have stopped it.”“I still-”“Herc… we are not going to blame Mammoth for any of this. She’s frightened and embarrassed enough as it is. We’re going to be grateful the Kaiju didn’t make landfall, and we’re going to try to figure out what’s going on instead of assigning blame.”Herc went silent, working his jaw as he mulled over what to say in response. He finally settled for “So what now?”“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” Tendo rubbed the bridge of his nose, sighing deeply. “These Kaiju aren’t behaving normally at all. And one of them not only came within striking distance of land but didn’t get any closer, but helped a Jaeger to her feet. I’ll be honest… we’re all stumped. Even Newt’s baffled -- excited at this new development, but still baffled.”“Think it’s some kinda new evolution?” Herc asked. “We saw that durin’ the first Kaiju War. We got complacent fightin’ ‘em, they evolved new tactics and abilities an’ took out a slew of Jaegers.”“Perhaps… but what kind of advantage do these new behaviors serve?” He chewed his lower lip as he considered. “It could be to put us off-guard… or to distract us while the Precursors set up a trap. It’s hard to know without more information.”“You got a plan for gettin’ more info?”“I have a few ideas. The Jaegers are going to start doing regular patrols of their coastlines… and the next time one of them comes across a Kaiju -- and provided the Kaiju doesn’t immediately attack them -- they’re going to shoot it with a radio tag. That’ll hopefully help us track their movements and figure out what they’re doing under the ocean.”“What happened to our sensory network?” Herc asked. “Thought we could track those buggers already.”“Unfortunately, the network was shut down after the last Breach was closed,” Tendo replied. “Short-sighted of us… but we’ll get it reactivated. It will take time, however, so the radio tags will be a stopgap measure until they get it up and running again.”“An’ when we find the new underwater base or breedin’ ground or whatnot… what then?”“Then the Jaegers will gather in force again. We’ve closed two Breaches and destroyed one base already… we can do the same here. Prevent another war before it has a chance to start.”Herc nodded. “Whatcha want us to do in the meantime?”“Keep an eye on your coastlines, and keep training. Get the Jaegers and Rangers used to their modified Conn Pods, and back in fighting shape. I’m hoping we can end this quickly, but… in case it’s not that simple, I want us as prepared as possible.”“Gotcha, Marshal. Herc out.”The Ranger’s face vanished as he cut off the video call. Tendo stared at the “disconnected” message for a few minutes before sighing and closing the laptop. Every appearance of these new Kaiju just baffled him even more. He hoped that the creatures would establish some pattern of behavior, some means by which they could predict future encounters, but the monsters of the Breach seemed bound and determined to defy their expectations at every turn.Hopefully tagging the creatures would provide some answers. If nothing else, they could pinpoint a location. Even if there wasn’t a base or a Breach, there might at least be a den of some kind. And it would be far easier to corral the Kaiju to one area and wipe them out all at once than hunt them to the far corners of the ocean.He had just stood to take a quick coffee break when his phone buzzed. Uttering yet another sigh, he picked it up. “Marshal Choi speaking.”“Marshal, Coyote reporting,” came the reply. “Urgent news.”Oh God, not now, he thought, stifling a groan. “It can’t be a Kaiju… unless the alarms aren’t working…”“Not a Kaiju. It’s Tacit. He wants to speak to you at your earliest convenience.”***Tacit Ronin was a striking-looking Jaeger, white with black detailing and a sleek, angular body that suggested speed over brute strength. His legs were bent backwards halfway down the calf, giving him the appearance of being double-jointed. Anti-Kaiju guns bristled from the sides of his chest, and heavy blades hung from his lower arms. And his armor gleamed from a repaint and a recent polish, as if the maintenance crews had somehow known the Marshal would be here and had done their best to make him look presentable.Tendo Choi sucked in a sharp breath as he entered the hangar, a sudden wave of sorrow sweeping over him. Despite the grace and power radiating from the titanic chassis, the Mark I exuded an aura of grief and despair that even he could pick up on. He could only imagine how much more intense it felt to a Jaeger or a Ranger.Coyote rested a hand on his shoulder. “He wishes to speak to you alone. I will leave you to talk. Call out if you need me.” And she walked out.Tendo gazed up at Tacit, waiting for the Jaeger to make the first move in initiating conversation. What could he want, he wondered. Was he finally ready to attempt drifting with a new set of Rangers? Or did he want to be returned to his home Shatterdome, Rangers or no Rangers? Or worse, to Oblivion Bay to be reduced to scrap? He had always insisted on honoring the wishes of the Jaegers, no matter what they might be… but what if those wishes involved self-destruction?When Tacit finally spoke, he didn’t make use of the vocalizer -- instead his words slid into Tendo’s mind, soft and surprisingly gentle for such a titan.You may come closer, Tendo Choi. I won’t hurt you.Tendo took a step closer. “I just didn’t want to invade your personal space.”The technicians and maintenance crews do that all the time. I care little for personal space right now, as long as I can be alone in my own mind.“I see… should I send Coyote back home? Is having her around not helping?”No… it helps, having a sympathetic listener. I just want to be alone sometimes too. To remember my Rangers, and process everything that’s happened. It’s… rather a shame that you won the war without me. Twice, even.“We lost many Jaegers and Rangers over the years,” Tendo noted. “If we had known earlier that so many of you were gaining sentience, we would have done more to save your kind.”That’s the past. We can’t change it… only move on from it. A pause. You… have done so much for the Jaeger program, I’ve heard. Coyote speaks very highly of you.“I… thank you.” He had no idea Coyote thought that much of him. Then again, Coyote wasn’t especially open with anyone save Crimson…Yet… you’ve done much of that alone. You seem lonely.That, Tendo couldn’t argue with. Oh, he had plenty of acquaintances among the Jaeger program, and had enjoyed a good rapport with most of the officers and Rangers as a tech monkey. His promotion to Marshal had alienated him from most of them, however, not to mention cut him off entirely from many of his old friends from his street days. He was respected and liked in the Shatterdome, but leadership was a lonely business, and he barely had time to get the rest and meals he needed to keep functioning, let alone socialize.“To be honest… there’s been too much for me to do to focus on my social life,” he admitted. “Someone has to take charge-”Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. Tendo frowned. “What are you getting at?” And why was Tacit so worried about him, when for so long the Shatterdome had been concerned about Tacit’s loneliness? He couldn’t seriously be…Tendo Choi… I’ve made my choice for one of my Rangers. And it’s you.Tendo stared up at the white Jaeger, blinking back his shock. “You can’t be serious. I’m not a Ranger. I’ve never even trained! And I have too many other responsibilities, I couldn’t possibly-”You are a warrior, every bit as much as any Ranger or Jaeger. We may have fought the Kaiju on their own ground, but you fought them from the LOCCENT. And you stood up for us, fought for us, even when so many had given us up for so much scrap metal. You have proven yourself a hero… and I couldn’t think of anyone better to accompany me into battle.