It took a moment for Yancy Becket to remember exactly where he was. The soreness of his body crept into his awareness as did the stickiness between his thighs. He was in Manila and they just did the three jaeger drop. He recalled that. Getting up he looked at his bed companion and everything from the night came back. He was in bed with Herc Hansen, his idol. ‘I didn’t even have that much to drink.’ They were in a hotel suite. He’d had two shots, that was it.
“Oh man,” he muttered as he saw his neck. He’d been mauled by an Australian grizzly bear. And there were actual handprints on his hips. He’d been taken hard and often last night.
Came a deep voice in his ear followed by nuzzling on his neck. Yancy looked up and melted as Herc stared at him. It was pure adoration. “Good morning.” Oh, he could get used to this fast.
A swat on the ass made Yancy groan. Two fingers made him bend over and stare at himself in the large mirror.
“Been a long time, mate. You shaking this perfect ass at me too.” Herc pushed in and watched as Yancy moaned in delight. It had been ages since he’d felt this frisky and he wasn’t going to waste it. “Damn you look pretty taking me deep, begging for it.” It wasn’t his wife. Far from it. Made it guilt free for him. Made it unique and different. He allowed himself to enjoy this.
It was another hour before the two were dressed. Yancy crossed the hall to the suite he was supposed to share with his brother. Herc followed him in and pointed to the passed out young man on the couch. He had his substantial cock in hand and smelled like he’d had several goes at himself for hours. The mess was impressive for one bloke.
“Bro, get up!” Yancy yelled while poking his forehead. The only thing that ever made him jealous of his brother was between his legs. Yancy always thought the excess from his short comings were given to Rals.
Raleigh Becket rolled and fell on the floor. He groaned as he got up. “Going to kill you! Kept me up all night as you two went at it.” He stood up not embarrassed at all to be naked and covered in dried spunk. “I got everything thanks to our ghosting.” He was a little jealous and angry, but his brother looked so happy.
“Sorry about that, mate,” Herc offered. “Your brother…”
The younger blond cut off the senior Ranger, “Has an epic years long crush on you. You haven’t put a dent in it at all.” He smirked at Yancy. It was a small piece of revenge for experiencing second hand all the pleasure his brother did. He walked into the bathroom and slammed the door.
Yancy cringed at the sound and dreaded turning around. A hand on his shoulder made him turn and look at Herc.
“Years, huh?” Herc leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the younger man’s lips. He was feeling things he hadn’t felt in years. But there was one issue… “I have a teenage son.”
“The famous Chuck,” Yancy answered. “Fifteen, going to break Raleigh’s record by a mile as youngest pilot ever.” He returned the kiss and leaned into Herc. “Why?”
“He’ll be here in two days. Haven’t seen him in months and I’m on a break now for a week.” Herc was suddenly nervous. “Heard you might be here for a few days too?”
“My brother might not like it much, but yes we are. Got to go to Subic soon though.” Yancy pulled out some clothes for Raleigh and put them on a chair. “You brought up Chuck for a reason though.”
“He’s kind of difficult to deal with under normal circumstances. I’m not going to hide you either. I’m getting close to forty, but that doesn’t mean I’m dead.” Herc blushed and tried to turn away but was stopped by a hand on his jaw.
“If last night and this morning are any indication, you are very far from dead.” Yancy threw his arm across Herc’s shoulders. “Besides, Raleigh is what almost five years older than Chuck. He can keep him entertained.”
A still naked Raleigh emerged from the shower toweling off his hair. He spotted the clothes and started putting them on. He spied his brother and the most famous of pilots still in very close company.
“This is a thing now isn’t it?” Motioning between the two of them, Raleigh had to ask, but he knew the answer. His brother’s dream come true. And who was he to complain. He knew all the sacrifices Yancy made over the years. And he knew Herc was a major catch. He’d have to find a way to deal with the ghosting or his cock was going to chaff from all the rubbing.
All three men headed downstairs when Herc looked around. “You see Scott around?”
Raleigh shrugged. “He was with some of the other crew at a dive. No offense, but he’s kind of skeevy.”
Scott Hansen was a rogue, a scoundrel, a pirate, pick the archetypical man with a person in every port. Handsome, famous, and with charm to spare, he was the life of the party. That was the issue because he thought his life was a party and took virtually nothing seriously. Piloting with his older brother was a means to keep the party going.
“None taken, I love him, but that’s true.”
Raleigh glanced over at Yancy and tried to send him encouraging thoughts. As much as he put on a brave front, he was about to meet ‘The Man of his Dream’s’ son. Chuck Hansen was a prodigy at the Academy, but he also had a reputation as a bit an ass. The fact that he was only fifteen probably played a factor in the later, but Raleigh only had hearsay to go on.
What he thought was a simple one-night stand between his brother and his brother’s crush and hero turned out to be so much more. Raleigh, couldn’t and wouldn’t, impede his brother’s happiness. And was he ever happy. “Yance, he’s almost a Ranger, just treat him like that and it will be fine.”
“He’s Herc’s son. He can make life miserable for both of us. Herc deserves some happiness,” Yancy wasn’t one to pout, but his face was on the verge.
“Stop.” Raleigh pulled his older brother into a hug. “I will beat the snot out of him if necessary.” He hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Herc dropped a hint or two that the kid liked the Gipsy. He’s shamelessly play that up if necessary.
They were at the airstrip adjoining the old Subic Bay Naval Base, which now housed the PPDC’s logistics arm in the Philippines. Transferring personnel in the western Pacific routing through there to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Sydney. He knew the United States was using Pearl as the primary staging and testing base for new weaponry, but it was beyond classified. Hawaii had long since become a set of ghost islands, vastly depopulated.
Herc hugged Yancy and placed a kiss on his cheek. “They’re landing now. Here goes nothing.”
It was a long flight, but Chuck needed the break. Three weeks away from the Academy and due to graduate two months after his return. His last break he’d helped pull apart sections of Lucky Seven’s drive system and helped upgrade them. It turned out to be considered his Engineering practical and he aced it. In fact, he’d been informed he was pretty much done. All practicals were complete which is how he managed to get this break.
He and his dad traded messages but didn’t talk much. However, the request came and Chuck jumped on it. At least a week in the Philippines and then the rest at a base. He was never bored on a base. Whether or not what kept him busy was sanctioned or not was a different story. He liked to keep people on their toes.
It wasn’t a Shatterdome, but Subic Bay was an old military instillation. Logistics ran the place. Part of him was so jealous that his dad got to drop with the Becket Brothers. His room at the Shed in Sydney was covered in their stuff. It was hero worship, his dad was a better pilot and solider, but his dad – well, he wasn’t a Becket.
He’d never in a million years admit it, but he was glad his dad arranged this. He loved his Uncle Scott, but in small doses he was okay. Dealing with his dad was complicated. Chuck disembarked and grabbed his duffle. Making his way over the hangar he stopped when he saw who was standing next to his dad. The Beckets. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The actual Gipsy pilots were there and laughing with his father. His father who was all soldier, looking relaxed, actually waving, and smiling for Chuck. What. The. Hell!
“Chuck, let me introduce Yancy and Raleigh Becket, the pilots of…” Herc hadn’t seen that look on Chuck’s face in ages. Totally worth any trouble brewing for this moment.
“Gipsy Danger,” Chuck concluded in awe. “You guys are awesome.” He offered his hand which both men took. He cocked his head to the side frowning.
Raleigh chuckled, “What?”
“I thought you’d be taller?” the teen said with a wicked smile. That got a laugh out of both brothers and a smile from his dad. Aces!
Laughing Herc gave his son a pat on the shoulder and messed up his hair. “Come on, it’s a trek back to Manila. This is a vacation so we aren’t staying here.”
Herc left his son with the Brothers. He hadn’t broached the subject of Yancy with Chuck yet. The kid was having too much fun talking with them, but something changed in his son. The awe was there, but maybe it was the approaching graduation. Chuck talked to them like people. Well Yancy at least, Herc knew we wasn’t supposed to know about the shirtless Raleigh poster or the swimsuit calendar the Brothers were featured in. He figured it out before his son did what that all meant. He had the ‘chat’ before he sent his son off to the Academy, but his son was years younger than the rest of the student body.
Clearing his thoughts of his son, he found the head of PPDC Security in Manila. “Any word yet?”
The woman shook her head, “No Ranger Hansen, no one has seen him in the last three days. We are searching the island. His companions haven’t turned up either.”
Scott was irresponsible to a point and this was well beyond it. “Have you run this up Command yet?” Her head shake confirmed his suspicions. “Inform the regional Marshal and lock down Luzon.”
He was worried, but Scott only pulled stuff like this when they were in Sydney. He didn’t know squat about the Philippines and he certainly didn’t speak Tagalog. It was day three and the longest Scott had been gone was five days. Herc hoped he was just having fun with the locals. His brother never did have any sense at all.
Making his way back to his suite, he heard the laughter and knew things were okay for now. It was even better when he saw Raleigh had Chuck in a headlock.
“Say something stupid son?” Herc had to ask.
“No, Raleigh just felt like wrestling your son.” Yancy had his legs on the coffee table leaning back into the plush sofa. A tank top and running shorts suddenly had Herc wanting to pull the man into his bedroom. Narrowing his eyes, he knew Yancy was doing this on purpose.
Chuck glanced up and rolled his eyes. Contrary to popular opinion, he did notice things from time to time. Like how his dad and Yancy stood so close together at the base and lunch. How his dad’s hand was always on Yancy’s lower back. And then those smiles at each other. He wasn’t an idiot, and…Chuck was honest at least. If it had been a woman there would already be bloodshed. Probably his because he couldn’t take on his dad yet. Maybe because it was a Becket, but if it had been Raleigh, again possible bloodshed. He wasn’t bothered his dad was seeing a guy that would be hypocritical. Best to get things out in the open because Yancy was teasing his dad in front of him and NO!
“So, am I sleeping here or in Raleigh’s suite? Because I don’t want to hear what you two are up to.” Chuck sat back and started poking Raleigh in the ribs because he could. He rolled his eyes at his dad.
“You’re smiling, like a lot. So is he.” Pointing at Yancy. “This one looks happy and annoyed at the same time.” Chuck stood up and brushed off his shorts. “Can I bunk with you?” asking directly tended to get the best results Chuck learned at the Academy. Usually the worst that could happen was a big ‘NO’, but there had been that one time in Chemistry that landed him a week of latrine duty.
Raleigh laughed and pulled Chuck into another wrestling hold. “I like him.”
Herc was floored and grateful at the same time. No outburst and lots of acceptance. His kid was smart so Herc knew this wasn’t the end of it. “As long as Raleigh doesn’t mind a roommate, works for me.”
“Having a roommate might help Rals keep it in his pants for once.” Yancy laughed as his brother flipped him off. “We have a PS3 in there so you two can play to your hearts’ content.” Seeing his brother with Chuck made him think how great an older brother Rals would make. And Chuck, he was eating up the attention. Yancy filed that away for a conversation much further down the line. Herc needed to spend time with his son.
Herc kissed Yancy right there. “Okay, get dressed so we can go downstairs and eat.” His son was still lightly pushing Raleigh and the Ranger was pushing back. But it was the smiles that made Herc happiest. Chuck was enjoying the trip. “Boys, enough. Change so we can eat.”
“He just wants to come back and get laid,” Chuck muttered, but got him a high-five from Raleigh. He saw his dad’s glare and stopped smiling. The grin he got from Raleigh was so worth it.
It wasn’t even dawn when the phone started ringing. Herc reached over and answered it.
‘Ranger Hansen, we found your brother. He’s in critical condition…’
Herc was out of bed in a flash, pulling on clothes and rushing to the lobby. He didn’t even realize that Yancy was running right behind him. Several of the PPDC Security officers were waiting.
“We found him across the Bay in Balanga. He’s been tortured. Two of the people who were with him were found dead. Two techs were there as well, also dead.” The Officer held up a hand. “We are locking down all personnel. We don’t know who did this yet.”
“Where is he?” Herc demanded. “I want to see my brother.”
Two officers moved in front of him. “Sir, a Ranger has been tortured and at least four other PPDC personnel are dead. We are on lockdown.” She looked at him and sighed. “They can’t treat him here. He’s being prepped for evac.”
Yancy moved forward. “Where are they sending him?”
“We don’t know.”
It took a moment for Yancy to pull Herc back to their rooms. The sun was barely coming over the horizon. The heat and humidity of the tropical climate was suddenly oppressive instead of inviting. The air conditioning did nothing to help either.
Herc knew people and despite the time zones started calling to get information. He finally got Stacker Pentecost to call him back.
‘Herc, he’s been flown out already heading for Tokyo. I can’t give you all the details, but for now the Lucky Seven is grounded. Tell Yancy and Raleigh they are due back to the Ice Cube in forty-eight hours. Why don’t you come here with Chuck and we can start compatibility testing?’
“Stacker, what aren’t you telling me?” Herc heard the desperation in his own voice.
‘Come to Alaska. The sooner the better.’ Pentecost killed the line.
Yancy heard part of that and went to get Raleigh and Chuck up. He walked in and found them curled together under some blankets, leaning back against the couch with a start screen showing on the television. There were food wrappers everywhere. “Where did you find junk food?”
On second thought he didn’t want to know. “Guys wake up. Change in orders. We’re heading home, bro!”
Chuck came up first, still dressed how he was earlier, just without his boots. He saw that Raleigh was the same way. “Bunch of idiots,” he mumbled. “Both of you shower! Chuck, you and your dad are heading with us.”
Yancy left them to get ready and headed back over. He found Herc with his head hanging down. He dropped into a crouch in front of him. “You okay?” He knew the answer but had to ask.
Standing up, Herc pulled Yancy into a hug. He slowly led the younger Ranger into the bathroom. “I don’t know what is happening, but I know I need you.” Stripping both of them quickly, Herc got them into the shower with billowing steam.
Yancy’s head hit the wall as Herc got on his knees and took Yance into his mouth. It always embarrassed Yancy that he wasn’t the most well-endowed guy, but Herc Hansen was doing his best to make Yancy feel like a million bucks. He must have vocalized some of that because Herc was kissing him suddenly.
“I really like your cock, it’s not small, mate -just right.” Herc went back down and made his lover scream.
The two made it out of the shower and started dressing when Chuck and Raleigh walked in looking confused and barely awake. Chuck looked like he barely dried off after his shower. Yancy wanted to laugh because his brother and his lover’s son made quite the pair. But the events of this morning made it important to focus.
“Dad? Why are we leaving?” Chuck sounded alert despite his looks. “Just got here.”
Herc pulled Chuck into a half hug. “Your Uncle Scott has been injured and is being sent to Tokyo for special treatment. Marshal Pentecost wants us in Alaska until this is all sorted.”
The wheels turning in Chuck’s head are almost visible. “When will we know about Uncle Scott?” That’s what he asked, but he really wanted to ask Raleigh for a tour of Gipsy. He knew this wasn’t the time.
All four walked to the elevators and headed downstairs. Even more security was around. One of the Security Chiefs came over. “Ranger Hansen, Marshal Pentecost has arranged a plane for you four. It departs as soon as you get to Subic.”
Yancy pulled Raleigh aside and filled him in while Herc chatted with Chuck and loaded the trunk with their stuff.
“When we get home, watch over the kid like a hawk. Rals, something is going down.” Yancy felt the protective nature of his brother over the younger Hansen. Yancy was smart but something didn’t fit. He was suddenly glad for the recall. He knew they’d be safe at the Ice Box. Suddenly he was very grateful that the Hansens were coming too.
The ‘Ice Box’ Alaska
The temperature change caught Chuck’s attention first. The second thing that caught his attention was Gipsy Danger in the massive jaeger bays. Raleigh’s arm across his shoulders definitely helped him feel warm but seeing that beauty right there. Chuck didn’t know what to say or do.
“I’ll give you a tour later, when your dad isn’t hovering,” whispered Raleigh into Chuck’s ear. He looked over and winked at his brother. Even being home, he knew deep down the kid next to him was his roommate again. He gave Chuck a squeeze because the kid was pretty spectacular. Mouthy as all get out, but so was Raleigh. While Yancy was a prankster, he was too practical, but this brat was the son of a Ranger. They could have fun!
“Whatever you are thinking, stop,” whispered Yancy in his ear. “I can feel your glee through the ghost.”
“Going to show our lady up close later, is all. I think he loves her just as much as we do,” Raleigh hedged. “But without papa bear being all hovery.”
Yancy fought to keep his laugh in because Herc Hansen was the exact image of a papa bear with a young cub who was more than ready to go exploring. “I will never get that image out of my head.” He side-eyed his brother for a second but didn’t push the issue. He gave that information up too quickly. Then he looked over at Chuck and knew that his brother gained a co-conspirator. He’d have to watch them.
Herc made his way to Admin. He found the duty clerk. “Is Marshal Pentecost in?”
“No Ranger Hansen, sir. The Marshal is due back in eight hours. He has assigned guest quarters for you and your son.” The clerk handed Herc a packet.
