It was a quiet morning in the district. Wikus knew he was breaking the rules by going so early (no humans were allowed to enter the gated community before 9am), but it was important that he spoke to Christopher as soon as possible. It couldn't wait even one more second.
He waited until the guards drove by before sneaking through the hole in the fence. It was covered mostly by bushes, so no one else knew it was there but him. He hid in the bushes until the second pair of guards passed before running through the refurbished neighborhood, full of functional houses and cleared of trash, having already memorized his way to Christopher's house. He got some weird looks on his way, possibly due to his being the only human in the area, but he paid the stares no mind.
When he arrived at the house, positioned in the center of a cul-de-sac, he checked his surroundings before approaching and knocking on the door. It was a few moments before the door was cracked and he heard the familiar clicks.
[Wikus?] Christopher clicked, opening the door more. [What are you doing here?] He asked, cocking his head. Wikus gave the area another glance.
"I can explain. Please may I come in?" He asked. Christopher hesitated but let him in nonetheless. Wikus removed the large one-sleeved coat that he wore around the city - it was so no one would stare at his mutated hand and arm - and put it over the back of a chair in the dining room.
[What is this about?] Christopher asked. Wikus turned to face him, his human hand idly tracing the back of his prawn one.
"... I need your help." He finally said, looking tired. Christopher blinked at him before sitting down at the table. Wikus joined him wordlessly.
[With what?] He asked, getting a bad feeling. The last time he had helped Wikus, it was when he had been running from the government after his accident.
Wikus had been working as a science tech at a local MNU laboratory when the Kaiju had first reached South Africa. After the third attack, which had destroyed part of Cape Town, he had been transferred to the South African Research Unit for Kaiju Science (SARUKS for short), located on the coast near Cape Town itself. There, he had accidentally been exposed to Kaiju blue (a toxic waste left over after a Kaiju dies). It had caused the mutation of his left hand, eventually spreading to his arm, shoulder, and to his left eye, turning it gold.
The eye didn't bother people as much as his arm did, reminding them of the alien population that lived just outside Johannesburg, so Wikus took an old coat he had and altered it to his liking. He cut the right sleeve off but left the left one, using the left-over fabric to extend the sleeve into a glove that covered his whole arm. It was still obvious that his arm wasn't normal, after all the glove was shaped to cover his mutated hand, but due to the fact that it wasn't explicitly visible, no one cared half as much.
He wore the coat when he was out in public and sometimes around the Jaeger launch facility (unimaginatively called The Cape), but he kept it off when he was in the lab or in his quarters. His scientific co-workers had grown used to his arm, some of them were even interested in learning about it.
Of course, that curiosity was what had ultimately led to his fleeing Cape Town and returning to Joburg. In order to help fight the mounting invasion of the Kaiju blue, which had begun to make its way into the water supply, poisoning and killing thousands, the scientists had wanted to understand why Wikus hadn't died. They wanted to know if it was possible to fight the infection.
Wikus had fled the facility and caught any mode of transportation he could out of the city, hiding out in Joburg and, after being spotted by a soldier, in District 9, the alien-only shanty town-turned-suburb.
He had luckily met Christopher and his son Oliver instead of the more unruly residents, and after much distrust between the two adults - Oliver was also fascinated by Wikus and his arm - they had slowly gotten used to each other. Wikus had even been allowed to stay in the house with them until they found him his own. The Prawns living in the district hardly paid him any attention, mostly because they didn't know what to think of him, the strange looking human with a Poleepkwa extremity.
Finding his own home had turned out to be unnecessary when a neutral party came to visit him, having heard that he was living in the district. Christopher had gone with him to the meeting in case someone tried something, but it went smoothly. The scientist was one of Wikus' friends and he was sent to offer Wikus his job back. No experiments, no tests. Wikus would be a scientist again. Reluctantly he agreed and returned to Cape Town.
That had been 2 years ago. Needless to say, Christopher was surprised to see Wikus at all. He hadn't expected him to come back, much less to District 9 itself.
"I find myself in a precarious situation and... you're the only one I feel I can trust."
Christopher looked surprised. That was certainly not something he had expected to ever hear.
[Define 'precarious'] Christopher said carefully, making sure his clicks translated correctly. He knew what precarious meant, but he didn't know what Wikus meant by it. Wikus raked a hand through his hair, messing it up.
"You know I've been working as a scientist down in Cape Town, and that Marshall Smit is my father-in-law. When I returned to The Cape after the accident, he continued to refuse to let me see Tania, just like he had been doing when it originally happened. He told me that she wouldn't want to see me like this. He keeps her away from me, making sure we can never meet."
Christopher listened quietly.
"A few days ago, he approached me with an offer. He would be willing to let me see Tania again if I did something for him."
Wikus stopped, shaking his head, forcing Christopher to prompt him further with a gentle curious chirp. Wikus heaved a heavy sigh.
"He said if I agreed to join the Jaeger program, I could see Tania again."
Christopher cocked his head in shock.
[The Jaeger Program?] Christopher asked, pronouncing Jaeger like 'YAH-ger'. (It was a difficult word for the aliens due to their non-human mouths, but he was working on it.)
[But you're a scientist. Are you even qualified?]
Wikus snorted, catching the hint of sarcasm.
"Yes. I underwent training. That's what I've been doing for the past year. I would have been ready for deployment this week except for one problem. I'm not drift compatible with anyone. They can't find anyone who can form a strong enough bond with me. The only person I can think of is Tania, but she's not qualified and even if she was, Smit would never let her pilot a Jaeger."
The bad feeling that Christopher had was growing but he kept quiet.
"After a while, they were ready to give up and so was I..." He looked at the alien, a familiar fire in his eyes. "But then I thought of someone that might be able to drift with me."
Christopher was already shaking his head before Wikus finished his sentence.
"It's perfect don't you see?" Wikus insisted even as Christopher stood to pace the dining area, his clawed feet making noises on the tile floor.
"That's why I'm here. I thought I couldn't possibly be compatible with anyone else but Tania, but you and I have a deep bond as well, one that might be strong enough to drift."
[Yes, except you're forgetting one thing.] Christopher said, turning back to the human. [I am Poleepkwa, not human. Inter-species piloting has never been attempted before. It hasn't even been looked into. It couldn't work.]
Wikus stood as well, reminding Christopher of how he had met Wikus the first time. Wide pleading eyes, hands outstretched, so very fragile looking.