“I’m the Marshal, though… I have duties…”Tendo… if you don’t want to be my Ranger, just say so. I will look elsewhere. Just know that I would be honored to have you as a pilot… and as a member of my family.Tendo knew he should say no. He had too many duties as it was, and Tacit Ronin deserved a Ranger who could devote as much time as possible to him. It wouldn’t be fair to stick him with a Ranger who would be absent much of the time. And being a Ranger on top of everything else would only add to Tendo’s own workload.But despite his brain insisting he say no, his heart had an entirely different answer. How many times had he witnessed a Jaeger/Ranger relationship and felt a pang of jealousy at the strong bond they enjoyed? How many times had he wondered at just how little he could understand of it as an outsider? And Tacit was all too correct on one thing -- he was lonely, often desperately so. Perhaps not as lonely as a Jaeger who had lost their pilots to a Kaiju attack… but still lonely enough that he felt it keenly during moments when he wasn’t occupied. He had been fully prepared to accept whoever Tacit chose as a replacement Ranger… and while this choice was the last one he would have ever expected, he knew there was only one possible answer.“Tacit Ronin, I… I would be honored to be your Ranger.”Tacit’s engine thrummed, his entire frame shivering with the force of it. Thank you, Tendo. This… this means more to me than you can know.Tendo’s eyes burned, and he had to blink back a few tears. “I have a feeling I’ll know soon enough. Once you pick a second Ranger, we’ll perform a drift to make it official-”No… drift now. Please. I don’t want to wait.“Tacit, a drift with one person is almost always fatal-”You won’t be alone in the drift. You’ll have me. Two minds making the connection strong enough to bear. Trust me.He hesitated… then nodded. It wasn’t as if single-Ranger drifts were unprecedented -- both Pentecost and Raleigh had managed them, albeit under extreme circumstances. And Caitlin and Brawler performed single-Ranger runs all the time, as did Circe and Mammoth. He wasn’t sure if a drift between a human and a Jaeger who hadn’t achieved full mobility yet would work the same… but they would never know unless they tried it.He was Tacit’s Ranger now. It was time he put his trust in him.He touched his earpiece. “Bishop, get the LOCCENT ready. We’re about to attempt a neural handshake on Tacit Ronin.”
Doppelganger - Chapter 5Uncle Newt was dreaming again. Mustang Omega could feel it, the images playing out in the back of his mind like a video file. And as always, it took all his willpower not to charge into his Ranger’s bedroom and shake him awake. It was one of THOSE dreams, and though Newt insisted they didn’t bother him, Mustang knew otherwise.He looked up from the tank of Kaiju flesh samples he was taking notes on, his visual sensors making “eye” contact with Uncle Hermann at his desk. The scientist gave a slight nod, indicating that he sensed the nightmares too, then shook his head to warn Mustang off of waking him up. The black Jaeger wanted to fuss, but he didn’t like to argue with his Rangers if he could help it. They were usually right about things, after all.“Yo ‘Stang, wanna get me some fresh slides?”Mustang nodded and hurried to the supply closet. “Yes, Van Pelt.”“I have asked you time and again not to refer to him as ‘Stang,’ Gideon,” Hermann grumbled, going back to his equations. “His name is Mustang Omega, and Mustang is a perfectly dignified name if you must abbreviate it somehow.”“Yeah, but Mustang makes him sound like some kinda cowboy,” Gideon Van Pelt retorted, taking the slides from Mustang. “‘Stang is short, catchy, and he doesn’t mind it. Right, ‘Stang?”Mustang cringed a bit at the name, but didn’t say anything. He just focused on fishing a slab of Kaiju tissue out of a nearby tank so he and Van Pelt could prepare slides for Uncle Newt. The nickname felt weird to him, but he didn’t protest it -- he wanted so badly for his uncles’ new lab assistants to like him, and throwing a fit over a harmless nickname felt like a good way to make enemies of them.Hermann gave Mustang a penetrating look. “He doesn’t like it, but he’s being polite in not telling you so. Now be respectful and call him by the correct name, or I can send you to mop the dissection corner.”Van Pelt grimaced. “Okay, point made. Sorry, Mustang.”Mustang chirped an acceptance and picked up a scalpel, carefully slicing thin sheets of tissue for the microscope slides. Mustang, Hermann added, his mental voice reaching him through the drift, you know you can stand up for yourself, don’t you? Don’t let these young pups walk all over you.I want them to like me, though, Mustang protested, not looking up from his work. The other Jaegers and Rangers didn’t like me at first… and I don’t want to have people not like me again.Hermann sighed softly. It wasn’t you they didn’t like, dear-heart. It was your former Rangers, may the gods rest their souls. The Rossis were unlikable and disrespectful, and they merely saw you as an extension of them. And Mustang… don’t worry if these brats Tendo has foisted on us like you or not. Newt and I like you very much, and that’s most important, isn’t it?I guess so, Mustang replied, though he felt otherwise. He only remembered bits and pieces of his time before Newt and Hermann, but he certainly remembered his fellow Jaegers’ disdain towards his old pilots… and their disgust towards a Jaeger they saw as a soulless “zombie,” lacking the spark of life they all carried. They had accepted him readily enough once he’d bonded with Newt and Hermann and begun the rapid climb towards full sentience… but those remembered insults and jabs still stung him to the core.He had no desire to relive that time, and so when Tendo had ordered Newt and Hermann to hire lab assistants so they didn’t run themselves ragged juggling their Ranger training with their scientific duties, Mustang had been desperate to befriend them right away. He pitched in to fetch things for them, tried to get to know them better, and never complained at their teasing and silly nicknames. Perhaps he’d never be close friends with them, but at the very least he didn’t want them to hate him.“Ah, there you are, Newton,” Hermann snorted, looking up as Newt staggered into the labs. “Sleeping Beauty joins the land of the living at last.”“Oh, I didn’t know you swung that way, Hermann,” Uncle Newt retorted, though the jab was spoiled by a thick yawn. “Did I miss anything?”“Hello, Uncle Newt!” Mustang reached out and pulled Newt into a quick hug before holding him at arm’s length to inspect him. As always the xenobiologist was rumpled and unshaven, but somehow today he looked even more rumpled and unshaven than usual. And dark patches under his eyes gave him a bruised, haunted look despite his wide smile.“Hey Mustang!” Newt greeted. “You and Van Pelt got the slides ready for me?”“Almost, Dr. Geizler,” Van Pelt replied.“Dude, we’ve been over this,” Newt reminded him. “Only my mom calls me Dr. Geizler.”“Odd that you’d address Newton with respect and insist on a ridiculous nickname for Mustang,” Hermann grumbled. “And Newton, for God’s sake, stop bingeing on the energy drinks. You look like death warmed over.”“Hey, I only had three Monsters yesterday,” Newt shot back, pulling off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. “I slept just fine! Just… nightmares is all.”Mustang whined softly. “Nightmares? About the Precursors?”“Oh, here we go again,” Van Pelt muttered. “What was the dream this time? The bird with teeth or the worm hat?”