First Part: When everyone around you goes away…
When I was a boy there was a time, when my parents were still alive, that we would always make it for a walk. The day would eventually end and we would all take a stroll as a family in the evenings. In the times before the Opening Crisis occurred and everyone I cared about was swept away to be killed in the matter of a day. “The Opening” is what the local papers called the Bleed the first time it happened on our world. The Bleed is the most feared representation our universe can dredge up of the most basic of words: horror.
Anacranon had no sort of military being a colony moon of a bigger planet. When we were hit no one was prepared, nor had the slightest idea of how to proceed. Suddenly things that you could never imagine manifested out of thin air, or in space. Huge things and man sized things that I could only identify as monsters when I was a child. Eating, ravaging, destroying the people, the environment, even each other. These monster things were relentless and gorged forever.
When it came time to leave on my father’s ship we had gathered precious little for the trip. Basic amenities, and almost nothing else. Imagine taking off from a planet that has just been introduced to Hell. The Bleed looks different depending on where it takes place. On Anacranon it was blue portals shining for a moment, brief enough for the profile of a demon to walk through the light, and then the blue would fade from sight leaving an abomination in it’s wake. The blue shimmer was beautiful the first time it appeared. Then, when the news of the monsters that came with it hit the streets, everyone was trying to get off world – post haste. To avoid being eaten.
That trip off the moon really opened my eyes as a child. The space corps from the neighboring planet had taken wind to Anacranon’s troubles and they had arrived to help us. No, to save us. That was the day I got to see my first mecha! A sleek jet craft that could transform into a giant mechanized humanoid. It swooped by us transforming midair. From a jet to a bot, its movement was precise and beautiful. The pilot of that craft helped to destroy a cluster of debris which would have prevented another ship’s escape. Rescuing untold amounts of lives.
That was the day. The day I decided I not only wanted to save people the way that pilot had, but that I wanted to be a pilot in the planetary defense leagues. Keeping the space lanes safe from the wakes of the Bleed. If I could just get bigger and learn how to mech-jockey, then I could go anywhere. Do anything.
Thinking a long winded thought to myself I’d lost track of the environment. My dreams were quickly un-faceted as something ripped a hole in the hull and caused a blackout aboard the ship. Suddenly yellow caution lights lulled in rotating beacons across the ceiling. Mom commed me to get a suit and get ready for zero-g, something I’d only ever simulated. Then the caution lights turned to danger lights, the yellow brimming off to a heated red glow. Someone had tripped the danger alert, used in the most unusual of situations.
I made my way to the locker banks and retrieved a suit. Zipped up and slipped on the helmet, then started walking to the bridge. A sensible option, till I opened the door to a connecting hallway to find my father lying in a pool of his own blood. His entrails were lying about in piles and something with dissimilar foot prints had made its way out of his puddles to the door at the end of the hall.
I think to myself that my father deserved better, but that if I wanted to save my mother and younger sister I would have to act quickly. I retrieved the stun baton at my fathers waste, whilst reaching across his face to shut off his piercing gaze. Leaping up to head to the door the comm went off again.
“Kym! Oh. Kym? I’m dying. One of those things is here! Ahh! It’s! It’s killlling meeee…”
Nothing more came from the mic. My mother’s voice went silent. I reached for a wall comm to help locate Gena.
Reaching out hoarsely, “Gena, it’s Kym. Tell me where you are.”
The mic on the wall did nothing for a moment. Then a red light went green, a signal that overrides other mics at the point of the person using theirs aboard the ship. A hope that I might save her.
“Kym? I’m in the bunks. Hiding. I’ve locked the room so the air can’t get out. I heard mom. Oh god.”
Inquiring anything, “Stay there. Are you suited?”
“No. I ran in here as soon as the caution lights went off. I’ll look around. See if I can find something that fits.”
“I’ll get your suit from the racks,” I concluded desperately, “then I’m coming for you. Don’t open unless I knock.”
The sound in the room faded suddenly and the mic became useless. The doors had opened, all of them it appeared. Sucking the beloved air from the ship and leaving me in dead vacuum. Someone had tripped the all door open codes. Only my father and mother knew those codes. What could be happening? Thinking about it started to slow me down, so I sprinted into a flying crawl. Thrusting down the corridor I came eventually to the personal lockers again and located Gena’s gear. Rotating around towards another corridor I bolted forward with a kick off the wall.
It took a few minutes to get to the bunk after retrieving the suit, but I felt as if I hadn’t wasted any time. Yet I had. The lock on the door to her room was busted. As I approached the sensor opened the door for me. Then it happened, my meeting with a baby kaiju in the making: “Grozorloth the Taker.” As I would come to know him. He had a funny ability, and as he grew it only became more dangerous. Had I known I would have done a better job at our first meeting of trying to kill him.
Grozorloth was a parasitic kaiju, one that as it grew could potentially host larger subjects. He fancied calling himself “The Taker,” because he could forcibly take over his subjects and use them like dolls at his whim. Once he was finished with a body, he would violently leave it through whatever genitals it had to die bleeding. This I learned as I came into contact with Gena, but it wasn’t her. She turned to me.
“I know you brother. I have all her memories now. Your mother’s. Your sister’s. Your father was simply delicious. I know you,” Grozoloth’s voice sounded like a terrible rendition of a digital remaster, which added to the terror of his having grasped Gena by the spine and inserted himself through her ears, and lower body. She wasn’t dead yet, but she was completely subservient, and there I was helpless.
