Gojyo waited until he was definitely clear of the Kaiju Blue bloodmist to remove his breathing mask and hood. He had long since learned to cover up when scavenging Kaiju parts to sell. That shit stained everything. The first time he’d gone looking through the blue Kaiju blood he hadn’t worn a hood and his red hair had turned purple with the bloodmist and had stayed that way for weeks.
The exterior of the Kaiju had been picked nearly clean, leaving the guts and bones open for the next round of people when Gojyo got there. The initial panic created by a giant monster tearing through the Anti-Kaiju wall, crushing buildings, and destroying lives had quickly dissipated when the Jaeger Soul Hawk, recently retired, had made a heroic appearance, taking down the Kaiju. Gojyo was more than used to seeing Jaegers and Kaiju. He lived in the Bone Slums. Closest to the Wall and with buildings never fixed from Kaiju attacks, the Bone Slums sprung up around what was left of the Kaiju’s bones. He lived in one of the shacks that shared a Kaiju pelvic bone for a roof. It wasn’t much better than a tenement, but the Bone Slums were cheap and close to the shore for easy access to future Kaiju parts and a paycheck.
Carrying his bucket of Cytophlem, or what Gojyo affectionately called Kaiju snot, he followed the rest of the scavengers back to Kaiju Remedies to get paid for his haul of snot.
“Still a lot left?” the guy at the drop off point asked.
Gojyo nodded. “They just bringing the diamond cutter out for the Cilla Ropes now.” Setting down his bucket on the scale for the guy to see, he said, “Here’s the Cytophlem. Don’t shortchange me this week. I know a pound is going for at least $150.”
“So what do you want for it then? $1500?” the guy rolled his eyes.
“$1700.” The guy narrowed his eyes.
“$2000 or I take this somewhere else,” Gojyo insisted.
“Fine,” he growled, writing up and handing him a slip of paper to redeem.
Gojyo took the slip, looking at it. He was getting closer to that plane ticket to anywhere but the pacific coast, far away from monsters and memories. He thanked the guy and headed to the cash window. Taking his slip, the teller didn’t bother with conversation, handing over Gojyo’s money. Stuffing the cash in an envelope and the envelope in his pocket, Gojyo headed home. Normally he’d have to split his haul, but his asshole partner, one slimy son of a bitch named Banri, had run out on him after getting on the wrong side of a loan shark.
The Bone Slums were exactly that: slums. Supposedly contaminated, anyone with money and some common sense left a long time ago. Which is why Gojyo came here. Not that he lacked common sense, but no one would expect younger brother of a Jaeger pilot to live and profit off the black market sales of Kaiju snot. Was it luxurious? No. Did it give him a sense of purpose? At least he was actually doing something.
Stopping at the hole in the ribs restaurant, Gojyo ordered dinner to go, walking back along the skeleton of the old Kaiju to his pelvic home. Crying babies and women, yelling men, fist fights, panhandling, and just the general din of city surrounded him as he walked home. Even as he passed the different shack homes like his own, it only muffled the sounds a little.
Gojyo stopped short before his shack. It wasn’t that the door was open, they never locked and it wasn’t uncommon for people to break into other people’s places. No, what stopped him was that the lights were on. Popping open his switchblade, Gojyo crept up to the door, steeling himself before kicking the door open.
“How do you even live in a shit hole like this?”
The last thing Gojyo expected was Genjo Sanzo, head of the Hong Kong Shatterdome, sitting at his sorry excuse for a kitchen table with a look of utter disdain. Recovering quickly, Gojyo snorted. “Don’t like it, you can leave. What are you doing here anyway? Don’t you got Jaegers to run?”
“You need to come back to Hong Kong,” Sanzo said, taking stock of Gojyo before him. He was taller than the gangly kid that had run away ten years ago, broader too. Still just as thin though.
Gojyo set his take out on the table, sitting in the other chair. He wasn’t going to let Sanzo stop him from having his dinner.
Sanzo continued when he didn’t get a response from Gojyo. “You’re the most experienced trainee and have attempted a drift in a real Jaeger before with academy students. We’re going to try to seal the breach so we’re going to look for someone you can drift with.”
“And if I don’t wanna?” Gojyo took a bite, trying to sound unimpressed. In truth, the idea of trying to drift after being so unsuccessful left a cold dread growing in his stomach.
“Then I’ll drag you back kicking and screaming if I have to. This isn’t a request, it’s an order.”
“Well your order can shove it. I don’t take orders from you or anyone anymore,” Gojyo said. “Like I said, don’t like it you can leave.”
Sanzo rolled his eyes. “Still just as pigheaded as ever. If you change your mind, I fly out tomorrow.” He handed him a boarding pass as he stood.
“Don’t count on it,” Gojyo sneered as Sanzo left.
Gojyo unpacked his bag for the third time. He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t go. Having never drifted successfully, why would he be any use. Honestly, how desperate were they to come to him? Sure he had one of the best drop and kill scores but drifting? It always ended in failure. Either they couldn’t get a stable connection or Gojyo would get stuck in a Random Access Brain Impulse Triggers.
But there was a nagging hope that maybe, just maybe, this time it could different. It had been long enough Maybe he’d gotten his shit together and could drift. Gojyo packed his bag again, throwing everything he could fit into the bag, all of his important documents, and snatched the boarding pass off the table, leaving for the airport before he could think better of it.
Hong Kong, 2025
After fourteen hours on a plane where Gojyo resolve waxed and waned until he had to tell himself to overthinking it, he landed in Hong Kong. There was a car waiting for him that took him to a helicopter pad to get to the Shatterdome.
Gojyo stood at the helicopter landing, frowning at the fact Sanzo looked so smug. As much as he had set the dream aside, he finally would get the chance to be a real Jaeger fighter. He’d finally be useful and do Jien proud.
The wind from the helicopter whipped Gojyo’s hair around, making the rain soaked tendrils more tangled and messy than the usual were. Coming to greet them was a thin man hidden by an umbrella. He looked like one of those nerdy scientist types, Gojyo thought. Probably there to explain what he already knew about Jaegers.
It wasn’t until the umbrella man was closer that Gojyo caught a glimpse of his thoughtful face and piercing green eyes.
Gojyo only had two heroes growing up. His older brother, Jien, who was a pretty awesome Jaeger pilot, and Cho Hakkai, one of two youngest Jaeger pilots. They were the same age and Gojyo would often use him as part of an ongoing argument with Jien about how they should let him be a pilot.
And here he was. Hakkai with a clipboard, greeting him at the Shatterdome. It made the fourteen hour trip worth it.
Hakkai turned to Sanzo with what Gojyo could only describe as the most unsettling fake smile he had ever seen. “This is your pilot? He is a bit scrappy, but I am sure he will do fine.”
“I’m right here, you know,” Gojyo grumbled but held out a hand anyway. “Sha Gojyo. You’re Cho Hakkai. I loved hearing about all your battles when I was younger.”
That fake smile turned pained, “Thank you. I’ll be vetting your partners and I also reworked my old Jaeger for you to use. Treat it well.”
“I get to use White Dragon?” Gojyo asked excitedly, following Hakkai into the Shatterdome. “Awesome.”
“You do know how to pilot a Mark-3, yes?”
“Sure do. My brother was going to be in one but he got a Mark-4 and had started to study Mark-5s. I was still in the Jaeger academy learnin’ Mark-3s.”
“Yes, I saw you had training. However, it seems you failed your psych analysis and Drift Sync tests. You had trouble connecting and trusting others,” Hakkai said skimming through Gojyo’s file, holding it against his clipboard while balancing his umbrella.
Gojyo took the umbrella to hold for Hakkai. “Does that file really tell you everything? It seems a little unfair I know nothing but your battle stats but you got everything about me in there. You’re not a pilot lot anymore. What have you been up to?”