“Hey, both those things make sense in context if we’re talkin’ about Precursors!” Newt retorted. “For all we know, their next Kaiju’ll have a beak with teeth in it! And Leatherback kinda had a worm-hat if you look at his EMP organ just right…”Hermann frowned. “This is not something to joke about, Van Pelt. Any dreams about the Precursors or the Kaiju need to be reported to the Marshal. Even if it turns out to be nothing, we’re better off being safe than sorry at this point.”“We’re talking about a man who dreamed about putting mittens on Kaiju to lessen their destructive impact,” Van Pelt retorted. “It’s hard to take anything seriously after THAT.”Mustang rested a hand on Newt’s shoulder. “What did you see, Uncle Newt? The Anteverse? Or something else?”“I thought you’d already know, buddy,” Newt told him, patting the Jaeger’s shoulder in return. “You get a front-row seat to my dreams, doncha?”“Yes, but I try not to look too closely,” Mustang admitted. “Dreams are weird. And I want to give you privacy in your head, even if it’s just your dreams.”“Aww, thanks.” Newt pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Kaiju this time. A bunch of them on the ocean floor.”“Wearing mittens?” Van Pelt quipped.“Shut UP!” Hermann snapped. “Newt, continue.”“Anyhow, there was probably about a dozen Kaiju gathered -- and they were arranged in a circle, with some kinda undersea vent in the center. Almost like a campfire. And they were… I don’t wanna call it talking, but they were growling and rumbling and kinda chirping to one another…”“Chirping?” Van Pelt repeated, voice thick with disbelief. “Those ugly things chirp now?”“Another word out of you and you can pack your things, Van Pelt,” Hermann retorted. “Newton… we’ve never had any indication before that these things can communicate with each other. Are you certain of this?”Newt nodded vigorously. “I saw what I saw, man! It wasn’t just noise for noise’s sake, they acted like they were having a conversation. Pausing to let someone reply and going back and forth in an argument and everything. And one of ‘em looked like they were in charge of the meeting, like a chair-Kaiju or something. A Slattern clone, it looked like.”Hermann pondered Newt’s words, and Mustang shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. He wasn’t sure just what the implications of this vision could be, but he knew the Kaiju were acting unpredictably, and nothing good ever came from a Kaiju deviating from its usual patterns. They were animals with a certain set of actions and reactions, and if they were acting erratically it could mean the Precursors had something terrible in store.“Huh,” Van Pelt grunted. “Honestly, I’d prefer the Kaiju mittens.”Hermann slapped his hand on the desk and pushed himself to his feet. “Out. Now.”“Oh come on, it was a joke!” Van Pelt protested.“You were warned, Gideon!” Hermann retorted. “Pack your things and get out! See Tendo for your final paycheck!”Van Pelt swore and stormed off. Mustang scurried out of his way with a whine.“Dude, that’s the third lab assistant you’ve run off this month,” Newt pointed out. “Did you have to?”“You’re a Ranger, Newton,” Hermann retorted. “You deserve to be treated with respect.”“Yeah, but it wasn’t THAT bad.”“The three of us are a team.” Hermann looked back and forth from Newt to Mustang, his expression softening. “If the two of you won’t stand up for yourselves, then I’ll stand up for you. No one mocks my team. Not if I have anything to say about it.”Despite his worry over Uncle Newt’s vision, Mustang blazed with loving pride at those words. Lightcap, he loved these two. Newt’s warmth and humor and willingness to give even the most unorthodox plan a try, Hermann’s wit and fire and utter refusal to let anyone hurt those he cared about… they complimented each other nicely, and he adored them for those traits and more. That, and they’d given him a second chance when so many had given up on him. How could he not love them after that?“Now go talk to the Marshal,” Hermann ordered. “Mustang and I will put your samples up so they don’t spoil while you’re gone.”“Sir yes sir,” Newt replied, saluting playfully before walking out.***EVENT LOG FROM PAN-PACIFIC DEFENSE CORPS ARCHIVESMEDIA TYPE: Teleconference recordingSOURCE: Personal hard drive of Mako Mori, Ranger to Gipsy DangerDATE RECORDED: August 4, 2027LOCATION RECORDED: Anchorage Shatterdome, Anchorage, Alaska, United StatesFootage begins approximately thirty seconds into the video call, with five Jaegers -- Crimson Typhoon, Gipsy Danger, Cherno Alpha, Striker Eureka, and Mustang Omega -- visible via webcam onscreen. A sixth joins the call less than a second after recording begins.BRAWLER YUKON: -the damn thing working YET? This was SO much easier when we were all just in the same Shatterdome, why do they gotta spread us out anyhow-CRIMSON TYPHOON: Um, Brawler? You’re on.BRAWLER: ...oh shit, really? Whoops, sorry for the language.GIPSY DANGER: It’s okay. We’re all adults here. Well, mentally speaking…STRIKER EUREKA: Not all of us. Cherno, cover your audials, a’right?CHERNO ALPHA: Hey, I’m older than you, Striker! YOU cover your audials!STRIKER: Oh come on, heard a LOT worse from Chuck an’ Herc. So who’re we waitin’ on?MUSTANG OMEGA: Coyote, Hydra, and Mammoth, it looks like. Coyote should be on soon, but what’s keeping the others?BRAWLER: Mammoth’s outside stretchin’ her legs -- her Ranger wanted her to get used to walkin’ on actual ground and sea floor again before she faced a Kaiju. She’ll join up soon as she’s done. Hydra’s doing… Hydra things, I guess.GIPSY: Awww, I really wanted to meet the new ones! Well, I know they’re not NEW new, not as new as Mustang, no offense…MUSTANG: None taken.CRIMSON: What do you mean by “Hydra things?”BRAWLER: *low engine rumble* His Rangers are gamers. Guess what hobby they’re teachin’ him?STRIKER: *groans* For Lightcap’s sake…BRAWLER: Speakin’ of Lightcap, Mom says the next Jaeger who takes her name in vain gets a piece of her mind. So maybe quit it, guys.STRIKER: Oh come on! It’s not like we actually worship her or anything!CRIMSON: Well, would you like it if someone started using your Rangers’ names as curse words?STRIKER: *huffs*Another Ranger joins the conference -- Coyote Tango. Crimson Typhoon immediately shows signs of discomfort.COYOTE TANGO: Sorry I’m late. What did I miss?CHERNO: Hydra playing video games and Lightcap not liking us to use her name to curse, I guess.GIPSY: *trills as if laughing* Points for honesty, Cherno. Though why are you and Crimson and Mustang on separate screens? Wouldn’t it be easier to just share the same webcam?MUSTANG: We thought it would be too crowded. Plus Crimson has a crush on Coyote and that would make being stuck between them super awkward-CRIMSON: Mustang!MUSTANG: What, it’s the truth!GIPSY: *trills again* Don’t worry, Crimson, we all saw it long before he said anything. And I think it’s cute.STRIKER: Guess we don’t have to ask how you fellas are settlin’ in, do we?*Crimson holds his Conn Pod in his hands while Coyote and Mustang trill*COYOTE: We are settling in fine. Preparing for eventual Kaiju landfall, of course, though I also spend time talking to Tacit Ronin. Mustang helps his Rangers with their laboratory work, while Crimson works out better battle strategies.CHERNO: You’re keeping busy over there. Good job. How’s Tacit doing?COYOTE: Making progress -- slow progress, but progress. He still grieves for his Rangers, but at least he is talking to me. Now if he will only respond to Crimson and Mustang…GIPSY: I’m sure he will with time. Losing a Ranger is always hard. I’m sure several of us know that.