“I will return one day, maybe tomorrow. I grow tired and must leave now, but I will never forget the things I have seen here today. I will most certainly be thinking of you while I’m gone. Kymbalt Jartiss,” all this coming from his sisters mouth, in an amplified way that was completely inhuman.
I watched as the slug monster detached itself from my younger sister. Blood spilled out from between her legs and the little kaiju was like a slimy landed octopus for a moment as Gena fell back onto the ground and writhed in pain. The octopoid pointed a tentacle at me and as he did a blue aura grew around him. His slimy tentacle curled into a fist and it waved it around like a club.
I ran at the sluggish alien preparing for the mightiest of swings. It’s taunts were ceaseless as the blue aura dimmed him from sight. Just in time for my blow to miss and strike nothing but thin air. I dropped the baton as I drew in breathe to tide the rise of adrenaline surging through me. Looking around I found Gena. I went to her.
“Kym,” she reached out to grab me by the collar, the signs of pain etched into jagged features on her face.
“Gena. Don’t speak. I’m going to get you out of here. Just hold on.”
“Kym. I’m scared. Just hold me like mom and dad used too. I can’t stand. Oh, Kym. I thought we’d make it out. I’m happy for you though,” she sputtered up blood into her cupped hands.
“No. Gena. Please. Hang on.”
She didn’t last and I rocked her to sleep there in the cold quarters. She went limp after that cough and then slowly the warmth left her body. I wrapped her in a sheet and tried as steadily as possible to leave the room. Aching with stress I cried my way to the bridge. Covered fathers body with a tie down tarp, and mothers with a floating jacket. Engaging the autopilot for a nearby space station unaffected by the Bleed I traversed out into space for thousands of miles plus.
I didn’t bother trying to figure out what to do with their corpses. I left them all where they were and timed a cryo-tube to sleep me the rest of the way. I felt the drain of my family gone, and the social spaces they lived empty. Who would look after me now? What would I do? Would I ever meet Grozorloth again? Why did this happen? I hope none of this was my fault. I hope I could have prevented some of this. I hope I don’t have nightmares the whole way there.
/END First Part
Second Part: GrownupLite
Years later when I’d aged and become the planetary standard of a legal man, age sixteen, I did my best to join the corps. But I could never make the cut. The military never let me join them, even though I had the fight in me to prove it. Adjustment to my adult life took a terrible plunge as the learning curve turned out to be steeper than what I thought I was bargaining for.
Broke, jobless, and without aim after the corp refused me I kinda went where the wind took me. Got into visiting bars and meeting people that had all sorts of interesting tales. Some had been in situations like mine, with the Bleed. Only they had seen kaiju so colossal that they could level a building with one of their feet.
Through the learning and the traveling I came across women and gamblers, cheaters and liars, and people from all over the verse. It wasn’t until I met the master pilot Grace “the Harlequin,” that life really changed. She knew all the tricks to mecha, and she knew lots of pilots. And she knew how to help me get what I wanted.
Grace could levy a bar of drinkers with tales of bewilderment. About flying through multi-headed beasts, and tumbling with creatures made out of rock, evading attacks from spewing acid, or plasma. She had been through a lot, lost a lot of friends. A lot of family.
When I’d first seen her I decided to tail her for more info. Becoming a mech-jockey couldn’t be an easy trade to pickup, so I really needed a master to teach me from the bottom up. Before she was about to hitch on a taxi from the bar I gave her shoulder a yank and plied her with introductory banter.
“Harlequin, I’ve heard your stories. I want to jockey! I want to kill monsters and protect people. Teach me and I’ll follow you as an apprentice wherever you go. I won’t get in the way and I won’t get into trouble. Name’s Kym. Would you teach me to jockey? Please?”
“Hah, Grace. And I appreciate the enthusiasm, but a mech seat is no place for a kid. If you come down to the docks you can look around, but your way too young. Go find a girl. Make a family and be happy before the Bleed pours out on top of you.”
“I don’t have a family. Demons and monsters took care of all that. Anacranon four years ago. Blue bleed. Super savage on the ground. Got out on my family’s boat, but one of those things got on board or was waiting on board. Killed everyone. Fucker could talk and plot revenge and everything. Even told me he would think about me.”
“A talking kaiju? Hah, don’t insult my intelligence.”
“I’m not. I’m just telling you what happened. You don’t have to believe me.”
Grace stopped getting into the taxi totally taken aback. Why would some kid make up a crazy ass story like that just to impress her? She leaned in to talk lower to me.
“If your telling me the truth, be down at the bay doors at six tomorrow morning. I’ll make sure Larry let’s you in. You can help me grease some parts.”
My jaw sort of dropped, “really?”
“Yes. If your serious, be there at six. I won’t come to answer the door and Larry never hears the doorbell being hard at work after he gets in.”
“Thanks! I’ll be the best at it! You won’t regret it! I owe you!”
“You owe you kid. You owe your family some demon blood for theirs. It’s why I do it,” and then she got into the cab and was off.
I didn’t bother trying to sleep. The idea of working around mecha and pilots had me all jacked up on a level I’d never been on before. For the first time ever I was going to get to touch mechs, possibly even get into a cockpit. I couldn’t wait. I watched the clock and left hours before I should. I waited at the mech docks until a man showed.
