Max regretted picking Godzilla for date night when he turned on the news and realized what he was seeing. He flipped through a few channels and Jessie poked her head around the overgrown fern on the table, one hand on her pregnant belly.
“What is it?” she asked, as he skimmed every news channel and then moved on to other channels. It was the same image on every one, a stone-gray head looming fifteen stories over house-sized clawed feet, crushing cars and scoring the ground like a giant in a mouse-sized city.
“Boot up the computer,” he said. “Should double-check this.”
Mama didn't want Furiosa to see what had interrupted her show on the telly. Furi pressed herself against the sitting room door, faint explosions and the anchor's breathless patter only audible in the pauses of Mama's low-voiced argument with Aunt Keeper.
A rumbling roar came from the speakers and the door was yanked open. Furi stumbled forward, catching herself just before knocking heads with Keeper's shoulder. Her aunt grumbled and stepped aside, running a cupped hand over Furi's hair.
“What's going on?” she asked, but Keeper's mouth went flat and tight and she just propelled Furi towards the telly, where her mother was standing with her hands white-knuckled on the couch, face still and severe.
Furi scrambled over the couch, asking “Mama?” as she went over, but she was already looking at the screen and neither grownup answered her.
“Official evacuation of the entire west coast is underway,” said the newsanchor, but the image on the telly was an overhead view of a monster smashing through a city. Furi read the letters at the bottom of the screen twice to make sure it was San Francisco instead of Sydney. “Nuclear measures have been approved by the president.”
Half of the police station had packed up and either moved further inland or signed up to one useless organization or another when the Pan Pacific Defense Corpse was initiated and the development of homegrown monsters – “Jaegers” – was announced. Jessie refilled Sprog's bowl of cheerios and looked at maternity clothes on the internet while Max read through news articles on his phone.
“Might should have held off on the second sprog,” he mumbled into his coffee.
Jessie laughed, just a shade of humor underneath the grimness like most laughter was in those days. Sprog babbled to his action figures, flying Superman with one hand and making Darth Vader dance a jig with the other.
“Bit late for that, love,” Jessie said, nudging the bowl closer to their son. “The world might be ending, but we're safe enough.”
“We need to go,” Mary said, and Furi blinked as the light came on and her mother flipped the quilt off, disappearing before Furi could make a sound. Val was already halfway off her bed, one earbud hanging, and they stared at each other for a moment before Furi jumped to pull the suitcase out from under her bed and Val ran to get the water bottles.
An hour later, Furi was crammed between the car door and Aunt Maddie, knees folded up so her feet could rest on one of the emergency boxes, Shag standing on Val's lap on the other side of Maddie and barking out the window. She had lost sight of Keeper's hatchback in the dark and chaos a creeping kilometer before.
“I'm signing up to the PPDC and you're coming with me.”
Max blinked at Goose standing on the doorstep, jittery like he'd had nothing but coffee to keep him upright, still in uniform and unshaven even though he'd gotten off shift yesterday evening. Max opened the door wider and guided his friend in with a hand on the shoulder, but Goose shrugged out of the hold and started walking backwards down the hall, bouncing from foot to foot and hands swinging as he spoke.
“I'm serious!” he said, and slapped Max on the chest. “It's not just someone else's problem now, they've stepped foot on our home and it's time we do something about it.”
He tripped over one of Sprog's toys and went flailing onto his back. Max heard Sprog call for his mother and Jessie hushing him before she appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Good morning, Goose,” she said, but she was looking at Max. He shrugged and pulled the other man to his feet, then gave him a light push towards the sitting room.
“I'll straighten him out,” he said.
Aureate Rebel stood as tall as their apartment building and glittered like a knight in full armor. Furi bought a poster and hung it over the water stains on the wall of her closet-sized room and ignored Val's teasing.
“It'll be just like patrol,” he told Jessie, leaning over the bundle of Glory in her arms to kiss her. “The perps are a little bigger, but I get to drive a building-sized car.”
Her laugh was choked and watery this time, and tears shone on her eyelashes.
“Everything's about cars with you, isn't it?” she said, and kissed him back.
Furi marked down every Jaeger kill on her poster, now jostling for space between a PPDC recruitment poster that made Val's eyes go tight and an image of Ranger Angharad standing proud before her Jaeger.
Training ground Max down to lows he didn't even know he had, but one day he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Goose and realized that the words the headmaster was saying weren't a dismissal but a congratulations.
They got twenty-four hours off. Max went home, kissed his wife and children, dropped the acceptance form and orders on the kitchen counter, and took a nap.
Lockjaw descended like a typhoon. They didn't bother with a car this time, just grabbed their go-bags and took to the streets along with every other person in the city. Maddie was knocked off-balance and Furi stopped to steady her, only to turn around and realize that she couldn't see the others even with her height.
“We'll meet up after,” Maddie yelled over the sounds of the crowd.
They were still a kilometer away from the closest open shelter, a green beacon of hope on Furi's phone, when the ground shook and the straggling group around them went silent. The windows rattled with a roar like an avalanche.
“Go, go, go,” Furi chanted, dropping everything and pulling her aunt after her.
An eternity and a moment later, she lay amongst rubble, dazed with blood loss and pain from her crushed arm, and watched Aureate pummel Lockjaw to death.
In the stillness after, a figure emerged from the Jaeger and stood for a moment, then removed their helmet. Blond hair caught the light like fire and gold, and Furiosa screamed her rage.
“The Drift is gone, the Drift is gone!”
Max roared and slammed the comm off, calling for Interceptor to move and getting clumsy responses as he felt his partner slip from the Drift.
“Goose!” he shouted, but there was no response and his right side was weighing him down, Knifehead rearing back for a final hit.
He caught its spearhead and fired once-twice-thrice into its jaw, but it ripped free and scythed back and his leg buckled in agony like lighting but he hammered down, pulled it over and rammed his arm down its throat and fired his last shot.
Furi filled out the Jaeger Academy application forms with one hand, the other held together with pins and rods and medical tape. She put no name on the line for her guardian.
Two weeks later, she received a plane ticket to Anchorage.
Max felt Goose slip away in the tendrils of the ghost drift as he tore his way out of Interceptor's shattered conn pod and into the rubble of his home.
He stayed upright until he found the door of the shelter, warped off its hinges, the space behind it crushed and collapsed. He stayed conscious until he heaved a chunk of concrete out of the way and found his nightmare.