Hakkai laughed, it sounded as fake as his smiles. “Mostly tutoring some of the younger academy students and helping restore my--I’m sorry--your Jaeger.”
Entering the Shatterdome, the three of them heard a call to keep the door open. “It’s pouring buckets out there,” a young scientist commented.
“This is Son Goku and Nataku Taishi. They’re our science department,” Sanzo said, gesturing in turn to each of them.
Gojyo raised an eyebrow. These two were nothing but kids. “What do you two do?”
“I study Kaiju. You should come down to the lab; I got a ton of different samples,” Goku answered. “I’d love to see one alive and up close though. Or at least freshly dead to collect some better samples.”
“They smell like a dead whale,” Gojyo commented. “But once you get past that, it’s kinda cool.”
“You’ve seen one?!” The kid was practically vibrating out of his boots.
“I was a scavenger.” Gojyo shrugged.
“That’s a amazing! You gotta tell me all about it-”
“Goku, I’m sure he’s going to be busy. This is the new pilot they brought in,” Nataku interrupted. “I came up with the algorithm for predicting the Kaiju attacks.”
“And his formula has been invaluable,” Hakkai smiled.
The elevator came to a stop. “This is our floor,” Nataku said.
“It was nice to meet you! Seriously, come down anytime, I’d love to pick your brain. Well not like I would literally pick a Kaiju brain but-“ Nataku pulled Goku away before he could say anything else.
The elevator continued to down to the main level where the Jaegers were kept and the dining area and rooms were kept. Gojyo hadn’t been in here in years and he still felt slacked jawed when he was surrounded by the Jaegers. Standing over 250 feet high, they were impressive giants. Gojyo had been around Kaiju for the last several years and they always seemed impossible to fight, but in this room with the Jaegers, it seemed possible.
“Here’s India Tango,” Hakkai said.
“I know this one pretty well. Jien’s my brother. He goes by Dokugakuji now, right?” Gojyo had heard that one on the news. He didn’t know what prompted his brother to pick such a stupid name, but maybe he’d see him to ask him.
“Their Jaeger is still in good shape. He and his co-pilots should be around somewhere. I’m sure he knows you’re back,” Hakkai said.
“Sanzo and company!” A small silver haired man called from across the room, hurrying over with his larger companion.
“This is Hazel Grouse and Gatty Nenehawk, although he prefers to be called Gat,” Sanzo introduced them.
“You’re that new pilot, huh?” Hazel drawled.
“Yeah,” Gojyo said, holding out a hand to shake. Hazel took it. “I saw you two bring down that Kaiju last week.”
“Oh? Were you out there?”
“I was living in California for the past couple years.”
“Good to know they’re bringing in a rookie on this big mission,” Hazel said brightly.
Gojyo let the jab slide. “Desperate times, I guess.”
“Welcome to Shatterdome,” Gat said offering a hand. “It’s good to have you here.”
Gojyo took it. At least this guy seemed nicer than his co-pilot.
“I was just talking to the little math fella,” Hazel said, turning to Sanzo. “He says he’s got some news about how to deploy the attack on the breach. I reckon we should head down there.”
“Thank you,” Sanzo said. Gojyo could see his displeasure of having to go with Hazel. “I trust Hakkai can lead the rest of the tour.”
“Of course,” Hakkai smiled. “Come along, Gojyo.” He started walking away. Gojyo quickly followed with a short wave in Sanzo’s direction.
“Is he always like that?”
Hakkai hummed, “Yes, Hazel likes to be the center of Sanzo’s attention. He could not care less about the rest of the pilots he works with.”
Gojyo snorted a laugh. “Sounds like he’ll be a hoot to work with, I reckon,” Gojyo said, mocking Hazel’s accent.
Showing Gojyo through some of his old haunts in the Shatterdome, Hakkai brought him to his new room. Gojyo used to share with Jien, but apparently Jien now shared his room with his Jaeger partners. Hakkai was hard to read. He was all smiles, but there was something sad and dark about him. His smile never reached his eyes. Gojyo had to admit it was creepy, but he kinda liked it. Hakkai was quick-witted too. It had been a while since Gojyo had to stay on his toes to keep up intellectually with someone. The most he had to do was pretend to be dumb so others would underestimate him. With Hakkai, Gojyo found he wanted to impress him. Maybe it was because Hakkai had been his hero at one point and he was feeling a little star struck, but maybe it was something else.
Hakkai left him to unpack his bag. Not that Gojyo had much to unpack. On the bed was a cardboard box on his bed that held his things from his old room. Jien must have kept his thing. Some of it was worthless crap he had liked as a kid, but he did put the models of Jien’s Jaeger India Tango and Hakkai’s, now his, Jaeger, White Dragon. They sat of the small jutting out section of the wall at about waist height. Lying down, they’d look down over Gojyo like they did when he was younger. Less like the heroes and goals he aspired to in his youth, but now shoes he had to fill and expectations he had to live up to.
Gojyo turned from the models, picking up one of his old shirts. It was worn thin and a bit too small now. It had drowned him most of his life, but he really wasn’t that seventeen year old that ran away, or the twelve year old who came here, tightly holding his brother’s hand. He’d get rid of the clothes, Gojyo decided. He hung up few of the posters for old time’s sake and put away his current things. He was just putting the last sock away when a knock came from the door.
Checking the peephole to see his brother staring back, Gojyo pulled open the door. “Gojyo!” Jien pulled him into a bone-crushing hug. Gojyo returned as much of the hug as he could but it turned more to tapping out. “It’s good to see you,” Jien said holding him out at arm’s length to get a good look at him.
“It’s good to see you too,” Gojyo grinned, “Come on in.”
“Where’ve you been, kid? How the hell did Sanzo even find your ass?”
“I’ve been wondering that myself,” Gojyo said, scratching the back of his neck. “I’ve been pretty off the grid.”
“Why’d you leave anyway? I’ve missed you.” Jien put an arm around his little brother.
Gojyo bit his lip before grinning. “What’s with your name change? Dokugakuji? Couldn’t have found a name that was even more of a mouthful?”
“I thought it sounded cool,” Dokugakuji said, defending himself.
“You thought wrong,” Gojyo teased, playfully punching his brother in the arm.
Dokugakuji just rolled his eyes. “When do you start finding a partner?”
“Tomorrow, I think.” Gojyo walked over to the wall console and brought up the schedule. “They got me with a bunch of newbies. Should be a cake walk.”
“Hey, some of those newbies are pretty good. Don’t get too cocky. I’m gunna laugh if they knock you on your ass.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Gojyo waved his hand dismissing his brother. “I’ll find someone in no time and be showing you up out there.”
Dokugakuji laughed. “Yeah right! You gotta drift first, hot shot.”
Gojyo hid a grimace, but turned toward him with a grin. “I got this. Did you hear? I get to pilot White Dragon.”
“Do you still have all the stats memorized?” Dokugakuji asked. Gojyo had been the biggest fanboy as kid.
“Seventy-nine point two meters tall, one thousand nine hundred and eighty tons. Blue Spark 4.1 operating system and an Arc-9 reactor,” Gojyo rattled off. “Ten drops, eight kills, four assists. Decommissioned in 2021.”
“I can’t believe you remember all that.”
“Honestly, I can’t either,” Gojyo said.
Dokugakuji caught sight of the clock. “Oh crap, I have to go, but I’ll be in the mess hall around dinner time. Come eat with us. Kougaiji and Yaone would love to see you.”
“Thanks, I’ll see you then.” Gojyo opened the door for Dokugakuji to head out. He’d lied to his brother. Reciting the specs for White Dragon and his brother’s Jaeger had been soothing in some of his tougher times in the last few years, but like hell he’d tell his brother that.
Gojyo sparred with possible partners all morning. While he was a little out of practice in using proper forms, he could still hold his own and was not above fighting dirty. A Kaiju wouldn’t care if you were fighting fair. And that’s where his partners would usually be thrown off. Gojyo’s reckless style usually had them falter, and the fact that he didn’t flinch from getting hit, often using it as a way to get within their guard, made for bad matches.