“Larry?” I opened up, “Grace said you’d let me in. Shes going to meet me here.”
“Oh?” replied Larry, “Well that’s just great. We could use some more folks around here. This waystation is thinning out too quick for me. All the pilots have left for action planets and places in space. You know the Bleed has been worse than ever this year.”
I nodded knowing all to well about the Bleed. Having been apart of one first hand it wasn’t hard to recount that we were invaded by aliens and dined upon like meat pops for a day. The horrors replayed in my mind in a flash. Filled to the brink with utter loss I bent over and breathed it out. Someone slapped me on the back suddenly and I looked up into Grace’s grey eyes.
“C’mon cadet. Lots to do today,” and she turned on her heel to march inside while Larry held the door open staring at me.
“Hey kid,” he asked, “should I get a doctor?”
“I got it. I’m here for a purpose. I’m gonna be a pilot.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” he said while tapping the side of his skull to a dull thudding. Half his head was a steel plate.
“What happened to you?”
“Mech battle. Kaiju got under my arms and lifted my pod off the ground. We were outnumbered. Things were going bad when our big hitter got taken out. We tried to get them off him, but the damned monsters are just stubborn as all hell. When my pod hit the dirt I knew it was over for my mech, so I ejected onto a flat lateral and crashed into a kaiju, blowing it wide open. Never thought ejection seats could do that. Anyway, once I landed again I had to hoof it outta there. When your up high in your chariot, riding a nuclear engine around like its a toy, you forget about all the little fellas running around at your feet sometimes. Especially since squashin gets to be second nature in a cockpit. Well, one got a hold of me and jacked me up good. Had to kill it with my bare hands, but it left me crippled. Another pilot rescued me and we lost the mission. Kept my life though. I don’t jockey anymore,” he concluded, “just help work in the bays.”
“You saw lots of combat then?”
“Was a lancer in the corps at one point. Once I lost my lance mates, my mech, and part of my brain I decided to reevaluate my life choices. Left the corps to run my talents for high bidders, not the highest mind you. Some of those corporate jockeys are straight scum, so working under them would have been the pits. That’s how I came across Grace here. The Harlequin has run with legends. She’s lost a lot of good pilots in the field, so don’t take it personally if shes hard on you. She just doesn’t want to see you go up in flames. Literally. Don’t let her get too far ahead of you now,” he pointed off in her direction, “You can get lost real easy in here.”
I took his advice and caught up to Grace. She’d already skipped several bay doors, the largest it seemed. Not skipping a beat I opened up more questions.
“So,” while catching my breath, “what are we starting on?”
“I’m going to show you the rabbit.”
“A rabbit,” I retorted with caution.
“Not just any. A special one. You’ll see.”
She paced as if she were in a hurry. I kept up, but was so in awe at what I was seeing passing every bay that I had trouble keeping my thoughts in order. Mecha. Tons of them. It was like a park or something. There was a giant mech parked in every bay. The bay seemed to be shrinking, but so did the mechs. The variety was endless, from the weapons mounted on them, to the shapes they took. Mecha that could fly, tunnel, and swim. Mecha that could withstand extreme pressures, mecha with prolonged exposure rates to the purest of natural elements and even mecha that could transform.
She led me into one of the smallest bays. Where a form of mecha that I’d never seen up close were waiting in rows. Ten of them, old dusty things that looked like they hadn’t been used in a long time.
“Exosuits,” she exclaimed, “We’ll be learning the basics on one these today. Yours is here. The Rabbit.”
She led me past the largest of the suits. When we came to a smaller one with old blue trim and original steel exterior showing I knew I had met my first mecha. It waited there like it was inviting me to it. I wiped the gloss of cobwebs away to reveal a shining seat.
“Step into the straps and buckle in,” she commanded.
After buckling in I adjusted myself to the seat. The suit was like a little pod with a skeletal body you could reach out through. I put my hands onto the short control pads. There was a power button. I jammed it. A jolt riveted though the body of the suit and a light hum invited a smile to my face. For the first time in my life, even though it was a lowly exosuit without an armament, I felt like a complete badass.
“Okay,” Grace instructed, “so thats the throttle there. You steer and engage the moving mechanisms with your right hand, while essential skills and tasks are on your left pad. Your legs respond to the strap pressure so just start walking.”
As I started to walk I could feel the machine resisting almost to my intentions. Like the machine was alive and knew it was getting used, but it didn’t want to be. I learned the basics of movement that day and how to engage with simple tasks such as squatting and lifting. I knew the hardest was yet to come.
In the few days that I learned to maneuver in the machine I was also instructed as to how to load pallets of missiles. Carefully stacking the missiles in rows was the hard part at first, then adjusting the next pallet became a pain, then stacking the next level became harder. The process was learning and I painfully gained my first lessons as a peon in a nuclear powered exosuit. I knew I could only rise from here. I was right.
It took about a month for Grace to finally put me on a simulator in the farthest reaches of the mecha-bays. A few modules still worked out of the twenty or so that huddled in the dark like a group of kneeling camels. Climbing into one and engaging the computer systems I could tell the modules hadn’t been updated in years. The green and blue hues that made up the simple graphics in the pods were almost comical, however adjusting to the system and actually using it took an ace.
