They’re up in the scaffolding, far enough away that they can see almost everything. For once, Raleigh has nothing to say.
“Wow,” says Yancy, as a whole fleet of welders descends from the chest plate.
“Yeah,” agrees Raleigh. “What’s she called?”
“Currently? Mark-3 Golf Delta 61273,” says Yancy.
They look at each other.
“Jet Jaguar,” says Raleigh.
“No,” says Yancy, smacking him on the back of the head. “I don’t think they’ll like if we steal someone else’s name.”
“C’mon, old man, everyone called the last kaiju Echo Saber took down Megalon,” says Raleigh. “Tom Servo.”
“Same problem,” says Yancy. “And she’s a lady, kid, Jesus.”
“Gypsy,” says Raleigh. “Doesn’t she run the higher functions of the ship? It’s perfect.”
Yancy gives him a pitying look. “Kid, we’re supposed to run the higher functions of the ship.” He grins. “Although I was never sure you even had higher functions.”
Raleigh manages to get him in a headlock before Yancy jabs him in the ribs. “Get off, you punk,” he gasps. Raleigh smirks and wheezes and Yancy smooths his hair and they go back to watching the installation of the front plate of the reactor housing.
“Gypsy what?” asks Yancy.
“I don’t know,” says Raleigh. “Pick something cool.”
Somebody tells them later on that “gypsy” is an insult, and they feel pretty awful about it, even if it’s not quite as bad as it could be because Yancy can’t spell for shit. But their names are Raleigh and Yancy, for crying out loud. They probably should have known better than to let a Becket help name anything.
For Mako’s fourteenth birthday, Marshal Pentecost gets her a new coat, an upgraded tablet, and a turtle.
“They won’t allow most other kinds of pets on base, I’m afraid,” he says. Mako knows that they might have allowed an exception for the Marshal, but he would never make others follow regulations he does not.
The turtle is unexpected, but not entirely mysterious. Her therapist had suggested that a pet might be helpful with some of her remaining anxiety issues, and she’s determined that her psych evals will be as perfect as possible.
She’s not perfect, she can’t be, but Marshal Pentecost had told her that everyone carries their own scars. She won’t let hers stop her.
She inspects the terrarium, careful not to smudge the glass with her fingers. “It’s very nice,” she says.
A name is on the tip of her tongue, but that belongs to the days when kaiju were just stories, when her mother and father would sit down with her after she had finished her homework and they would turn on the TV and her parents would pretend not to notice when she buried her face in their arms whenever Barugon was onscreen.
She realizes that Marshal Pentecost is still looking at her, maybe waiting for some other response. “I—” she say, then plunges ahead, because a Jaeger pilot can’t run from her memories, not when she’ll see them all in the Drift. “Thank you,” she says, “I’ll call him Gamera,” and he smiles at her, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
“You ok?” asks Mako, after they’ve been hauled up into the choppers.
Raleigh musters up a smile. “Yeah,” he says. He’d still been too high on adrenaline when he’d first woken up to really register how amazingly terrible he felt. He sure doesn’t have that problem now that he’s collapsed on the floor of a troop transport.
“You?” he asks.
She doesn’t answer right away, helping him to his harness. “I will be,” she says finally, which isn’t really an answer, but is still more than he expected. She looks like he feels, stunned by relief, affection, and grief.
“All my joints hurt,” he says, flexing his hands and wincing.
“Decompression sickness,” says Mako. “So do mine.” She helps a medic strap him in and gestures impatiently for their oxygen masks.
His doesn’t fit very well and his arms feel like they weigh a million pounds, but Mako is sitting next to him and every time she reaches up to straighten her mask, she steadies his as well. He falls asleep slumped against her shoulder and doesn’t wake up until they hit Hong Kong.
They miss most of the spontaneous parties and parades after the Breach is closed on account of being trapped in the infirmary. Marshal Hansen drops by while they’re still getting oxygen therapy, and Raleigh startles out of a doze when he taps on the wall of his hyperbaric chamber.
“You did good, Rangers,” says Hansen. His eyes are red but his voice is steady, and he picks up Max so he can slobber happily against the glass at Mako. She smiles and puts her hand up to the other side of the glass.
“What’s next?” asks Raleigh.
Hansen snorts. “Try asking that when you’ve got about three less tubes poking out of your arm,” he says, but he salutes them both before he leaves.
“What is next?” he asks Mako.
“I don’t know,” she says softly. “I never thought they’d be gone.” She swallows. “I never thought he’d be gone, either.”