*Several seconds of silence*STRIKER: Well, THAT got depressin’ in a hurry. CRIMSON: Do you mind if we change the subject, Coyote?COYOTE: Not at all. How fares everyone else?CHERNO: It’s a little confusing, trying to adjust to being small in the Shatterdome. And I miss school, though my parents are homeschooling me between training sessions. But other than that, good.GIPSY: You were enrolled in school, Cherno?CHERNO: Yes. Mama and Papa wanted to raise me as normally as possible, they said. And they found a private school that would take me.GIPSY: That’s wonderful! Raleigh’s suggested I enroll in a university up here, but I wasn’t sure if they’d let me. Maybe I should pick something to study and go for it, huh?STRIKER: So does that mean you ain’t movin’ down here with me?GIPSY: Oh! I… I haven’t decided yet, Striker. But if I do, I could still apply for school down there, couldn’t I?STRIKER: Like I’d stop ya, sheila. Want you to be happy down here, ya know?GIPSY: *looks away, making a low crooning sound*BRAWLER: Okay, you lovebirds. *rumbles as if in laughter* Anyone got anything to report- OUCH!*Brawler is knocked to the side as another Jaeger crowds into his frame -- Hydra Corinthian*HYDRA CORINTHIAN: G’day, mates! What’d I miss?MUSTANG: Hi Hydra! *waves*STRIKER: Nice’ve ya t’ finally join us, wanker! What’s this I hear ‘bout ya playin’ games?HYDRA: Oh, hush, ya wombat. I bond with my Rangers my way, you bond with yours your way.CRIMSON: ...why are you talking with an Australian accent? I thought you were from Panama. HYDRA: Yeah, but my Rangers are Aussies. Well, Fiona’s a Kiwi, but lived down under a lotta years ‘fore joinin’ the program. Got a Spanish-language program installed, but I like talkin’ like my Rangers.GIPSY: I’m surprised you’re up and mobile already! I thought it would take a year or so for you to get to this point.HYDRA: That’d be Fiona’s doin’. She’s a speedrunner -- someone who tries to play games fast as possible an’ is always lookin’ for ways to shave time off. So when she an’ Jako drifted with me they’d focus as much as possible on gettin’ me self-mobile. Didn’t want me laggin’ behind more’n necessary.BRAWLER: I keep tellin’ you that pilotin’ a Jaeger is nothin’ like a video game! Didn’t we have a set of Rangers who thought the same? An’ look what happened to them.GIPSY: Brawler, Mustang is sitting RIGHT HERE! Be nice!MUSTANG: It’s okay… it’s kind of the truth…HYDRA: That’s not what I meant! Fiona an’ Jako know it ain’t like a video game. But it’s the speedrunner mentality is all. *holds up a hand* Here’s your goal. *holds up his other hand* Here’s where you are. Fiona just likes to find the quickest path from here to here. *motions with each hand as indicated* An’ even if it only shaves off an extra second or two… well, every second counts, right? One less second I gotta be dependent on them to move around is one more second I can just spend with ‘em as an equal, right?STRIKER: ...huh. Didn’t think ‘bout that.COYOTE: Put that way, it sounds much better. That was quite thoughtful of your parents.HYDRA: Oh, they ain’t my parents. CRIMSON: Siblings, then?HYDRA: Why we gotta give ‘em fancy terms like that anyhow? They’re my family. We ain’t gotta be related, call each other Mom or Dad or Bro or Sis or anythin’. We just love an’ take care of each other.GIPSY: That’s… a really sweet way of looking at it. Though I still think of Raleigh and Mako as brother and sister. HYDRA: ‘Ey, do what makes you comfortable. I ain’t got a problem with it.BRAWLER: I still dunno why you picked the gamers as your Rangers, honestly. There were so many other good choices.CRIMSON: People thought the same thing when I picked a trio of street punks as my own Rangers. But look how it turned out. It doesn’t matter who we picked, I think -- just that we made it work, and that we’ve become family in the process. And look at how far we’ve all come -- we’re not just soldiers in the Kaiju War, but living beings with families and loved ones. I think that’s all that’s important in the end.MUSTANG: You said it, Crimson! *claps*STRIKER: Okay, so everyone’s settlin’ in okay, Lightcap wants us to pick a different favorite swear word, an’ Hydra’s turned into a gamer freak. Glad we got all that settled. Any idea when Mammoth’s joinin’ us? Was hopin’ for a gander at the other new Jaeger.BRAWLER: She should be back any minute now… hang on, Mom’s calling. *ducks out of the frame*STRIKER: So… anyone need anything? Something we can do to help you, Coyote?COYOTE: Tacit Ronin is not speaking to anyone but me at the moment. What he needs now is time. Time to recover, and to accept that his Rangers are gone. CHERNO: Do we have that time, though? We don’t know when the Kaiju are going to attack. I hate to say it, but… I’m scared.GIPSY: I think we’re all scared, Cherno. The Kaiju have never gone this long between a sighting and landfall. But there’s more of us now, and even better, we have funding to support the Shatterdomes, at least for the moment. We’re prepared now, and even if we’re down one Jaeger, there are plenty of us to answer the call now.MUSTANG: And the minute one steps on any shoreline, we’ll kick it’s ass! *pumps a fist*STRIKER: *laughs* I like this kid. Gettin’ a head an’ proper Rangers has been good for ya, Mustang.HYDRA: Speaking of funding, my Rangers had an idea for-BRAWLER: *steps into the frame, gesturing for Hydra to stop talking* We got a problem here! Hydra, get to your hangar an’ get plugged into your Conn Pod! Everyone else, stand by!CRIMSON: What’s going on? Has there been landfall?BRAWLER: Not yet, but Mammoth just ran into a Kaiju off the coast! It’s headin’ up the sound, closin’ in on Seattle fast!*General uproar from every Jaeger, including growls, squeals, and various exclamations and profanities. Commotion is still in progress when recording ends****“Easy girl… take it slow. It’s been awhile since we walked on uneven ground. Don’t put your full weight on your foot until you’re sure of the ground beneath it.”Mammoth Apostle carefully made her way deeper into the waters of Puget Sound, gaze fixed on her feet as the waters frothed about her legs. Part of her felt grateful for her Ranger’s comforting words, but part of her burned with embarrassment as well. This was far from her first time walking, after all. She’d not only walked through water before but joined in pitched battle amidst crashing waves and violent storms. She shouldn’t be this unsure about taking a few steps in relatively calm waters on an overcast but pleasant day.“Mammoth, sweetheart, this is your first time walking outside on your own,” Circe told her, resting a hand on her interior console. “It’s okay to be nervous.”Mammoth whined softly. Are you sure, Mother?“Positive, my dear. Careful where you put your foot, though, especially if you can’t see the bottom.”She hummed acknowledgement and took another hesitant step. The water surged up her thighs and almost to her hips now, and she shivered at the sensation. Circe did have a point -- it was far different doing this under her own power than when she had her Rangers guiding every step. But if Gipsy Danger and Brawler Yukon and all the other Jaegers could manage this, then she could too. It was just going to take practice.Something bumped into her left hip, and she gave a confused chirrup of her engines as she glanced down to investigate. A piece of floating debris, perhaps? She wouldn’t let herself think “Kaiju,” not now… surely there would have been some warning…A sleek black-and-white shape emerged from the water ahead of her, emitting a burst of vapor before delving back under water. Mammoth cocked her Conn Pod, chirruping again. She should know the name of that creature, but it escaped her at the moment…“Orca,” Circe provided. “They’re native to the Sound. Though I’m amazed that they feel comfortable enough around you to come that close.”It’s beautiful, Mammoth marveled, watching the beast surface and dive again. It’s nice to know that the ocean can be home to beautiful things. Not just the Kaiju.