Grace trained me for weeks before I could even get things working to a point where I thought he had a clue. Commanding the cockpit of the simulator seemed hard enough, so I had trouble thinking about what a real mech seat was like. It was no simple task adjusting, but I wanted it and I made myself do it.
Within six months I was passing tests and warming up payloads for all sorts of different weapon systems. I could park up to a 60 tonner, and had walked everything smaller than that through the bays. The sixty plus tonnners, Harlequin said I needed to wait till I earned some stripes on my smaller mecha. Said I needed to prove myself in the field even before considering sitting in one of the heavy, or even assault class mechs.
I waited patiently for my day of ass kicking, and made every day count towards me by systematically learning as much as I could about every single mecha type in the bay. My patience was rewarded, as one day I found I possessed a power far greater than I expected to find in myself. It happened while I was learning weapon systems in the classiest 35 tonner in the lot, a Brood Industries Umbra. A sickness started to grow inside of me as we were working, not nausea at first, but a slight unease about the day.
The Umbra had the running power of a MagnaMan, the Quick Current’s lightest, basically a few steps up from an exosuit being at 15 tons. Theres nothing worthy to jockey that could stand up to anything between the exosuits and a mech about 15 tons, except tanks and they are breed unto themselves. Anyway, my Umbra could kick it in a tight situation and it was low to the ground, which made her harder to hit. She was a little wide in the hips, but this allowed her to carry a couple extra body mounted lasers and a few hidden shoulder missile racks. She was quite primo, having her forearms chiseled in laser weaponry. She basically only ran out of missiles. I called her Mel.
I had worked with her the most and all day today. Even though some of the heavier mechs had their qualities, none could boast the Umbra’s speed matched with her payload. So naturally I gravitated towards her because she held such sexy qualities, and that is probably not a bad thing to consider when dealing with mecha. I bet a lot of people would feel the same way had they seen the line up. My feelings of unease started to churn into a different perspective suddenly. Like a switch had been flipped and it was going on overdrive.
Suddenly I see old Larry through the viewplate on the ground below waving a stained rag through the air. I engaged the cockpit cameras to view him and had him on eight seperate little screens, when I opend the loudspeaker, “Yeah?” I tried not to make it loud but my voice was amplified by an unknown amount of decibals.
Larry covered his ears for a moment, then began pointing towards the bay doors, down the long line of pod bays. He then ran out of sight. Having Mel warmed up I pulled her out of her bay to swing her right towards the doors, which would have to be a quarter mile away or so. Then I was dumbstruck. The sky was a deep crimson vortex for hundreds of miles, lightning was hurtling through it at alarming rates, and you could see stars and suns like they were on the edge of space. I could see vivid detail from this far back inside the hangar. Engaging the throttle I took off towards the open bay doors.
As I arrived I noticed a jeep pull in. Men in mecha gear, jumped out and started running to respected bays whilst lacing jackets and strapping helmets. I wasn’t sure what exactly was happening because I’d never seen it on this level before. The Bleed was affecting the sector of space again, and on a more terrifying level than before. What started falling out that looked like it was in space quickly nestled into the tow of the planet’s gravity and came hurtling down through the thin layers of clouds to burst onto the surface below. Not just a few monsters mind you. Hundreds of thousands of the bastards. Most died once they fell through space and collided with the ground. My comm went off as a burly 85 ton Marvel Class Vindicator stepped up next to me.
“Why aren’t you at least trying to burn them up before they hit the ground?”
“What?” I responded back, “What do you mean?”
“Those neightborhoods south of here. We need to make sure they aren’t getting pelted. My name is Commander Om, who are you?”
“I’m Kymbalt Jartiss, I work under Harlequin.”
“Damn, the new kid? Where the fuck is she? Bleedin right on top of us and the Harlequin’s out for lunch. Oh joy. Look kid, I know you haven’t had much on real weapons training, but I give you permission to open up the links and figure it out. Harlequin said your half a decent shot on the simulators, so just keep using those laser cannons on your Umbra and everything should work out. I’m going to that neighborhood south of here. Do what you want.”
His Vindicator stepped out onto the asphalt lot and high powered it into the highest gear, taking the mech off into the distance. A few other mecha left the bay in seperate directions answering distress calls. My comm came on in my face suddenly. It was Larry.
“Kym! Listen! I just got a call from Grace. She’s a few miles away but a Kaiju landed nearby and it had brought with it some other form of a kaiju, blobs that rapidly grow and then explode into corrosive material around them.They can level a town with one, imagine what they’ll do to the planet! We need Grace. I’m uploading her coordinates to you! You must retrieve her at all costs!”
“What…oh? Shit. Me? Uh,” as I shake my head with doubt, “Yeah, yeah, I can do it.”
“You can save a lot of lives today Kym,” Larry reinforced, “you can make a difference out there, but only of you move your ass. NOW!”
My brows curled down furling to intent. Stomping my foot down on an accelerator Mel and I made our way out of the bay. The sky was pitch black now, except for occasional bolts of lightning invigorating the otherworldy elements fusing with ours, and demons falling down like rain in the distance. Luckily none were falling on me yet and I rushed headfirst into the chaos.
“Just upload a safe running path for me, and I’ll do what I can do keep up with your link.”