"Please, Christopher. Do you understand what I'm saying? They're keeping my wife, my angel, away from me, just because I was... injured on the job." He spat the word. Christopher had no doubt that the phrasing came from Marshall Smit.
"This is my one and only chance to get her back."
Christopher looked away, staring out the window at the rest of the neighborhood. Humans were starting to be seen on the street. With the invasion of the Kaiju, human-Prawn relations had gotten better. The Poleepkwa were helping develop new technology for the Jaegers which made them friendly in the eye of the public.
"Christopher, please." Wikus pleaded, drawing the alien's attention once more. Wikus' heterochromatic eyes bored into him.
"At least come to Cape Town with me. I have someone I can get in contact with who can help figure out if you and I can pilot a Jaeger together."
Christopher sighed before nodding.
Wikus stepped outside to call The Cape, letting them know he needed transport to get back.
"Let me talk to the Marshall please." He said, waiting for Smit to pick up.
"Mr. van de Merwe. Your journey was fruitful I trust." His cold voice said. Wikus smirked, knowing Marshall Smit couldn’t see him.
"Yes actually it was. I believe I’ve found my co-pilot."
"Well just don’t get your hopes up, son. Maybe you’re just not cut out for piloting a Jaeger."
Wikus frowned. Smit was deliberately taunting him, but he wouldn’t bite the hook. Not this time. This was about showing the Marshall what he was capable of, and that meant he needed to act like he was in control.
"I wouldn’t say that. I just had to find the right… pilot."
"And where did you find this ‘pilot’?" Marshall Smit asked, sounding extremely skeptical. Wikus hesitated, knowing that Smit was one of the people that still had issue with the aliens, despite how much they had helped so far.
"His name is Christopher. He lives in Johannesburg. He’s coming back with me and so is his son. We need a helicopter transport." There was silence on the other end before he heard a sigh.
"Very well, Wikus, if you’re going to keep secrets. I’ll have a copter sent." The click indicated that he had hung up so Wikus dialed the new number, returning inside to tell Christopher to get ready.
[They don’t know I’m not human, do they...] It was a statement, not a question so Wikus didn’t answer. The phone rang four times and Wikus almost hung up when a slightly familiar albeit breathless voice finally spoke.
"Yeah," the person cleared their throat, “yeah hello?"
"Yes, I was trying to reach Doctor Geiszler?"
"Consider him reached. Who’s this?"
"This is Wikus van de Merwe. We've spoken a few times before?" Wikus said. "I'm with SARUKS, down in Cape Town--"
"Oh! Yeah I remember you! How can I help you?"
Wikus sat down at the table once more. Now that he thought about it, he wasn't sure that he had any right to ask this of Dr. Geiszler. The man had problems of his own concerning Kaiju and Jaegers, and they didn't know each other very well. However, Wikus had already dialed the number, and he was waiting...
"You still there?" The man asked. Wikus licked his lips before speaking.
"Yes I'm still here. How are things in Alaska, Dr. Geiszler?"
"Newt please. Only my mom calls me Doctor." The man laughed, prompting a laugh from Wikus as well.
"And as far as Alaska well, I wouldn't have any clue. We got relocated to Hong Kong. The whole Jaeger program got moved, or what's left of it anyway. Haven't you guys heard? They're shutting us down. Everything, just poof. Gone. They're building a damn coastal wall instead. Like that's really gonna keep the Kaiju out, you know?"
Wikus' heart jumped into his throat at the news. Without the Jaeger program, he'd never see Tania again. He forced himself to speak.
"No, I... haven't heard anything about it. I guess they haven't broken the news to us yet."
"Sorry to spoil the big surprise. Was there something I could help you with? Packing is a little time consuming when you're bringing living organisms on life support with you to the new house, know what I mean?" Newt said, breathless again. In the background, Wikus heard things being moved around.
"Well... there was something... but if you're busy, I couldn't possibly ask it of you--"
"Oh no, please ask. I'm dying for a break anyway." Something heavy fell and Newt swore quietly. Wikus swallowed, hesitating only for a second before deciding that asking Newt for help was the right decision.
"Would it be possible for you to come down to The Cape for a couple days? I've got something that could use your expertise. I don't know who else to ask."
There was silence on the other end before a deep inhale and exhale.
"I'd love to help you, man, really I would, but with this relocation and everything, I've got to be in Hong Kong by the day after tomorrow..." Wikus felt his spirits drop. It must have been easy to hear because Newt spoke again.
"However," Newt continued, "if it isn't too too urgent, I could finish my personal relocation by tomorrow and be down there the day after instead."
Wikus smiled, breathing a sigh of relief.
"That would work. I mean it's moderately urgent but a few more days couldn't hurt."
"I hope this isn't too nosy, but I'm really curious as to why you'd call me. Like, what is it that needs my help exactly? You guys have your own Kaiju research team right?"
[You can tell him.] Wikus jumped, having forgotten that Christopher was in the room. [He might as well know if he's going to make the trip all the way down here.]
Newt's voice was immediately in his ear again.
"What the hell was that?" He sounded excited. Wikus smiled a little, feeling smug and maybe a little proud.
"That was my possible co-pilot. That's what I need your help with actually. I need to know if it's possible for me and Christopher to pilot a Jaeger together."
"Why would you need my help with that?"
Wikus knew what Newt wanted him to say, so he decided to have mercy on him.
"Because Christopher isn't human. He's Poleepkwa. They're a race of aliens that have been living outside of Johannesburg since 1982. They've been helping us develop new anti-Kaiju technology in recent times."
"Oh my god... Okay you know what? Screw packing. Packing can wait. I can been down there before the end of today. Where should I meet you?" Wikus figured mentioning Christopher would convince him if nothing else would, and he was right. He could almost hear the other scientist buzzing with excitement.
"There's an old airfield outside the district where Christopher lives. We could meet you there. Just call me before you land and we'll head out."
"Sounds like a plan! I'll see you soon!" Newt hung up before Wikus could say anything else, which was fine because while he had nothing else to say, it looked like Christopher had plenty. He dialed the number for The Cape to let them know that they wouldn't need a transport just yet.
"What?" He said after hanging up, feeling Christopher's eyes burning into his head. The alien's mandibles fluttered before he started speaking, pacing the room again.
[I'm starting to think this is a bad idea.]