Ripping open the seal there were a few things in there. Chuck was getting some assignment and he was going to do the drift testing with his boy. There was a handwritten note that merely said, ‘Spar with your boyfriend.’ He laughed. There were few secrets in the PPDC and Herc suddenly realized that his and Yancy’s fling was making the rounds.
“Thank you,” he said as he walked out. He took the time to acknowledge that is wasn’t a fling. His son wasn’t being a brat about it either. Then again, Chuck was wrapped up in his hero worship of Raleigh.
The guest quarters were located right next to the Becket’s. ‘I’ll have to thank Stacker for this. Or wring his neck one or the other.’ Chuck was going to be here for two weeks at least, but with Lucky down because of Scott. “He’s not going back,” he muttered out loud.
He knocked on the Becket’s door, but there was no answer. He knew where they were and made his way to the Kwoon. Yancy’s spot in the corner gave him prime position for watching Raleigh and Chuck spar.
The kid is good, but was at a height disadvantage to Raleigh, not nearly as bad as it had been a year ago, but still it was a teenager against an adult. The more he watched the more he saw Academy training in Chuck and how they’ve tried to take away any individual style his boy was developing. He was thinking too much.
“Oi, Chuck!” he yelled as he walked to the center of the mats. “This isn’t the Academy anymore. Find your style and use that. Notice Raleigh here has a style that works for him. Bet Yancy has one close, but not the same.” He moved off to the side and took off his boots, socks, and jacket.
He motioned for Becket’s bo. He winked at his son and moved into position.
Chuck moved first, he wanted to show the Becket Brothers he wasn’t a fluke. Raleigh’s sparring was a light workout. His dad was serious. Chuck moved and played counter to his dad for a bit. His Uncle showed him many moves, but his Uncle was lazy too. Could have been the best if he tried, but that required discipline. Chuck defended, countering, but never pressing the attack like he had with Raleigh. He moved and countered three moves but wasn’t fast enough as his father tapped the bo on his knee.
“One,” Herc stated. The pride he felt right now was immense. They moved again, but his son was on the attack, but never pressing. It was feints, within feints. This wasn’t something taught at the Academy or something Herc never used. He’d seen the Beckets spar and it wasn’t them. He let the smile show broadly, this was something his son worked on. There were limits though and Herc countered when Chuck failed to press an opening. He kept the pressure up, not letting his son regroup. He gently tapped his shoulder. “Two.”
“Damn,” Chuck muttered. He focused again and used a third style. It started as an attack and feint, but quickly shifted into a pressed attack that his father could not counter fast enough. He got the bo under his dad’s chin. “One.”
They went back and forth before Herc won the session four-two. He pulled his sweaty son into a shoulder hug. “That was impressive. Glad you’re already working on your style. What do you two think?”
Chuck forgot they had an audience he’d been so focused on earning his dad’s praise.
“He got two on the mighty Herc Hansen,” Yancy drawled. He walked over and patted Chuck on the back. “Not bad.”
Raleigh though was deep in thought. He walked over and crouched enough to get eye level. “I’m impressed and disappointed.” He kept his face neutral even though he saw Chuck’s fall a little. “While you are here we are going to spar daily and go full out. You failed to press when you had the advantage. You got complacent twice. You might not have beaten your dad, but you could have scored another point and made him really sweat.” He ruffled Chuck’s hair and gave his shoulder a squeeze. “It was impressive though.”
Chuck beamed under the praise.
“Come on sprog, let’s get cleaned up and settled. We’ll grab dinner with these yahoos later.” Herc gave Yancy a kiss before throwing his arm over Chuck’s shoulder. “Did real good, son.”
Stacker was back and Herc made his way to the Marshal’s office. It was late in the evening, but Shatterdomes never slept. He left Chuck in the care of the Becket Brothers. He still marveled at how well Chuck was taking to Yancy.
“He’s expecting you, go in.”
Herc nodded and walked right into the office. He nodded at his old friend. The Marshal looked tired.
“Sit, Herc,” Pentecost frowned for a second. “No good way to put this and this is Classified. I just got back from Tokyo. Your brother was tortured. They used something like a pons to get into his brain. He’s catatonic right now.”
It was a body blow to hear and Herc fell back in his chair. He suspected it was bad when they wouldn’t say anything. Worse when Stacker wanted him to come to Alaska instead of returning to Sydney. “You wanted me here?”
“The Academy is under my jurisdiction which means Chuck is. Your co-pilot is being deactivated. There are other injuries which make piloting impossible even if he recovers from his brain trauma.” Pentecost held up a hand. “Don’t ask, let the group in Tokyo work.”
He got up and poured two whiskies from his stash. He handed one to Herc and sat back down. “So Yancy Becket? Didn’t see that coming. Lots of cursing going on around the PPDC on this one.”
“It’s not against policy…”Herc stopped at the amused look on Stacker’s face.
“Herc, two of the most eligible bachelors are suddenly off the market. Broken hearts from Lima to Hong Kong from what I hear.”
He needed a subject change. “Chuck scored two points on me. Yancy and Raleigh watched. You need fair warning that Raleigh looks to be grooming Chuck as his sidekick if I take Yancy away.”
“On second thought, maybe I do want you back in Sydney.” He rubbed his forehead and then chuckled. “I want you to work with some recruits. I like the Brothers working with Chuck though. Might have him spend his mornings with the Science Division. If he wasn’t so gungho…”
“I know.” Herc played with the glass while trying not to think about his brother. “Yancy really likes me.”
Stacker leaned back and paused for a moment. “He’s only twenty-four, but going on forty. Raised Raleigh and cared for his sister while their mother was dying. Father ran away. We all have stories, but some…” He took a sip. “You get Raleigh as a family member with Yance. Grab your happiness while you can. Good guys, but as pilots they are unorthodox and subject to brashness.”
“And you haven’t made them work with Bruce and Trevin yet?” Herc knew the answer but had to throw it out there. The Gage Twins were by-the-book military and if there was ever oil and water it would be the Twins and the Brothers.
“They came to blows within five minutes,” Stacker downed his drink. “Go see your boyfriend. Start thinking of proposing…”
“It’s been only a week plus,” Herc countered.
“And you are one step away from admitting it, Hercules.”
It wasn’t fair! He was on break, but the Marshal had him working in Sciences in the morning. At least he got to work with Raleigh and Yancy in the afternoon. He really liked them and one was very much into his dad. Like he’d tease Yancy about it if it wasn’t his dad.
The Science Officers had no idea what to do with him since he was going to be a Ranger, so they gave him a console and showed all the latest research. Basically, they wanted him to sort through all kinds of stuff and find the ones pilots might read or might read an executive summary. They didn’t think highly of the pilots.
Chuck sorted through stuff and came across a paper that showed how the kaiju were evolving. It detailed the physical changes, but some of the tactics too. It showed progressive change and projections. Chuck started taking notes and cross-referencing them with some other research in the stacks.
Chuck lost track of time as he started moving things around displays. He had music playing on low while he worked. He was in his own world. A clearing throat caught his attention and he turned around. “Oh.”
Herc tried to hide his smile and he heard the boys snickering. “You haven’t eaten and then you get to spar with Yancy today.” He looked at the three displays full of data and references. “You’ve been busy.”
“The Marshal gave them an intern so I’m interning.” Chuck got up and stretched. “Food!”
The kaiju alarm sounded sending personnel running everywhere. Romeo Blue was dispatched to engage Knifehead first and Gipsy Danger was sent to guard the Miracle Mile. Herc made his way to LOCCENT and brought Chuck with him. Both were worried about the Brothers. Tendo Choi was the Ops Chief in LOCCENT calling the action. Stacker nodded at the Hansens but said nothing.
Chuck watched the displays as the kaiju approached Romeo’s position. The kaiju’s speed dropped quickly and then paused just outside of Romeo’s sensor range. That instantly raised alarm bells in Chuck’s head. He ignored what Tendo was saying as he reached for his tablet. That looked too familiar.
There were two other instances of this behavior preceding this event.
“Knifehead has changed course and is gaining speed again. It moving away from Romeo’s position and heading towards land. They need to be redeployed.”
Chuck kept calculating and grabbed his dad. “It’s after the Gipsy. It’s looking for them!” He pointed to some data on his tablet. “Look!”
“What?” Herc said loud enough that all of command heard. “What are you talking about?”
“The Research shows adaptions: they’ve been figuring out the jaegers! Knifehead is avoiding Blue and after the Danger.”
Herc was about to say something when Stacker got on the comm-line. “Gipsy, be warned, you are being targeted.” Stacker walked over to Chuck. “Show me.”
Chuck moved all kinds of data across an empty station. He quickly pointed out the data points from the previous engagements and how they lined up with what Knifehead just pulled. Herc patted his son on the back.
“It’s heading for a fishing trawler. We have to save it.”
Herc grabbed the line. “Raleigh, they’ve gotten smart. They want you to act rashly. Pull back two clicks north and east. It might follow.”
Yancy’s voice came through, “Copy that.”
Inside the conn-pod, Yancy and Raleigh traded looks. They heard some of that exchange. “Do you trust Chuck?”
For Raleigh it was a loaded question because of other implications. But flat out trust, that was easy. “Completely.” They made the move away from Knifehead as Herc ordered.
Tendo pointed to another screen. “Knifehead is following.”
Chuck only half listened while he monitored the data streams coming. There were two copters on site sending in telemetry. He watched the feeds as the Danger fully engaged with the kaiju. Some damage was done to Gipsy and he saw the feedback to the pilots. They were going to be feeling those hits later.
The plasma cannon nailed the kaiju in the midsection, sending it down. Chuck watched as Gipsy moved towards the trawler. The thermal image didn’t show a change. “Dad, it’s not dead!”
Yancy heard that and swung his arm back in time to block an attack that damaged his weapons. One of the claws hit the top of Gipsy but lost all its momentum. “Fire the fucking cannon!”
Raleigh had it powered up, bringing the left arm up, and sent a blast right into its head. He was still trying to clear the feedback from that attack. “Did we get it?”
Chuck watched it go down for real, but quickly pulled the display back. It played possum. And it moved faster than it had before. He stopped and stared. He pushed the images to his tablet.
“Chuck?” Herc looked over at his son. Everyone was celebrating in LOCCENT except Chuck and he was the reason Gipsy was prepared and avoided the trap. But he was quiet.
The Marshal placed a hand on Herc’s shoulder. They both watched as Chuck rushed from the room. “He knows something.”
Shaking his head, Herc disagreed, “No, he suspects. He’d never say anything without data. You saw it just now.”
Herc went and met the brothers when they arrived and followed them to Medical for their post battle follow-up. He gave Yancy a hug, mindful of possible injuries and a quick kiss.
Raleigh looked around and didn’t see Chuck. “Where is Chuck?”
“He was looking at some data and was concerned.” Herc gave Raleigh a pat on the back.
They all turned when the doors slid open and Chuck came running in. He spotted Raleigh and came over and gave him a big hug.
“Sorry, I had to check something out.” Chuck moved over and gave Yancy a hug too. He moved back to Raleigh. “You okay?”
“We took some minor damage, but we’ll be fine.” Raleigh pulled Chuck back into a hug. “Let’s get some tea and play a game. Yance and your dad can talk.”
Yancy watched his brother and Chuck walk out and hugged Herc again. “Thanks. I’m glad you’re here. Never had anyone to come back to; always piloted with Rals.”
It was something Herc understood. He had a son to come back to, but he was responsible for Chuck, not his equal. “Come on. I have a terrific cure for muscle soreness.”
It was early in the morning and Chuck was in the catwalks looking down at Gipsy. He had his tablet in hand and started looking at the damage from the battle. It was as extensive as he thought. And there was the cut on the top of the conn-pod that Chuck feared to see but expected.
“Tell me what you see,” Yancy said as he dropped down next to Chuck. He put his arm around him. “I noticed how scared you were last night. After your dad and I ‘talked’ I couldn’t sleep. Raleigh sleeps for hours after a battle. He’ll have a headache when he gets up. So, what’s up?” He kept his arm in place, grounding Chuck in the process.
“It went for the conn-pod,” Chuck stated lowly. “First time they’ve done that. Can’t stop thinking about what if…”
He was only fifteen, Yancy had to remind himself. Far too smart for his own good and with more determination than any kid should have already. He pulled Chuck into a full hug. “I’m here. Raleigh is here. Focus on that. We know the risks.” He ruffled Chuck’s hair and smiled at him.
“I need to say that you are taking my relationship with your dad awfully well,” He risked this conversation. He wanted to know and Chuck might open up.
Chuck shrugged and looked back down at the wounded jaeger. “Never seen him this happy, not since before. Plus, you are nothing like my mum. But I like you. I really like Raleigh.” He looked at Yancy in the eyes. “I’m with him now and he has you, but he’s still spending time with me, yeah? It’s like I got more suddenly instead of less.”
“Well, we really like you too, Chuck. Though I will be watching what antics you and Raleigh get up to. I know he’s up to something.” Yance eyed Chuck suspiciously. “Any clue?”
“No idea what you’re yammering about, mate.” Chuck’s stomach rumbled at that moment.
“Come on, let’s get you fed and then go over all that data.”
Herc and Raleigh didn’t see Yancy and Chuck at breakfast. Lunch is almost over and they still haven’t been spotted. Herc sent Raleigh to get some sandwiches and a few sides for wherever they were holed up. He spotted Stacker striding down the hall.
“Herc, where is Chuck? Sciences said they didn’t see him this morning.” Pentecost looked around and spotted Raleigh, but no Yancy. “Your better half missing too?”
Trying hard, but failing to stop it, he rolled his eyes at his friend. “Better half? Give me some credit.” He raised his hands in surrender at the look he was getting. “Haven’t seen him. He was up and out of the room before I was awake.”
Stacker started walking and motioned for Herc and Raleigh to follow him. He walked into a seldom used part of Admin and found the two of them knee deep in data. He opened the door, startling both of them. “Am I to believe that you are doing an After-Action Report without prompting, Ranger Becket?”
However, the Marshal looked at the screens and some of the notations. He picked up the phone. “Mr. Choi, joined us in Conference Room Six.” He motioned for Herc and Raleigh to sit. He pointed at Yancy. “Walk us through this Ranger.”
“Sir, with respect, most of this is Chuck’s. I figured he should learn the mundane side of being a Ranger. This is more than an AAR.” Yancy waved Chuck over. “I can give you some, but this is his.”
Pentecost nodded, “Proceed Mr. Hansen.”
“Sir, I think we have strong evidence that the kaiju went for the conn-pod.” Chuck watched everyone suddenly pay close attention. “Everything about yesterday suggests we are underestimating our enemy.”
Two hours later, Pentecost stood up. “Mr. Choi, please prepare a simulation run for the Hansens. I need that done in one hour. Herc, I need to know and now if you can drift with Chuck. Dismissed. Beckets, stay for a moment.”
The Marshal waited for the other three to leave. “Finish this up. And then start packing up everything.”
Raleigh felt like the floor shifted under him. “Sir?”
“This,” Pentecost pointed to the screens, “Scares me. Do you trust Chuck?”
Both men answered immediately. “Yes, sir.”
“Gipsy is out of commission for six to nine months. It’s being moved for upgrades. You two are going to Sydney with them. Lucky Seven is available with Striker Eureka less than two months from going online.” Stacker moved towards the door. “The four of you make a solid family. You need each other and I don’t think you knew it. I might send my daughter your way in two years when she’s done. She and Chuck get along very well.”
Raleigh tried to hide his smirk, “Aren’t you afraid we’ll corrupt her?”
“On the contrary, I think she could add a very good element to the mix.” Stacker paused at the door. “Keep an eye on them. And Yancy, consider the shovel talk given to you by me.”
It was the morning after an evening of Drift tests with his dad. They managed to hold a drift and run through six different sims over three hours. In his heart Chuck knew they were going to throw him into the water to sink or swim. He saw it in the Drift that Uncle Scott was deactivated, but no full reason given. He also caught a few too many glimpses of Yancy and his dad. Yancy kind of blindsided him when he asked what Chuck thought and he’d been honest. Now he felt just how happy his dad was. But more, there was an undercurrent that his dad was happy for him too. That he got Raleigh and Yancy as friends. That was true too. He had fun with them and they actually liked him. No one at the Academy actually liked him as far as he knew. Well, Mako, but she was in J-tech and two year groups behind him.
Now he was back in Science sorting through things and hoping it made a difference. He really wanted to see some weapon designs, but that wasn’t this division.
“Hey Chuck,” Raleigh poked his head into the room. “You’re wanted in the Kwoon.”
As they made their way to the Kwoon, they kept bumping shoulders. Chuck had no idea why he was summoned, but he did what he had to do. He was shocked when he walked in and there were dozens of people standing around. Marshal Pentecost was in the middle. Raleigh kind of pushed him forward.
“Ah Mr. Hansen, please come here,” the Marshal called.