“Sure,” Larry complied, “but the talent is gonna come down to you Kym. Your going to have to get her out of there. We don’t know what her situation is like, so get in there. Go for it.”
“Alright,” as I uploaded the first schematic to my holo-nav. The path was rife with a digital satellite readout that was still responding to stations on the surface. People fleeing for their lives, vehicles on fire, buildings crumbling, security forces responding in certain places, and me in the middle. Coming up the boulevard to such a hellish verse as to be the afterlife.
Class 1 and 2 kaiju resonated on my radar around me. Some with full lifesigns, others with barely a pulse. I burned my way around anything giving off healthy readings. Making my way through broken down buildings barricading off streets, to walls of dead kaiju that needed stomping through, leaving a pulpy mess behind.
The holo showed that Grace’s last wereabouts were close, a block or two by the readings, but so too would be the kaiju. One of which was a solid beast and the other, reportedly, something more deadly. Possibly even a Class 5+, something never before dealt with.
I ripped open the red laser guards on my triggers. Mel responded with the green hue of her HUD changing into a fiery orange. Targeters popped up and I could sense what she was watching through me. I was the brain of the monster that lusted for destruction, and I alone held her reins.
Then a twenty or so story kaiju bobbled out from behind a mostly downed building. The fucker was practically three times my height. Its shadow blanketed a good distance behind me. Swallowing my spit, and gripping the controls I raised my chassy to view the monster’s face.
It had two. Large flat circular faces that split down the center, large splotchy eyes on either side, revealing spines of talon-like teeth. Their faces were attached to chubby contorting throats that stretched over a hundred feet. The skin on its body looked slimy, but like thick bark. Four arms ended in talons and spines. It’s body gained ground on three-ish legs, one of which inverted and ran almost backwards.
Mel could sense my hesitation, her systems linking a variety of options to my fingertips. Her speed adjusting to my now backpedaling motions. I brought up a small laser combo, linking several of the small lasers in an unstressful heat endeavor. I pulled her trigger with my right hand, while linking in a tighter punch with a heavy laser and medium laser link, careful not to blow past the heatsink limits. Mel was taking it well though, not even registering in the yellow range.
The lasers began tearing into the monstrous kaiju, carving out huge pieces of meat that immediately began to flow green and blue slime. It’s attention came fully upon me as it reared it’s ugly heads. Instincts began to trigger as Mel stepped back into a more open corridor. The monster followed, closing the distance with each stride. It’s foot prints were smoking ashy pits, but where was this other Kaiju?
As I adjusted to the cockpit I scanned for human life signs on a fourth computer and scanned for SOS calls coming from the ground. There was no guarantee Harlequin was safe or if she had a comm device, yet I attempted and with haste to output a general alert via the megaphones attached to Mel’s underside.
Then, as all seemed like it might be too easy, the doubled-headed, flat-faced, kaiju made a leap off its strange gimp leg straight on top of Mel. We were being crushed momentarily. Then the engine kicked and Mel’s gyros thrusted like an angry bull. We were more solid it appeared, as Mel’s cockpit held firm and her arms and head began to burst through the semi-solid skin of this kaiju.
The demon roared in pain as it was jiggled about briefly. It picked itself up off the smaller mech only to have its retreat rewarded with a three combo laser punch. The first shot was a host of small lasers, twinkling in a magenta rhythm, then the medium arm lasers in succession like a rapid beat to music, and lastly the twin heavy laser racks that were aligned in the breasts of Mel’s complex array. Her heat began to flash yellow after the barrage concluded the first time. I timed it in a cooling rythm that didn’t allow her to redline, bursting huge chunks of flesh off the demon as it lost its balance and hurtled into the floor.
Bringing Mel back up to speed I decided to use her mobility to my advantage. I kicked her into a trot and began pacing around the downed kaiju decapitating and destroying the main stalks and limbs.. Although the body still writhed as if it were alive somehow. I continued with the basic pattern assault keeping an eye on the radar and my heat. I didn’t want to risk it regenerating so I stopped just short of a complete crisp. Its ashen body lay still in the rubble, but nothing registered on my radar. Nothing coming in and nothing moving, yet.
My comm fizzled, “Pilot,” fizzle ,“…-ant, I repeat the few remaining people are moving out, we thank you for your endeavor. May we know your name?”
“Kymbalt Jartiss,” I said back almost cheerily, “wait, its not safe to move yet. Some other form of kaiju has been reported. Have you seen it?”
Suddenly chatter on the other side of the comm became several voices at once. They were arguing about seeing something, but that it disappeared. No one was speaking directly to me for a few moments so I interjected.
“I’m also looking for a woman that is supposed to be around here. She goes by Grace, typically wears her Ace jacket. You’d be able to spot this jockey if she were around. Anybody?”
“No, sorry. There aren’t any pilots out here. A band of people struck out back to the city area, but we haven’t heard from them. Some women were amongst that group.”
“Damn, well do you have any idea which way they went or where that kaiju is?”
Just then a voice came across the comm, a young girl whose voice reminded me of Gena, “Kymbalt, look. There was another monster. It wasn’t like the other one. This one could change it’s shape. I saw it melt into the ground and disappear after it hit. If you go over to the next block you’ll see where it landed. Everything it touched melted. Then it grew together like a bead of water, then sunk into the ground and was gone.”
“Ok. I’ll go have a look.”