“When my brother died,” says Raleigh after a moment, “I tried to run away from everything. But I couldn’t even do that. I couldn’t give up the fight. So I ended up working on the wall. I’m pretty sure if my brother knew what I’d done, he’d have kicked my ass.”
“You still wanted to help,” says Mako. “That’s not so bad.”
“I guess not,” says Raleigh. “But you can’t let it consume you like I did. It’s no good living in the past.”
“No,” says Mako.
They let Mako go but keep Raleigh for “further observation,” because apparently doctors get touchy when your vital signs just go away for a couple minutes. When they’re not trying to replace all his blood and pump him full of antibiotics, it’s not too bad. He shakes Tendo’s hand, gives Newt and Dr. Gottlieb a full report of what he remembers from the other side of the Breach, and accepts the congratulations from a stream of well-wishers.
Mako reappears after visiting hours are over, but the nurses seem disinclined to stop her. Raleigh’s grateful, because there’s no one to talk to and it’s too quiet.
“Do you think the kaiju are gone?” she asks.
“I hope so,” says Raleigh. “But I don’t think we can count on that.”
“I don’t either,” she says. She hands him a tablet and a stack of files.
“What am I looking at?” asks Raleigh.
“Before we found out the Jaeger program was to be shut down completely, Marshal Pentecost was investigating several proposals to continue its funding. Offers to apply Jaeger technology in other fields. Partnerships with national maritime organizations. If we move quickly, we can convince the United Nations to keep us running, but...”
“But we have to give them something to support besides our past fights,” Raleigh finishes. “Something we can keep winning at.”
“Yes,” says Mako. She gestures to the pages and pages of reports and blueprints. “We have to show them our future.”
“Let’s do this,” says Raleigh, and picks up the first file.
Raleigh likes to talk. He likes to talk a lot. Mako didn’t notice it initially, when they first met, and every word out of his mouth was just a little too loud and a little too brash and a little too bitter – not at all what she was expecting from a Ranger, much less a Ranger with his record. Every word out of Marshal Pentecost’s mouth was clear, concise, and imbued with authority. Mako imitated him when she was sure of her ground, and kept silent when she wasn’t.
But Raleigh really does not like silence. Onibaba’s attack had already been burned into her mind, but now it has another dimension laid over it, the distress and helplessness of calling out for someone who won’t answer, of watching another partner getting torn away.
She kept that in the back of her mind when they’d been deployed in Hong Kong, when they’d gone after the Breach, when not even the threat of multiple kaiju could keep him from calling out every move and every attack. He wasn’t telling her about them because he thought she didn’t know; he just wanted the positive feedback through the Drift from thinking the same thing, the reassurance that she was still there, listening.
Of course, there are times when his talkativeness is a boon. Mako had learned to deal with the press a little after the Onibaba Incident, but then she’d been a survivor, a symbol, not a hero, and she had been allowed to be shy and dignified. All active Rangers receive a crash course in media training to try to keep a handle on their fame, but Raleigh is actually good at it, his friendliness charming audiences and his unpredictability charming interviewers. They need all the charm they can get if they want to keep the Jaeger Program going, in whatever form it will end up in.
They divide their duties accordingly: he handles explaining the PPDC’s plans for expansion and provides the anecdotes, and she jumps in with clarifications and technical details. Neither of them are very good at inspirational quotes.
This press conference is going well – the reporters are mostly sympathetic, and they’re clearly thrilled to have the chance to grill the last two Rangers about the future of the Jaeger Program.
“And what do you say to detractors of the program who say that Jaeger tech and Jaeger pilots are already obsolete?” asks one reporter, jamming the microphone a little too close to Raleigh’s face.
The question takes him off guard, startling him out of his easy patter. They don’t have to be Drifting together for her to guess what he’s thinking right now: unwanted memories of Yancy’s last moments, of Gipsy falling on the cold shore, of signing his release papers and hitching a ride out of Anchorage as fast as he can, of working for food on the coastal wall but feeling sick every time he looks down at the world from the same height as his cockpit and there’s no one there beside him sharing the view.
She wishes, more than anything, that Stacker Pentecost was here. All I need to be is a fixed point, she remembers, from another memory that is and is not hers.
She takes a steadying breath.
“Technology – and people – will never be obsolete as long as they can adapt and change,” says Mako. “Six years ago, Gipsy Danger rescued the fishing trawler Wasilla Jenny, saving all ten people aboard, while she fought the kaiju Knifehead in the middle of a storm. Imagine what we could do when we partner with the Kaijō Hoan-chō or the US Coast Guard. Before, we were limited by battle: the Jaegers had to act and move like us because that was the best way we knew how to fight. Now we have the time to expand our designs and train our pilots to do nearly anything, and Jaeger tech will revolutionize everything it touches.