Chuck went to the center and saw Raleigh join his dad and brother at the front.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, soldiers, we celebrate when we can and honor those who fall when we must. This is a rare duty that I am honored to perform. Charles Hansen, you are hereby field promoted to the rank of Ranger. You will go down in your Academy class as first ranked, but duty calls. You will also receive two separate commendations for your actions and duties performed yesterday.
“Your Drifts tests with the other Ranger Hansen came back Above Satisfactory. As a result, you are being assigned to Sydney to begin final shakedowns for the newest jaeger, Striker Eureka.” Pentecost offered his hand which Chuck shook.
Herc came up and gave his son a huge bone-crushing hug, followed by the Becket Brothers and other members of the crew.
“Normally we take baby Rangers out and get them blitzed,” Raleigh said. “You are far too young, but we managed something.” A cake was rolled out that said, ‘Good Luck!’ which had Chuck laughing.
Later that afternoon, Chuck and his dad went through light contacts. Three hours of sims the day before still had them worn down. “Dad, what happens now?”
It was a question Herc didn’t want to answer because he didn’t know. Two weeks waking up next to someone had turned into something he wanted daily. But he was soldier. “Don’t know, son. We’ll manage.” He took the staff from Chuck and put them up. “Come on, let’s get some rest.”
As they walked down their corridor they saw two midsized crates being wheeled away. Chuck knocked on the Beckets’ door, but there was no answer. Herc shrugged and moved to open the guest door where they found two Beckets looking up from the beds.
“Hi, feeling like we do?” Chuck asked as he sat down next to Raleigh.
“No,” answered Yancy. “It’s going to be different. I mean you read about all the dangerous things in Australia and you worry.”
Raleigh nodded, “Plus, it’s like so hot, melt your face hot. Very troubling.”
Chuck traded a look with his dad. “We’re used to it. Not a big deal.”
“But we’re not,” countered Yancy. “Going to spend at least half a year there while Gipsy is repaired.” Finally, he allowed his grin to show.
“What?” Herc practically yelled. “When?”
“While you were drift testing we were told. We just finished packing up. Our stuff will be there when we get there.” Raleigh stood up and grabbed Chuck. “You better not ditch me once we’re there. I get into trouble when I’m bored!”
“Oi, mate, could never ditch my bestie.” Chuck reached over and messed with Raleigh’s hair. “Besides who will give me a cuddle when I have a nightmare?”
“You are so done for, Hansen.”
Alarms blared, but it wasn’t the kaiju alarm. Chuck sat up and pulled on his boots and jacket. Raleigh did the same from his bunk. “What is it?”
Insistent banging on the door got them moving. Raleigh looked out and frowned. “Tendo?”
“Get your stuff and start heading for Landing Pad 4. Your brother and dad will meet you there,” Tendo nodded and took off. Raleigh noticed then that Tendo had his gun drawn.
The two pushed any remaining items into their duffels and took off. Raleigh reached back and grabbed Chuck’s hand. The Dome was in chaos. Alarms rang out and lighting was dimmed. Then they heard an explosion. Raleigh squeezed Chuck’s hand and pulled him down a side corridor. “Short cut.”
Chuck didn’t argue as they made their way down a service tunnel. The alarms weren’t as loud in there. They went up two flights of stairs to another utility corridor. “What’s going on?” they came out near the Landing Pad they needed. The explosions sounded further away, but still happening.
A jumphawk waited on the Pad, prepared to leave in a flash, and they took off running. Herc and Yancy came running behind them along with three security personnel. The Rangers were practically pushed into the aircraft. “This is a Priority One flight, you are cleared for immediate departure.”
As they took off Chuck noticed Raleigh hadn’t let go of his hand and that his dad and Yancy looked like they weren’t ever going to let go of each other. He heard the familiar sound of fighter jets screaming by and tried to swallow.
“We are passing Kodiak Island now,” came the pilot’s voice.
“Dad?” asked Chuck, his voice small and frail.
One of the jumphawk’s crew came over. “Sir, the Marshal is on and wants to talk to you.”
“We heard gunfire,” Yancy said out of nowhere. “Then there were the explosions. Other than that, we don’t know what is going on.”
The grip on his hand tightened and Chuck looked over at Raleigh. “That means the dome was infiltrated. If you heard gunfire, they were on the grounds and possibly in the building. We were the only active pilots there.”
“And they got us out,” Yancy concluded.
Herc came back and sat down next to Chuck. He pulled him into a hug and didn’t let go just breathing into his son’s neck. Chuck hugged back but didn’t know why his dad was hugging him so tight. “Dad?”
“The hospital, where they were treating Scott was raided; they killed him. They’re attacks on PPDC bases in Singapore, Lima, Manila, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Anchorage. They tried to get to San Diego but got swatted down by the Marines. Son, they attacked the Academy too.”
“What?” Chuck tried to pull away but was held in place by his dad. He felt the brothers touch each shoulder. “How…how bad?”
“Most of your year group was hit. No idea how bad yet.”
Yancy pulled Herc into a hug and let Raleigh take Chuck. “Do we know who?”
“No, but they are working on it.”
Three hours later, they landed at the Pearl Harbor Research Center. It was an arm of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and where the Americans field tested jaeger weapons for seaworthiness. Several large towers lined the coast, all half as tall as a jaeger. There was a flurry of activity and the pilots finally noticed that they’d had a fighter escort the whole way from Alaska.
“Welcome to Pearl, Rangers. If you will follow me we can get you settled for the two days that you will be here.” The Marine officer led them from the pad towards a large multistory building that didn’t quite look like a jaeger hangar.
“What are those things?” Chuck pointed to the sentinels on the coast.
“Those are rapid fire railgun mounts. We have the power supply built for a million people and only thirty thousand are here. We have battery storage currently to fire thirty rounds before we’d have to tap into the actual grid. We could take down a kaiju with two hits.”
Herc looked at them and nodded. “But they aren’t mobile and spend too much energy.” He’d heard of them, but to see them guarding this facility was breath taking. “Do we know who attacked?”
“We haven’t been informed. The island is all military now so they deemed this safe. Gipsy will arrive in a few hours followed by Romeo.”
The four of them followed their guide to a family suite and food was brought to them for lunch. Chuck found that they had regular Net access and started looking around news sites. Everything was about the coordinated attack on the PPDC and the total loss of the Lima Dome. There was nothing on the attack at the Academy.
A different military aide came for them and escorted them to the main building. Yancy groaned when he noticed the Twins coming from another direction. “As if I need more unpleasant business today,” he muttered.
The other two American Rangers, the Gage Twins, walked over and nodded. Herc offered his hand and both men shook it. “Nice to see you again, this is my son, Chuck.”
One of the twins spoke, “Congrats on your promotion. We saw the AAR. Very impressive.” It looked like he wanted to say something more but didn’t.
They were led into a conference room and soon the monitor was filled with several different feeds. The Senior Marshal of the PPDC had the center spot. “We’ve learned that the actions were carried out by a kaiju cult called the Church of the New Dawn. No jaegers were destroyed, but two potential pilot teams were killed in Lima. Add in that we know that Scott Hansen was abducted by this same group. The attack on the Shed never happened because they were stopped long before they got close. Hong Kong and Tokyo suffered little damage. Anchorage has over two dozen deaths. But I regret to inform you that this class at the Academy will not have any pilots other than Ranger Hansen. All sustained injuries that will keep them out of a conn-pod. More than fifty cadets were lost today.”
Chuck slumped against his dad. He wasn’t supposed to cry but couldn’t help it when he felt fingers run through his hair. He looked at the monitor and saw more than one official wiping their eyes. Even the stoic Gages looked devastated at the list of bad news.
“Effective immediately, Rangers are not allowed off base without a full security escort. Intelligence services are searching for the masterminds behind today’s events. We will mourn our dead, but we still have a war to fight. The kaiju threat is still there.”
Chuck didn’t say anything and only moved his food around his plate at dinner. He barely noticed when he was led to a bedroom. He went through the motions and laid down. The bed dipped from the other side and he was pulled into a hug. He rested on Raleigh’s shoulder and just cried. He didn’t know when he fell asleep.
Yancy pulled Herc into a hug and ran his fingers through Herc’s short hair. “I’m sorry about your brother.”
“Stacker said when they could they’d send his body to Sydney for burial. We Drifted for years together and I loved him, but he was a right pain in the arse,” Herc took a deep breath. “I should be with my boy.”
“Raleigh has him for now. He lost so many classmates today and his uncle. We’ll be there for him. Let me be here for you.” Yancy placed a kiss on his cheek.
“Thanks, mate. Didn’t know what was missing until I found it.” He knew what he was feeling. Knew it should be too soon but wasn’t.
Yance placed a chaste kiss on Herc’s lips. “I know. I know.”
“The Shed” Sydney
Two weeks passed since the Insurrection started. PPDC facilities were being shut down and consolidated as a result of the security nightmare they represented. Scott’s memorial service was in the middle of the jaeger bay, closed casket. Several of the PPDC Senior Officer Corps attended. Neither Herc nor Chuck remembered much of it. They had the Beckets with them to get them through the day.
Cherno Alpha took on the last kaiju that came through the Breach and beat it. Nothing seemed normal anymore. Though Chuck could barely look at Raleigh for two days after he walked into Chuck’s room for the first time and saw a shrine to Gipsy Danger on the wall. Well that and a shrine to her pilots. The wrestling match after that had been epic between the two of them. Herc and Yancy ignored them. Though Yancy thought it was secretly sweet how much of a fan Chuck was of theirs. He also recognized the crush Chuck had on Raleigh. He’d worry about that later.
“Final test is today, yes?” Yancy asked as he moved his eggs around his plate. Striker Eureka was the first Mark V coming online though he knew that Gipsy was getting some V updates.
Nodding, Herc looked around and frowned. “Chuck’s birthday is soon and we can’t take him anywhere.” Intelligence agencies found that Chuck was a specific target that the Insurrection wanted taken out. A second-generation Ranger was considered the prize for the Insurgents. “Don’t know what do. Plus, his graduation won’t happen.”
“We have a little time.” Yancy glanced up and frowned. “Have to go.” He dropped a kiss on Herc. “We have to run our tests in Lucky. Different jaeger, different feel.”
He watched his lover leave the Mess and knew he was going to have to say the words soon. “Acting like a bloody teenager now.”
‘Prepare for neural handshake in three…two…’
Herc and Chuck synced like old hands now. “This is Striker we are ready for final testing.”
Chuck sorted through his father’s memories and compared how different Striker was from Lucky. It moved faster and was quick. They moved around Broken Bay with ease. Retracting the arm blades, quick punches, all kinds of maneuvers his dad wanted to try, they did them.
‘Striker that is two hours of testing. We are declaring Striker is now on active duty.’
“Hear that son, you are now an active pilot.”
They got back and disengaged the handshake. Once out of their jaeger they were met by two smiling brothers. Herc got a kiss and Chuck got a cuff upside the head. “Oi, what’s that for?”
“You looked too smug,” Raleigh countered. Then he gave him a wink. “Come on and clean up. We have a match to finish.”
Herc laughed and pointed to the two retreating backs. “It’s like having two kids instead of one.”
“Trust me, my brother is a big kid. They are so good for each other though.” Yancy gave Herc a small smile. “Seems like the Beckets need the Hansens just as much as the Hansens need the Beckets.”
It was time. “Have I mentioned I love you?” Herc’s heart was pounding in his chest and there was roaring in his ears.
Placing a kiss on Herc’s lips, Yancy smiled at him. “Oh Herc Hansen, I fell for you that first night and have been trying to stay above water since.”
“Glad to know its not just me.”
Three days later Striker dropped near Port Moresby to stop a new Cat III kaiju from heading towards Indonesia. Herc was worried only because it was Chuck’s first combat drop.
‘This is LOCCENT we see it moving further from the coast. It will be near you in three minutes.’
“Copy that,” Herc responded.
As the kaiju came closer, Chuck fired one of their chest missiles right at it getting its attention. It turned towards them moving faster in the water than it did on land. The Hansens crouched as the kaiju sprung from the water. They shifted right, while Chuck hit it with the left arm, blades extended. Striker was able to gouge out a chunk of its right shoulder region.
The kaiju made a sharp turn and nailed Striker’s chest with its tail. The feedback made both men wince. However, experience served Herc well as he brought his bladed arm up in a counter motion and severed its tail.
The roar of pain was deafening.
Chuck rounded and hit its head with a left and extended his blades at the last second, sending them into the skull. As he retracted them, then pushed back to get enough room to fire a low yield missile. It blew the chest cavity wide open and ensured the kaiju was dead.
“LOCCENT, this is Striker Eureka, we have a first kill.”
As they made it down from the jaeger cheers were going on all around them in the bay. Chuck waved but didn’t say anything while Herc thanked everyone. He spotted Yancy and pulled him into a hug. “Got his first kaiju kill a week before he turns sixteen, bloody hell,” Herc hated that his son was in a jaeger already. He really didn’t want to think about that right now. “Any thoughts yet on a present?”
“The one you mentioned in bed still seems like the best idea,” Yancy said in a low voice.
“I mentioned it in passing right before you put your cock in my arse for the first time! Forgive me for letting that slip my mind.” Herc blushed, leaned forward a little, and whispered in Yancy’s ear. “You mind if you did that again tonight? Feeling a bit tired from the fight.”
“It would be my pleasure.”
Chuck didn’t know what to expect with it being his birthday. No one told him directly that he was basically stuck in the Dome, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. Still it would be nice to have the option of leaving. Not that he could drive. No one taught him how and now there was nowhere to teach him. He could drive a modern-day Titan of the oceans, but not a car. What was his life?
“Son, come out and open your present.”
He walked out of his room with his hair a mess, rolling his eyes at the Beckets already dressed and looking far too pleased. He heard a soft whimper coming from the box. “What?” he pulled it open and found a fluffy ball of wrinkles looking up at him. “DAD! I…oi, a puppy!”
Slowly picking up the wiggling mass of wrinkles, Chuck brought him close and got a soft little lick on his cheek. Next thing he knew he was cradling the puppy next to his chest.
“I don’t know which one is cuter,” Raleigh faked whispered. “Bet the puppy will be better behaved though.”
“Oi!” Chuck managed to get out while being licked to death by his new friend.
“He’ll need a name, son,” prompted Herc.
Chuck pulled back a little to get a good look at the best birthday present possible. “Looks like a Max to me.”
“Max,” Yancy repeated. “Well, here is our present for you.” He pulled forward a box. He started unpacking it so Chuck didn’t have to put Max down. Food and water bowls, puppy bed, puppy training pad, food, and some toys. “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks,” Chuck got up and hugged all of them with Max snuffling against his chest. He kissed the top of his wrinkly head. “Seriously, this is the best.”
Later that night Chuck went to the observation deck and looked out over the ocean. The Drift didn’t hide much so he knew how deep his father’s feelings for Yancy went. Chuck wondered if he should be bothered by how much he wasn’t upset by this. He hated having to sort out his feelings, but he knew that all this had nothing to do with his dad or Yance. It was all about Raleigh. He was sixteen now, legal, but he also knew Raleigh didn’t see him like that. Given time he might, but time was something Rangers had a very limited amount of.
“Thinking too hard there, bud,” Raleigh said as he leaned on the rail next to Chuck. “Been avoiding me most of the day. Something I did?” They settled into a routine here in Sydney. Chuck only spent half his time in Raleigh’s room, sleeping in Yancy’s bunk. The other half was in his room of his dad’s family suite. The last time Raleigh went in there, the shrine to the Beckets was replaced by designs of all the active jaegers. But there were photos of all four of them in various combinations on the wall near his bed. It wasn’t hero worship anymore, but real friendship now between them. It was the something more that worried Raleigh.
“No,” came a soft answer. “Something I need sorted.” Chuck wanted to lean on Raleigh, but that was the problem; where to stop.
Turning to face Chuck, Raleigh reached out and put his hand on Chuck’s shoulder and lightly moved it so the teen would face him. “I can’t remember if I’ve been as happy as I am now. You are a huge part of it. I…seeing the world through your eyes is breathtaking. I know…we aren’t where you want to be. I’m not blind, but I’m not ready to be there. I probably won’t be for a while.”
Chuck knew it was coming, but it didn’t hurt as bad as he thought. “But maybe?”
“Chuck,” Raleigh reached out and pulled him into a tight hug. “If I weren’t about to be twenty-one or you were even seventeen this would be easier.” He leaned his forehead against Chuck’s. “I’m not going anywhere. At least for six more months. Come on, let’s get in a birthday match. I can’t spank you, but I can beat your scrawny ass a different way.”
All the Rangers gathered in one of the conference rooms for a briefing on the Insurrection. It was almost five months since the attack. Chuck sat against the wall while his dad and the Beckets sat at the table along with the Senior Sydney Staff. He was having one of those days where he was trying to stay detached from Raleigh and not feel bitter about waiting for everything. Between working out and his help with the Science division and now working on keeping Striker in top form, Chuck hoped working himself to exhaustion would help.