"Come on, you've thought that from the beginning. I could tell just by looking at you." Wikus replied. Christopher made a snorting sound, sitting down in the chair next to Wikus. The human looked at him, a small smile coming to his face.
It was amazing what a few years in the new district had done for the Poleepkwa. They all looked so much healthier, much better than the skeletons they used to be. They were still bony-looking and thin, but as he looked at Christopher now, he could see the change. He was bigger through the chest and arms, his large legs even larger. He looked stronger, more imposing, just like how he had always seemed to Wikus, except now it was more tangible. It made Wikus happy to see his friend in a healthier state of being.
[I want to help you get back to your wife, Wikus] -- the word 'wife' translated to 'life partner', but Wikus understood what he meant-- [but if this drift thing doesn't work, it sounds like you're out of options. I just don't want you to get your hopes up for nothing.]
Wikus frowned slightly.
"Me, get my hopes up? Who's still looking around for fluid to start that ship of yours?" It came out harsher than he had intended, and it showed in Christopher's reaction, which consisted of narrowing his eyes and twitching his mouth parts. Wikus sighed and shook his head.
"Look Christopher. We've both got a lot of things we want to get done, things that we're hoping for that might not happen, but you know what happens if we give up? We'll never achieve anything." He looked around the room, still finding it strange that Christopher was actually living in a house.
"I don't want to just hope. I want to make it happen," he looked to his friend again, "and I know you do, too. Who knows. Maybe this Jaeger thing can help you get that ship running. Maybe there's some kind of Jaeger tech that can manufacture a replacement for your fluid."
Christopher said nothing, looking down at the table and tracking a tentacle over its smooth surface.
"Positive thinking, Christopher. These days, it's all we've really got when it comes down to it."
Christopher once again said nothing, silently agreeing with the small human. They sat silently and waited for Newton's phone call.
The steady wumpa wumpa wumpa sound of helicopter blades announced Newt’s arrival to the airfield. Dirt and grime got kicked up as the bird made its landing. Wikus had his jacket back on, covering his arm, and he lifted it to shield his eyes from the dust. Christopher stood silently at his side against his better judgement. He had opted to stay out of sight until Newt and Wikus were alone, but Wikus had insisted that he come and meet Newt at the airfield with him.
"First impressions, you know." The human had said moments before they had left the house. Christopher had trilled hopelessly and followed him out.
The copter blades kept turning even as the door slid open and Newt stuck his head out, looking around before his gaze landed on Wikus, his eyes widening as he spotted Christopher. He shouted something to the pilot before he jumped out of the door and ran towards the pair waiting for him.
"Welcome to Johannesburg, Doctor Geiszler." Wikus said (or shouted rather) by way of greeting, shaking his hand. Newt nodded with a smile, his eyes flickering to the tall alien at Wikus’ side.
"Let’s get away from the airfield and talk." Wikus yelled, turning and walking towards the gates. Newt followed, his eyes on Christopher as he passed him, already studying him. It made Christopher uncomfortable but he didn’t voice it. Newt was there to study both of them after all.
When the trio finally got far enough away from the helicopter, which by that time had been powered down completely, Wikus stopped and turned to face Newt, a smile on his face.
"I’m grateful that you made the trip down here on such short notice. Christopher is, too."
At the mention of the prawn, Newt’s eyes were back on him, wide and curious. Newt was American, so when there had been mention of the aliens in South Africa, he hadn’t really heard about it. American media hadn’t allowed any coverage of the landing or any of the events following it. There was too much at risk at the time. However, now with the Kaiju running amok, aliens were an open topic.
"Christopher huh. Bit of a strange name for an alien - God am I allowed to call him that, or is it rude? - I’m sorry I just," he paused for a shaky breath and a smile, "I’m really excited to meet him. Does he understand English?"
[Yes.] Christopher said, leaning closer and feeling a bit cross with this new human. He was already nervous about the entire situation with Wikus, and this new scientist was making him even more antsy.
Newt continued to stare even as Wikus chuckled, leaning back from the imposing alien glaring at him.
"Yes he can, just like I learned to understand the Poleepkwa language. Unfortunately, they can’t speak English for the same reason that we can’t speak Poleepkwa; our mouths aren’t built correctly for it."
[You can stop pretending that I’m an exhibit and include me in the conversation.] Christopher grumbled, his antennae twitching. Wikus looked sheepish and shrugged.
[He’s here to help us figure out drift compatibility, so let’s talk about that instead of my mouth parts.]
"Alright alright, don’t get testy." Wikus huffed, resisting the urge to giggle like a child. It wasn't often that the stoic alien's feathers got ruffled.
Newt watched the entire exchange in awe. Never in his life had he imagined he’d be seeing what he was seeing. Wikus was actually talking to Christopher, carrying on a conversation. A human and a non-human. And now on top of that, they wanted to pilot a Jaeger. Newt was just barely keeping his excitement to a socially acceptable degree.
"So uh," he said carefully, feeling the hairs on his neck raise when Christopher’s strange eyes settled on him again. He avoided the gaze in favor of looking at Wikus again. "Why the sudden interest in Jaeger piloting? I mean, aren’t you a scientist?"
Wikus looked uncomfortable for a moment.
"Something has come up that requires me to attempt a career change. I'm sorry I can't tell you more and also sorry about all the secrecy. This is a delicate subject for a lot of people, myself included."
Newt waved him off casually.
"Hey whatever you gotta do, man. So. I don't really know how we're going to figure this out. If you were both human, you'd do some physical compatibility tests and, don't get me wrong guys, we could try that but, I think Christopher would come out on top no matter what. He's got a ton of height, weight, and I'm guessing speed on you, Wikus." The doctor scratched the back of his head, shaking it minutely. "I don't have any ideas."
[I want to try it.] Christopher finally spoke. Wikus looked at him, a little surprised.
"He does? Wait, he does what?"
Christopher looked at Newt as he spoke again, making sure Newt understood that if he was going to talk to Christopher, he was going to talk TO Christopher, and not through Wikus.
[I want to try the physical compatibility tests. Wikus is part Poleepkwa so if we're compatible, he should be able to match me well enough as he is.] He looked to Wikus who was staring at him, probably feeling a little anxious about showing his arm off to a scientist he didn't know very well.
"What did he say?" Newt prompted the other human to speak, albeit it was slow, almost like he was trying to figure it out himself.
"He says he wants to try the tests... He says if we're a match, I should be able to keep up because..." He stopped, taking a deep breath before unzipping the long coat and exposing his arm, managing not to flinch at Newt's sharp inhale.