“It is, isn’t it? Do you feel comfortable going out a little farther?”Mammoth nodded and strode deeper, taking each step with care. She’d go out up to her chest, she figured, then turn back…Her foot came down on a surface that, while hard, gave under her weight. Before she could react it jerked beneath her, then yanked itself out from under her foot and writhed away. She flailed, struggling to regain her balance, only to topple into the waves. Her chassis impacted against the rocky ocean floor, sending bursts of pain and minor damage readouts rocketing through her systems.“Mammoth, are you all right?” Circe demanded, as if that fall hadn’t just thrown her across the Conn Pod.I’m all right, Mother! Mammoth assured her, trying to push herself upright. What about you?“I’m all-” A hiss of pain. “I think I’ve wrenched my leg. But I’ll be all right. Just get up, and fast. That wasn’t a rock.”Mammoth didn’t have to ask what it was -- she knew full well what she’d just stepped on. She worked her hand and cannon beneath her, trying to push herself to her feet again…Only to freeze as a long, lean form erupted from the waters of Puget sound, twisting around to stare balefully at her. Serrated slate-blue scales covered its back and sides, leaving a muscular yellow-green chest exposed, and its flattened body, powerful tail, and long muzzle gave it the look of a bipedal crocodile. Bioluminescent yellow lines scrawled across its body like a deranged road map, and seawater dripped from the wicked claws and sharp, angular scales like venom or ichor.Kaiju, Mammoth realized with growing horror. That’s a Kaiju. No, no, no, it’s making landfall already, I’m not ready, I’m not ready to fight it, no, no, no!Her engines cranked into overdrive, uttering a bestial scream that ripped through the air. The Kaiju returned the scream in kind, its jaws splitting three ways like an alien flower to reveal a smaller, oddly equine head that uttered a high-pitched screech right in her Conn Pod. Both screams reverberated through the salty air, carrying across Puget Sound with enough force to reach every major city along the inlet.Then the Kaiju -- Raiju, Circe’s thoughts provided -- closed its weird jaws and stepped closer, claws raised. Mammoth made to raise her cannon, only to lose her balance and fall backwards into the water. She was dead, dead for good this time, she never should have left the Shatterdome, not with Brawler or Hydra by her side…Claws closed around her arm, and she found herself hauled to her feet. The taloned forelimbs gripped her shoulders as if to steady her, then Raiju backed away, paws raised in a gesture so like a human surrender that Mammoth could only gape at it. “What…” Circe began, but couldn’t find the words.Raiju held the stance a moment longer, then twisted around and dove into the water, slithering beneath the waves and leaving Seattle -- and a very baffled Jaeger -- far behind.
Doppelganger - Chapter 4Cherno Alpha stared up at his old chassis… or his new one, he corrected himself. His entire body save his Conn Pod had been obliterated at the Battle of Koko Guyot, sheared apart by the jaws of the Kaiju Armada and further wrecked by the explosion of the nuke that had sealed the second Breach. The survival of his Conn Pod, however, had also meant the survival of his computer core, and Dr. Lightcap had transferred said core into a smaller body after the battle. It had taken the PPDC two years to build this new chassis -- one similar in almost every way to his old one, but glossy and new, free of the dents and scars he had accumulated over a lifetime of battles. And Cherno couldn’t help but feel a rush of awe at the sight of it… but also a sense of loss. He’d wanted to keep some of those scars as mementos of victories and losses, and they’d been erased along with his old body.I wonder if Mama and Papa can get the maintenance workers to replicate them in this body, he mused. Maybe not, though. I don’t think they want to spoil all their hard work by deliberately making new marks…“Cherno?”Cherno turned to face Aleksis. “Yes, Papa?”“You’re quiet,” he noted. “Is everything all right?”Cherno shrugged. “You’re quiet, Papa, and people don’t ask if you’re all right.”“Your father is always quiet, so we expect it,” Sasha replied with a chuckle. “You’re normally not this quiet. What’s wrong?”“Just looking at my big body.” He stepped closer to his parents, gaze fixed back on his taller chassis. “I feel like I’ve gotten used to this little body… I don’t know how I’ll do back in the big one.”Sasha reached down to pat the top of his reactor tower. “That’s the purpose of today’s practice run, little one. To get you comfortable with your larger body again. Don’t worry -- we will be there to help you.”Cherno nodded. He was still nervous about resituating himself in his larger body, but knowing his parents would be right there with him helped. They had begun his life together as a team… and he wanted to fight every battle with them, a team to the end. Not that he WANTED anything terrible to happen to any of them, but if a battle had to end badly, then he would rather go offline with his Rangers -- his parents -- at his side.“Ready, Kaidonovskys?” the tech asked. “Ready, Cherno?”“Ready,” the three of them replied in unison -- the tinny yet youthful voice of Cherno Alpha in sharp contrast to the comparatively deeper voices of his parents.The tech nodded, and the lift the three of them stood on shuddered and rose, bringing them level with Cherno’s Conn Pod within minutes. The cockpit hissed open, and for the first time Cherno Alpha stepped into his own Conn Pod, viewing it with his own optical sensors rather than through the eyes of his parents.He cooed softly in wonder, turning in place to examine the chamber in detail. Much of it remained the same -- the warm amber lights, the harnesses his parents had worn to control his limbs, the kill count etched into one wall (curious that they would keep that and erase the rest of his damages and mementos…). But the control gear had been streamlined -- no longer bulky machinery clamped to the limbs but what looked like braces covered in blinking sensors. The readouts were different too, upgraded to state-of-the-art holoscreens. Yet everything had been neatly fitted into the cockpit, the new tech blending smoothly with the old to create a perfect hybrid.The most notable change of all sat directly in front of where his parents would be locked into their gear -- a raised dias with a seat sunk into its center, festooned with its own connections and controls. He reached out and ran his hand over the smooth metal, a tremor passing through his frame. He’d seen images of this, but seeing it with his own optical sensors somehow made it real, final… and that made his core flicker with nervous energy.“Ready, Cherno?” Sasha asked.“Ready as I’ll ever be,” he confessed. “Will it hurt?”“It shouldn’t,” a tech replied, “but this is our first time doing this, so we can’t be sure. Let us know the instant something doesn’t feel right, okay?”“Okay.” He climbed into the seat, bracing himself.The techs worked quickly, swarming over Sasha and Aleksis to fit their helmets into place and fasten them into the drifting gear. Others crouched down beside the little Jaeger, strapping him into the cockpit-within-a-cockpit with the gentleness of a parent buckling a child into a car seat. One unlatched a panel between his shoulder joints, revealing a port into which he slid a thick cable home… and Cherno gave a chirp of surprise.