‘The latest the Russian and American Intelligence services have provided shows the extent that the cultists go. We’ve learned that they collect Blue from the ocean or rotting carcasses and distill it into some very specific form.
‘This liquid is consumed by acolytes. Only one in three survives the process. They’re able to commune with their gods after this process. We don’t know the full effect, but it completely alters their brain chemistry. We are going to start consolidating more Domes as security is a growing concern.’
Chuck only heard part of the discussion. Anchorage was being shuttered and the Academy moved from Vancouver Island to San Diego. They were pulling out of the Philippines and moving all those duties to Hong Kong and Taipei. The Americans were doing something on Guam, but what no one knew.
“We’re in half the locations we used to be in,” stated Yancy. “Will people feel protected?”
‘Jaegers will still be able to move around the Rim as necessary. Public opinion is heavily on our side in this matter. Once Gipsy has completed her upgrades the Lucky Seven will be sent to Pearl for a complete overhaul. As such we will keep the Beckets in Sydney until further notice. Romeo Blue has completed her upgrades and is on active duty again.’
It was great news overall, but Chuck sort of wanted a break. That maybe it would help with his confusion. While everyone was talking he slipped out of the room and headed back to the Science office. Twice more it looked like the kaiju were ‘reading’ the jaegers before approaching. He felt stuck and it made him angry.
Giving up on that project before he felt completely useless, Chuck went to the Kwoon. Lifting a bo, he started walking through forms and trying to clear his mind. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to get lost in the movements, the feel of his muscles and mind working in harmony. When another bo intercepted his, he opened his eyes and was shocked to see his family there staring at him.
Herc moved his bo back and stared at Chuck for a second. “You okay, son?’
“Fine,” came the lie too easily uttered. He smiled and started moving against his dad. He was shocked when Yancy moved in and attacked and his dad backed off. After a few minutes, Raleigh took his brother’s place and Chuck adjusted again. The three moving in and out forcing the youngest Ranger to constantly adapt. He noticed his style did change each time because the dynamic changed…
He stopped cold and almost got hit in the arm by his dad. “Oi, son?”
Chuck just processed for a second and looked back at the three men gathered in the room. “How do we Drift? How is it transmitted?” he took off like a shot.
“What just happened?” Raleigh asked looking confused.
In a dead run, Chuck sprinted for LOCCENT still barefoot and sweaty from his extended workout. He crashed up into the center and looked around for the Chief. “How do we monitor the handshake?”
Several heads turned towards the sweaty kid in the room. “We get the readings on the computer,” came the snide response.
“The handshake is done in the jaeger, but you monitor all the brain activity here. HOW!” Chuck demanded. Seeing that no one understood the question he marched over to the jaeger station that watched as the pilots went into the Drift. “Here, this display shows you when our brains calibrate and can control the jaeger. What is the physical process that gets the data from there to here?”
Marshal Davies walked in followed by the other Rangers. “Hansen, what is the meaning of this?” All of LOCCENT’s staff looked confused as well.
“When we go into the drift, when the handshake starts, the theory is that our Theta waves match at a deep level. That creates a pattern unique to a compatible combination and gets transmitted for you to monitor from LOCCENT. Is that transmission in anyway encrypted?” Chuck was getting desperate for someone to understand.
“No, it isn’t,” answered the Chief finally. “The patterns are too complex for encryption to work. Plus, there is the distance.”
“Sir,” Chuck said turning to the Marshal. “I need to go to Pearl. I need to speak with Dr. Geiszler.”
“Willingly?” was the automatic response. The Marshal blinked a few times. “Three days Hansen, be ready in two hours. And take a shower before you leave.”
The Marshal walked over to Herc and raised his eyebrows. “I have no idea what he is going on about only that he knows something. That AAR from Knifehead was passed around to Senior Command. Was he like this then?”
Yancy nodded, but Herc answered, “Made people listen.” He looked around and nodded at the Marshal. “Let him go alone, sir. He’s a Ranger going to our most secure base. Give him some space.” He saw that the Brothers were about to protest. He motioned them into the hall away from others to hear this. “He’s still a teenager, but he needs room to grow. He’s been a bit of a brat lately so maybe we get a breather too?”
“Thought I was the only one to notice,” grumped Raleigh.
Yancy butted his head against his brother’s. “Until you are both there, we’ll see this in batches.”
He never wanted to fly jumpjet again. He pulled his duffle out of the small storage space and hoped his legs would support him. Five hours ago he was in Sydney, now he was back at Pearl.
“Ranger, what brings you here?” asked the deck officer.
“Science Division, I need Dr. Geiszler!” Chuck started following the woman and passed by the hangar where Gipsy stood tall and looking so good. “So beautiful.”
“Geiszler, there is a Ranger here for you!” She called out after she opened the door with her keycard.
“For THE LAST TIME IT’S NEWT!” came a roar from the lab.
Chuck backed up a step as a wild-eyed man came around the partition and looked at him. “Newt, I presume?”
“Yeah, and you are?” the disheveled man with black glasses and arms full of tattoos demanded.
“Chuck Hansen, can the kaiju see a theta wave and distinguish them?” he got right to the point. He was a little worried that he bit off more than he could chew with this one.
“What? Wait, you’re the one who used my research. Oh man, this is awesome. Wait, they can see the... Tell me everything!” Newt grabbed the teen and pulled him into his lab.
The deck officer laughed at the look of panic on Chuck’s face. “Good luck!”
Two days ended up being three weeks for Chuck at Pearl. He knew why getting what you wanted could be a curse instead of a gift. Even his hair hurt he was so tired. When he arrived back at the landing pad, Raleigh was waiting for him. Chuck let the older man lead him to his bunk but was shocked when he was steered into the ‘Beckets’ bunk. Max was sitting in the dog bed there working on a dog bone when he ran over to Chuck demanding attention.
Chuck didn’t argue when Raleigh knelt down and took off his boots and socks. Didn’t fight when he jacket was taken off or his pants removed. He allowed himself to be pushed down on the bed in a shirt and boxer-briefs. The lights turned off and he felt Raleigh climb in next to him. A gentle kiss on his forehead made him relax and he sunk into Raleigh’s embrace.
“I missed you,” came a soft whisper in Chuck’s ear.
Chuck squeezed one of the hands holding him. For all that he wanted distance, even after two days he missed his family. After three weeks, he just wanted to be held. Especially after three weeks with that lunatic, Geiszler. It was the best night sleep in months.
It felt like sleep walking as he made his way down to the Mess. Max was tugging on his leash, trying to go every which way, but Chuck wasn’t having it that morning. Three weeks of archiving, notating, recording, and the madness that was Geiszler’s brain really made Chuck glad he was back. The only bonus, he’d seen his first love, Gipsy Danger, up close. The engineers walked him through all the upgrades and he was glad he wore tight underwear because he might have sprung a boner or two there.
“You look like warmed over shite,” Herc commented as Chuck sat down with his tray. Max came over to him and started trying to climb up on his lap. “Come here you menace.” He gave the puppy come cuddles and set him on Yancy’s lap. “So?”
Raleigh looked over at him and put some bacon on Chuck’s plate. “You were a zombie last night so…”
All three men waited for Chuck to finish his first bite. Being a teenager with his schedule, Chuck was an eating machine. “Geiszler is totally bungers. Like Mad Hatter level bungers. We went over all the data available from every kaiju engagement and ran patterns. He kept asking me very personal questions. I punched him once. In case that comes up,” Chuck muttered.
Yancy and Raleigh exchanged looks while Herc shook his head. Finally, his father asked the question, “Why did you punch him?”
“He kept asking about my sex life and how I was still a virgin since I’m a Ranger and then asked me if I wanted him to solve that problem for me. So, I punched him.” He went back to his eggs and bacon, not wanting to look up.
Murder was in Raleigh’s eyes and Yancy’s hand on his shoulder kept him from moving. Herc raised an eyebrow at the junior Becket which made him calm down. “Chuck, don’t let me near him, okay?”
“Mate, I wouldn’t want you near him. He’ll hit on you in a heartbeat and then ask stupid questions. Anyway! I did get to see Gipsy and a walk through, oh I’m in love!” Chuck made sure he was looking at his food because he didn’t want to see the looks on the Beckets’ faces.
Chuck shrugged and looked up again. “We have some ideas. We think we know that they can detect jaegers further than a jaeger can them. By the way, that right arsehole yelled at me for not leaving kaiju corpses intact for proper study. I told the wanker that our priority was to save people, not leave specimens for him and his crew to play with. Told you, bloody bungers!”
Herc cleared his throat. “There is news; the cultists have been developing biological weapons with the kaiju blood. They found plans to attack a city, but they have no idea which one.”
Raleigh stood up and tapped Chuck on his shoulder. “Come on, you’ve been gone three weeks and I bet you’ve been in a lab the whole time. You need a workout.”
Indeed, three weeks was long enough to get some rust, but Chuck finally managed to find a rhythm and take on Raleigh and then Yancy. Herc saw instantly Chuck was in no shape to take him on physically or mentally.
Somehow it was communicated that Chuck was going to be in his normal bed and that Herc wanted time with him.
“Dad?” he asked because he knew something was up. Might as well get it over with.
Motioning for Chuck to take his shirt off, Herc grabbed some liniment for Chuck. He knew his son was going to ache without some basic treatment. “Missed you, boy.”
“Missed you too,” came the response in a groan. “Feels good, dad. Thanks.”
“I need to ask if the time away helped?” Herc kept massaging his son’s shoulders, arms, and back. “You were getting a bit…cranky there for a bit.”
Sighing, Chuck slumped and leaned back against his dad. “Sorry about that, just frustrated. Not his fault, not anyone’s but…”
Herc turned that lean into a full hug. “Don’t press too fast. You know he loves you, so does Yancy. You’re my pride and joy even when your knickers are in a twist. Glad you’re home son.”
The next morning, Chuck grabbed Raleigh and headed towards the simulator area. “Dad and Yance matched, yeah?” His friend nodded. “We need to see if we can get a match too, okay?”
“I’m sure we can,” Raleigh hedged.
Chuck stopped and looked at Raleigh. “Mate, we both been in their heads and seen what they’ve been up to. Unless you been dating on the side it’s been you and your hand same as me. So, no worries, alright?”
Their drift test went perfectly. Though when they dropped out both could hardly look at each other without blushing. Finally, Raleigh sighed, “Kwoon, blow off some steam?”
Two weeks passed and Chuck was summoned to Pearl again. Raleigh packed a bag. “Herc and Yance are drift compatible. They can take Striker if they need to. I’m not letting this wacked scientist near you alone again.”
“Thank you. You saw how bad he is from my memories. I still don’t think they do him justice.” Chuck sagged against Raleigh in relief.
The older Ranger leaned in and whispered, “You’re mine. I know we’re waiting, but mine and I will never share.”
“You brought a body-guard? At least he’s hot. You look better in person than you do on a poster. I don’t want to get punched again, but is your brother available?”
Raleigh rubbed his eyes and realized that Chuck wasn’t exaggerating at all about Geiszler, if anything, he underplayed how fucked up the man was. “My brother and his dad are together. And unless you want Herc Hansen to rip your spleen out through your throat I wouldn’t mention my brother again.”
Geiszler’s eyes went wide, “WAIT! Oh my god, I didn’t put it together, you’re Chuck Hansen and your dad is…”
“Not impressed with your behavior during my last visit hence the bodyguard.” Chuck smiled wickedly. “You really don’t want my dad coming with me.”
“Fine, you have a really good-looking ass was all I’m saying.” Newt cringed at the look he got from Raleigh. “So, I think they can see the drift pattern and hunt for those patterns. They went after Gipsy, with the Beckets, because while unpredictable they also have the highest probability for acting without thinking.”
Raleigh gave the scientist a hard glare. “Five kills in Gipsy and one in Lucky, Chuck has three in Striker so shut up with the judgments. How to we prevent them from seeing the team?”
“Switch them up.”
The second day of their visit alarms went off and both Rangers were pulled into Command. On the screens were Herc and Yancy. “Dad!”
“Chuck, they attacked Sydney and the dome with that agent. You can’t come back until its clean and we can’t leave. We’re stuck for at least a month while they decontaminate.”
Raleigh looked around. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, we were down at the pool level when the attack happened. Max is fine too. Just under quarantine right now.” Herc sighed. “Striker and Lucky are grounded right now. Few thousand are sick in Sydney and a few dozen here. That leaves only seven active jaegers instead of nine.”
“Shaolin Rogue and Echo Saber need extensive repairs, so only five actives,” added in Yancy. “Sorry guys, but Sydney is down and I would think they will target other places to get jaegers grounded.”
“Dad, are you sure you’re okay?” Chuck needed to know so badly. He was on the edge of panic at the idea his remaining parent was in danger.
“Son, we’re fine.” Herc grinned a little and gave Yancy a hug to show they were in one piece. “Solve that issue and keep Raleigh away from trouble.”
They walked out together and Raleigh pulled Chuck into a tight hug. “We’re stuck here for a month. What can I do to help?”
“Keep that bloody drongo away from me, I swear he looks at me like I’m fresh meat.” Chuck felt like he could fall apart. “Hold me?”
Carding his fingers through Chuck’s ginger mop, Raleigh placed a chaste kiss on his lips. “I will never let you go. And if that scientist tries to flirt with you again I’m going to castrate him on a vid screen so Herc can approve.”
“I have no problem with that.” Chuck sighed and walked back to their room.
Three days later, Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha took on a Cat III kaiju near Taipei. Both took some damage. Solar Prophet and Romeo Blue were the only two active jaegers at the moment.
Chuck put in a call every day to his dad and Raleigh would chat briefly with Yancy. Afterwards, Chuck and Raleigh would spar. Three hundred people died from the Sydney attack. PPDC considered it ‘lucky’ that the attack wasn’t worse.
The alarm sounded again two more attacks happened at the same time. San Diego and Tokyo. Both attacks were repelled, but the jaeger teams were under quarantine. No jaegers were available for the next attack.
Kaiju alarms sounded again. “We have no choice, we have to run Gipsy.”
Tendo Choi, Chief of Jaeger Ops out of Hong Kong, stared at Chuck and Raleigh. “We can initiate neural handshake from here, but we don’t know how the upgrades will work.”
Raleigh looked at his old friend, “Again we have no choice. Come on Chuck.”
Pearl wasn’t equipped to handle an active jaeger, but they did have circuitry suits and drive suits. Techs got the boys ready and into the conn-pod.
‘Initiating neural handshake in three…two…’
/Hi again,/ Chuck threw his thoughts at Raleigh. /Ready to see what we can do?/
/Let’s see what these wizards did./
“Tendo, we are ready for our drop.”
‘Kaiju is heading towards Acapulco. You’ll get there one hour before. There is no back up. Cherno and Crimson won’t be back up until next week. Shaolin and Echo will be ready in two weeks.’
/Is it me or is this perfectly timed. They knew there were no jaegers somehow and attacked. Gipsy wasn’t supposed to be here./
Raleigh pondered that for a moment while seeing all the data and images in Chuck’s mind. /Something to discuss with the lunatic when we get back./
“This is Gipsy, we are two miles out from Acapulco,” Raleigh stated to LOCCENT. He looked over at Chuck. “She moves so much smoother.”
“Power efficiency has almost doubled. They gave her a sword.” Chuck was giddy across the Drift. “Focus…”
/I hear you though./ Raleigh sent. /I like drifting with you./
‘Kaiju ten minutes out.’
It roared out of the water and Raleigh saw its exit vector and hit it with a full powered cannon blast to its chest. The blast knocked it back and wounded it. Chuck moved quickly and hit it in the head. The tail swung back and knocked their legs out from under them.
“This sucks.” Raleigh fired another round into the lower abdomen which also severed a leg and the kaiju flopped on the ground. Raleigh activated the sword and severed its head.
“LOCCENT, count another victory for Gipsy. Please get us back to Pearl ASAP.”
/We need to speak to someone about this I don’t like the coincidence./
Yancy and Herc monitored the battle from the control in Sydney. Frustration built in Herc until he gently pulled his lover from the room and headed to the Kwoon. The whole Shatterdome was on edge. The attack in Sydney resulted in casualties, but contaminating the facility spoke to an inside job. Luckily, only a few techs had been infected with the aerosol and were recovering.
Both men removed their jackets, socks, and boots. Herc cracked his neck and the smiled as he watched Yancy stretch. “Oh love, I’ll never get used to that sight.”
That stopped Yance and he gave Herc a winked grin. “I don’t want you to either. Even with us in forced downtime I’m glad I’m here with you.”
Herc shook his head and started their match. They started slow and then moved into a full speed bout. After thirty minutes of no points but matching each other’s paces Herc stopped. “Come on, let’s go to our room.”
Those words did something to Yancy that made him melt a little. “Ours?” Part of him had to know, wanted to hear it.
A soft chuckle escaped Herc as he stopped and nodded. “Oh love,” he pulled his younger lover close and kissed him gently. “We’re in this together now. We are a family. So, yes, our room.”