There were a few rangers who knocked Gojyo flat on his ass but they were more concerned with winning than creating a dialogue. That was what this whole exercise was about. To have a good neural handshake there needed to be compatibility between the two rangers.
Sanzo and Hakkai monitored each spar. Sanzo looked generally bored and Hakkai took notes on each candidate throughout the fights. As each candidate got rejected, Gojyo noticed Hakkai’s smile become more and more fake. Finally getting tired of that creepy smile, Gojyo turned towards him. “What’re you making that face for?”
“Pardon?” Hakkai asked, the fake smile fading to polite confusion.
“Your face. You look like you got something to say but don’t wanna say it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hakkai deflected.
“Bullshit you don’t.” Gojyo marched up. “You think you could do better?” It wasn’t quite a challenge but more of a statement.
“Very well,” Hakkai said, reviewing his notes. “You’re too cocky with how you fight. You take unnecessary damage when you should pull back and plan your moves. Every move you make is erratic and reactionary. That can be good thing, but when you’re in a Jaeger, that won’t work as well because you have a giant metal robot around you that does not move as fast as you think it will. By relying on your speed, you in fact, hinder yourself.”
“That it?” Gojyo asked, raising an eyebrow.
“It also seems you are used to fighting alone and therefore are not letting your partners get a chance to open up a dialogue in the match.” Hakkai dropped the pages of his notes back on the clipboard. “In short, I do not think you’re ready or capable to pilot a Jaeger.”
Taken aback by Hakkai’s blunt assessment, Gojyo crossed his arms, cocking a hip to the side. “Jeez, tell me how you really feel. Then come show me how it’s done, since you know so much.” This time is was a challenge.
“Absolutely not,” Sanzo butt in. “This is not a good idea.”
“On the contrary,” Hakkai turned to Sanzo, his smile sending shivers down Gojyo’s spine. “I think it would be an excellent idea. Clearly his inexperience and previous failures in the ranger program still make him the ideal candidate. Maybe a demonstration will do him some good.”
"Bring it on," Gojyo grinned, taking his stance. A piece of hair had come loose from his ponytail and hung in his face as he waited for Hakkai.
Hakkai smiled, eyes crinkled nearly shut, but cold. He handed his clipboard to Sanzo, stepping down towards the mat. He removed his shoes and socks, calmly, placing them neatly beside the mat. He unbuttoned and removed his shirt as well, leaving him in a tank top and fatigues, just like Gojyo.
"Shall I give you the advantage of the first move?"
Gojyo snorted. "You didn't hold back before, don't hold back now." Bouncing on his toes, he lunged forward, driving and uppercut to Hakkai's ribs.
Hakkai blocked it easily with a double knife hand downward block, immediately throwing an elbow towards the bridge of Gojyo's nose. He stopped right before it connected.
"One point Hakkai," Sanzo called.
They both stepped back to give each other room. "I expected you to be kinda rusty."
“I expected you to be good.” Hakkai snapped out a kick towards Gojyo's stomach. Gojyo parried the kick.
Landing forward, Hakkai gripped Gojyo's blocking wrist, throwing another elbow towards Gojyo's face. Gojyo threw a right hook in retaliation. Hakkai bent backwards to avoid the punch since he didn't have time to block, grimacing as his balance was compromised. Gojyo took advantage of Hakkai's lack of balance, stepping on the back of his nearest knee.
Hakkai hissed, letting his leg collapse from under him and sending him tumbling to the ground. He slapped out as he hit the mat, cursing under his breath when he realized he was still holding onto Gojyo's arm.
Gojyo gripped Hakkai's wrist, twisting his arm and forcing him to roll onto his stomach. He folded Hakkai's arm into a kimura, kneeling on the small of his back. "One point," he smirked.
Huffing under his breath, Hakkai shoved himself up to his feet as soon as Gojyo release his arm. He circled around Gojyo to his original place on the mat, taking his stance.
Gojyo took his stance and immediately delivered a push kick to Hakkai's chest.
Hakkai crossed his arms, bracing for the kick. He hopped, easily moving back with the force of Gojyo's kick.
Gojyo landed, following with a round kick from the left. Hakkai caught the round kick, stepping to the side to lessen the force of the blow. He stepped into Gojyo's guard, grabbing his shoulder and sweeping his leg out from under him. Lowering him almost gently to the mat, Hakkai knelt on his hip, pinning his leg to his chest, and using his free arm his pushed Gojyo's head to the right, pinning him to the mat.
"Hakkai Two," Sanzo called. When Hakkai stepped back to let him up, he could see an almost amused look on Sanzo's face. It could just have been a trick of the light, he wasn't sure.
"Better keep up," Hakkai said, nodding slightly.
"Don't get cocky now," Gojyo shot back, taking his stance again.
Hakkai rolled his eyes, carefully pacing to the side to circle Gojyo.
As Hakkai moved inward in his circle, Gojyo stepped to the side, uttering a quiet, "Nope."
Chuckling quietly, Hakkai forced him to keep circling
Gojyo threw a round kick, immediately throwing a left punch as a distraction for the knee he aimed for Hakkai's gut.
Hakkai sidestepped the entirety of Gojyo's attack, smirking as he reached out and tugged the end of Gojyo's ponytail. He smiled at Gojyo as he resumed his stance.
"Don't touch my hair," Gojyo snapped, turning around to throw a weak punch.
"Then maybe you should cut it," Hakkai replied.
Hakkai blocked the punch, stepping out and pulling Gojyo into a standing armbar.
Gojyo ducked and pulled Hakkai, putting him now in the armbar.
Hakkai turned towards Gojyo, reaching across to grab his trapped hand and pulling it out of the armbar, throwing and elbow back towards Gojyo. He tried to step back into the strike, but his leg bumped Gojyo's and he stumbled, wavering awkwardly.
Gojyo's knee buckled under him, causing Hakkai's leg to crumble. They fell back to the floor.
"Enough!" Sanzo called, stepping down. "I've seen enough."
“I want him,” Gojyo panted from the floor. “Hakkai’s my co-pilot.”
Hakkai got up, offering a hand to Gojyo. Taking it gratefully, Gojyo looked expectantly at Sanzo as he rubbed his shoulder where Hakkai had struck him.
“I won’t allow it,” Sanzo frowned looking at the two.
“Why the hell not? You saw that, right?” Gojyo turned to look at Hakkai. “Tell me you felt that connection. You’ve done this before, you know how it’s supposed to feel.”
Hakkai made eye contact with Sanzo before dropping his gaze. “I have work to do.” He walked past Gojyo, picking up his shoes and exiting the combat room. Gojyo stood in the middle of the floor deflated.
As everyone filed out of the room, Gojyo walked to the edge of the mat, putting his shoes on and grabbing his over shirt. He’d felt something, he was certain. Sure, they weren’t the best matched for fighting against each other, but Gojyo couldn’t help but think they’d be dynamite fighting together. He had to convince Hakkai.
Luckily Hakkai hadn’t made it too far, still tying his boots as Gojyo rounded the corner to their rooms. “Don’t lie to me, man. You had to feel that connection.”
Hakkai stood, for once a smile not gracing his features. “I would not be a suitable partner for you.”
“Why the hell not?” Gojyo asked, coming closer and resting a hand on Hakkai’s shoulder. “You said it yourself, I ain’t got the experience or the fighting style for this, but you do. We’ll be sharing brains and you can make up for what I lack. A little spontaneity is good in fight, yeah? Well I got that covered.”
Hakkai looked uncertain still, but Gojyo could see that his words were having an effect. “Come on, dude,” he said a little quieter. “You wouldn’t have agreed to spar with me if you didn’t want to get back in a Jaeger.”