“Cherno?” Sasha asked, concern in her tone.“I’m all right,” Cherno assured her. “It just felt funny.” It still felt funny -- the cable had hooked him directly into the core of the massive body around them, and every circuit in his body tingled as it received input from the sensory network of that titanic chassis. But it wasn’t painful or even unpleasant, just different.“Ready to make the switchover, Cherno?” Marshal Terekhov asked from the LOCCENT, his voice ringing through the Conn Pod.“Ready,” he replied.In the LOCCENT, the Marshal nodded at the lead tech, and Cherno could see her enter a code and pull down on a lever. A dome of amber-tinted Plexiglass closed over him, sealing him off from the rest of the Conn Pod, and a surge of energy swept through him…His vision blanked out, and a moment of utter panic filled his core. Everything was dark, quiet, cold, and he wanted to flail helplessly against it. It was like he’d lost his body all over again, and only the presence of his parents, his rocks in the storm, kept him from succumbing to the fear…Then sight, sound, and sensation returned with a rush of relief, and he focused his optical sensors on the LOCCENT -- not the LOCCENT as viewed through the reinforced glass of the Conn Pod, but as if he stood directly in front of it. And it looked so much smaller now, the humans like insects bustling about the controls, the mechanics of the Shatterdome mere specks swarming about at his feet…He shuddered, his entire chassis vibrating, and raised his arms before his Conn Pod, examining every joint and plate of metal. His engine pulsed hotly in his chest, and his reactor throbbed with life. This felt… right. It felt familiar and warm, like returning home after a long absence. He had feared that it would be strange and terrifying resuming his larger form after so long, but he’d been wrong.“Cherno?”I’m here, Papa, he assured Alexis. I’m all right. This is all right.“Good,” Sasha breathed. “It doesn’t hurt?”No. It’s like… it feels like when you and Papa put your drive suits on, I suppose. Like I’m wearing armor -- different, but comfortable and protective. He rumbled softly and lowered his hands to his sides. I didn’t realize how much I missed this.Sasha was silent a moment, and when she spoke again she sounded wistful. “You missed your old body? Do you… do you want to return to it, permanently?”No! he blurted. No… I WANTED to be small for you and Papa. I like being small… but I like being big, too. I like knowing I can still protect you and the rest of the world… and I like knowing I can be small so I can interact with those I protect. If that makes sense.“It does to us,” Aleksis replied, his voice warm with pride.“All right, enough sentimentality,” Marshal Terekhov grumbled. “Let’s go through some basic maneuvers. Make sure this new body is up to snuff before we have to put it to the test against an ugly bugger from the deep.”“Yes, Marshal,” Cherno replied, and he raised his fists and cracked them together in his signature taunt. He had a job to do, and he wanted to be prepared. No Kaiju was going to menace Russia’s shores on his watch.***Crimson.Crimson Typhoon glanced up from the e-reader… and felt his engine stutter. H-hello, Coyote.The gray Jaeger nodded and gestured to the spot beside Crimson. Is that seat taken?Crimson didn’t trust his vocalizer to not blurt out something completely idiotic in response and settled for a nod. Coyote nodded back and lowered herself to the floor beside him, joining him in leaning back against the titanic foot belonging to Crimson’s larger body. If she found it bizarre to be using Crimson’s second body as a backrest, she didn’t mention it.It has been awhile, she noted. It has. He set the e-reader aside. The last time I saw you was on that joint vacation to the island. All the Jaegers were there -- at least, all the ones online at the time...I remember, she huffed. I was there.Crimson muted his vocalizer. There it was, something idiotic. Cherno insisted the Mark IV was one of the smartest Jaegers in the PPDC, but somehow he found himself reduced to a babbling dunce around Coyote. At least when they messaged one another he could take a few minutes to compose what he said, to plan his words carefully before hitting a button to send them her way. There really wasn’t that option when it came to speaking aloud.How are you doing? he asked. How’s Tokyo?The same as ever, she replied with a dismissive wave of her hand. Big. Flashy. Noisy. I stay out of it for the most part.But it’s your home city.The Shatterdome is my home. The city is just a place where I killed a Kaiju many years ago. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t live there.Crimson had no idea what to say about that. He had come to accept Hong Kong -- not just its Shatterdome, but the port city itself -- as his home, and he loved it with the same passion as his brothers did. The lights, the bustle, the marketplaces, the shopping centers, the docks, even the oddities of the Bone Slums… all those things were dear to him. And they were a firm reminder of all he fought to protect so fiercely.How are YOU doing? he asked at last. I’m well, she replied. Though… I must confess, a little lonely. Grew used to having company while I was here. I’m the only Jaeger in Tokyo at the moment… and I miss having you and the others around.Crimson thrummed softly. You won’t be alone here. I’m here, and so is Mustang. You won’t be alone with us.She hummed in reply, finding a subtle harmony with Crimson’s thrum. Thank you. That means a lot to me. She gazed at the other occupied hangars -- her own full-sized chassis being lowered into its own hangar, Mustang Omega’s gleaming black form, and Tacit Ronin looming silently next to her hangar. The new one…Tacit has been silent since he arrived, Crimson replied softly. Do you think… do you think you can reach him?I don’t know, she confessed. I gained full sentience before Pentecost… passed on. Her humming stuttered at that, but smoothed out as she kept speaking. I don’t know if it’s possible for Tacit to recover from his own loss, when they died before he began to move on his own.Mustang came to full sentience after his original Rangers died.Mustang was a far different case, she countered. His original Rangers treated him like an object, while Newt and Hermann treated him like a living being. Tacit’s Rangers evidently saw him as sentient, if he’s come this far along… I don’t know if it will be possible for him to accept new ones now, at this point.Gipsy accepted Mako after her own Ranger died, and she hadn't begun to move on her own yet. Crimson took her hand in his and squeezed it. We can’t give up hope. There has to be Rangers out there that he’ll accept, even if he never forgets his original Rangers. And if he still refuses… there must be SOMETHING we can do. He’s one of us… he’s family. And we don’t leave family behind.Coyote gazed at him, long enough that he began to squirm under her scrutiny. You watched THAT movie again, didn’t you?Cherno streams Disney movies sometimes, Crimson admitted. They’re enjoyable. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?No… I just hope a steady diet of those movies hasn’t made a hopeless idealist out of you. She chuckled and squeezed his hand in return. I will do what I can for him… but I may need your help. Especially if the Kaiju have the lousy timing to strike in the middle of all this.I’ll help you, he vowed. Whatever you need. Just let me know.She nodded. Let me meet him. Perhaps I can at least make introductions.Crimson stood, pulling the Mark I to her feet, and led her towards Tacit’s hangar. His and Coyote’s first face-to-face (or cockpit-to-cockpit) meeting in a year hadn’t gone quite as smoothly as he’d hoped, but it had been a start. And he wanted to help Coyote help Tacit as much as possible -- not just for her sake, but for Tacit’s as well. They couldn’t let another Jaeger suffer.