"Because I'm part Poleepkwa. Kaiju blue accident a few years back did this to me."
Newt stared at the arm before looking at Wikus, leaning closer before nodding.
"That explains the eye then. I wasn't gonna pry but I was really curious." He had the good sense to look a little sheepish, to which Wikus responded with a one-shoulder shrug, putting his jacket back on at the same time and zipping it up to the neck.
"It's alright. So, can we do this? Do you think it would be accurate?"
Newt nodded, smile growing.
"So far it has been, so why should this be any different?"
[Because we're not exactly your typical pilots.] Christopher said dryly, drawing a smile from Wikus and a questioning look from Newt. Wikus just shook his head, still smiling, so Newt shrugged and started walking away.
"Alright we don't really need a special place to do this. Just somewhere you guys can move around. Right here in the field would be good but I'm guessing you guys aren't fans of an audience?"
Wikus stared at him before his eyes widened and he looked around, seeing that the few people that had been milling around the area had multiplied to a small crowd, some of them standing along the fences and others trying not to look too interested as they walked by.
Wikus felt panic starting to creep up his spine. Had they seen his arm? Did they care? Would they call the authorities about it? Before he could really freak out, a heavy hand settled on his shoulder, stilling him. He looked up, seeing Christopher looking down at him.
"No I'm fine, it's nothing. Let's do this." Wikus said quickly, not registering that there hadn't been a question. He wasn't a fighter. Ignoring the fact that he had grown up in South Africa and had been forced to learn, he had all but put it out of his mind. Now he was going to fight Christopher, a creature that was built for fighting and battle. This should be interesting...
Minutes later he had removed the coat, curling in on himself inwardly at the gasps and whispers he heard from the spectators. One hard look from Christopher however and he had completely blocked them out. There was no one else. It was just them.
They didn't rush one another or anything, nothing superhero about it. They simply watched one another for a moment, taking a step forward or a step back accordingly. Christopher threw a quick punch that Wikus avoided easily and the staring and circling returned. Another punch from Christopher got blocked and returned... more circling.
Then it was like they broke free. Punches and blocks, dodging and ducking, dancing around one another. It must have lasted all but 30 seconds before they stopped short, open handed strikes prepared to chop each others' throats at the exact same moment (Christopher's right hand and Wikus' prawn hand). They froze, staring at each other, not sure what the weird tingling in the back of their head was but having a theory.
"Wow okay that was amazing!" Newt exclaimed, breaking their gazes away from one another and making them relax out of their attack poses. Wikus was aware of the new expressions on peoples' faces, most of them pleased now. He hid his smile.
"Now I'm no expert but I'd definitely say you two are drift compatible. That was the fastest fight I've seen yet. Of course there's the issue of finding you a functioning Jaeger and," he chuckled, "pilot suits that will fit you. Especially you, Christopher." Christopher snorted with a smirk.
"So, shall we take this elsewhere? To The Cape maybe?" Newt said, looking between the two. Wikus nodded and retrieved his jacket, not bothering to put it back on as he dialed the Marshall's number into his phone. For once, he felt like he had nothing to hide.
Christopher watched him with something akin to pride in his eyes. Wikus' coat was his security blanket, so seeing him willingly forgo it in public - for whatever small amount of time - was a bit of a big deal.
"The transport will be here shortly. They said to wait here in the field and they'll come to us. Luckily I didn't bring anything with me and--"
[What about Oliver?] Christopher said suddenly, stopping Wikus short.
"Oh FOK I forgot about him! Run and get him!" He said. Christopher took off like a shot, throwing dust in his wake.
"Will he make it?" Newt asked.
"He'll be back in less than 5 minutes, just watch." Wikus answered, feeling exposed without the prawn at his side and putting his jacket back on. Newt politely pretended not to notice.
Just like Wikus said, Christopher returned to the airfield with Oliver in less than 5 minutes, just as the helicopter was making its descent into the airspace over Joburg. Newt stared unabashedly at Oliver until Christopher hissed lowly at him, making the scientist jump and move closer to Wikus. The older man chuckled.
"Christopher, come on, leave him alone, man."
[He's staring too much.] Christopher insisted, struggling to keep a hold on Oliver who wanted nothing more than to run over to say hi to 'uncle Wikus', and then run to the stranger and stare right back at him. The little alien chirped, irritated, when his father growled his name and told him to sit still, so he settled for watching the new human from afar, his wide blue eyes unblinking.
"Would you relax?" Wikus said, raising a hand to wave at the officials in the chopper. "We're about to get into this chopper with government officials, and if you're tense then they will be too, and that's not something we need right now."
Sure enough when the helicopter landed, all eyes went to Christopher. Spines straightened and hands went to guns that weren't there; an automatic reaction for some, but a reaction nonetheless that had Wikus on edge as well.
"No no it's alright boys! This is Dr. Newton Geiszler," Newt gave a casual half-wave, "he's visiting from America, well technically Hong Kong now but. He's here to help with our Jaeger program. And this," he motioned to the rigid alien standing a ways from him, "is Christopher Johnson. He's going to be my Jaeger co-pilot."
The men in the helicopter shifted uneasily, looking at one another. Finally one of them spoke. He reminded Wikus of Koobus Venter, one of the high-ranking Rangers at The Cape. He hated him instantly.
"You expect us to let that Prawn in here? And what's that it's holding, a kid? Are you fokken crazy?"
Something shifted inside Wikus and before he knew it, he was stepping forward with a sugar-coated smile.
"Let me explain something to you," he glanced at ID badge on the man's chest. "Matt. Christopher is as much of a guest as Newt and I am on this craft, and HE," he emphasized, angry that they had called his friend 'it', "is coming with us, as is his child, or I'm staying behind as well, and I'm sure you would love to report back to Marshall Smit. Yes? Tell him it was your fault I'm still here in Joburg and not back at The Cape like I should be, eh? Is that something you want to do?"
Christopher watched Wikus put the man in his place and felt a swell of pride again. Wikus used to only pull the 'bad guy being a nice guy' routine on the residents of District 9, back when he was working for MNU. It was strangely cathartic for Christopher to see him do it to his own species.
"I can dial his number for you if you like, here, just let me get my phone." Wikus went to reach into his pocket but Matt stopped him with an outstretched hand.