A smile had crept onto Hakkai’s face, but it was smaller and genuine this time. “Convince Sanzo and I’ll think about it.” With that, Hakkai climbed the steps to his room and shut the door.
It didn’t take long for Gojyo to find Sanzo in his office. The room was sparse and mostly contained dusty boxes half opened like someone couldn’t decide whether to unpack or never got around to it. It felt bare and unwelcome. Gojyo wasn't surprised to see that Sanzo lived like a monk. “Sanzo?”
“Hakkai will not be your co-pilot,” he said without looking up from his paperwork.
“I didn’t even ask you anything yet,” Gojyo said as he entered the room, taking a seat across from Sanzo.
“Why else would you come in here than to ask for something stupid.”
Gojyo frowned. “You got me there,” he said leaning forward, “but I want Hakkai as my co-pilot.”
“You don’t know what you want,” Sanzo said, setting his pen down and taking off his glasses to look at Gojyo. “Hakkai would not be a good match for you.”
“You saw us, though and Hakkai felt it too! We got something.”
“You’ve never successfully drifted with anyone because you hold onto too much in the drift. Hakkai will bring too much in with him and you two will fail,” Sanzo said. “You’re ill matched.”
“At least just give us a chance to try,” Gojyo reasoned. “If we fail then we fail, but if we succeed, you have another functional Jaeger.”
Sanzo sighed. “If I say no, you’re going to come back again and again until I say yes.”
Gojyo grinned. “I’ll be back every day.”
“Fine. But if you fail, know you set this project back days with your stupidity.”
“Yeah, yeah, we’ll be great. Thanks.” Gojyo got up and left to go find Hakkai. Sanzo couldn’t shake the feeling this would end poorly.
Walking into the science lab, Gojyo took note of all the Kaiju parts that littered the room. “Hey there.”
“Gojyo!” Goku came over covered in detoxified Kaiju blue. “Welcome to the lab!”
“I came down to see what you were working on,” Gojyo said pulling up one of the spinning chairs. “Looks like you got some good samples.”
“They’re from California,” Goku said.
“I probably know the guys who collected your samples.”
“Really?” Goku asked, heading back around the table to his sample.
“Yeah, I even could get you an in with some guys around here.”
“That would be amazing!”
Gojyo ruffled Goku’s hair. “Just let me know when you want me to hook you up.”
“I’ve been dying to get my hand on a brain. I’d love to know how their brains work,” Goku said thoughtfully. “Like really work. But the primary brain rots before you can get through the skull.”
“If only there was a way to drift with the secondary brain?” Gojyo mused.
Goku looked at him, mouth gaping. “That’s a brilliant idea!”
“What?” Gojyo said, raising an eyebrow. “It’d be impossible.”
“You could totally use the same technology as the Jaeger drift to connect to the brain. I have a part of a brain here. I could do that!”
“Settle down, kid. You gotta get Sanzo’s permission for that tech and he’s not gunna let you have it. Not when we only got three working Jaegers.”
“I’m sure I could scrounge something up,” Goku muttered to himself, getting Kaiju guts on his face as he thought.
“Kid, it’s not gunna work,” Gojyo said. But Goku was already buried back into the Kaiju parts, pouring over his notes.
Nataku came in, took one look at Goku and turned on Gojyo. “What idea do you give him?”
“I just suggested it would be interesting to drift with a Kaiju brain but there is no way it would work,” Gojyo said.
“And no way he could get the parts,” Nataku added.
“Exactly,” Gojyo said, looking over at Goku. “But I don’t know what he’s thinking now.”
“Sha Gojyo to the command, please” the announcement came over the speaker system.
“Duty calls.” Gojyo got up, taking one last look at the kid. “See ya!” He called but Goku was buried in his work.
Goku spent the next few hours quietly and quickly collecting scraps from the Jaeger repairs. It didn’t take him long to put together makeshift drift gear.
“This is a recording of Son Goku and I’m gunna drift with a Kaiju brain. So if anyone is listening to his, I blame Gojyo for this idea. So if I make it through this, I’ve proved you wrong and it’s totally possible…and if I die, well, that sucks.” Goku put on the pons cap. “Alright, here goes nothing. In 3, 2, 1…”
There was a blinding pain that shot through his head. He could see himself talking to Gojyo, meeting Nataku in the lab for the first time, his first Kaiju part, the attack that left him alone, Sanzo stepping out of his Jaeger, the sun blinding behind him and knowing he wasn’t alone anymore.
The memories that began to stream in were no longer his own. Kaiju’s modifying bigger Kaiju’s. The breech opening. Dinosaurs, complete with feathers. Waiting, thousands of years of waiting and planning. Opening again. California. Its death.
“GOKU!” Nataku shut off the pons system, breaking the Neural handshake. “Answer me! Are you okay?”
Goku blinked a few times, wiping his nose, discovering it was bleeding. “We gotta warn Sanzo. It’s bigger than we thought.”
Gojyo had been in a Jaeger test before, so he shouldn’t be this excited to get into a fitting metal suit. He and Hakkai had done well in the combat room and the test sync. But this was the real deal. He’d be inside Hakkai’s head and Hakkai in his. Hakkai was the first person he had felt a connection with like this. Optimistic that this would be the connection he needed to become a pilot, Gojyo headed to the Drivesuit room with a spring in his step.
He met Hakkai there. “Are you ready for this?” Gojyo asked, trying not to sound too eager.
“This will prove to be an interesting experience.” Having Kanan ripped from his head was Hakkai’s last experience in the drift. He knew that would be the first thing he saw when he went into the drift. He may have had a good connection with Gojyo in the combat room, but Gojyo’s number of failed drift tests still had him doubting whether or not this would actually succeed.
Gojyo tried not to let Hakkai’s dispassionate answer shake his confidence. He had to remind himself that the last time Hakkai had been in a drivesuit, things had gone badly. It was understandable that the guy might not be chomping at the bit like he was. Gojyo tried not to fidget or get too excited as they made their way to the outfitting area.
It didn’t take him long to get on the circuitry suit, doing his best not to check out Hakkai. The wetsuit like fabric clung to him, accentuating his lithe body. Gojyo tied up half his hair as a distraction. His hair had been shorter in the academy, so he wasn’t sure quite what to do with it.
The techs came in to help attach the drive suit to Gojyo and Hakkai. It took a little finagling but Gojyo’s tech found a place to shove his hair so it wouldn’t mess with the circuitry or catch on the machinery. Since this was just a sync test, he was let off with a warning that he either need to braid it or cut it before he was in again or the tech would take scissors to it the next time the put the drive suit on. Slipping the helmets on, Hakkai and Gojyo took their places on the elevator to bring them up to the top of the Jaeger.
“They won’t have the legs connected, just the arms. This is just a test run to see if we will be compatible and can move in the Jaeger,” Hakkai explained.
“Let’s do this,” Gojyo grinned, looking at Hakkai.
They entered the head, getting into position before the tech connected to their drivesuits. They put the helmets on, the relay gel filling up the front of the mask before receding to disperse throughout the helmet. Over the coms they could hear Zakuro:
“Initiating neural handshake in 3, 2, 1…”
Thoughts and memories rushed through Gojyo’s mind. He could see himself leaving the academy. The nauseating feeling of uselessness rising, engulfing him as fresh as the day he ran. The memory of taking a plane over the ocean, the uncertainty of a new start and the loneliness of being on his own for the first time in a strange city. Meeting Banri in an alleyway, flashed before him along with delving into scavenger work. The smell of the first Kaiju corpse he picked apart. Meeting his (no, Hakkai’s) sister for the first time. Falling for her like drowning, finding out they were in fact twins, the surprise and horror, replaced quickly by resignation and anxious secrecy. The briefest touch of another mind touching Gojyo’s. Hers.
“Neural Handshake is steady,” Zakuro’s voice came through the coms. “You two alright in there?”