“Well, let’s go see what we can get up to in our room.”
Three days after the last kaiju attack Stacker Pentecost landed at Pearl. He walked into the Science lab first and heard the yelling.
“Oi, you bloody wanker, shut up before I have Raleigh rip your nuts off!” Chuck’s language not quite matching the tone.
“Newt, seriously, that’s not how drifting works, nor how piloting works. We can’t just mix up the pilots. It’s hard enough finding pairings as it is from non-relatives.”
A snort was the immediate response. “You two piloted well together. Your dad and brother show the ability to Drift together. If you tested your brother and this Aussie loudmouth, I’m sure they could do it too.”
“How,” demanded Newt.
It was silence that greeted Stacker as he walked in from the hall. While he thought he knew the answer, he knew some things were very sensitive. “Rangers, good job. Gipsy ran well and Mr. Choi informed me that her upgrades improved her in every category.”
The Marshal looked at Newt and then the Rangers. “Dr. Geiszler, would you be so kind as to give us the room for a moment?”
Newt’s normal admonishment about how to address him died on his lips at the serious look on Pentecost’s face. “I think I need more coffee anyway. I’ll see what engineering is doing also. Never get to see what those schmucks are doing anyway.” He learned of Chuck’s fondness for engineering and liked to goad the kid. It was an easy target.
“Your father and brother have been doing inquiries in Sydney about a possible mole in the PPDC. I got your message and agree that there is an information leak someplace.” Stacker leaned back against a desk. “Sydney reopens in two days and you will be there. Gipsy will be delivered and Lucky brought here. It was decided that the teams in Sydney will be two Hansen-Becket crews instead of the Beckets and Hansens.”
Both of the men sucked in a breath. It was permanent, their status. “Does dad know?”
“We spoke to them yesterday and they suggested it.” Stacker looked at the two. They would be the youngest team, but already tested in an emergency setting. “They read the research. We will test Yancy and Chuck together as well as you and Herc, Raleigh. Dr. Lightcap thinks your two families have unique bond.” He looked between the two of them and said nothing.
“Is Gipsy ours or…” Chuck starts to ask, but Stacker cut him off.
“She is your jaeger.”
Kaiju activity increased over the next few months. Pentecost’s daughter joined the Hansens and Beckets in Sydney as he promised. Chuck knew her already and quickly acclimated her to ‘The Shed’. Part of her Academy training would be done in Sydney.
“Chuck, are you and Yancy doing a field test with Striker today?”
Rolling his neck for a moment, Chuck turned back to his friend and nodded. “Yeah, dad and I took on that beetle-like kaiju last month since Raleigh and Yancy ended up with food poisoning. We told them not to eat that stuff Tendo sent from Hong Kong.”
Mako rolled her eyes. “I have my compatibility tests this afternoon. Will you be there?” She was nervous and could use the moral support.
“As soon as we’re done with Striker. After that I might get you to help me with pulling some consoles out of Gipsy. Not happy how the gyroscopes are responding.”
A few hours later Yancy clapped Chuck on the back and gave him a shoulder hug. “Four family members, three different certified piloting combinations. That should drive the kaiju nuts when trying to figure who is in what jaeger.”
Chuck laughed as he was pulled into a headlock. Yancy was his dad’s lover and Raleigh’s older brother, but he and Chuck managed to find their own dynamic. Rals liked to call it the nerd squad, both of them knew Raleigh was secretly just as much of a nerd. His dad just hid his smile and did his crossword puzzles or read something about some famous military muckity muck from back before there were computers.
“They still haven’t found the mole or leak, or whatever they want to call it.” Chuck fiddled with the strings on his hoodie. “When I’m in a jaeger I feel invincible, despite the injuries suffered, but with the Insurrection getting stronger and closer…” He liked that he could be open with Yancy. His dad and Raleigh treated him a bit different, but Yance was a solid fixture.
“Kid, I’d be worried if you were anything but scared.” He leaned his head against Chuck’s. “Just because we’re Rangers doesn’t mean we are fearless.” He looked at Chuck up and down and smiled. “You’re as tall as Herc now.”
“Glad someone noticed,” he kind of whined.
“He’ll get there. Be patient.”
The next morning, Chuck was working in the Science lab when he saw his old friend walk by. He got up and ran out to the hall. “Hey, Mori!”
“Chuck! I wondered if I would see much of you while I was on rotation here.” She smiled at him. “We are on the night rotation right now.”
“Ugh, I hate when I’m on the night duty. Can never sleep well. You working on anything right now?” He was interested in any engineering gossip she might have.
“Only figuring out the best way to get Mark V tech into Mark I and II jaegers.” She looked at her tablet. “I have to run now. Bye, Chuck!”
“Back in Pearl,” complained Raleigh. “We better be back in time for your birthday, Chuck.” It was a few days away.
“I’m not the one who summoned me here. Newt wanted to go over some information be got from Gottlieb’s lab in Tokyo.” Chuck dropped his bag on the bed. Only one queen sized in this room. “We sharing?”
“Like we don’t share at least three times a week,” countered Raleigh.
Nightmares and drift hangovers were better for them being in proximity. That’s why Chuck stayed in his family suite, near his dad, half the time and the other half in Raleigh’s room. Yancy and his dad never slept apart anymore. Chuck learned to tune out the noise after so many months. Plus, they weren’t as loud as they used to be. Raleigh hated the nights alone in his room, but it was the best they could do for now.
“At least most of the jaegers are active this time. No emergency that might force us to be active. Not that there is a jaeger here right now.” Chuck looked over at the empty bays and knew that Romeo Blue was coming soon for a few small upgrades, nothing that would take it out of action for more than a few weeks.
Raleigh caught part of Chuck’s thoughts in the ghosting between them. “At least the Gages will finally take some days off.”
“Yo, Geiszler, what the hell did you want?” demanded Chuck as he walked in.
“Going to be a long trip,” muttered Raleigh.
Chuck sat up and got out of his bed. He was in his room in his dad’s suite at The Shed. It was his seventeenth birthday. His physical the day before said he was finally six feet tall. Almost as tall as his dad and Raleigh, but also taller than Yancy so he was no longer the shortest in the family.
Drifting with Raleigh was different from drifting with either Yancy or his dad. Yancy was the easiest. Their relationship was a friendly love and mutual respect. Chuck genuinely loved Yance as his dad’s partner and as a friend in his own right. His love for his father and their mutual past made drifting tricky sometimes. However, Raleigh was a minefield of emotional issues they couldn’t resolve yet. Knowing where they wanted to be but hindered by Chuck’s age in large part made some drifts difficult. Some drifts Chuck had to leave to his own room instead of shower to toss off twice in a row before his cock would behave. If he knew Raleigh had to do the same thing then that was between them. It was a minefield.
The kaiju alarm sounded. It might be his birthday, but he was on call with Raleigh. Pulling on some underwear, pants, shirt and boots, he took off down the corridor heading for the drive room.
“Wait, what?” demanded Raleigh. “Double event and we’re going to Hawaii?”
‘Yes, we have a kaiju heading straight for Taipei and one heading for Pearl. Shaolin and Crimson will defend Taipei while Romeo and Gipsy defend Pearl.’
/We just left there!/ groaned Raleigh. /We’ll miss your birthday!/
/Well, we get a week off after this./
‘Romeo is forward advanced and Gipsy will guard the Harbor entrance.’
“Copy that,” Raleigh responded. “This is not how I planned this day to go.”
‘LOCCENT to Romeo and Gipsy, Clawhook has turned and is heading to the north of the island. Gipsy move inland now. Romeo move to back up position.’
Raleigh wondered why they were there in the first place. The island had railgun defenses. /Let’s move./
Gipsy ran back up the harbor and was instructed to try to intercept Clawhook before it got to Wheeler Field. Running as fast as they could once they were on land, Raleigh cringed with the damage they were doing to the landscape. “They really need a better way for us to travel.”
“Well, this is not the ideal deployment,” came Chuck’s sarcastic reply. “We will be on the other side of Wheeler before it gets there.”
They crossed the old airbase and spotted the kaiju in the distance. Raleigh powered his cannon and lined up the shot. It was a direct hit, but distance removed some of the impact. The roar echoed in the valley as Chuck and Raleigh started hitting it hard. Suddenly a tail swipe sent Gipsy flying into a rocky outcropping of old lava.
Chuck cried out as part of his harness detached. They were still locked in the drift. His shoulder screamed in pain as he lined up a shot and nailed the kaiju in the upper torso. Another blast from the airbase decimated the wounded kaiju, killing it.
“Chuck! Hang in there!”
The next thing Chuck heard felt like he was under layers of water distorting all sounds.
‘Four broken ribs, bruised spleen, but not ruptured, fractured left wrist, and several cuts, including one requiring thirty stiches on his left thigh. He is on medical leave for at least two months.’
It hurt to walk, but he wasn’t going to use a fucking wheelchair because his leg got a cut. Chuck’s temper was near breaking from pain, from missing his birthday, to everything. He tried to smile when he saw his dad and Yancy. Because Gipsy required extensive repairs, neither one could leave Sydney to visit and take another jaeger off duty.
Yancy and Herc traded a look as they saw Chuck limping. Left arm in a cast, face slightly bruised and looking pissed off at the world. Yance knew from Raleigh that Chuck wasn’t talking right now, but hoped it was the pain killers. Broken ribs made life miserable.
“Hey son,” Herc offered as he gave Chuck’s neck and affectionate squeeze. “At least you took out the kaiju.”
Yance tried not to groan at the awkward chat, but Chuck looked like he needed very delicate handling in many ways. “Not going to lie, you look like shit.”
Chuck groaned, “Don’t make me laugh asshole. Hurts!”
Internally, Raleigh felt some tension release. He thanked his lucky stars that Yancy had the magic touch with the younger Hansen. Chuck was monosyllabic with him for the last two days when he was more awake. “What room do you want?”
“Doesn’t matter,” came the muttered response.
Sighing, Raleigh knew that something was bothering Chuck and it was directed at him. He really hated that he had a horrible idea what it was.
Chuck took his painkillers, tried to pet Max, and then went into his room. Everything hurt and he couldn’t get dressed or undressed without help. It sucked. Opting to just sleep. He let the meds take him under.
The other three men stared at the closed door. All had a form of ghost drift from the teenager, but he shut them all out. All they got was pain. Herc took a deep breath and looked at the brothers. “Ideas?”
“He’s pissed at me,” Raleigh offered. “Not sure I can fix it any time soon either.”
Yance plopped down on the well-worn couch. “The no touching thing?” He ignored Herc’s groan. “Can’t ignore it. He’s passed legal age in Australia. And for most of the States too. He’s legal now.”
“I’m also going to be twenty-two, so I get some say in this,” countered Raleigh. He plopped down. “I was going to ease us into contact, but now…”
“But now nothing,” Herc stated. “When he’s less pissy, you will talk to him. As an adult. If he can nearly get killed defending the planet he can damned will get a say in whether he gets his cock sucked or not.”
The Beckets traded a look and Yancy stood up. “Okay, enough family time for one night.”
“Rals, sorry mate, just, that’s my boy looking like hell, the damned kaiju have adjusted again, and I was stuck here unable to leave to get him. I don’t want him miserable which is how he’s going to be for the next two months. I know you love him. Was so damned glad you where there and in close to one piece to actually help him.” Herc gave Raleigh a shoulder squeeze. “We’re all going to be miserable for two months.”
Chuck woke up feeling worse than the day before. Sleeping in clothes wasn’t advised especially his boots. He ached everywhere. It took him a few minutes to get oriented and to stand up. He limped out and saw Yancy reading in the sitting area. “Can you help me please?”
Looking over, Yance got up and followed Chuck into his room. The kid, no, young man was a mess and smelled slightly of sweat and medicine. He knelt down and removed the boots along with the socks. Those had a stronger odor to them, but nothing like some of Raleigh’s socks when he was a teenager and they could stand up on their own.
Trying to make small talk, Yancy offered, “How do you feel?”
“Like hell barfed me up,” Chuck said as he groaned with Yancy helping pull his t-shirt off. He stepped out of his pants and underwear in one go. The angry cut on his thigh was almost healed. Those stiches would be pulled in two days. “I need a shower.”
Yancy pulled back and actually looked at Chuck. Tall, broad shouldered, muscles going from youth to adulthood, and definitely not a small man between his legs, all that was marred by the patchwork of bruising and cuts that crossed his body. The whole left side took the brunt of the trauma from the fight. He was glad he made Raleigh and Herc leave. It was true that he and Chuck had the easiest time because they had the least baggage. “You are just a little ripe.”
“Mate,” Chuck started, “I can smell myself. I know I stink.”
Thirty minutes later, Chuck walked out looking only slightly refreshed. He went and grabbed some shorts with a liner so underwear wasn’t needed and then asked for help with a t-shirt. A pair of runners slipped on easy and he was at least comfortable.
“I don’t stink at least.” Chuck grabbed the leash and called for Max. The year-old bulldog trotted out and hopped on the couch allowing Chuck to attach the leash with ease. “I need food.”
“I’m in a meeting for the next two hours. Your dad will be with me. Raleigh is around if you need anything. Just a reminder, you are on medical leave. You aren’t allowed in the bays at all. They might let you in Science or Research next week. You are also barred from the Kwoon.” Yancy raised his hands in surrender. “That came from Command. They want you to rest and heal.”
Chuck rolled his eyes and started walking Max. His thigh ached, but he needed to walk to make sure the cut healed for stretching. Taking his time, he walked Max for a while before going to the Mess. Grabbing lunch, he sat down in the back and leaned against the wall trying to focus on how much his ribs didn’t ache.
A sudden noise startled him, making his pain spike for a second. He blinked a few times to clear his eyes and managed to keep the frown from his face with Raleigh looking at him disapprovingly. He was shaking a pill bottle at him. “Need these?”
“Make my head fuzzy,” Chuck muttered, but took the bottle.
“For a reason,” Raleigh countered. “Eat and then I’ll walk with you back with Max so he doesn’t stress your leg.” He raised a hand to stop Chuck’s arguments. “You’re doing too much too fast already.”
After putting Max in the family suite, Rals guided Chuck back to his room. He handed Chuck some water and helped him sit down. Without prompting, he took Chuck’s shoes off for him. “Out with it, be mad at me all you want, but tell me to my face.”
Chuck stared for a moment. “I don’t want to die a virgin. You won’t touch me and neither will anyone in Sydney or Pearl. There is a sign on me somewhere that says, ‘Property of Raleigh Becket: Do Not Touch’ and I’m tired of it. I can’t leave a base at all. I haven’t left PPDC property in over a year!”
Raleigh sat back stunned. “You…tried…I never.” His brain was going in circles.
“I’ve tried once, just to see or experience it. Either give or receive a damned blow job. Guys here swap them like trading cards except not with me.” Chuck looked up at the ceiling. “I know why you don’t want to. I know and I’m not going to emotionally blackmail you.”
Raleigh stared at Chuck at a loss. Suddenly he was pissed. “What the fuck, Chuck! Are you that desperate?”
“I’m a bloody virgin fighting monsters. I don’t know if I have a boyfriend or not because you’ve never said anything!” Chuck calmed down. “Nothing happened. I still feel guilty for even looking, but now all I can think about is how the damned kaiju are getting the drop on us and how much all this hurts. A little harder or further and I’m no longer a Ranger. Might not be here at all.”
All of Raleigh’s anger vanished at the despair in Chuck’s voice. “Shit.” He leaned in and kissed Chuck. An actual hardcore kiss. “Yes, there is a sign and I’m not going to apologize for it. You’re mine. And yes, I’m being a Neanderthal asshole. This is fucked up. And yes, lots of that is on me. Goddammit Chuck!”
“Yes, you are possessive but its never bad.” Chuck was just tired.
Raleigh stood up and started pacing. “I know we can get killed and I know…fuck!” He stopped when he saw twin tears falling down Chuck’s face. “I’m mad, but not at you, but life. You risk your life and you deserve to feel the love I have for you.”
“Stop. It’s not your fault,” Chuck managed in a wrecked voice.
“This is horrible timing, but when your ribs are healed, we’ll take it slow.” He sat down to Chuck and took his good hand in his. “We should have talked about this. There is one thing though; stay here while your injured. I want to take care of you.” He sighed and locked eyes with Chuck. “We are together.”
Chuck almost objected, but knew he needed help. Simple stuff was painful and slow. He knew they needed to talk, but he was really tired now. “Okay. I need a nap.” The last part of Raleigh’s speech made him smile though. It was something solid.
The four of them had dinner in the suite together with Max napping in the corner. Chuck being on a strict medical restriction is enough to get food brought to them. Herc could tell that the boys cleared some of the air but can still see some tension. He wouldn’t press for now.
“Well, Chuck, we can put down this birthday as one of the worst,” Yancy commented. “But there are gifts.”
Herc brought out two boxes. “Nothing like last year’s gift, sprog, but you can’t top Max.”