"NO. No, uh, it's quiet alright. Meant no disrespect, Mr. van de Merwe." He said hastily, his eyes flickering to Christopher. Wikus' smile came back.
"I'm not the one who needs an apology." He said, staring Matt down until the man nodded at Christopher.
"Apologies, Mr. Johnson."
Christopher didn't respond, his mandibles fluttering aimlessly. Satisfied, Wikus climbed into the chopper. Newt let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding and followed, continuing to be surprised by Wikus. Christopher climbed in last, sitting next to Wikus.
This time when the younger prawn struggled away, Christopher didn't stop him. Just as he predicted, Oliver wiggled his way into Wikus' lap, chirping 'sweetie man' happily. Wikus chuckled and patted his head. Newt once again caught himself staring and cast an anxious glance at Christopher, who did little more than look at him before sitting back and closing his eyes, a deep rumble emanating from his chest as the helicopter took off. Newt figured it was because of Wikus. He seemed calmer when Wikus was around. Every new piece of interaction between them further convinced Newt that they were 100% compatible.
Newt tensed when Oliver turned his eyes on him, staring at him before climbing off of Wikus and onto the seat next to Newt. Newt tried not to jump when Oliver's little tentacles touched him. They were cold and rough, not at all slimy like they looked. The little alien pulled at his sleeve, trying to move it, so Newt unbuttoned the cuffs and slid it up, confused by the happy squeaks Oliver began to make. Wikus was chuckling again.
"I think he likes your tattoos." He said. Sure enough, Oliver began tracing the Kaiju designs on Newt's arms, trilling happily. He turned to Wikus, pointing at one of the Kaiju.
[I like this one.] He clicked. His speech had improved, the broken sentences replaced by actual speech. Wikus smiled.
"He says he likes that one." He translated, making Newt smile as well.
"Yeah I like it too. His name was Karloff. He was one of the first Kaiju to come through the Breach. That's where Kaiju come from you see." He began explaining more about Kaiju to Oliver, going on about the different facts about each one featured on his arms. Wikus knew Oliver didn't understand a lot of it-- his knowledge of English was still pretty limited-- but he listened to Newt's passion with equal enthusiasm.
Before they knew it, they were landing on the blacktop of The Cape. Christopher woke up after a few prods from Wikus and took Oliver back, holding him close. The atmosphere in the chopper was very tense. No one at The Cape knew a Poleepkwa was going to be coming back with Wikus, and that fact was very apparent when they landed and the chopper powered down.
All movement on the blacktop stopped when Wikus and Christopher stepped out. They both did their best to ignore it and Newt did the same, politely ignoring the stares that were also cast his way. The trio (plus Oliver, who was once again staring around and taking in everything from the safety of his father's arms) walked across the black top and into The Cape, parting the metaphorical seas as they went.
They were greeted by a group of scientists, who were no doubt there to help Wikus and his new co-pilot get adjusted. They clearly weren't expecting Christopher given the looks they had on their faces.
"What the hell is this?" Newt jumped at the loud voice, turning to see what he assumed to be (a very angry) Marshall Smit approaching them. Wikus looked nervous as well but he recovered quickly, moving to meet the Marshall half-way.
"Explain yourself immediately." Smit demanded, his voice a low hiss. Wikus squared his shoulders, resisting the urge to glare.
"You told me to find someone to be my co-pilot. I did. I chose Christopher."
"What? He's a prawn. Impossible." Smit spat. Someone politely cleared their throat, grabbing the attention of both men. Newt stepped forward.
"Sorry to interrupt but, I'm Dr. Newt Geiszler, I'm from the PPDC branch."
Smit looked him over, unimpressed.
"And what is your purpose here, Dr. Geiszler?" He asked. For once, Newt didn't correct the usage of his professional title. Man, and he thought Marshall Pentecost was scary.
"I was asked here by Wikus to help determine if he and Christopher are drift compatible, and I have to say sir, I'm very convinced that they are suited for one another."
Smit looked two seconds away from another angry outburst so Wikus stepped in once again, his voice dropping low.
"You and I both know that you need me. You're short on pilots and no one is volunteering because of how many have already died. You're running out of candidates and right now, I'm the only one who's qualified and willing. The only way I get to see Tania is if I do this, and that is the only reason I'm even here. For her, not for you, so you should accept my choice happily and be grateful."
Wikus was horrified that he had the gall to say that to Smit's face but it did the trick. Smit looked at Christopher again, looking him up and down and making a face.
"But... he's not qualified to be a pilot."
Wikus actually barked a laugh, shaking his head.
"Sir, he's more qualified than anyone in this base considering that's his technology that you are using." That shut Smit up for the moment which gave Christopher a chance to speak.
[I'm not here to start fights. I'm just here to help Wikus.] He said slowly. Marshall Smit sighed angrily through his nose, understanding the basic gist of what Christopher had said. After another moment of silent fuming, he nodded.
"Fine. Do what needs to be done." He turned to his engineers. "Get these two outfitted for pilot suits as soon as possible and finish production on the new Jaeger."
Wikus was surprised (pleasantly so but surprised nonetheless). He didn't know they were already building a Jaeger. He kept quiet until Smit had gone before turning to Newt and Christopher and smiling.
"I told you, eh? Easy right?"
Christopher snorted, rolling his eyes. Newt didn't say anything, just shrugged at the alien and followed Wikus who had already begun to walk and tell them about The Cape. He was going to get whiplash from all the changes in Wikus' attitude if he wasn't careful.
The grand tour went quickly, seeing as a lot of the areas were closed off for renovations. It didn't matter to Wikus, who was more than excited to show Christopher and Newt around. Wikus wanted to ask what the new PPDC base was like, but since Newt hadn't even been there yet, he wasn't able to tell him much about it.
"All I know is that it's the last standing Jaeger launch bay aside from this one. They shut down the rest of them." He said with a sigh. He may be more of a Kaiju guy, but he had an immense appreciation for the Jaegers. They were gorgeous works of artistic genius disguised as killing machines, which was brilliant. Newt appreciated all the different titans of the age.
"In here is where they launch the Jaegers." Wikus pointed, the huge launch bay making Newt feel very small, especially when his eyes landed on the black and white Jaeger that was being wheeled back inside the hanger, splashes of blue Kaiju blood decorating its broad chest and hull.