“It’s true that we don’t know if or when the kaiju will come back. If they do, we will be ready. But we are the Pan Pacific Defense Corp, and our mission is to protect humanity. That will never change. Until the monsters return, we will defend the world in whatever way it requires from us.”
“You know, I think that’s the most words I’ve ever heard you say in a row,” says Raleigh as they’re walking to their plane.
“That’s because I have to let you talk or you get cranky,” says Mako. Raleigh snorts and checks her gently with his hip. She punches him in the arm, not too hard.
“He’d be really proud of you, Mako,” says Raleigh later.
“He would be proud of all of us,” says Mako, then, “Thank you.”
It’s true that he might be a little biased, but he thinks the Mark-6 is beautiful. She looks a lot like Striker Eureka, but more streamlined, and loaded with all the hopes and dreams of the discontinued Mark-5s. But Raleigh thinks he can still see some traces of Gipsy Danger in the breadth of her chest and shoulders and, of course, in her modified nuclear vortex turbine.
He likes the Waechters well enough – they’re small, scrappy, and a little bulky, but they handle like a dream – but he’s still a Jaeger pilot at heart.
“Her primary system is digital, but she can switch to a fully analog backup,” says Mako. He thinks the awed look on her face is probably the same as his, even though she had actual access to conceptual designs and the blueprints, thanks to her work on the Mark-3 Restoration Project. But he guesses that there’s really nothing like seeing her standing there in all her glory. “She runs the Japanese Kei-Com operating system, her armor and infrastructure were made in Eastern Europe and Brazil, and her hyper-torque drivers are from Italy. She has 60 engine blocks for each muscle strand.”
Raleigh whistles. “She’s gonna be so fast.”
“And strong,” says Mako. “Her battle specs match Striker Eureka’s, although I think those estimates are low. What did they finally call her?”
“Mark-6 Romeo Juliet 89252,” says Raleigh.
For a moment, they watch the showers of sparks raining down from the shoulder blocks.
“Didn’t Romeo and Juliet both die?” asks Mako.
“Yeah,” says Raleigh. “We need to name her something else.”
“We should try not to insult anyone this time,” says Mako. Raleigh nudges her with his elbow.
The Mark-6 looks like a fighter or a trickster, not a lover. Bold orange, blue, and gold details gleam on her steel, and the conn-pod’s got extra reinforcement, a central ridge and a grill like a devilish grin.
In fact, it looks kind of like—
He hears Mako sing, very softly, “Hito ga tsukutta...”
“Robotto da kedooooooo,” belts Raleigh. “Jet Jaguar? Jet Jaguar!”
“Yatta, Jetto Jagaa,” she finishes, laughing.
Technically speaking, this is not their first typhoon run: they had taken the Waechters out of Manila on a field test, LOCCENT informed them that the tropical storm had intensified, and Deputies Broiteswara and Littleton had picked up a wayward convoy on their long-range sensors. From there it had been a fairly logical progression, even if Marshal Hansen had not seen it in quite that light.
That time, or the time after.
But it’s their first official typhoon run, and it’s Roma Jaguar’s maiden voyage.
Tendo finishes rattling off the last-known positions, and the coordinates shine brightly on their heads-up display. The computer’s final calibrations scroll down the side, glimmering like stars.
Marshal Hansen comes on the line.
“Deputies,” he says, “Rangers. This is a search and rescue mission only. Get out there and do us proud.”
After months in the Waechters, driving a Jaeger again feels like Mako has uncurled from a tiny ball and finally has the chance to stretch her limbs. Every movement feels natural; every step has the proper heft and weight.
“All right, weapons check,” says Raleigh; she’s already reaching for her control panel. They don’t fire anything, of course, but they run through the checklist: spooling up the plasma cannons, unracking the shoulder-mounted missiles, deploying the chain sword. Everything is fully functional.
The Waechters dart around their legs like dolphins and Raleigh flips the comms to an open line to the sound of cheering. He grins over at Mako, and she grins back.
“All right, Deputies,” he says. “This is Roma Jaguar. This is not a drill, but you know what to do.”
“LOCCENT should have sent you the coordinates for the distress call,” says Mako. “We’ll be behind you for shelter and support.”
“This is our chance to show the world what the PPDC can still do,” says Raleigh. “Let’s go out there and kick some ass!”
The cheering cuts out as he silences the comms.
“You ready, Mako?” he asks.
“Let’s go fight a hurricane,” she says, and they charge off into the storm.