The first box was from Raleigh and it was full of Robotics manuals. The second box was from his dad and Yance and it was full of engineering textbooks. Herc handed over a catalog when Chuck looked confused. “There are courses of independent study you can take. You are knee deep in jaegers all the time. You hang out with the Science division. We thought you might like to earn credit.”
Chuck smiled broadly. “Well I am on a forced medical leave right now. Bright side and all that.”
Later when Chuck was tired, Raleigh put the books in a corner and told Chuck he’d get them in the morning. He led Chuck across the hall. After evening hygiene was accomplished, Raleigh stripped completely down and helped Chuck strip too.
“I used to sleep naked. I prefer it. Want to get used to it with you again. Small steps.” He kissed Chuck slowly as he helped him down. They arranged themselves on the bed. “I never want to let go.”
The following morning, Chuck felt a hand running along his aching morning wood. Slowly his foreskin in being moved against the glans back and forth that made Chuck whimper.
“Let me take care of you,” was whispered in his ear in a low dusky voice.
It didn’t take long before Chuck thrusts his hips out and shot after shot of warm spunk started to coat his chest and flat stomach. It had been over a week since his last orgasm and it showed in the mess he made. “I may ask for this again.”
Raleigh pressed a kiss to Chuck lips and nodded. “By your command.”
Herc slowly kissed Yancy wanting to take apart his lover, slowly, letting him know by actions that he was loved. “I’ll be forty soon,” he whispered.
“Would never know it by how you make me feel,” Yancy answered as he arched back into his partner. “You make me feel cherished.”
“You are, love,” Herc let his hand drop down to work Yance open. “Can’t help but think about a future with you. Breaking my rule with Chuck.”
“Do you really want to talk about Chuck right now?” They could both feel the contentment come radiating down the ghost from both of the boys. They settled some things it seemed. “Ah!”
Herc slowly entered Yance, taking his time to draw out the pleasure for both of them. He chuckled as Yance lost patience, wrapping his legs around Herc and forcing him to be fully seated.
Arching again, Yancy felt his cock rubbing against Herc fuzzy lower abs. So much more sensitive when Yance shaved, since Herc loved to blow him and no one wanted a mouth full of pubes.
“You’re not small love,” Herc whispered as he thrust hard. Their ghost drift was always present now, just like his with Chuck, but this was wide open. “So, fucking beautiful.” He never thought he’d get this again. That he could feel this complete again. He didn’t care if anyone thought less of his because he had a male lover. They were at war and he was going to take what bits of happiness he could find where he could.
“Love you too, you big cave man,” Yancy quipped. He gripped Herc’s shoulders tightly as he came. He felt Herc follow quickly after. “You love it when I have to walk gingerly the next day don’t you?”
“That’s just a result. This is what I love.” He kissed his man deeply again. “All that matters is our family. The rest can take care of itself.”
“When they said restriction did they mean, don’t even look at schematics of Gipsy?” Chuck was on week three of his recovery and no longer on pain meds. His focus was back and wanted to work on something. His eyes narrowed when he saw all three men looking everywhere but at him. “What?”
It dawned on him that they were keeping something from him. He walked over to a display and entered his dad’s ID and password. He ignored the feeling of surprise behind him. “Please, I know all of your passwords and access IDs. Even though Yance changes his regularly. Rals has horrible password security.” While he was talking he was pulling up everything on the Danger. He exhaled when he started seeing the damage.
“I was right, I was lucky.” He kept scrolling into the engineering logs and seeing the system by system report. “Superficial structural damage, power systems are largely intact, left arm relays are gone, I knew the gyroscopes were crap. No one ever listens to me.”
That garnered a few grunts. He ignored them as he cycled through the data. “Three months. I can work with that.”
Herc gave Chuck a withering glare. “We will be talking about you and your password thieving. Work with what?”
Chuck pulled out a small data pad and threw an image on the main display. “A few new upgrades that can be done with repairs are underway.”
Raleigh groaned. “Not Pearl again.”
PPDC Command meant medical leave and didn’t authorize Chuck to go to Pearl. He submitted his plans for upgrades while Gipsy was being fixed for the first two months at Pearl and then final repairs would take place in Sydney.
Meanwhile Chuck sat in a conference room with his dad. It was a week after Chuck got a look at Gipsy using his dad’s access.
“I’m going to sit here and you are going to pull everything you’ve ever accessed with my ID. I’ll sit here and look over all of it. If I see stuff here that I find unreasonable, when you are healed you will be on latrine duty and any other duty until such time as I see fit. Am I clear?” Herc glared at his son.
Admonished, Chuck started pulling up the master file records. He listed them out. The list wasn’t long at all. Striker specs was the majority when Chuck was in school. But there were several bypasses of security to access external porn sites. Chuck handed over the file list blushing up a storm. He was so busted.
Herc looked it over and did everything he could to keep his face schooled in an angry mask. However, his kid used his access to see designs and stuff like that. “Engineering and porn. Only my kid would have such a narrow list.” Herc looked over some of the porn files and laughed. “Oh kid, I knew you had it bad, but knock off jaeger pilots? Brother porn? Jeez, I was a teenager once so I’ll cut you some slack on that one. Lots of hot blonds here. At least it looks like it was all free. I’d be more concerned if you paid for this crap.”
Chuck buried his face in his hands. There was no way this wasn’t getting back to Yance and Rals. “Can you send me to Kodiak for survival training?”
“No, I think your punishment is confession.” Herc liked that he could tease his son now and not get an angry response. Nothing here was enough to warrant latrine duty. No personnel files, no security cam footage. His kid wanted to look at specs and drool over Mark V designs. Probably did the same thing with those as the bad jaeger porn. Only his kid would confess to getting a boner climbing into a jaeger conn-pod. “Son, I love you. You are both an adult and a kid all in one. Though I think there is something you can do while on restriction. All the laundry needs doing.”
“DAD!” Chuck hated doing laundry. Most of his clothes belonged to his dad and Raleigh. Only thing he owned himself were his underwear. “Sure, I can’t go to Kodiak?”
Chuck was off restriction and helping fix Gipsy. Raleigh was watching him like a hawk to make sure he didn’t overextend himself too soon. They both knew that Herc and Yance were running some kind of drills with the Gages. Gottlieb found a mathematical formula to predict kaiju activity and when the adaptations were factored in, it became apparent that teams of two would be necessary to combat all future attacks.
“Stop staring!” Chuck yelled from under a console. He was doing something with fuses that Raleigh understood, but didn’t want to help with.
Not his fault Chuck’s pants were bunched at the groin and perfectly outlining some very healthy-looking attributes. Chuck’s cock and nuts were clearly visible and firming up by the second. “Totally innocent here.”
“Totally bungers, mate, if you think I buy that!” Chuck slid out and glared at his boyfriend. That was official now. Still limited on the touching thing, but no longer off limits totally. He still felt the traces of Raleigh’s lips on his from the morning. “Ugh, now you got me going!”
“I call that a win!”
The alarms sounded and all the emergency doors started to drop around the dome. Chuck started putting everything away and they moved from the catwalk towards one of the main corridors. The blast doors were shut. They are stuck in the main bay.
“LOCCENT, we are in the bay, what’s going on?” Raleigh demanded.
“Proceed to door F4; you have two minutes before it seals.”
“Bloody hell, that’s way over there,” Chuck pointed to an opposite catwalk. “Move!”
They made it was barely a few seconds to spare before the final blast door came down. They were in a seldom used storage area. Clicking on a flashlight he carried in his belt, Chuck started looking around since emergency lighting was an oxymoron. He found a bunch of old displays, desks, actual comfortable chairs, and random furniture.
“Do we know why the lockdown happened?” Chuck was still looking through several rows of items as he asked.
“Mako sent word from San Diego. Seattle PPDC facility was attacked; the hospital is in ruins, but the command center status is unknown at this time.” Raleigh sat down on a dusty couch. “This place reminds me of my grandmother’s house.”
“I don’t think recall ever going to my grandparents’ houses. Dad doesn’t speak to his dad and mom…her family was lost when she passed.” The pain was there, but the sharp ache wasn’t.
Strong arms wrapped Chuck in a hug. “The loss will always be there, but you have people who understand that pain.” He lightly kissed Chuck. “That helps.”
“Not making out in this place. Like out of one of those old horror stories,” Chuck laughed as he lightly shoved Raleigh away. “Besides if the attack wasn’t here, they’ll lift the lockdown in twenty or so minutes.”
“Fine.” Raleigh fiddled with his phone, looking for news when it hit him. “Why Seattle? PPDC has little in military targets there.”
That was an excellent question. Chuck spotted what he was looking for and smiled. “Hey Rals, they have bigger beds and sealed mattresses back here!”
The lights returned to normal and they left the area. “We’ll have to figure out a way to get one.”
“Well, dad has one in his room because it’s a family suite. Yance lives there now, yeah? Why can’t you get one?” Chuck smiled and then frowned. “Insurrection is making things tough.”
Part of Chuck really wished his dad was there, but he was in Hawaii doing field work with the Gages. He never complained, but Raleigh, and thus Yancy, had a list a mile long about why they didn’t like the twins. He just wanted to know that his dad was safe.
Knowing Chuck’s train of thought, Raleigh poked him in the ribs. “Look on the bright side, your dad might get to meet Newt.”
“I’d like dad to stay out of the brig.”
They made their way back to their room, as Raleigh now called it. Chuck still had a room in Herc’s suite, but Chuck now slept next to Raleigh every night. Once the door closed, he reached down and gripped Chuck’s semi through his pants. “Ready for another step?”
Chuck swallowed and nodded. There was a slow progression in their physical relationship, just mutual hand jobs and lots of kissing now. But watching Rals sink to his knees and slowly undo Chucks pants was making the younger Ranger get close already.
“Such a beautiful cock you have here, long, fat, and uncut,” Raleigh licked the already wet tip. The groan was music to his ears. He dipped his tongue under the thick foreskin. It was mostly retracted but still part of the glans was covered. As he swirled his tongue along that prominent ridge he heard his partner whimper. So thick it barely fit in his mouth, but he savored the feel in his mouth.
He’d wanted this for so long and he wasn’t going to wait any longer. Popping the head free, he ran his tongue along the veiny underside. He brought his hand to lightly squeeze the fat sack that was still in the briefs Chuck had on. They were actually Raleigh’s, but he loved the idea of Chuck wearing his clothes. He popped the head back in his mouth and started to actually suck.
“Raleigh!” Chuck gripped his head and groaned as he unloaded in his boyfriend’s mouth. He sagged against the wall, mortified he’d lasted under a minute, but savoring the ecstasy Raleigh just gave him. “Sorry,” he managed to get out.
Wiping his chin, Raleigh stood up and kissed Chuck deeply. “Nothing to be sorry about, babe. First times never last long. I think my first blow job I came in my underwear.”
Giggling, Chuck leaned on Rals. “How was that a blow job then?”
“It wasn’t. The guy laughed at me for days.”
Yancy sipped his coffee as they reviewed the last set of combat simulations. The twins weren’t brawlers in the way Herc was. The two jaegers fighting as one had a solid win rate, but not good enough yet. Seattle weighed on their minds.
“Something must be done about the Insurrection,” Herc muttered under his breath. “Long past time that they were dealt with as traitors.”
“I agree with the sentiment, they’ve proven difficult to handle,” responded one of the twins. “If this continues then the ability for the PPDC to protect people will grow in doubt. This is not a war in a classic sense, but a psychological one. They worship the monsters.”
“In doing so they become them,” Yancy replied. “Fear and confusion are their best weapons. We can fight the kaiju but finding those in our ranks that would betray us, that is harder.”
“Thank you, boys, for those lovely thoughts, but this is a training class,” Tendo reminded them from one of the screens. “Can we get back to that?”
“If we must,” answered the other twin. He cleared his throat and then lowered his voice. “By the way, congratulations you two. Good to see people find some happiness. But tell your brother he’s still a colossal jerk.” He smiled broadly at that.
Chuck finished sparring with Yancy and still felt like his body wasn’t back to normal. “It’s been three months.”
“And two of them were spent doing nothing. Then two weeks of light duty.” Yancy took a drink of water and handed the bottle to his sparring partner. “Not bad for such a long layoff. Just be glad it’s me and not your father. He wants you back on duty as much as you do.”
Chuck nodded. He looked up and smiled. “Mori! You’re back again?”
“Ai, my final training rotation from the Academy. May I?” She motioned to the mats.
“You are better off taking on him than me. I’m still recovering from Hawaii.” Chuck slumped against a wall. “It would be four nothing in two minutes right now. Give it a go Yancy!”
Chuck slid all the way to the floor and watched as Mako and Yancy went at it. It was a total contrast in styles, but he loved watching that type of match. Soon enough Yancy scored the fourth point.
“Very well done, Ms. Mori. Chuck should take lessons from you instead of me,” Yancy wiped off his head as he said that.
“Chuck is odd,” Mako said while smiling at her friend. “Somedays he’s amazing and others he falls on his face.”
“That sounds about right. Come on kid, your dad and Raleigh should be done with their sim run soon. Ms. Mori, will we see you at dinner tonight?”
“Yes,” she nodded and started going through several motions.”
Three more students walked into the Kwoon as the Rangers departed. “She should get the Hyperion. She just needs a partner who isn’t rigid.”
It was a stalemate for the most of a year. Kaiju were unable to get past the jaegers and the PPDC could not locate the leaders of the Insurrection. Chuck applied the salve they gave him for the circuitry burns on his calf. Nothing major, just needed to be watched. He’d hoped Mako would be stationed in Sydney, but she was going to Hong Kong with her adopted father.
He had a few weeks left until he turned eighteen. It was a number for the most part now, but symbolic too. Not that his dad was ready for this milestone. Then again, Chuck still could not drive a damned car. He slipped on some shorts because pants made his burns hurt more. Limping his way to LOCCENT, they knew that the predicted increase in strength for the kaiju was coming true. Two jaegers for every one monster was now optimal. And no new jaegers would be built. Hyperion was the last one. Political will was eroding when it came to supporting the PPDC. But there was no alternative at the moment either. It was all in a state of limbo.
Walking back to his room, he entered his dad’s suite and went to his room there. He studied there since he had a good desk with better lighting than in Raleigh’s room. Those classes really helped him use his time when he wasn’t knee deep in jaeger guts. Or helped him understand even more about jaeger guts.
“Sprog, you in here?”
He hated being called that, but his dad loved it. Chuck sighed, he had a feeling that if they survived to be old, he’d still be called that when his dad was in a wheelchair telling everyone about the war when he was a hero.
“Yeah, dad,” he called back as he popped out of his room.
“Come on, got some sim time available for us. You aren’t climbing into a pod for at least two weeks. Nasty burn there. How are Raleigh’s?” Herc threw an arm across his boy’s shoulders and helped him walk. Not that his son would ever admit to needing the help.
Chuck had to roll his eyes. “Raleigh swears he’s fine. I’ll let Yancy deal with that bloody drongo. His whole back has these stupid burns.” He looked at his dad. Laugh lines standing out on his handsome face. Gray coloring his ginger hair. He leaned a little more on his dad because he could.
“Alright there son?” He tightened his grip a little. Part of the reason he wanted this sim run was to drift with his boy. It made tangible that his son was part of his soul, he could feel him deep down. He had that with Yancy and a little with Raleigh, but he’d had it longest with Chuck. “We don’t have to…”
“No, I want to, just realizing how much I am my father’s son.” He ducked his head away a little. “Glad we’re doing this, yeah?”
Herc looked around and whispered in Chuck’s ear, “Sprog, no matter how old you get and how much you accomplish, you will always be Charlie to me. My little boy.”
That name didn’t hurt for once. “Come on you old fart,” trying to change the mood a bit. “Let’s go see what they have for us in the sim today.”
It was intimate in a way that Chuck could not describe. The scrap of the blades as they removed a symbol he’d craved back at the Academy. He looked down as Raleigh shaved him. His boyfriend wanted to try something, but they had to shave Chuck first. He knew first hand that the brothers shaved. It was very hot for Chuck to see, but there, at the Academy, he’d been a boy among men. Those were the first symbol that he’d matured.
“Shhh, babe, you are definitely not a boy. Trust me, you will love this.” Raleigh continued the delicate process. Already the hefty nut sack was smooth with each slight touch sending shivers all over Chuck’s body. Each pass removed the bright ginger hair and leaving only beautiful delicate skin in the wake.
Done, he kissed the tip of Chuck’s hard cock. Taking off his own clothes. Raleigh pushed Chuck back and slid his body against Chuck’s. He let their cocks rub against each other and it sent blissful shudders along his spine.
“AH!” Chuck was overwhelmed by the friction. He grabbed Raleigh and kissed as they started thrusting against each other. He’d heard of frottage but discounted it. This was amazing. They kissed and kissed as they touched and thrust. There was no thought only the sensations of love and lust. He gripped Raleigh’s arms tight as he came. He felt Raleigh’s release moments later.
“Okay, that was amazing. You win,” Chuck gasped out.