Both Hakkai and Gojyo opened their eyes. It was like seeing through two sets of eyes at once without being disoriented. Gojyo could feel Hakkai’s nerves and a spark of sadness at seeing Kanan again and Hakkai could feel Gojyo’s hero worship of his through his childhood. It was tinged with embarrassment. He could feel Gojyo start to pull away. “It’s okay, Gojyo. Concentrate on the silence of the drift,” Hakkai reassured him. He could feel Gojyo shift back to normal.
The tinny robotic voice said, “Right hemisphere calibration complete,” as Hakkai and Gojyo raised and turned over their right arms.
“Left hemisphere calibration complete,” as the two made the same gesture with the other arm.
“Your handshake is stable. Go ahead and move about,” Zakuro directed.
Hakkai and Gojyo brought their hands up in a guard stance that was a mix of Gojyo’s arms tight to his face, but Hakkai’s open hands. The bond was strong between them. Hakkai looked over to tell Gojyo a good job but all he saw was Kanan getting ripped out of the Jaeger. He could feel her getting pulled from his mind like someone tearing into him, gutting him. Hakkai knew he was chasing the RABIT.
“White Dragon, you’re out of sync,” Zakuro’s worried voice said.
“I’m aware,” Hakkai said, “I am working on controlling it.”
“It’s not just you, it’s Gojyo too.”
Gojyo had gone from fine to feeling Hakkai’s loss, triggering his own. He flashed back to memories he thought he’d forgotten. His parents’ suicide, and being left alone, and the day his stepmother died.
The first Kaiju attack had been in San Francisco. That was the other side of the world to Gojyo. The next in Tokyo. Still far away from his home in Hong Kong. She was hitting him again. He didn’t remember why for the longest time, but he could see the broken rice bowl on the floor. Panic and terror flooded through him. There was a roar and the sound of sirens, but it didn’t matter to either of them. She was intent on hurting him, he on escaping. He lost his balance as the floor seemed to shake and tremble. At the time he thought she just hit him hard enough in the head, but it was Kaiju making land. If Gojyo had been in a position to look out the window, he could have seen the monster barreling towards them. This high up, if it hit the building, they would die. Maybe that would have been better, but that was a more recent thought placed on an old memory.
Jien barged into the apartment, yelling something, but it was lost to the sound of breaking glass. She stumbled back, catching Gojyo’s shirt and cheek with her nails as the floor crumbled beneath her. Jien grabbed Gojyo and she fell away.
Jien carried him back out of the collapsing building. Hakkai was there, telling him to focus. He felt his legs give out like the building, his sight coming back.
“You’re okay, just breathe,” Hakkai said, holding Gojyo as he pulled off the helmet. As soon as he’d regained his own control, Hakkai had found Gojyo trapped in a memory, trying to prevent Hakkai from seeing it, only ensnaring himself further.
Sanzo had ordered the plug to be pulled. Unintentionally, Gojyo had fired up the elbow rocket, looking for all intents like he was about to throw a punch towards the command center. With that much power behind the arm, Gojyo would have destroyed the entire command center.
The tight drivesuit and heavy armor constricting him did little to calm him, but it Gojyo something to ground himself with. Hakkai could see Gojyo shaking under all the layers. “It’s okay, Gojyo,” Hakkai said. “You’re okay.”
Helping him up to stand, Hakkai guided the wobbly Gojyo out to the drivesuit room. The tech from before didn’t say anything as he helped Gojyo out of the gear.
As soon as Gojyo got out of the circuitry suit and into his own clothes, he ran. Just like all those years ago, he ran.
He knew it. He fucking knew it. Gojyo’d never be a Jaeger pilot if he couldn’t keep his head in the drift. He always chased the rabbit. This is why he left the first time. He was useless as a pilot. He’d never been able to drift well. He could sync fine in the tests but as soon as the neural link connected, it was a lovely trip down bad memory lane. The Random Access Brain Impulse Triggers always got him.
Hakkai had a hard time too, being his first drift since Kanan died. Gojyo had felt that like a hole in his chest. The despair was suffocating. But like any practiced and disciplined ranger, Hakkai had gotten a handle on his shit while Gojyo got stuck.
It wasn’t until he was there that Gojyo found himself on a catwalk overlooking the Jaegers. He used to come up here when he felt alone or in the way to watch the mechanics work or the Jaeger’s get deployed. It was loud and it drowned out the noise in his head. Sanzo always said to bring nothing with him into the drift, to hold nothing once he was in there. But that didn’t work for Gojyo. There was just too much. Too much in his head, too much in Hakkai’s or any other failed partner he’d tried. There was too much he tried not to think about, tried to bury far back in his head. Connecting with someone just brought all that forward and Gojyo would try to throw a wall up, only to seal himself into his own memories.
And worse yet, he had almost killed everyone in his moment of fear. Plopping down heavily, Gojyo dangled his legs off the catwalk, resting his chin on his arms on the railing. He should have just stayed in California. At least there he was only a danger to himself.
It wasn’t until Hakkai sat down that Gojyo had even noticed anyone coming. Hakkai adopted Gojyo’s position on the rail, looking out over the Jaegers with the sparks flying and the noise of machinery. They sat in silence.
Gojyo thought he should feel some of that ghost drift, but he knew he hadn’t connected enough for that. Still, it didn’t feel like Hakkai was judging him or prying. Just sharing a moment of failure.
It was too loud to talk anyway. Hakkai shifted and rested a hand on Gojyo’s shoulder. Gojyo peeked up at him through the hair that had fallen out of his ponytail. Hakkai wasn’t looking at him though and Gojyo could almost feel that sadness and despair he had earlier in the drift. Hakkai hadn’t wanted anyone in his head again. To lose a sister, twin, and lover all while connected in the drift was more than Gojyo could even imagine, even having felt some of it in the drift.
And he had just made it worse. He’d convinced Hakkai to be his co-pilot and relive that. What a shitty partner he made.
“Sorry,” Gojyo mumbled just barely loud enough that Hakkai could hear him over the din of machinery.
“First drifts are always hard,” Hakkai said. “We didn’t have many common memories to link us. It’s not surprising we got stuck in our own.”
Gojyo just nodded.
“Come with me, I know a place with an even better view,” Hakkai said, standing and holding out his hand to Gojyo. Gojyo took it, gathering himself. Walking down the catwalk, Hakkai led Gojyo to a ladder and started to climb. Gojyo followed him up, focusing on each step the higher they climbed.
It wasn’t that Gojyo was afraid of heights but rather the further they went between floors, the easier it would be to slip and fall. At this height he’d likely miss the catwalk and plunge to the ground. But falling would be too easy and even as tempting as not dealing with this failure would be, it didn’t warrant letting go. Anyone could fall. Moving forward and up was much harder.
They reached the last catwalk and Hakkai walked over to a door. He pulled out a ring of keys out of his pocket. “Perks of restoring a Jaeger,” he grinned slyly before opening the door. Gojyo followed behind him, finding himself on the roof of part of the shatterdome looking toward the city. Hakkai shut the door behind him, leading him up another, albeit much shorter, ladder to a small observation post. “Before we had the algorithm, this used to be a place to watch for Kaijus,” Hakkai explained, opening the door. “Now it’s just nice for a quiet place to sit out of the wind.”
Gojyo entered the post, turing to see the city. “It looks peaceful.”
“There are no Kaiju tonight,” Hakkai commented.
“Lucky for them,” Gojyo grimaced.
“You were right though,” Hakkai said, standing a little closer to Gojyo. Gojyo raised a skeptical eyebrow. “In the drift, I could feel it. The connection was not like what I felt with Kanan. We are compatible, making up for what the other lacks. As long as they don’t set us aside, and we make it through a drift, we would be a great team.”
“If they don’t bench us,” Gojyo agreed. “You were fine, but me… I… I can’t drift.”
“You’re not the only one who got stuck,” Hakkai said. “And from what I saw, it’s understandable.”