"Oh great..." Wikus muttered. Newt followed his line of vision and saw two men in white pilot suits approaching them. They both stopped short at the sight of Christopher standing tall behind Wikus, disbelief on their faces before the taller one laughed and began walking again. Newt saw the way that Wikus subconsciously shied away from the pair.
"What's this?" The tall one said, a nasty sneer on his face. "Bringing home weird pets again are we? Dickus?"
Newt didn't bother being offended that the man didn't seem to see him. From the looks of it, that was probably best. This was clearly not the first time Koobus had antagonized Wikus.
"How was the mission, Koobus?" Wikus asked lightly, ignoring the jab about Christopher. Koobus snorted, looking at his co-pilot.
"Another Kaiju kill in the bag. That's number eight for Iron Fist. Does that excite you? Get some more dead things to play with, eh?" Koobus' tone made Christopher's mandibles twitch in irritation, catching the man's attention.
"The fuck is that thing doing here anyway? Gonna fix up Iron Fist?" He asked. "Got some new goodies for me and Weldon to try out maybe?" Weldon chuckled. Wikus swallowed before speaking.
"No actually Koobus... he's here to help me pilot a Jaeger."
Koobus' laugh was loud and mocking as he threw his head back. Weldon joined in until the two were clutching at one another, trying to remain standing because they were laughing so hard. Wikus' jaw jumped and Newt shifted, feeling useless.
"Yeah I remember hearing something about you getting into the Jaeger program." Koobus said after he managed to reign in his hysterics, snorting and shaking his head. "God. You really are a freak, aren't you, van de Merwe. Couldn't find a human to drift with so you recruited a filthy Prawn."
This time, it was Newt who had to put a hand out to stop Christopher, who hissed angrily and balled up his tentacles. Weldon eyed him suspiciously, making Oliver hide behind his father's leg. Koobus ignored Christopher, his attention on Wikus.
"You're gonna let it into your brain then?" He said, his voice low as he leaned into Wikus' space. Wikus met his stare evenly, his inward panic not showing on his face. "Gonna let its weird thoughts in there? Not afraid that it might finish off what the Kaiju blue started? Turn you into a full fokken Prawn?" He asked, shoving Wikus hard on his Prawn shoulder, making him stumble back a step. "Maybe you'd drift better that way, if you were both animals."
Now Wikus had heard enough. The sugar sweet smile came back, even as his eyes blazed and his jaw clenched. A small crowd had gathered, some of them drawn by Christopher's tall form, others by the confrontation between Koobus and Wikus.
"Let me remind you of something, Koobus." The man in question leaned back, pretending to be interested, coming off as haughty. Wikus went on, stepping aside so Christopher could be seen fully.
"It doesn't matter whether you like it or not. Christopher and I are drift compatible. They're building our Jaeger with the Marshall's instructions. After that's done, he and I will be the only other pilots in this area aside from you two." He stepped forward again, seeming bigger as he stared Koobus down.
"We actually care about protecting the South African people, and not about how much screen time we'll get on the news." His voice turned deadly, the poison matching the answering poison in Koobus' eyes.
"When you go on patrol again, he and I will be the ones watching your back."
"You threatening me, Dickus?" Koobus hissed. Wikus blinked and for a moment, Newt was worried that he had frozen up, but he recovered, stepping back and grabbing at the zipper of his coat. This time when Christopher surged forward, Newt got out of the way.
[Wikus don't—] Christopher started before Wikus waved him off.
"No, fok off, Christopher." Wikus' heart was pounding in his ears as he fought to get the coat off.
"If you're going to call me a freak, Koobus," he shoved the coat off his human side, "you should have something to base that on." When he finally got the coat off his other shoulder and down his arm, revealing the hard exoskeleton and mutated limb, Koobus wasn't the only person who stepped back.
"Shit..." The taller man whispered.
"Strange, eh Koobus? I think the last time you saw it, it was just my hand." Koobus' face was lit up with disgust and a touch of fear. Wikus clutched his coat in his human hand, his knuckles white.
"I don't know how much more this will spread, if I'll become a full Prawn, but I do know this." When he lifted his prawn hand to point at Koobus, the other man flinched away involuntarily.
"It wouldn't stop me from doing my fokken job. It won't stop me. You need me and Christopher, need more pilots, even if you won't admit it, and we are the only ones here. Keep that in mind."
Wikus turned and walked away, forcing Newt and Christopher to follow, but not before Christopher had spat a curse in Poleepkwa at the shocked pilots, ending it with a harsh trill before gathering Oliver into his arms and stalking off. The crowd parted as they left, many of them whispering to one another.
Wikus didn't stop walking until they were completely out of sight of the launch bay. He slowed his pace, a hand going to his forehead. Newt trotted up to his side.
"Hey, you alright?" Newt asked, noticing the tremor in Wikus' hand. The other man smiled at him.
"I'm fine..." He motioned back towards the bay.
"Koobus Venter and Gert Weldon. They pilot Iron Fist, the strongest Jaeger in the southern hemisphere. Back when I worked for MNU, they were part of a private military group that worked with us a lot. Mercenaries basically." Christopher made a displeased sound. Wikus glanced at him before continuing.
"They... assisted a lot... in the district, back when the Poleepkwa were still living in slums, before the Breach opened. Security and whatnot."
Their attitudes made a lot more sense to Newt now. PMC guys were always assholes it seemed. Killing for money would do that to you.
"I can usually ignore them because they stay away from the science areas."
"But now you can't because you're a pilot too." Newt finished for him. Wikus nodded and then shrugged.
"I can't let it bother me anymore. In the end, it will be worth it."
[Let's hope so.] Christopher said, putting Oliver down and letting him walk, keeping a firm grip on his hand.
"Mr. van de Merwe! Mr. van de Merwe!"
The group stopped, turning around to find the source of the sound. Wikus smiled as the young man came running up to him.
"Fundiswa! How's it going, man?" Wikus asked, shaking the man's hand.
"Fine, sir, just fine." Fundiswa answered. Newt was interested in the fact that Christopher didn't seem to phase him in the least. He must have been one of the MNU employees that actually interacted with the Poleepkwa.
"Fundiswa, this is Dr. Newt, and Christopher and his son Oliver. This is Fundiswa Mhlanga. He was my underling during our MNU days." Wikus said, clapping the smaller man on the shoulder, throwing him off balance a bit. Fundiswa smiled shyly and nodded to them, his eyes stopping on Christopher, who clicked a simple greeting to him.