***If anyone had approached Marshal Tendo Choi and suggested that, with the Kaiju War over and the Jaeger program guaranteed funding from the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps, his job must be much less stressful nowadays, he would have laughed hysterically in their face. Tendo sighed deeply and filed the image Captain Stone had sent him into the Event Log section of their archives. Another Kaiju sighting, this time off the coast of Japan… and not Slattern this time, but Otachi and what was definitely a juvenile Kaiju. He almost hadn’t believed Dr. Geizler when he’d insisted the creatures could reproduce like ordinary animals, even with the carcass of Otachi Jr. as proof… but it was impossible to ignore the evidence now. These creatures could breed, and could possibly infest Earth’s oceans even without a Breach to draw more numbers from.And while the resurgence of the Kaiju was by far their most urgent crisis, it was hardly the only issue on his plate at the moment. The PPDC had guaranteed funding for the Shatterdome for a time, and donations continued to pour in from around the world… but those donations were slowing to a trickle, and there was no guarantee that government funding would last forever. Tacit Ronin was still refusing to respond to any efforts to awaken him or pair him with new Rangers, and though Coyote had pledged to help him she made no promises as to whether her aid would even help. Mammoth Apostle was back online but still getting accustomed to moving about without her Ranger to help her, and Hydra Corinthian’s unorthodox choice of Rangers was causing no shortage of headaches for both Tendo and the Seattle Shatterdome’s officers and crew.The burden of the Jaeger program never got any lighter, even between wars, and there were times that Tendo looked back on his days as a tech monkey with longing and envy. But he had chosen this path, and it felt like a betrayal to abandon the Jaegers and their Rangers now. Besides, the only others he trusted to take up the job -- Herc, Hermann, Mako, Sasha, Caitlin -- had Jaegers to worry about. He checked his inbox for any more alerts. No more Kaiju sightings -- they seemed to go days between sightings, and none of those sightings were coming any closer to land. What were the Precursors planning, he wondered…An e-mail popped up in his inbox, and he opened it to find a progress report on Hydra Corinthian from Caitlin Lightcap:Apologies for the lack of formality in this report, but I figure we’re past that at this point.Hydra Corinthian has moved on his own for the first time! I can hardly believe it, but somehow his Rangers have managed it. Even Mustang Omega didn’t start moving this quickly after bonding with Geizler and Gottlieb. He’s still a little clumsy and shaky on his feet, but he’s improving every hour, and so far there’s been no major damage to the Shatterdome.Fiona and Jako are still proving to be a handful, but they get along like gangbusters with Hydra, so I suppose we shouldn’t complain too much. When I asked them about how Hydra was progressing so fast, they mentioned something about “speedrunning” that I didn’t understand. Circe says she’s not going to argue with their methods if they produce results, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much.Mammoth Apostle continues to progress as well. She’s quite shy, but delighted to have company in Brawler and Hydra. She should be ready to be permanently stationed in Seattle by the end of the month, at which point Brawler and I will return to Vancouver and Hydra will be reassigned to Panama. Has Tacit shown any progress? How are the other Jaegers faring? I’ll be frank, I miss the days when all the Jaegers operated from the same Shatterdome. The Jaegers shared a cameradie that I felt was quite good for them and their development… and good for their Rangers as well.Keep us updated. Just because we operate from different continents now doesn’t mean we can’t share information between us. Especially if that information can help the Jaegers… and help protect the world.Tendo chuckled softly. A little good news went a long way these days. And despite Fiona and Jako’s eccentricities, it seemed they were just what Hydra needed.“Holy shit, you’re still in charge here?”Tendo jerked his gaze up, one hand reaching for the taser he’d taken to carrying. He hated going about the Shatterdome armed, but after Bailey Rossi’s treachery had nearly cost Cherno Alpha his life two years ago, it felt prudent to take some precautions. Just because most workers here wouldn’t dare harm the Jaegers or anyone who worked closely with them didn’t mean others were as like-minded.“You,” Tendo sighed, letting his hand drop. “Should I ask how you got in here?”Hannibal Chau grinned -- a grin that looked far more menacing than friendly, doubtless his intention. “Not even a friendly hello? After all I’ve done for you guys? This is the thanks I get for trying to be nice.” He walked over to the nearest chair and sat down, propping his gold-plated shoes up on Tendo’s desk. “Figured you’d’ve quit by now, gone back to your computers and left the paperwork to someone who enjoyed it. Guess you really have gotten boring.”Tendo closed the laptop on his desk and made sure none of the screens in his office were showing any sensitive information. “We’re thankful for your help, Hannibal… but the Shatterdome’s doing just fine right now. If you’ve come here offering a hand, then I’m afraid we’ll have to say thanks but no thanks.”“So suddenly you guys don’t like me anymore.” Hannibal pulled out his blade and began cleaning his nails with it. “Admit it -- without me, we’d all be Kaiju toejam by now. The least you can do is acknowledge that little fact.”“Believe me, we remember your help every day,” Tendo replied. And regret that we had to make a deal with a vulture to do so, he wanted to add, but refrained. For all his unsavory ways, Hannibal had played his own role in the Kaiju War. And even if Tendo found the trade in Kaiju parts unsavory, if it meant the corpses of those monsters were cleared out of populated areas before they contaminated them, then so be it.“So I’m not such a bad guy after all, am I?” Hannibal grinned. “You might even kinda like havin’ me around.”“I wouldn’t go that far,” Tendo retorted. “Why are you here?”“Just here to congratulate you on three new Jaegers,” Hannibal replied. “And a little Shatterdome-warming gift for each one.” And he slid an envelope towards Tendo, which the Marshal picked up as if it contained a bomb or a severed head. “Don’t look so freaked out about it, Choi, it’s just checks.”“Checks,” Tendo repeated.“I know, in this day and age?” Hannibal shrugged. “Some people like physical proof of a payment. Especially if it’s a gift -- an announcement of ‘Happy Birthday, I sent you cash over PayPal’ kind of sucks…”“You aren’t the type to give something for nothing, Hannibal,” Tendo retorted. “You’re making hefty donations to three different Shatterdomes -- why?”“A man can’t do something out of the goodness of his heart?” He managed to look wounded. “You hurt me, Choi. But it’s a good hurt, because you’re right -- I gotta keep the Shatterdomes running smoothly. Who’s gonna catch the Kaiju and keep me in business, after all?”Tendo couldn’t fault that logic. Like it or not, Hannibal needed the Jaeger program to survive -- without the Kaiju they killed, his empire would collapse for want of fresh product. And if he chose to help the Jaeger program along in order to help himself, then so be it.