“Yeah, well I just proved you right too, I’m not pilot material,” Gojyo smiled, but it was a fake as Hakkai’s usually were.
Hakkai sighed, sitting in one of the old swivel chairs. “I was nervous going in too. But also kind of excited. I always liked to drift with Kanan. To have someone else in my head. We’re twins, and it was like we were finally one person. More than we could ever be when we were apart.”
“I felt that,” Gojyo admitted quietly, still not taking his eyes off the city. “You tried to recreate it outside of the drift. More than siblings, more like lovers. You knew you two were twins but it didn’t stop you.”
“You must think I’m crazy,” Hakkai said, sighing again, “Or at least in need of some serious counseling.
“I mean, from the outside, it’s a bit weird, I ain’t gunna lie.” Gojyo shrugged at he turned to face Hakkai. “But, I mean, I’ve been in your head. I get it.”
“Thank you,” Hakkai whispered. They stayed in silence for several moments.
“But that doesn’t solve our problem.”
“I can’t drift. Even with you.”
“You can, though,” Hakkai insisted. “You just need to trust me, okay? You can’t hide anything in the drift, and as much as Sanzo likes to tell people not to bring anything into that bridge, sometimes, it is the commonalities we share, loss, loneliness, a refusal to give up, that’s where we connect. You are not alone in the drift. We are there together.”
Gojyo gave Hakkai a small smile. “You think we can do it?”
“Yes. We just need to be honest with ourselves and each other in the drift. No judgement, just us,” Hakkai said.
Partner’s then?” Gojyo held out a hand.
“Partners,” Hakkai stood and put his arm around Gojyo in a way that mimicked Gojyo’s own usual move. Hakkai must have picked it up in the drift, but it made Gojyo feel better.
If they didn’t get benched, they could do this.
Gojyo heard shouting from Sanzo’s office as he waited with Hakkai outside of it. They exchanged looks. He heard a “Get out and cool off,” from Sanzo as Hazel walked out.
“Oh look, the rookie and the lone pilot,” Hazel sneered. “Y’all nearly take out anyone again?”
“I thought Southerners were supposed to be charming?” Hakkai smiled at him.
“I don’t get my partner killed,” Hazel shot back.
“How about you watch your fucking mouth,” Gojyo grabbed the front of Hazel’s shirt.
“You’re one to talk, you can’t drift,” Hazel frowned.
Gojyo hauled off and decked him. Hazel fell back flat on his ass, sprawling haphazardly against the concrete and barely managing to catch himself before his head smacked against the floor. He scrambled back to his feet, his tailored shirt pulling awkwardly and hindering his stilted movements even further. With an incoherent shout he lunged, throwing a punch towards Gojyo's face. Hakkai neatly stepped in, parrying the punch to veer off toward Gojyo's right even as he caught Hazel's wrist. Hakkai struck out, hitting Hazel's elbow with a sharp crack of breaking bone and letting him crumple like a discarded puppet to the floor.
“That’s enough,” Sanzo roared, smacking Gojyo and Hakkai upside the head with a harisan. Gojyo didn’t even know where he’d pulled it from.
“I leave you idiots alone for five minutes and now you’ve broken his arm. I need him for the Jaeger and now you’ve dropped us down a pilot!”
Hakkai had enough sense to look guilty whereas Gojyo got right up in Sanzo’s face. “Then keep his mouth shut! He’s over here spouting of shit he doesn’t know jack about!”
“Cool it, hot head. We’re down to one functional Jaeger thanks to you two. You see how much trouble we’re in?”
“Give us another shot and you’ll have two,” Gojyo argued.
“After both of your displays today, there is no way I’m letting you two in a Jaeger. You’re dangerous not only to yourselves but to everyone in the Shatterdome.” Gojyo fumed but Hakkai put a hand on his shoulder.
“Let us try one more time. We have that much time,” Hakkai requested calmly.
Sanzo frowned. “We’ll see. But until then, you’re both sitting out fights.” Sanzo turned to Gojyo. “You can be the one to tell your brother why his crew is going out there alone.”
After getting a cold shoulder from nearly everyone in the dining area, Gojyo took his dinner back to his room to eat. There was a knock on the door. Looking through the peephole, Gojyo say Jien standing there. He opened to door.
“Hey little bro, heard you had a rough time in the drift today,” Jien said coming in as Gojyo stepped back.
“Like every other time,” Gojyo grumbled, sinking back on the bed.
“What’s holding you back?” Jien asked, sitting down next to Gojyo, nudging him with his shoulder. “Still the same thing?”
“Yeah,” Gojyo admitted. “It’s Mom. She’s…she’s stuck in here,” he pointed to his head. “Whenever I drift, she’s there.”
“For a long time, I had the same problem,” Jien sighed. “But Kou and Yaone? They have their triggers in the drift too. You just have to sort of surrender yourself to their trust. They get it; they see it too. Hakkai’s been in your head. He gets it. You just have to let help you.”
Gojyo nodded. “You make it sound so easy.”
“It’s not. But you two had a rhythm there for a little bit. You two were doing well. That space in the drift where you two were is where you have to stay. It is hard not to get distracted by RABITs but look for your partner in the drift, let their presence ground you and you’ll do the same for him.”
Gojyo rested his head on Jien’s shoulder. “It ain’t gunna matter, Sanzo put us out of commission.”
“You never know what will happen, baby bro,” Jien said. “Now buck up, the next Kaiju is coming in a few hours, according to that little guy’s calculations. Sanzo wants you two on deck to watch.”
“Be careful out there, yeah?” Gojyo said, as Jien stood up.
“I’ll do my best.”
Gojyo was about to go find Hakkai to go up to the command center when another knock came on his door. This was not the polite knock of Hakkai, nor the confident knock of his brother. No this was someone angry.
“Gojyo open the damn door!” Scuttling off the bed, Gojyo opened the door to find one incensed Sanzo and a dazed Goku. There was dried blood around his nose and his eyes looked a little bloodshot.
“You’re the idiot who suggested he drift with a Kaiju brain,” Sanzo yelled, forcing his way into the Gojyo’s room, dragging Goku behind.
“I didn’t suggest anything. I just said it would be interesting,” Gojyo argued. “Did he actually do it.”
“I did a little, yeah,” Goku piped up. “They’re trying to colonize us. They tried before with the dinosaurs, did you know they have feathers?”
“No, the dinosaurs. Anyway, I need to drift again,” Goku said. “But I don’t have another bit of brain.”
“You were a scavenger. Where can he get his hands on something like that?” Sanzo crossed his arms.
“You want him to do it again?” Gojyo asked.
“No, but we could use any intel we can get,” Sanzo grumbled. Gojyo looked between them for a moment before going to the small desk on the other side of the room. He rummaged around in the desk for a few minutes before pulling out a large card.
“This will get you access to Ni Jianyi,” Gojyo handed to the card to Goku. “Hold it under UV and there will be a crow and stuff on it. Follow the UV marks that match once you get into the Bone Slums and you’ll find him,” Gojyo explained.
“Thanks,” Goku said, taking the card.
“I only worked for Ni once. Just be careful. He’s a slimy motherfucker so don’t trust him. But he can get you that second brain.”
“How am I going to get him to agree to give me the brain?” Goku asked.
Sanzo jumped in before Gojyo could say anything. “Tell him that the military will continue to overlook his black market dealings instead of arresting him.”
Goku took a UV flashlight with him as he walked through the Bone Slums. Finding the markings weren’t as hard as he thought it would be. It was a crow picking at the head of a Kaiju. Following the UV signs, Goku found his way to a store front.
“Here to buy some bone powder?” A blond with a bad burn scar asked.
“I-I no?” Goku said and the man came over and draped himself on him.
“Are you sure? A young man like you must have plenty of playmates. It makes for a great long time.” He held out the o in long enough to make Goku uncomfortable.