"I'm assuming you know why they're all here?" Wikus continued. Fundiswa nodded and handed him the folder that had been tucked under his arm.
"Yes sir, of course, and I was asked to give you this when I found you."
Wikus opened it with curiosity, scanning the information inside. It was all Jaeger talk; where he and Christopher needed to be for their test drive and whatnot, what to expect during the first drift, what the rules of Jaeger driving were, and which ones were strict and which ones had a little leniency to them. In short, it was all information he knew already having been through the training program.
Christopher didn't know however, so Wikus handed the folder to him and watched as the alien scanned it at twice the speed he had, pausing only once or twice when he found a word he didn't understand before moving on. He closed the folder and looked at Wikus.
[None of this bothers you?] He asked. Wikus gave him a confused look so he explained.
[Emotional transference, possible development of mental dependability on your co-pilot, shifts in personality due to inevitable brain neural path interference.] Christopher named off all of the warnings. Wikus thought about it for a moment.
"No, it doesn't bother me. It bothers you?"
[More like worries me. I may not have a human brain but I know what neural interference can do to a brain, human or not.] He said, and while Wikus was tempted to ask what he meant, he didn't.
Newt was once again out of the loop and he scratched at his neck.
"Guess if I'm going to hanging with you guys, I should start taking notes huh?" He chuckled. Wikus blushed around the collar.
"Sorry, man. Didn't mean to exclude you. Christopher was just wondering about the warnings about the drift sequence, you know, after effects and such."
Newt nodded. A lot of pilots got cold feet when they read those. Becoming mentally dependent on someone was a scary thought even if the pilots were already close.
"Ehh, it's not so bad. If anything, it makes you fight better." He smiled, pleased when he got an amused look from Christopher. "You've got more reasons to fight the Kaiju off when your whole mental well-being depends on the person at your side."
Wikus didn't reply. It wasn't that the idea of being linked to Christopher bothered him (not any more than it would if it were anyone else), but he couldn't help but wonder about the long-term effects. Would they be connected until they died? More than likely, yes. It was just another thing to think about he supposed.
"The Marshall asked me to show you to your rooms." Fundiswa said politely, motioning for everyone to follow him. "He wants you settled in as soon as possible and rested for tomorrow."
[What's happening tomorrow?] Christopher asked. Fundiswa turned to talk to him, understanding the word 'tomorrow' and a question.
"Marshall wants to try and have your Jaeger finished by early afternoon, so at least you two can see it and get inside the cockpit. Get a feel for things, you know?"
"That'll be good." Newt said, stopping short so he wouldn't trip over Oliver as he ran in front of him, chirping and looking around.
[Wikus will you grab him please?] Christopher said exasperatedly, already exhausted from chasing Oliver most of the day. Wikus snatched the younger prawn up with his mutated arm as he ran by, holding him by the scruff of his neck like one would hold a kitten.
"Now listen here, you little fokker." He said, holding tight to Oliver when he struggled. "Either you behave yourself or I'm going to carry you for the rest of the trip, and as much as you like me, I know you won't enjoy that. You understand me?"
A few hours ago, Newt would have been glancing nervously at Christopher, seeing as Wikus had not only cursed at his child but had threatened him non-violently as well. However, Christopher paid no mind, only extending his hand for Oliver to hold when Wikus put him back down. The little prawn trilled irritably but took his father's hand, glaring around halfheartedly.
They arrived at their bunks quickly. Newt had a room to himself while Wikus and Christopher were to share one. Jaeger pilots almost always shared quarters with one another. The pair didn't mind. Christopher's only request after Fundiswa asked if they needed anything was for more blankets and pillows.
The Poleepkwa didn't sleep in beds. They made big nests out of whatever soft materials they could find and curled up in the center of them. It was easier considering their hard exoskeleton made sleeping on a hard surface uncomfortable.
Wikus and Christopher were alone in the room after Fundiswa left. Christopher had sent Oliver to go bother Newt for a while. The other human hadn't dared to argue. Besides, he liked Oliver. Even if the little guy didn't get everything he was saying, he listened intently without interrupting.
"So uh..." Wikus said awkwardly. Christopher cocked his head as the human rubbed the back of his neck.
"Sorry for telling you to fok off back there. I got a little heated..."
Christopher waved him off casually.
[It's alright. I shouldn't have tried to interfere. It wasn't my place.]
"Well that's a bit subjective now, isn't it? Since you're going to be my co-pilot and all. Aren't we expected to keep each other in check?" Wikus said with a shrug. Christopher answered with a shrug of his own.
[When have you and I ever done what was expected of us?] He clicked dryly, making Wikus chuckle.
"You've got a point there. So. Here's to us being the most unconventional Jaeger team to date." The hybrid raised an imaginary glass. Christopher snorted and nodded.
[Here's to us.]
This is the newest piece since I stopped updating 11 months ago. Let's hope I can keep it up!
The next day came quickly and Wikus was shaking with anxiety by 9am.
[Wikus, you must calm yourself.] Christopher said for what must have been the sixth time that morning. They were waiting for a Jaeger tech to come get them so they could get their pilot suits fitted. Christopher was nervous himself, but at least he hadn't spent the bigger part of the morning carving a rut in the floor.
"I can't just calm down, man." Wikus said, raking his human hand through his hair. "This is a big day. There's so much to do. What if something goes wrong? What if we end up not being compatible? What if--"
Christopher grabbed Wikus by the shoulder, halting his pacing.
[Wikus!] Christopher said with a warbled chuckle. [Calm down. Everything will be alright.]
Wikus took a deep breath, making Christopher warble again.
"I'm sorry I'm just so fokken nervous. This is my only chance to see Tania again. I just don't want to fok it up, you know?"
[Yes I know.]
There was a knock at their door before one of the techs opened it, smiling at them.
"Show time." She said.
Christopher and Wikus followed the tech through the halls, doing their best to ignore all the faces peering at them as they passed. They arrived in the Jaeger launch bay and found it buzzing with excitement. Wikus hadn't seen it so busy in years and stared around, jumping out of the way when a tech or an engineer hurried by him.
"Holy fok." He said, turning in circles as he walked alongside Christopher. The Poleepkwa vocalized his agreement.
"Here she is."
Wikus and Christopher stopped in their tracks, staring up at the Jaeger that the tech had indicated.