Mel walked me over to this spot. The ground was completely hollow like something had bore a huge metal rod into it. As we looked down I opened the sensor array to see if I got any kaiju detection. Something at the farthest depths was giving off disturbing readings.
I opened up Mel’s missile bays for the first time. The clicks of the shields guarding the pods of her shoulder racks slid back, and twenty missile tips glared down the hole with me. I unleashed a duo. Straight and true. A rumble resonated deep down and then my proximity reader suggest I step away, as something began to resurface.
Mel stood her ground as whatever it was came oozing up like we’d struck oil, but it shot out for hundreds of feet into the air. As it rained down everything started to disintegrate on the molecular level, droplets of acid goo that quickly dribbled back together and started to form a large mass near the opening it emerged from. As it slid across the surface in snakes and beads to its center the ground was scorched with its movement and the surrounding environment was now a steaming hotbed of kaiju material. A true living nightmare.
As it collected together I was consumed with fear. It’s mass must have been at least one hundred times mine after it grew into one large being. At best it’s material could be described as protoplasm, but it looked like slick oil. Rainbow patterns resonating through its body like a fine tuned harpsichord.
I could feel it watching us. Mel’s engine rumbled in discomfort, like a dog unsure of what it had come across. As we back peddled further I could sense the urgent rush of danger coursing through me, like I’d pissed off the big bully on the playground, and on purpose. This kaiju’s gestures were extraordinarily alien, yet ominous to say the least. When Mel shifted around a corner we could see the rythms of the kaiju’s body change into different pinpoints in our direction. It sensed us, or rather Mel, and pointed as if glaring could be described by pulsating a gelatinous mirror at you.
I turned Mel straight into the nearby largest building to avoid line of sight with the thing. As we came out the opposite end its pearly omnipotence rippled a new pulse through its body aiming a straight line at us. Not willing to sit through a staring match I levied Mel’s arsenal and let the blob have it. Red, Blue, and Green bolts of laser energy seared the sky in a multi relay that resembled a heroic lightshow.
The blob was unfazed and reacted as if no damage had been done. It rolled towards us and smashed everything in its wake. My laser attacked seemed only to antagonize It. I kicked Mel’s awaiting engine up. And we ran for safer ground, leaving the 5+ behind for a moment. At least her speed seemed unmatched in this fight.
My radar detected a friendly in the nearby area. The same tag that Commander Om had registered was steadily approaching Mel’s position. As it came into range my comm’s beamed on. I answered the call.
“Om here, what is the situation? I could see a glimmering portal miles off and decided to investigate.”
“Do not approach!” I began, “It’s in the 5+ category. We may have no way to presently defeat it.”
“We’ll have to distract it until the Bleed ends. If we do our best we might be able to end its mission of whatever it was trying to accomplish when you found it.”
“I think it was tunneling to the core of the planet to be honest, but we’ll never know now. Unless you can talk to it.”
“Sorry Kym, the only language I speak when I’m piloting mecha is kill them first with what you got,” and as he concluded a massive outpour of energy blasted out from Om’s Vindicator and collided with the protoplasm mirror being. Huge swathes were trimmed away like glitter being cast off a wet body.
To our horror, the monster fell out of shape and became a worm. It crisis-crossed through the floor as it made its way towards Commander Om’s Vindicator, tunneling with ease. Like a huge wave It bore down on his position faster than his Mech could move, and that’s when I knew Mel was outmatched.
Fortunately for the Commander, he was a seasoned veteran pilot. One that could time things perfectly. His Mech was advancing towards the shimmering wyrm, but once he realized it was too late to turn back he set coordinates for his ejection pod to land him back at the mecha bays. Right after doing so it came down to a few seconds of quick thinking and trigger pulling and then ejection to set off a mighty lightshow that had some enduring effect on this unstoppable being: the Vindicator made an Alpha Strike at the oncoming worm.
Missile racks burning free, both arms churning lasers, and a mighty shoulder cannon plopping its final blows caused the worm to blow back by some measurable distance. Right before Om’s ejection pod could be seen flying out just in time for the worm to catch up to the Alpha striking mech and completely consume it.
Nothing was left of the Vindicator. It was as if it had never been standing there in the first place. I knew Mel sensed a run in her. Frightened we bolted at top speed. Mel was in a speed trial for her life. “The fastest speed out of the tightest clinch,” rang through my head as I recalled one of the advertisements on the walls of the mech silos. We paced back a long distance to backtrack to the bays.
To my delightful surprise both Om and Harlequin were waiting in pitch perfect mechs, their silouhettes casting impressive shadows. Om stood at the helm of a vintage yet powerful 100 ton CR45-Omega “Atlas.” Harlequin piloted a “master” 90 ton mech: the Gravada Mors “Marauder.” They were exchanging data and communicating when I came into their range. They greeted me with friendly radar pings.
I was let in on the communication channel. They were in mid-discussion, something about luring the 5+ into an old atomic reactor. I didnt want to drop the beat so I shut up and listened,
“…We’ll take it through the tunnels and bring it through the main floor of the reactor. Back when it was still operational I operated the entire grid from a desk. Now that Kymbalt has joined us we have the perfect bait to run it with. Om you’ll be stationed at the floor level, ready to attack as soon as it breaches. We’ll have to draw its attention off Kym and keep it busy while the reactor melts down, if and only if it comes at you will you Alpha and eject. Once I activate the overrides to meltdown I’m heading to my mech. If we can split its attention for long enough we should be able to wreck its world. Om, your steadily going to withdraw through the Mesa bay doors, try to get those thick doors closed then haul ass out of there as fast as that thing can go.”