“Actually no,” Goku said, pushing him off. “I’m here to talk to Nii Jianyi.”
“Oo! My master! Very well,” the blond said, pulling a hidden level and the shelves behind him opened like a door into a back room with Kaiju parts on display. “Right this way.”
Goku ran over to one of the displays where they had section of Kaiju muscle floating in a preservative. Across the room, Goku caught a glimpse of a Kaiju Skinmite squirming in someone’s hands.
“Wow! I thought you couldn’t keep them alive!”
Goku felt a shadow creep up behind him, speaking directly into his ear, “They stay alive if you regularly dip them in ammonia.”
Startled, Goku turned around to see a man with glasses looming just behind him. He was slight and looked non-threatening but looks were deceiving.
“N-Nice,” Goku stuttered, recovering. “I need a Kaiju brain.”
“You seem like someone who knows a lot about Kaiju,” the man said.
“Yes, I study them.”
“Well then you must know the brain doesn’t last long enough to get through the skull.”
Goku frowned. “But there is the secondary brain. They’re like dinosaurs, their bodies are too big to just have one brain.”
The man grinned and it made Goku shiver. “Ni Jianyi,” he held out a hand.
Goku took it, shaking it hard. “I was told you could get me a brain.”
“And just what are you going to do with it?” Ni asked leaning closer, studying Goku.
“Study it?” Goku said, feeling more than a little creeped out.
“Now if I believed you, I might be willing to generously give you a secondary brain out of the goodness of my heart to further the study of Kaijus,” Ni said, standing up and crossing his arms. “But I don’t.”
Goku swallowed thickly at the sudden change in demeanor.
“So why don’t you tell me who you are, why you’re here, and what gives you the right to demand a brain from me?”
Taking a deep breath and bolstering himself, Goku looked him right in the eyes saying. “I’m Son Goku and I work for the military. If you give me this brain, then we will continue to overlook your black market dealings. If you refuse, we will arrest you.”
Ni blinked unshaken. “Is that? That’s your big threat.” He yawned mockingly. “Don’t waste my time.” He started to walk away.
“I drifted with a Kaiju and I need another brain to get more information!’ Goku called after him. Ni stopped short turning back to him, looking honestly surprised.
“You drifted with a Kaiju brain? Did I hear that right?”
“Well that certainly makes your proposal that much more interesting,” Ni said. “I’ll allow you to use the secondary brain from the next Kaiju that makes landfall.”
“What’s the catch?” Goku asked.
“Well you’ve already assured my protection with my cooperation. Just insure that stands or we will have words,” Ni smiled. Goku was more than happy to leave there.
Half an hour until the next Kaiju came through the breach and the Shatterdome was a mass of organized chaos to get the Jaegers ready for combat. They’d be sending out India Tango to meet the Kaiju. Soul Hawk had to be left behind, partly to save it for the final attack, but also because Hazel’s shoulder was still healing.
Hakkai and Gojyo stood next to Sanzo in the command center as Zakuro talked to India Tango heading out. They were benched after their failure, left to watch brothers and friends go out with the very real possibility they may not come back.
India Tango was alone out there against who knew how many Kaiju. Waiting and watching was the worst. Gojyo had been in this position of wondering if he’d see his brother again. He hated it every time. If Doku didn’t come back, it would very much be his fault for fighting with Hazel and failing to drift.
Gojyo listened and watched the screens as India Tango made contact with the Kaiju. Biting his lip, he listened to the sensors as they lit up from damage. India Tango took down one of the Kaijus, but the other was still lurking. As they were about to strike, it sent out some sort of EMP and India Tango went off line. There would be no way to tell if Kougaiji, Yaone, or Doku would survive or not.
Watching India Tango’s power get knocked out was Gojyo’s last straw. “Send us out.”
“What?” Hakkai and Sanzo asked in unison.
“I can't just sit here and watch India Tango be sitting ducks. Send. Us. Out. White Dragon is a Mark 3, it runs on nuclear power, the EMP won't affect us,” Gojyo argued.
Hakkai thought to argue, but he could see in the set of Gojyo's jaw that he wasn't about to back down. He's make himself stay present in the drift.
“I agree,” Hakkai said, standing shoulder to shoulder with Gojyo.
“You do?” Gojyo looked at Hakkai, before getting a sharp elbow to the ribs. “I mean, yeah, suit us up.”
“If you two cost us another Jaeger, don't come back,” Sanzo grumbled. That was as good of permission as they were going to get. Hakkai and Gojyo ran down to the prep room, quickly throwing on the circuitry suits and up to the drive suit room. Hakkai was quickly fitted in his suit and sound. Gojyo’s attendant was trying to figure what to do with Gojyo's hair. Gojyo strode away from his attendant, who made an indignant squawk, and made good on his first attendant’s threat. He pulled his hair into a tail at the base of his head and picked up a box cutter that lay on the counter. Opening it, he sawed off the tail, leaving him with an uneven but shorter cut.
The attendant stood there with his mouth open, staring. “Close you mouth and put the damn helmet on,” Gojyo grumbled. The attendant pulled the helmet down and connected his spine. They traveled to to the White Dragon where they got into position but wouldn’t drift until they made it out to the breach.
Gojyo tried not to feel nervous as they stepped into the controls. They could feel the Jaeger lifting into the air as they were carried to the drop spot. Not long now before they drifted. He had to get it right this time. This wasn’t practice and any mistake could mean death.
The Jaeger lurched as it was dropped into the ocean, not far from where India Tango still stood. Two bodies on top of the Jaeger shot off flares to keep the Kaiju occupied.
“Let’s give them an hand,” Gojyo said.
“And take the Kaiju apart,” Hakkai agreed.
Over the comms they heard, “Initiating Neural Handshake in 3...2...1-”
Once again Gojyo’s mind was flooded with memories, threatening to overwhelm him. But memories of the rooftop came with those, grounding Gojyo. Latching onto that feeling of camaraderie, he stabilized in the drift, finding Hakkai there as well.
They did it. Gojyo grinned. “Now let’s kick some Kaiju ass.”
The White Dragon advanced on the Kaiju. Gojyo could feel them working in tandem. They attacked. Hakkai’s strategic and vicious attacks with Gojyo’s spontaneity and reactionary movements, they were able to take the Kaiju apart.
The ocean around them glowed with Kaiju Blue.
“There’s one more signature!” Zakuro warned. “It must have made it past our sensors when India Tango went down. It’s about to make landfall!”
“We need to make a run for it,” Hakkai said, glancing at Gojyo. The drag from the ocean slowed them down at first but they eventually picked up speed. The sheer power underneath them left both Gojyo and Hakkai impressed and exhilarated.
It wasn’t hard to see where the Kaiju had been. The downed buildings and screams of mass hysteria were a good indication. Hakkai spotted the Kaiju and they took off after it. Grabbing the Kaiju by its ugly head, the flung it back towards the harbor and away from the city.
They held down the Kaiju as Gojyo readied the elbow rocket, letting the arm fly. The Kaiju’s jaw broke with a sicken crack.
“Let’s light ‘em up!” Gojyo called as Hakkai powered up the Jaeger’s gauntlet fixed Pulse Launcher.
“Ready?” Hakkai asked, smiling. Gojyo nodded. “Fire!” An orb of dark matter hit the Kaiju.
Gojyo nudged it with the Jaeger’s boot. “Ya dead?”
“Let’s just see if he’s okay.” Hakkai shot off another blast. He tisked. “How unfortunate. I don’t think he’ll pull through.”
Gojyo and Hakkai exchanged looks before breaking out into relieved laughter.
Back at the Shatterdome, a crowd awaited them. As soon as Doku saw Gojyo he pulled him into a hug. “Way to go!”
Once he let go, Gojyo rested an arm on Hakkai. “We really did it,” he said so just Hakkai could hear.
“We definitely did,” Hakkai smiled.