It was composed of four colors; black, blue, green, and gold, with black being the dominant color. The two soon-to-be pilots looked at one another after seeing the legs and Wikus's eyes traveled down to Christopher's own legs, smiling at the likeness. The Conn-Pod was closely similar to the Australian Jaeger Striker Eureka, a design that Wikus had always liked.
"The design team took some liberties after they heard who their pilots were going to be." The tech said. "The Marshall wasn't very pleased." She said, smiling in spite of herself. Wikus liked her even more because of it.
"I didn't catch your name." He said and she extended her hand.
"My name's Lyla." She said. After a second's hesitation, she extended her hand to Christopher as well. He took it with a small nod.
"I of course know who you two are, so welcome." Lyla said.
"Hey you guys!" Wikus and Christopher looked up and saw Newt coming down from the Jaeger's Conn-Pod, waving at them. He jogged across the bay floor, narrowly missing getting clipped by a supply transport cart. The driver beeped the horn at him and called him a nasty name in Afrikaans. Wikus bit down on his tongue to keep from laughing when Newt actually said 'thank you'.
"She's beautiful, right?" Newt said, joining the three in looking up at the Jaeger. "I don't know much about the Jaegers, I'm more of a Kaiju guy, but I was able to help out a little bit." He said proudly before clapping his hands together.
"Alright, time for the pilot suits. Let's go."
A short hour and a half later, Wikus and Christopher had their adjusted pilot suits on sans the helmets. The suits were mostly gray with black joints and abdominal plating, and gold accents on the left side of the chest plates and the left arms.
"Not bad at all." Wikus said, twisting this way and that to get adjusted to the tight feel. The suit was modified to fit his entire left side comfortably, hand and all. He looked over at his co-pilot.
Christopher seemed uncomfortable, but it probably because there were so many people touching him and in his personal space. The ridges over his eyes sat low, making him look bored, but his twitching antennae gave him away.
Christopher looked like a bonafide alien invader in his suit, but Wikus wouldn't dare tell him that to his face. The intimidation factor that Christopher had gained after he bulked up was amplified by the suit. Wikus's eyes were drawn to the black abdominal plating, noticing that it mimicked the abs that Christopher actually had...
He looked really good.
Wikus physically stopped short at the thought, but he didn't have enough time to dwell on it because Newt was talking again.
"So the Jaeger is almost finished, should be a few more days, no more than a week, but the Conn-Pod is a couple hours away from being ready to use, so if you guys just wanna hang around, stay in the suits, we'll just call you back into the bay when we're ready for the test run."
Wikus flexed his prawn hand a few times.
"Yesterday Fundiswa said the Jaeger would be done by this afternoon."
"Well that was before the late-night redesign plans, namely the legs and the paint job. The crew's really excited to have a non-human pilot, so they kind of wanted to reflect that in the Jaeger's design."
"How did you manage to get this done so quickly?" He asked, looking back at the Jaeger, and then at the pilot suits. Newt snorted a laugh.
"A lot of effort and a lot of overtime. Amazing what people can get done when they're motivated."
He clapped Wikus on the shoulder with a smile.
"Can't wait for you guys to drift. Should be a helluva thing to see."
Wikus quickly discovered why Koobus and Weldon hardly took their pilot suits off around the Cape. He felt pretty damn good about himself walking around in the suit. Christopher noticed the way he was strutting through the bay and snorted at him, earning him a look from the hybrid.
“What?” Wikus said. “You can’t say I don’t look amazing in this suit.” He laughed, playfully puffing his chest out and flexing his arms. Christopher warbled a laugh at him.
[Yes, alright, you look nice.] Christopher finally admitted, making Wikus beam at him.
“You don’t look half bad yourself.” Wikus remarked, deeming it okay to look Christopher over again since he was complimenting him. The Poleepkwa stood up a bit straighter and his mouth parts fluttered.
[Thank you.] He said quietly, his voice tinged with a low undertone that Wikus had learned meant he was pleased. The rumble made Wikus’s cheeks light on fire and he quickly began walking again.
“No problem.” He said, his voice a tad higher than usual.
No, there was no way. He did not like Christopher like that. The entire reason he was even doing this was so that he could see his Tania again. This was all for her.
His eyes flickered to the large alien at his side, who was once again looking around with those half-mast eyes, appearing to be bored but his waving antennae told Wikus that he was gathering information, learning about the things around him.
Wikus looked at his feet as he walked. He cleared his throat a few seconds later, grabbing Christopher’s attention.
“So this may seem random but uh… Oliver is your child, and you’re his father. Did he ever have a mother, or a mother-figure? You know what I mean?”
Christopher looked at Wikus for a moment before answering, and when he did, his voice was low, filled with sadness.
[I had a mate once, but he died while we were in the district… Actually he was killed.]
Wikus almost stopped walking, instead choosing to gently put a hand on Christopher’s arm, making the alien look at him.
“I’m so sorry, Christopher.” He said, and he meant it. Christopher chirped at him but said nothing more.
Wikus felt selfish thinking about what Christopher was doing for him, helping him get his ‘mate’ back, when Christopher’s had been taken away from him without remorse. It was no doubt MNU’s doing and since he had probably played a hand in it all, Wikus felt even worse.
They walked in silence until they reached the bay doors, which were currently open. Iron Fist had been deployed a few hours before, and was due to be returning soon with yet another Kaiju kill under their belt. That was two days in a row. The attacks were getting more frequent. It made Wikus nervous for several reasons.
The ocean was calm for the moment, the waves lapping lazily at the ramp the Jaegers used to enter and exit the bay. There were a few fluffy white clouds in the blue sky, and Wikus found himself calming back down.
Christopher’s gills expanded to take in the salty air as he drew in a slow breath. The sea always made him miss his home, as did deserts and the dry heat of South Africa. When he thought about it, they really couldn’t have asked for a better place to crash land, except maybe somewhere closer to a body of water. His home world was a perfect mix of oceans and deserts, and he missed it more and more every day.
“Be honest,” Wikus’s voice pulled him back from traveling mentally through the stars. “Do you think we can do this?”
Christopher’s labra twitched as he thought.
[Yes. I believe we can.] He said slowly. [We have to, for many reasons.]
Wikus nodded. There was a small period of silence before they heard their names being spoken over the loud speaker.
Wikus van de Merwe and Christopher Johnson to the launch bay. I repeat, van de Merwe and Johnson to the launch bay.
The two pilots looked at one another before turning their backs on the ocean, heading back inside the launch bay for their test drive.