“I’m always right,” Raleigh said with a smile. He leaned down and kissed Chuck again. “Not allowed to grow them back, babe. You look awesome that way.”
Herc sat in a Senior Staff video conference. He was the Senior Ranger listening to the latest developments. He got Yancy a seat in the room too. This wasn’t something Chuck wanted in on and Raleigh was on training duty with the latest batch of cadets doing their practicals rotation. He was glad he was done with that for good.
‘We received operational knowledge of the cultists and their black-market activities. Lots of their finances are now being targeted for seizure. They were able to get lists of business that were serving as fronts for this laundering.’
“Do they have the leaders yet?” came a question from one of the Dome Marshals.
‘That Operational Intelligence is Need-To-Know only.’
Walking out, Yancy and Herc made their way to the Science division labs and Chuck’s workstation. He was knee deep in something so Herc went over and tapped him on the shoulder. “Lunch?”
“Is it that time already?” Chuck stood and stretched. “What?” they were both staring at him weirdly. And he could tell they were having a ghost conversation. Something only pilots would understand. But those looks though…something was up.
“Son, when was the last time we got you some clothes?” Herc motioned to Chuck’s outfit. “Raleigh’s sweater and probably my t-shirt. Those look like some of Yance’s older pants. Only thing you have on that’s yours is underwear and your boots.”
Chuck could have corrected the record on one front but left it. “I’m still barred from leaving PPDC property. You all can go out, but I’m a glorified prisoner. And I don’t own any non-work clothes.” He saw them looking at each other again. “What are you two up to?”
“Nothing at all,” came Yancy’s smiling response.
“Let’s eat I’m hungry and I can feel Raleigh’s frustration a mile away.” Chuck side-eyed them though. He knew better.
He found out on his birthday what they were up to when he was given a boatload of clothes. Jeans, pants, actual shirts, and a variety of t-shirts.
“How…where?” Chuck was floored.
Raleigh popped a candy in his mouth and grinned. “Newt informed your dad, as a peace offering, that Hawaii was loaded with old clothes that all the abandoned stores weren’t allowed to ship back to the States. Most of it was sitting forgotten in warehouses.” He placed a watch on Chuck’s wrist. “We all picked up a few things, but you babe, needed clothes from the ground up.”
Chuck had no idea where he was going to keep all this. “See, that wanker is good for something.”
Raleigh leaned over and whispered in Chuck’s ear. “I picked out a few special things, but they are in our room.”
“Oh,” Chuck could tell that Raleigh was up to something.
“Found a few jockstraps and other assorted underwear I’d like to see you wearing.” He waggled his eyebrows at Chuck.
“You are so terrible at flirting,” groaned Yancy as he threw some balled-up paper at his brother. “Get a room!”
A few weeks later, Chuck was in the middle of the Kwoon, it was the three on one attack again. But two would approach at the same time with the third dropping back staggering the attacks. This time, however, there were witnesses. The Weis of Crimson Typhoon and the Gages were present to see how the Hansen-Becket quartet performed.
Covered in sweat but deep in a zone, Chuck parried at an attack from one brother while using that momentum to keep the other off balance. It was a difficult dance. Fifteen minutes in and they had three points on him to his one on them. They switched out partners again, but his dad came from behind, shifting to get a visual, Yancy was able to get under his defenses and get the last point.
Sagging from exhaustion, Chuck nodded at Yance. “You waited until I was too tired to cover the same ground.”
“Exhaustion is an element of a fight,” offered one of the Weis. “You work well in sequence. And Little Hansen lasted longer than I expected.”
It looked like one of the Gages was going to say something but his twin restrained him.
Raleigh threw a towel towards Chuck for him to dry off. “Okay, Bruce, let’s have a match.” He longed to have a go with that obnoxious, self-righteous, pompous jackass. Perfect setting for it too.
“You are on,” responded one of the twins.
Chuck dragged himself over near his dad. “What is with them?”
“Got me, son. But,” Herc projected his voice loud enough for everyone to hear. “There better not be any real damage or I inflict twice as much to whomever does it.” He gave Raleigh a look.
They were tied two points apiece when Marshal Davies walked in. Three security personnel were with him as they removed any passing bystanders and sealed the room.
“Rangers, right now the PPDC and several member governments are sweeping up hundreds of Insurrectionists. At least two storage depos of their chemical aerosol have already been found and it is being sent to Pearl for safe keeping. We anticipate, given that nebulous connection, a kaiju attack sooner than Gottlieb projects. You are being returned to your home bases ASAP.”
Raleigh reached over and shook Bruce’s hand as they started to leave followed by the Weis. Chuck waved at them and headed for the locker room. Herc followed. The hot water cascaded on the Hansens and Chuck groaned as the water worked some overused muscles.
“I see you joined the Beckets in their grooming habits,” Herc mentioned as he rinsed out his hair. It was a little shocking considering Chuck’s attitude about such things not that long ago.
Slightly blushing Chuck shrugged, “Raleigh convinced me and I’ll leave it there.” He didn’t want to have this conversation while he was in the locker room showers with his dad. They’d been doing this for years, but talking about…things, no, that was new.
“Son, you’ve been walking around bare-assed when you were home since you were fourteen. Don’t see why you’re blushing now?” Herc teased. “It’s a good look on Yancy. Nothing to be ashamed of.”
Chuck groaned and started banging his head against the shower head.
“What’s wrong with him?” asked Raleigh as he and Yancy walked in. His boyfriend was an interesting shade of red. He could feel all kinds of conflicting emotions coming from Chuck.
“I mentioned his new grooming habits and he’s blushing up a storm. I know the water isn’t that hot.” Herc kept smiling. Being able to tease Chuck was a gift!
“Stop mortifying your child, Hercules,” chided Yance.
The kaiju attacks did follow the pattern that the Sciences division found. Two attacks happened after the Insurrection was crushed. Six months passed since the raids happened. Chuck was in LOCCENT on watch duty when he saw the emergency alert flash across the displays and lockdown protocols kicked in. Moving quickly, he found the source and got a video feed. “No!” he instantly scrambled all security personnel.
All the external feeds around the dome showed no activity, but that wasn’t unusual. The feed from Taipei was horrific. The Shatterdome was on fire and half collapsed. Shaolin Rogue was destroyed and Echo Saber’s condition was unknown.
Chuck watched as a small cargo ship approached the Sydney Dome. “Turn all traffic away from the coast until further notice,” he ordered. “The can go to Brisbane or Melbourne if they must dock, but Sydney is closed!”
He monitored the communications back and forth with a sense of dread building in his stomach. “How far out are they from the Dome?”
“Two miles, Ranger Hansen,” came the Ops Officer.
Chuck watched as two more jumphawks were in the air watching the freighter move closer towards the Dome. “They are to be treated as hostile. They cannot get close to the Dome.”
Right as the final warning was issued the freighter exploded. The blast wave shook the building and blew out windows across parts of Sydney that were standing.
“Report!” he managed to get out.
“Bay doors were closed, but we don’t know how much damage was done to them.”
The Senior Staff came rushing in the command center. Chuck continued to give instructions to the flight crews and trying to get external video feeds to see the damage. They were inside the bays trying to see if the blast wave warped the doors. The jumphawks were busy looking around the harbor for any other damage.
Raleigh and Yancy were in the bays directing those efforts while Herc was with the Marshal trying to figure out how severely the suicide attacks hurt the PPDC. It was a long night.
The Taipei Dome was a total loss, Hong Kong suffered some damage, but the jaegers were intact. Sydney’s bay doors were jammed at the moment. There was no attack on San Diego or Pearl. Or if there was one, the US Navy and Marine Corps took care of it first. The Japanese Dome near Tokyo wasn’t hit either. Then reports came that the decommissioned bases in Russia and Alaska were destroyed as well.
It was a nightmare.
Raleigh pulled Chuck from LOCCENT after eighteen hours on duty. Everything that could be done was being done. “Come on, you’re exhausted, I can tell.”
One of the downsides of a strong ghost drift, impossible to lie without full concentration and Chuck was beyond the end of his energy reserves. “Fine.”
He must have been tired because he didn’t realize he was out as his head hit the bunk.
Chuck refused to listen to the annoying voice. And then they brought in Max as a secret weapon. Dog slobber was the worst to wake up to. But he loved his dog more than anything. “Revenge will be mine.”
“Yeah, get up. There’s work to do.”
Chuck looked up at Yancy and gave him the finger. “This fucking sucks.”
It was a year after the suicide attacks and the aftermath was still being felt. Only two bases remained open; Hong Kong and Pearl. Crimson Typhoon, Cherno Alpha, Hyperion Storm, and Solar Prophet were in Hong Kong while Striker Eureka, Gipsy Danger, Lucky Seven, and Romeo Blue were in Pearl.
Sydney was shut down as the structural damage was far more severe than expected. San Diego was too far from the Breach and thousands of Marines were at risk with that Dome’s location. Tokyo was located too close to one of the planet’s major population centers. Hong Kong was on an island outside the main population center and Pearl, well it was Pearl.
Paradise wasn’t bad as things went. Since all of Hawaii was now basically a military instillation, Chuck was allowed to go off the actual base itself and into the part of Honolulu that was still populated. Their housing was an on-base condo in a high rise. It was three bedrooms and had a great view of the mountains. It was different than being confined to a small suite in Sydney, but to have an actual multi-room home to share. And the couples chose bedrooms on the opposite side of their home.
Pearl was never meant to be a jaeger base, but now it was a Shatterdome. Ford Island was now the home of the active jaegers and the repair and construction facilities were for those activities only now. But support was falling across the world as the cultist threat faded a bit and the expense of the PPDC took its toll.
But the kaiju still attacked with their increased frequency as predicted. And they were growing bigger and stronger at their predicted rate as well.
One of the parts of the Science division upgrades over the years to the PPDC base was a Level IV Biocontainment Unit. Kaiju Blue and the cultists’ aerosol were the purpose of the lab. They had to be studied.
Herc hated being summoned to the lab, but one of the scientists wanted to show report a finding and the Marshal didn’t want to do. Herc brought along Yancy because Gipsy was on call. Slowly donning the required suits and attaching the dedicated air hose, he went through the second lock and into the lab proper. He actually sagged when he saw Gieszler there. “Why are you here?”
“It was his accident that put us on this path,” said the head of the lab, Dr. Jessica Wu. “Rangers, if you will observe.”
A small part of the blue was in a ceramic container and then a measured amount of the aerosol was introduced in the sealed compartment. Slowly the Blue reacted to the aerosol and began to change color. Finally, it was all gone leaving only a gray fine powder in the jar.
“What just happened?” asked Yancy. He looked again and pointed. “What is that made of?”
“It would appear that a distilled form of the Blue becomes almost like an antigen to kaiju cells. We are working on the exact nature of the reaction. As for what that is. That is mainly silicon and carbon, with the oxygen component released in the reactive process.”
Herc blinked a few times and then glanced at Yancy. “Oi, alright. Give us a few days and we’ll be back.”
The two Rangers communicated through the drift as they made their way to the rail line that crossed to Ford Island. On duty Rangers stayed there for a rotation with the jaegers close at hand. Herc walked right into the Ranger’s lounge and closed the door. Chuck and Raleigh stopped their card game at the appearance of the rest of their family.
“You alright, dad?”
“Your pal, Newt, accidently discovered something. The bioweapon the cultists developed reacts negatively with Kaiju Blue.” Herc nodded as Raleigh and Chuck stared. “They just showed us the results in the lab.”
Chuck leaned back and started rubbing his face. He got up and started scrolling through the weapons inventory on the island. He pulled up some of the older stuff the US Army left behind. “There we go. The javelin system, oh this will be fun. I’ll need those wankers, the Gages, and Newt will have to approve.”
“What are you going on about?” Raleigh demanded. He avoided the Gages if at all possible. It was very difficult now that they were stationed together.
“Live fire test. We got a rotting carcass up in the valley that almost killed me!” Chuck stood up and was instantly pushed back down by his dad. “You are on rotation. I’ll start the ball moving telling everyone my bungers as hell son has an idea.”
Two weeks later Chuck sat in a Jeep seething that he didn’t get to fire the modified javelin at the massive carcass just outside Wheeler Air Force Base. “I want to blow that soddin’ bastard up again!”
His family ignored his fourth rant on the injustice of it. They watched as the missile impacted in the chest cavity area.
“We have detonation.”
They watched as one third of the massive mound of dead kaiju vanished in a matter of minutes. It disintegrated. A second test was launched at the remaining larger portion and it too vanished after a few minutes.
Chuck turned to Yancy and pointed to the cleared section of the valley. “Some of Striker’s missiles can be modified to use that, but it would have to be a piercing round.”
“No, that’s too dangerous,” countered Rals. “It would have to be perfectly timed.”
There were several arguments about the weapons and how to even deploy them. Further testing was the only answer they got that day.
There was an attack in progress in Indonesia. Solar Prophet was dispatched from Hong Kong and Lucky Seven was there from Pearl. The Cat IV kaiju was the nastiest to date. The weapons both jaegers had were causing some damage, but not enough to end the monster. The controllers from both Domes kept relaying battle orders.
All other Rangers were listening in on the operation when they heard.
‘This is Seven, Prophet is down. Conn Pod is submerged in the water. We are down to our last missile.’
‘Seven this is LOCCENT 2, fall back and prepare for reinforcements. Hyperion ETA fifteen minutes. Back off!’
There was garbled communication from Seven when they all heard. ‘We broke its exterior shell, underneath…’
Then there was silence. They waited until Hyperion arrived on scene and put in the killing shot on the wounded kaiju. But the report came back confirming their worst fears. Two jaegers had fallen. There were only six left now.
The political situation deteriorated further after Crossbones. Billions in resources lost in a single afternoon. That was the ire of the politicians instead of focusing on defending and saving humanity.
Herc removed his tie from his Dress Uniform after the memorial ceremony. He dropped on his bed and messed with his hair. The Gages, and Romeo Blue too, were being moved to Hong Kong. Two jaegers would defend the Americas and four would defend the West Pac. That too had been a huge political fight, assigning the only American crew to the West Pac and leaving the Hansen-Becket duos intact at Pearl. And all this before the PPDC had a chance to properly mourn the fallen.
The door opened and Herc knew it was Yancy. Words weren’t necessary sometimes. Just being close was enough. Something the politicians didn’t understand about the combined Hansen-Becket household; there were too many bonds now to be separated by distance for long periods of time.
“I messaged with Tendo and he thinks we have a year before Pearl is turned back into a research only facility.” He ran his fingers through Herc’s hair. “All research is now on closing the Breach.”
“We tried nuking it and it didn’t do anything.” Herc was tired. Years of fighting and dying; still the politicians wanted more from them.
“Chuck is organizing a luau tonight because Karla loved them and to wish the Gages well.” There was a little mirth in the last part. “I think Rals secretly hopes Alexis eats Bruce.”
Herc laughed at that idea. Bruce was the type that got under your skin and liked to stay there. How his twin put up with him was anybody’s guess. And Alexis, the man mountain in Cherno, probably could eat Bruce. “Well we need him so let that stay as one of Raleigh’s more vivid fantasies.”
Going back and forth in the large pool their condo had, Chuck tried to clear his mind. There was nothing that could get him near ocean water anymore. This was a clean pool and he used to love swimming. It was a rare luxury. He was turning twenty soon, but it was bittersweet. Time was running out as leaders tried to figure out how to deal with the threat that came from without and within. Far too many people now viewed the kaiju was the wrath of the divine. The cultists were imprisoned, but that only fueled their passion. The suicide attacks were no longer on the PPDC, but governments for fighting the Will of the Divine. The whole thing made Chuck sick.
Hoisting himself out of the water. He smiled as Raleigh laid out on a deck chair. He’d lost a bet and was dressed as a proper Australian would be on Bondi, at least what he saw in pictures back in the day. It was payback for some of the underwear Raleigh liked Chuck to wear. The bright yellow and orange Speedo Raleigh had on looked perfect. Chuck looked down at his darker green one and laughed. Perfect payback.
“I never made you parade around in any of that where people could see,” Raleigh grumped.
“The techs count and saw way too much in the last year.” Chuck waved at his dad and Yancy walking towards the pool.
Herc was in a low cut black trunk that highlighted his build and Yance was in a dark red Speedo. The older brother made it a point to show just how much he didn’t care about his swimwear.
“Quit complaining,” Herc admonished Rals. “Enjoy the day!”
“I’m a white boy from Alaska, I’m going to be crispy soon.” The two ginger Australians just gave him a look.
That evening, Chuck slowly spread fresh aloe all over Raleigh’s back. It was rare that they got the chance to relax. A real day off was a gift that Chuck was more than willing to put to use. Tracing the aloe down Raleigh’s spine, Chuck parted those perfect cheeks and went down. Their physical relationship progressed over the years and now that Chuck was approaching twenty, there was no apprehension.
Darting his tongue out, he licked the rim of Raleigh’s ass and started taking long swipes. The hissing from his lover was a perfect counter point to the small switches and gasps coming from him as well. Chuck could count on one hand the number of times he’d been able to do this.