“Don’t worry Harlequin,” Om replied, “this old girl has some tricks up her sleeve. She’ll bring it.”
“Where will I be?” I couldn’t help but wonder.
Grace answered, “Your playing duck and weave. I want you to prick it with missiles every time it loses track of you or tries to go after one of us, which I’m thinking will inevitably be me. My payload is heavy and will draw the most attention. Kym, your main objective is to keep that mech up and running by the time this is all over. Understand?”
“We start at the west tunnels and draw it in. Once it starts to chase you don’t look back. Keep the pace till you clear the breach and we support you.Last thing, if your still in the reactor when it goes thermo-nuclear then eject to space. We’ll get you once this is all over, but there won’t be a safer place. Everything else will be so hot that there’s not going to be a spot to land your pod and if your still at ground zero you’ll perish.”
I didn’t think there would be a chance earlier, but now that Grace was on top of things it seemed like we could win. Om was in the biggest rig I’d ever seen. It looked like the Atlas had small pockets decking out its forearms, but visible laser tech was chiseled throughout its body. Mel hummed softly as if she’d taken a quick cat nap. I let her as the plans unfolded. Then, once all was concluded, like a fine tuned instrument she came to life and we were on our way.
We came to a splitting point where Harlequin and Om traveled ahead. The tunnels ran deep and in all sorts of directions. My comrades arrived themselves close enough to the reactor when my radar registered the 5+.
“Guys,” I blurted out.
“Got something kid?” Harlequin registered.
“It’s traveling North of us on a western route. It’s clocking in at speeds that far outmatch me.”
“Don’t be scared,” Om chimed in, “it is also traveling on a straight path. You will be in the tunnels weaving and taking ninety degree turns, Just get its attention and then book it to us.”
“Kym, we’ve arrived at the reactor. I’m going up into the control room.”
“Ok…I’ll start the run then. Looking forward to the meltdown.”
Harlequin reassured me with, “Don’t worry Kym, we won’t blow up the city without you.”
I picked a spot to shoot. Pulling the trigger Mel’s heavy chest armament popped off two heavy-beam bolts. The lances traveled far for a moment then collided with the beast. It came together like a worm collapsing in on itself without moving from a center-point. I fired off an array of laser beams then. The blob fell into a dive and then was on its way.
As it started at me I turned Mel around and faced the tunnel. The mouth, ready to swallow me, rumbled with the roar of my engine. If she were anything like an old car, it would be the equivalent of red lining the engine in a passive unmoving vehicle. I popped her into her lowest gear and let the clutch out with a heavy lead foot on her gas pedal. Bam, her RPMs fly off the charts momentarily as the computational devices adjusted to the sudden jolt. Second gear, she heaved through the asphalt like it was fresh powdery snow, crushing and plowing a trail. Third gear, the God gear, we hurled through the hallways and they became a blur, practically pulling several Gs at that point I was hurled back into my seat. All you could do was firmly grasp the controls. In fourth gear the cockpit settles slightly as the auto-gyros and stabilizers adjust to the raw speed of the Umbra’s advanced engineering. Last gear, we’re pushing it at this point as Mel’s speed hits it’s limitations, but there were ways to enhance her speed, and slow the beast.
Using an auto pilot to help me navigate the ancient tunnels I pulled up some blue prints on a small tac-computer. Searching for weak points in the tunnel that were collapse worthy, but only risky enough that I could pass them as they were breaking apart. I found two such points and after being satisfied I took back the controls.
We had traveled nearly a third of the way there and I could see the beast still following me through radar-scope. In a few miles the first weak point in the structure would be coming up. An asset I’d only just acquired through instaneous research. I mockingly pulled the triggers and watched as my approach vector brought me right in the path of thousands of tons of rubble and debris. We passed right under them just in the nick of time. In the very petite rear view I watched as we jogged off and the rubble piled up into one massive blockage.
Underestimating it’s speed I watched the wall collapse under the velocity of this unstoppable Kaiju. For a brief spectacular moment I was hopeful of a slight victory, but it’s hate of our species must be an endless fuel for its awesome onslaught. Mel hurtled us onward with the hum of the machine indicating it’s pulse in the background.
Threading the endless maze my only pain became the doubt that the reactor wouldn’t be able to end this thing. Even if we didn’t end it, the consequences for this region alone would be catastrophic. There was no turning back at this point. We had to at least try to kill it.
Flying past the second weak point I blasted it with enough of an array, yet the tunnel held. I passed under it with less of a dramatic effect. Up ahead was the breach. My friends would be waiting for me. I hoped they would be there. In the background not far behind the massive concrete tunnel walls were churned into dust as the beast raged at me.
I beamed a heads up to Om up ahead, “Ready to party?”
“Harlequin is almost finished. Things are heating up. I’m uploading a few waypoints of interest to you in your nav-comp. Use them to your advantage. You’ll see what I mean.”
“Thanks Om. We’ll have a victory drink when this is all over.”
“No promises young one. I don’t drink much anymore anyway. How about cigars?”