“Reset the clocks for the final time!” Sanzo called out. “The next time a Jaeger drops, we will close the Breach forever!” The crowd cheered.
Hope settled in the chests of the Jaeger pilots.
“This is the worst idea you’ve ever had,” Nataku said, helping Goku set up the makeshift Pons system to drift with the Kaiju again.
“Yeah, but there’s important information we need here,” Goku said, not looking up as he connected the system to the secondary brain.
“You’re going to get yourself killed,” Nataku argued.
“I survived it once,” Goku said, shrugging. “I should be fine.”
“You’re not listening, dummy,” Nataku said, coming over to stand by Goku. “You can’t handle the neural load on your own. You need another partner. Like the pilots do.”
Goku paused to look at Nataku before handing him the second Pons helmet. “Well I brought two, just in case I needed an extra but I can hook it up easily.”
“With two of us, this should help share the neural load and we can get back to Sanzo to tell him what we found.”
Goku connected the second Pons helmet to the system. “Ready?” He asked, putting on the helmet.
“As I’ll ever be,” Nataku replied, putting on his.
“Let’s do this! 3. 2. 1…”
Goku could feel the pull into the drift again, this time with a companion.
Yaone had broken a leg when the three of the India Tango pilots had left the controls to find flare guns. Of the two that were left, only Dokugakuji had studied Mark-5s and could pilot Soul Hawk with Gat.
The plan was to go to the Breach, drop a nuke in the Bridge while it was open for Kaiju, and detonate while it was half way down, causing the bridge to collapse.
Both sets of pilots headed towards their Jaegers from the drive suit room. Doku stopped Gojyo before they got to their respective doors to head up. “You know I love you, right Kid?”
“Yeah,” Gojyo said, looking away, a little embarrassed. “You too.”
“And I’m real proud of you,” Jien added, pulling Gojyo into a hug.
“Don’t get all mushy on me,” Gojyo said, trying to push him off but not really succeeding.
“If anything happens to me out there, I want you to know that, okay?” Jien said seriously, still hugging Gojyo.
“Okay,” Gojyo gave in and gave him a quick but firm hug. “But we’ll both be back here and hanging you later so let’s go kick some Kaiju ass,” Gojyo said.
Doku just rolled his eyes. “And you can get a real haircut.”
“Shut up, I had to go save your ass and I haven’t had time to do more than even it out kinda.”
“If you two are done with your family time, we should probably head out,” Hakkai reminded them.
“Hey,” Gojyo said, giving Doku a quick punch to the shoulder. “Don’t die out there, ‘kay?”
“You neither little bro,” Doku said, following Gat to their door. Now separate, the two sets of pilots rode the platform up to enter their Jaegers. It was time to end this.
They connected in the drift before they flew out. It would have been too dangerous to establish a neural handshake out there.
Flying out to the drop zone, the pilots waited in their Jaegers with baited breath. This would be it, either they’d succeed, or they’d die trying. Nervousness bounced between Hakkai and Gojyo in the drift, but it was a good kind. Just a warning not to get cocky, but not enough to be paralyzing.
“Prepare for the Breach to open,” Zakuro said.
Both Jaegers prepared for a fight. Three Kaiju came through. An unheard of amount.
“You distract them and we’ll bring the bomb through,” Doku said over the comms. Soul Hawk was faster than White Dragon and would be able to get through quicker, thus why it was armed with the nuke.
Before White Dragon could get a shot off, the Kaiju split up, two attacking each Jaeger, the third disappearing. Soul Hawk took a hard hit before knocking the Kaiju back.
White Dragon was not as lucky. The Kaiju knocked the Jaeger to the ocean floor, tearing at the body and damaging one of the legs. Hakkai managed to fire of a shot, hitting the Kaiju but only enough to make it back off. As White Dragon struggled to a stand, the Kaiju came back for another attack.
“Alright, ugly, enough of this!” Gojyo said as he and Hakkai activated one of Hakkai’s add ons. From Hakkai’s side, Gojyo pulled a a retractable bladed staff, snapping it into its full length. Swing the blade in a fluid arc, they tore into the Kaiju, killing it.
Meanwhile, Soul Hawk was almost to the breech when the Kaiju that attacked before hit them from the side while the third Kaiju that had disappeared earlier hit them from the back. White Dragon started to limp over to assist but was struggling to move quickly.
“Our original plan isn’t going to work!” Goku said bursting through the command center door.
“You need a DNA signature of a Kaiju before to open the bridge!” Nataku matched his enthusiasm.
“What would work then?” Sanzo asked, stepping away from the comms.
“You need a Kaiju body to open the bridge,” Nataku started. “From there-”
Goku jumped in,“The bridge should open-”
“Allowing you access to blow up the Bridge-”
“Thus destroying the Breach,” Goku concluded.
“Alright, you four, you’re going to need to bring a Kaiju to the breach to get into the Bridge.”
“Got it! We have a body.” Gojyo’s voice crackled through the comms.
“Time to end this,” Hakkai’s voice joined him.
“The manual system for releasing the nuke’s been destroyed,” Gat’s voice came on through the comms.
“You won’t be able to defuse it that way,” Hakkai replied, looking at Gojyo.
“We can… but we’d go with it.” Doku said.
“That’s a shitty idea, we need to think of something else,” Gojyo argued.
“We’re running out of time,” Doku said. Soul Hawk was still fighting the two Kaiju. “If we detonate, we can take out these last two Kaiju, and you can use your nuclear reactor as a bomb and get out with the escape pods.”
“No, can’t you do the same with your Jaeger?” Gojyo asked.
“They don’t run on nuclear power like we do,” Hakkai said.
Gojyo bit his lip and Hakkai could feel the ache of loss growing in Gojyo.
“I don’t like this plan,” Gojyo conceeded.
“I know. I love you little brother,” Doku said.
“I love you too, Jien,” Gojyo said, his voice cracking.
“Tell Hazel He can find me in the drift,” Gat added.
“We’ll need to brace ourselves,” Hakkai said, moving with Gojyo to dig their staff into the body of the Kaiju and into the ocean floor.
The ocean rushed past White Dragon in the explosion from the nuke. A moment later it rushed back to fill the gap. Though the gap in Gojyo’s chest that Jien had left could not be filled as easily. Hakkai could feel Gojyo starting to slip towards memories of his brother.
The pressure from the water rushing back damaged the internal workings of White Dragon. If they didn’t hurry, they’d run out of oxygen.
“We have to finish this. So their sacrifice means something,” Hakkai said.
Gojyo nodded, getting a hold of himself. They began the long, dragging trek to the breech.
The breech read the Kaiju’s DNA and allowed them to open the bridge.
They dropped. Low oxygen warnings blared and Hakkai found Gojyo starting to slip into unconsciousness.
“Go, you’ve done the hard stuff. Anyone can fall,” Hakkai said, sending Gojyo to his escape pod. Hakkai climbed out of the mechanics to set the nuclear core into a melt down.
Gojyo’s pod burst to the surface, he opened the top of the pod, sucking in lungfuls of air. He was alone. Gojyo stood, keeping an eye out for Hakkai’s pod, but he couldn’t find it. Panic began to flood his body as he looked around. He couldn’t lose Hakkai too. Not after Jien.
A little ways off, another pod burst to the surface, but the top didn’t open. Jumping into the ocean, Gojyo swam over, getting the top off. Leaning over, Gojyo couldn’t hear Hakkai breathing. “Don’t you dare die on me!” Gojyo pulled him up to sitting. “Please,” he whispered, pressing his forehead to Hakkai’s.
“Oh dear,” Hakkai said. “What has you making that face?”
Gojyo pulled back, relieved. “Don’t you scare me like that ever again.”
“I won’t,” Hakkai said, sitting up more on his own. Gojyo could hear jets and helicopters flying towards them.
“We did it,” Gojyo said, pulling Hakkai into a hug.
“We definitely did.”