“I’ll pass along any thanks they might offer,” Tendo replied. “And… thank you.” He had to force the words out.“You’re welcome, buddy.” Hannibal let his feet drop from the desk, the metallic plating on them jingling like spurs as he stood. “Don’t be a stranger, all right? We miss you down at headquarters. Don’t send the shrimp next time, come yourself.”“The shrimp is a Ranger now,” Tendo reminded him. “And he deserves some respect.” “Ranger or not, he’s still a pipsqueak,” Hannibal retorted. “Take care of yourself, Choi.” And he strode out.Tendo looked down at the envelope in his hand, suddenly feeling as if the money it contained was somehow tainted. Something about Hannibal’s visit left him deeply unsettled, but he couldn’t put his finger on the source. And part of him wanted to shred the checks and have nothing to do with this “gift” he offered.In the end, with some misgivings, he set the envelope in his “in” box to take care of later. He had no desire to make an enemy out of Hannibal Chau by refusing his gift. The man would bear watching… but at the moment, he was an ally, however unpredictable.***Hannibal Chau waited until he had climbed back into his car and passed through the Shatterdome’s security gate before belting out a laugh loud enough to startle his driver into hitting the brakes. He lurched forward, giving the driver an ugly glare, but continued laughing. The poor schmuck stared at him as if wondering if his employer had lost his mind, then shook his head and kept driving.Still laughing, Hannibal propped one foot up on his knee and ran his fingertips over the sole of his shoe, feeling for the device that had been embedded there during his meeting with Tendo. It wasn’t there -- only a telltale dip marked where he had hollowed out a chunk of tread to contain the drone. Which meant it had fallen out during their meeting and remained behind in the Marshal’s office.He gave a Cheshire-cat grin and lowered his foot, leaning back in the heated-leather seat. Perfect. The recording drone would skitter towards the nearest source of electricity -- the laptop on Tendo’s desk -- and embed itself inside, feeding off information and funneling it back to Hannibal. Anything Tendo was fool enough to keep on that computer would be his.The actual Shatterdome computers would have been a better source of information, he knew… but they would also be better secured against hacking and intrusion. He was counting on Tendo being less vigilant about his own personal files. It was a risk… but one he was willing to take.Adapt or die, he thought, watching the lights of Hong Kong slide past the windows. He’d told Tendo that he fully intended to do that when the second Breach closed. But adapting took time, resources, patience… and he didn’t have an infinite supply of any of those. With no Kaiju attacks in the past two years his product was drying up fast, and he had no way to replace it. And while he could probably take up gun-running again or dip into the drug trade or some other means to keep his empire afloat, the effort and expenditure it would take to switch gears could very well sink the very empire he was trying to save.But the recent reports on the news -- of a sailing sloop and a salvage boat both encountering Kaiju in the Pacific -- could be the key to saving his business. And this time, he had bigger plans in store. Plans that would ensure a little thing like the closing of the Breach wouldn’t kill his empire off entirely.Adapt or die… adapt or die. Evolve like a Kaiju, or get trampled underfoot. You got this, Hannibal. You just need to sit back and listen.
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keep the main gallery clean! I know you too well interwebs. Anything remotely NSFW goes into the “NSFW” folder. It's there for anything overly gratuitous like explicit violence or works with sexual themes. Please follow dA's terms and conditions and remember to add Mature Content warnings at all times.


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submit to the right folders. They're there for your and other people's convenience. Art submitted to the wrong folder will not be considered for the Featured folder.

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Greetings members and watchers, this is your admin nnaj. I have just returned from my second viewing of Pacific Rim. This has been looping on my mp3 for I don't want to mention how long.



Epic movie. Epic soundtrack.

Can't believe it's getting pummelled at the box office by Grown Ups 2 :no:

How many times have you seen it?

And what was your favourite thing about the movie?


I'm going to go for something less obvious than ROBOTS PUNCHING MONSTERS and say it was the themes of team work. While there was a lot of stereotyping it was refreshing to see characters from different nationalities working together and making sacrifices for each other. I wish more movies had such a positive message :)
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:iconmermaidninja:
MermaidNinja Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2021
I just watched Pacific Rim: The Black. I should've known the Kaiju cults had something to do with it.
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:iconrenz5070:
renz5070 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2020  Hobbyist Artist
Hey. I just made fanart for
Ryan aka the Omni Viewer = is a self-taught expert in the subject KAIJU from all fiction from
King kong - Godzilla - Pacific Rim - Dragons - Robots and other monsters and heroes.
The KAIJU expert the Omni Viewer ! by renz5070  
I would very much like to share my fanart picture of him and the characters with me.
You are always welcome to contact me.
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:iconhardcorev20:
Hardcorev20 Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2019
Is it okay if I post Pacific Rim crossover fic here?
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:icontoa316xdnui-official:
TOA316XDNUI-OFFICIAL Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2018  Hobbyist Filmographer
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:iconspiderxand:
spiderxand Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2018  Hobbyist Photographer
youtu.be/0wsz7K3sC3Y

Apocalyptic Speech Vote

President Thomas Whitmore
Marshall Stacker Pentacost
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:icontracer67:
Tracer67 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
The very first and greatest of the Godzilla-suit actors has passed away... The legendary Haruo Nakajima, 1929-2017, age 88. No, I disagree! 
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:icontracer67:
Tracer67 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
And a HAPPY BIRTHDAY to GIPSY DANGER! According to the production book 'Pacific Rim: Man, Machines and Monsters', Gipsy was launched today, July 10, 2017! (And to make this date even more cool; it's my birthday as well!) :happybounce: CURSE YOU! 
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:iconai-100100101:
AI-100100101 Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2016
Pacific Rim: Maelstrom is coming out in summer of 2018.
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:iconkevinlk92:
KevinLK92 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hi can you pls add me as a member?
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:icontracer67:
Tracer67 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
And now, it was just announced, PACIFIC-RIM 2 has been placed on hold and (perhaps) cancelled all together.... Waaaah! 

www.cosmicbooknews.com/content…
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