Never having smoked a cigar in my new adult life I considered it. And then the breach was in front of me. Steadily, I prepared to see some crossfire from the Atlas, hidden somewhere inside the massive complex and ready to ambush the beast.
When I came out of the breach I found my way through the open spaces at first, then began to run the length of the wall, behind deep cover. The beast came into the room, curling upwards like a snake. As it began its search heavy strikes were launched from Om’s position. Successions of rapid and semi-auto blasts that amazed my ears. The Atlas’ heat-sink array was impressively engineered. Her armament even more so. The amount of laser fire flying out of its forearms never stopped. It would have been a nightmare to fight in an open field mech on mech. As he fired is waves of death and caught the kaiju by surprise and thereby getting its utmost attention Harlequin spoke up on the comms.
“That’s it. Shit is going to hell. Om. Begin your retreat. I’m coming down now.”
“Roger that Harlequin, this monster is in for one big surprise! Let’s kill it and go home!” Om could be heard grunting through the mic as he jerked he controls around whilst simultaneously piloting and attacking.
I turned a quick corner and jogged under a tiny breezeway. The cars at my feet were like toys inside Mel’s 35 ton chassy. Everything on the street bounced as we passed. The Containment building where the fuel was stored was where Harlequin would be, luckily the design of this old
The beast came out of the tunnel in full power as it moved about the huge connecting steam chambers. Om was steadily leaving the area and almost at the massive reinforced doors that were to be shut upon his immediate exit from the area. The radiatian processing plant was ancient and built for the best sort of meltdown. Om’s fire was dwarfed now by the size of Titan kaiju. I popped off a few missiles at random spots as I fled through the now sparse expanse of the connecting tunnels, to give the most confusion possible.
When the beast turned to me I was stunned briefly as it spotted me like a hawk. It’s size gave it far superior sight and scope. Nothing could stay hidden from it.
It moved as if being poured from a zipper, like an ocean covering a once dry floor. I fly down a couple of byway streets and pulled ninety degree angles like a pro. Mel was hot, she knew we could be dead soon. She knew she was pulling her final hour. Yet on she tumbled and yearned for more.
Finally the demon caught up to me. I turned down a passage-less entryway. A dead end greeted me.
It spilled around the corner at first, like spilled paint. Casually it reared up, taking the form of a worm at first, then a larger and larger bioluminescent cage of protoplasm. High pitchedsqeals emitted from it, blasting out windows for miles. Then like a wave it came down.
I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Mel kicked us straight into the air, something I didn’t know she could do. We flew hundreds of feet out of the way and onto an adjacent street. Then she surprised me again and we were flying down a connecting corridor from the previous danger zone. I unleashed hell as I knew I probably wouldn’t get another chance. Churning the pavement into crusty bits we flew at the monster, Alpha Striking the missile racks to 0, and hitting the red in the heat sinks, the laser cannons steamed with delight. Then we hit a turn and were out of harms way off to the other side of the containment room. This is where we would have to kill it, and it was pissed enough to follow me.
As far as I knew we were trapped inside now. Om had completed his mission and the Atlas was well on its way out. Now it was up to Harlequin and I to finish the job and get spaced as soon as possible. I commend Harlequin.
“Harlequin, Kym here! I’ve got it into the containment room. If we can set off an explosion in the holding cell we should have a decent explosion!”
“Worry not Kym, I am with you.”
Suddenly huge swaths of particle cannon energy fried and crisped the flanks of the huge monster. I looked past the demon that was still pursuing me, to see Grace’s Marauder plowing down the runway, unleashing it mighty back cannon, along with the particle cannons amped for maximum chaos in its forearms. A few missile racks poured forth swarms of mini-missiles. The air was raining death for a brief moment. The monster was even partially stunned for a moment. Then came the moment of truth.
I approached the containment room. Luckily engineers design a lot of pods differently. Mel was actually radiation proof, at least where her small pod holding her brain, me, was stationed. I blew off the lids to the holding rods and then punched a massive hole in the roof above. I plugged in the overrides to Mel’s containment facilities and set her self destruct for twenty seconds. I parked her between the massive steam generators and I hit eject as Mel stood before a containment vessel and molten fuel poured forth onto the floor.
I watched as Harlequin narrowly escaped death twice to lure the beast straight to the heart of the blast. She set her self-destruct sequencer for a split second on the dot to mine and ejected right under me. The explosion from space was movie worthy. The mushroom billowing up below us as we reached the outer limits of the stratosphere. The rocking of the planet below was a sure fire sign that whatever that thing was it was now dead.
I peeled my eyes away just in time to see the bleed ending. The red storms of space looking like a monster vortex were now only just mirages steadily disappearing into the ether. The planet was pockmarked with destruction.
“Wow,” I said to Grace, “I didn’t think we’d live through that.”
A soft grunting could be heard like she’d just ran a marathon, “Yeh, that was what I call a very close call. Shit, I’m surprised you lived too. Hey, kid?”
We stopped talking after that. Many hours would pass in the emptiness of space staring down at the now barren planet waiting for the leagues to appear and help mop up. Never before had I felt so vilified to be doing what I had now just achieved. I sat there in the dark, thinking about everything that went down. In the end I was lucky I had Mel. She saved me, and I gave her one final hurrah, one final blow to the gut sucking reality that we live. And what a wonderful gal she was.