“Do something, Hansen!”
The older Ranger was normally the one preaching patience and Chuck was going to turn those tables. “All good things…” Throwing his favorite saying back in his face was perfect.
Going back in, Chuck let his tongue slip inside and was rewarded by writhing moans. He ignored Rals as he used the ghost to push their pleasure higher and higher.
Not moving his face, Chuck reached for the lube he’d left next to Rals and coated a finger. He pulled back and allowed that finger to slowly fuck his lover. Slowly he moved and every few motions would curl his finger to lightly stroke Raleigh’s prostate. Just enough to add to the building sensation, but nothing close to sending him over the edge. Payback.
“You’re a…shit…Chuck!” Raleigh gasped out. “Ah!”
A second finger was added right after that. Chuck looked over at Raleigh’s body and groaned. His own need was rapidly building. Patience wasn’t a strong suit for a nineteen-year-old Ranger. A little more lube and a third finger moved in and out. Raleigh pushed back on those fingers needing more and more, but Chuck denied him that. He pulled them out and warp them around his dripping prick. He dripped some lube on his fat head and a little more right above Raleigh’s wet rim.
“Ready, babe?” he was simply teasing his lover now. He loved it.
“When I’m not horny and crispy I’m kicking your ass, dickhead!”
Pushing in, Chuck was thick and he let Raleigh adjust. Rals normally topped so Chuck took his time. He could feel the cue from the ghost and pushed all the way in. It was heaven in the form of pure pleasure. God, he loved Raleigh Becket!
“Fuck you’re big! Move!”
He did and knowing how close they both were, Chuck started slow, but let the pace build rapidly. The feedback was intense. They both came at the same time.
Catching his breath, Chuck managed to not collapse on top of Raleigh’s abused back. “Feel better?”
“Now I’m burned, can’t move, and covered in my own jizz. Just great.”
There was an anonymous message that came in Chuck’s inbox. The only thing he used that for was tech designs and upgrade ideas with a small group who loved that kind of thing. The pranks over the years had decreased as the kaiju threat became worse. He opened and instantly moved back. He could feel the bile rising up his throat and he ran to the restroom to heave his guts out.
One of the Scientists near him heard the commotion and saw the image. He picked up a comm line and ordered security to come to the lab.
Later after a few interviews were conducted, Raleigh carded his fingers through Chuck’s hair as the younger Ranger leaned on him. Security was trying to trace the source of the message, but too little avail. Herc looked like he was ready to kill some.
The message was simple: ‘You’re next!’ but the image was one of a tortured Scott Hansen. It was what Pentecost wanted kept quiet all these years, the extent of the damage done and why Scott Hansen was deactivated. The abductors practically cut off his left arm. It was a mass of wires going into the bone with metal rods implanted all through the wrist and hand.
It was apparent from that one image that the captors had broken Scott. And now they wanted to get their hands on Chuck.
Herc Hansen looked over at his pale son and saw red all over again. He’d been part of the RAAF and then moved into the Special Air Service Regiment. The kaiju came and he was part of Australia’s response. Those skills he learned in another lifetime; he’d have no problem using them against anyone threatening his boy.
“Calm down, Herc,” whispered Yancy. “He’s fine and safe.” But across the drift, he made it clear to his partner that he was with him to do whatever it took to keep Chuck safe.
Chuck looked over at them and frowned. “I know, I’m back to staying on base only.”
“We all are,” answered Raleigh. “Only thirteen active duty pilots left right now. Thirteen people to save the planet.”
Chuck smiled and then chuckled, “We are the Olympians fighting to vanquish the Titans.” He saw the looks he was getting. “What? I did lots of reading.”
The next attack headed right for Tokyo. Romeo and Cherno were dispatched to take it on. Both had Mark V upgrades that gave them significant weaponry upgrades. They managed to take out the monster before it did any damage on land.
But the PPDC was working diligently on ways to close the Breach. Several weapons systems were adapted now to take on the kaiju, but they had to be adapted to pressures and water propulsion. The designers finally had working mobile railguns with a dedicated power supply.
Word came down of massive funding cuts, but those reflected the reality that the PPDC was a shadow of its former size. With only two active bases and three other support facilities open instead of the dozens from even a couple of years prior, the cuts were still shocking.
“Can we operate on the new budget?” Herc asked his pal Stacker on a video call. Pentecost was now in overall command of the PPDC from Hong Kong.
“We can operate all six jaegers and the bases we have with these funds for two years. We have some reserves we can tap if necessary. All the retirement accounts are funded too so that’s not a huge issue. What is an issue is what happens when this round of funding expires.” Stacker rubbed his face in the screen. “We have two years Herc or else there will not be a PPDC left to defend the planet.”
“There he is!” Yancy moved Gipsy to cut off Mutavore from approaching Sydney. “They are getting way too big.”
Chuck nodded at him as he extended the blades from his arm. Those were an addition Chuck begged for in the last round of upgrades for Gipsy. “There is Striker, flanking us.”
The Hansen-Becket teams switched again. This was the rarest grouping and they were en route to their transfer from Pearl to Hong Kong. They needed the field work.
“We see him, Gipsy,” Raleigh said as he adjusted to being in Striker. Herc ran Striker and the others adjusted accordingly. “Moving to box him in.”
“Move south and we will have a clear shot at his body.” Yancy had his plasma cannons powered. The moment Striker was clear he fired. “Direct hit. LOCCENT, damage estimate?”
‘You made it mad.’
“Thanks for the positive affirmations, Tendo,” Raleigh called. “One missile from this side should get his attention.”
Right as the missile impacted, Gipsy fired a plasma blast into the same general area. And Chuck followed that with a left hook with blades extended. Striker came from the opposite direction and hit the beast with three bladed punches.
Chuck pulled back his blades at Yancy’s prompt and activated the sword. Yancy controlled it and drove the point into the base of the kaiju’s skull.
Herc punched into the skull from the opposite direction. “Fire a dissolving missile. Ocean around here is polluted enough.”
‘Excellent work, team. You broke your own record for carnage.’
“Always good to have a goal, Tendo,” answered Yancy. “We request evac and transport to Hong Kong.”
“Looking forward to seeing you boys.”
“We are not looking forward to this trip,” Raleigh said. “Make sure we have rooms at the inn!”
“My whole body hurts,” whined Chuck. “Never travel in a drive suit. Is there a bar around?” Chuck recently turned twenty-one years old and hadn’t been drunk yet. Though drift hangovers didn’t count as fun. Well, until Raleigh and he discovered what Yancy and his dad failed to disclose, sex was the best cure for a drift hangover. His father said, in his defense, he had to discover that cure on his own and so should his son. He got a one finger salute for that remark.
“Sorry, Chuckles,” Tendo laughed. “No bars until after Pitfall.”
Herc clapped his son on the back and kept walking towards the locker room. “Come on son, I know we are all ripe after hours in these infernal sweat boxes.”
Getting out of the suits was an act of salvation though four large active men in a small space after hours spent in drive suits stunk up the tech room in seconds. It was like a locker room from a university football team. The small room stunk of male sweat that bad.
The hot showers were a blessing and done quickly. A PPDC clerk waited for them and led them to their quarters. Food was waiting for them there since the Mess was closed. They quickly went into their rooms and found a single queen-sized bed in each room. For that they were thankful.
“Small comfort this,” Herc said as he collapsed. “Wasn’t looking forward to trying to squeeze together on a single after years of having some space.”
Stacker Pentecost looked over the conference room at the last jaeger pilots on the planet. Six jaegers for Operation Pitfall, the last stand.
“Rangers, welcome to Hong Kong. I hope you enjoyed your time in paradise.” He didn’t bother to wait for a response. “The end of the world is coming and we are the last hope humanity has. If the pattern holds, in four days there will be a double event and three days later another event, with a possible Cat V kaiju.
“Operation Pitfall is that second event. We have a week to get ready and get the nuke we’ve developed down to the Breach to seal that gateway.” Pentecost looked around. “Crimson and Cherno will be Team One. Team Two will be Hyperion and Romeo. Striker and Gipsy will form Team Three and will also be responsible for delivering the pay load.
“Striker, Romeo, and Hyperion have the new weapons. Crimson, Cherno, and Gipsy will be tasked to deal with the double event. Hyperion will be on stand-by. Let’s get everything ready!”
Chuck leaned back in his seat and focused on Raleigh’s hand massaging his tense shoulders. It was heaven sent.”
“You two better not start something in here,” chided Mako. She grinned at them. “I do not want a lecture from Sensei going to all of use when we will all know who did it.”
“Yeah, dad and his brother. We get blamed but they do the deeds.” Chuck groaned as Rals managed to release a tense muscle. He abruptly stood up and pulled Raleigh up as well. “Okay, we have things to do so, see you later Mako!”
They got knowing looks from everyone as they passed them in the hall. They could not be bothered. The world might end and they were going to go out as sated as they could.
“LOCCENT to jaegers, Otachi and Leatherback are five minutes out. Leatherback will arrive first.”
Chuck looked over at Raleigh and nodded. They were in the harbor close to Crimson Typhoon. Cherno was positioned above the Miracle Mile to build in extra space for Hong Kong just in case.
One of the Weis from Typhoon responded. “We are ready and in position.”
Crimson took the lead with Gipsy in support. They went into their standard fighting stance while Gipsy tracked the path of Leatherback and moved to a support position.
‘Leatherback is taking a tact to hit Crimson head on.’
Raleigh maneuvered Gipsy just slightly that when the massive kaiju emerged from the water they were ready. Crimson hit Leatherback with two of its famed spinning blades while Gipsy waited for a moment as the kaiju reared back. Gipsy fired a full plasma blast at its back. It impacted the scales and dislodged a few. The kaiju roared and wheeled and advanced quickly, but Crimson moved and used two more blade hits to wound the kaiju.
"Cherno move to cut off Otachi from entering the harbor."
Chuck saw the diamond on Leatherback’s head and fired a small short plasma round at it. The kaiju roared again. It swung one of its massive forearms out and punched Gipsy in the chest. Raleigh and Chuck worked in unison to keep from falling over, but it was a near thing. The feedback through the circuitry was excruciating for them.
“We are reading an energy surge of some type from Leatherback, but it doesn’t look stable.”
Raleigh tried to clear his vision from that last wicked punch but it was difficult. Chuck activated the sword and used a backhanded grip to slice the kaiju from bottom right to upper left across the front. There was a mini-flash from the overgrown ape, but they adjusted the grip to overhand and delivered a deeper stroke almost severing its right arm.
“This is Crimson, whatever that was interrupted power briefly. It cannot try again.”
Crimson hit it with another attack that did sever its arm. Raleigh powered up the cannon to full strength and sent the blast right into the kaiju’s head.
“This is LOCCENT, Cherno could use some help. Otachi is almost on land.”
Crimson was in position on the other side of the corpse and the Weis took off at a full run. Chuck loaded a small projectile that all jaegers now had and trained it at the massive lump in the bay. “Dissolving agent has been delivered, Gipsy is moving to stand-by mode to assist if necessary.”
They moved back towards the Miracle Mile and awaited further instructions as they followed the play-by-play from the fight further up the harbor. Otachi didn’t make landfall thanks to Cherno, but keeping it from land was now another matter. Gipsy followed the action to backstop the fight and moved as a last defense just in case.
“LOCCENT, looks like Cherno and Crimson have broken part of Otachi’s arm. And now they have punched a hole in its head. We are preparing another dissolving dart.”
Chuck lined up his shot with the still writhing kaiju and fired. The kaiju gave out a huge wail and sent parts flying. The horror that was the harbor probably got worse because of it. “The kaiju just sent pieces of itself everywhere. Better get the Science Division out to see how bad it is now.”
PPDC Science’s monitored all known areas of kaiju attacks to see how badly the ecosystems were impacted by Blue. Some places, like Sydney, might never recover because of a combination of factors. But they would see the change in Hong Kong and show how much worse it was in a matter of hours.
They moved through the contaminated waters to a pickup point. Crimson and Cherno went first and Gipsy would be the last since she was not really in the last part of the fight.
Chuck switched off the comms. “You are a bit quiet there, mate.” They were still synced, but it was just good manners to ask.
Raleigh took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “The last battle is coming and it’s terrifying. We are sending everything we have. Just hoping it’s enough because if we fail then we’ve lost.”
They didn’t say anything else as they returned to base. They waved to the techs as the victory saved Hong Kong, but both men knew this was a fleeting celebration. The main event was hours away.
Herc and Yancy waited for the boys outside the pilot locker rooms. They lounged against the walls without saying anything. They could feel the apprehension from one of them and wanted to talk. Pitfall was coming and nerves were fraying quickly. Herc grabbed Chuck by the neck and maneuvered him down the hall. He knew that Yancy had his arm slung over Raleigh’s shoulder’s right behind them.
“Good fight?” Herc asked.
“Made another mess in Hong Kong Bay,” answered Chuck dejectedly. “We won but lost on this one.”
Herc looked his son in the eyes. “We take what we can get. Count the wins when we get them.”
As Pitfall drew closer, the pilots started getting antsy as if they were waiting for a shoe to drop. All the models showed what they had to do, but depth, pressure, and kaiju advantages in water all played a factor in how the event might go down. The three team formations would form a wedge to try and draw out the kaiju. The brawlers, Cherno and Crimson, would try to take out the first of the expected kaiju while Hyperion and Romeo, with their new weapons would take on any additional kaiju. That would allow Gipsy and Striker a chance to use one of the fallen kaiju as the delivery system for the nuke.
That was the theory of course. None of the Rangers expected it to happen that way.
The alarms sounded and all the Rangers departed for the drive suit rooms. Team One departed and then Team Two departed fifteen minutes later. Team Three sat on the pads for thirty minutes before the jumphawks lifted Gipsy and Striker into the air.
“Was beginning to feel a little left out,” joked Yancy. “Didn’t let us play a few days ago and then just left us sitting out here with our dicks in the wind.”
They settled in for the long ride. “This is the second long ride in these tin cans in two weeks,” grumped Raleigh. “They really need a restroom in them for the long flights.”
‘We will take that under advisement during our next planning session Mr. Becket,’ came Marshal Pentecost’s voice. ‘However, for now, concentrate on this objective.’
“Team One has reached their drop point. Kaiju Scunner and Raiju have not moved and are still circling the Breach. Team Two eta to drop point, ten minutes.”
Nerves increased as the call came back from Cherno about visibility issues. Never a good thing when instruments weren’t as good as eyesight was for some things. Chuck felt a little better as Team Two splashed down and moved to support Team One from a different angle. Force the kaiju to divide forces. Always a good tactic.
“Team Three eta to drop point, ten minutes.”
Their drop was almost on top of the Breach. The hope was to force any defenders to pull away and let them through, but so far neither Scunner nor Raiju budged from their positions.
“This is Striker, we have begun our descent. First ledge in two minutes.” Herc was the team leader and was in overall command if they lost contact with LOCCENT. Under this much water and pressure that was a potential issue. “We’re on the ledge.”
“This is Gipsy, we are right next to you.” Raleigh hit the flood lights. “Visibility is almost nonexistent.” Chuck groaned in response to that news.
“Raiju has engaged Team Two,” came the warning from LOCCENT. “Team One has Scunner.”
Chuck and Raleigh moved down the next level behind Striker. The chatter from Team Two was chaotic. The kaiju were super-fast in the water and that was a major disability to the jaegers. “Romeo is down, escape pods have been ejected.” Came the call from Mako.
“Cherno is down, pods are away,” came from Crimson. “We’ve killed Raiju.”
That was something. Herc looked down the chasm and the colors of the breach filled the darkness. It was truly out of the world. No time to ponder, he and Yancy moved with a purpose.
“We have movement in the Breach. Cat V is emerging. Codename: Slattern.”
Yancy watched as a monster several times larger than Striker came up. “LOCCENT, we see, but don’t quite believe your Cat V.” Suddenly he was thankful he had Herc with him. This was ominous.
“This is Hyperion, we are on the ridge above you. We are preparing the railgun.”
Gipsy fired two shots at the literal leviathan of the deep. One of the tails whipped around and leveled the left leg of Gipsy.It crumpled under the attack. Warning alarms went off all over the jaeger. Chuck screamed at the feedback but kept his focus. The hit dislodged part of his harness, but he was still operational.
Two shots from Hyperion and one from Striker impacted on Slattern with devastating effect. But the counter-attack hit both Striker and Gipsy. Raleigh looked over and started to panic. “We have a hull breach in progress. Striker proceed to the Breach!” He managed to drag Gipsy back into an upright position. One of the arms was damaged too.
Yancy could feel the panic from his brother but set the package for launch. Herc fired another of their railgun missiles. And that took out part of Slattern’s lower half. “Warhead is armed.” That last strike managed to wound Striker and her pilots. The pain feedback from Herc’s shoulder and his own wrist was endangering the Drift handshake.
Raleigh fired another plasma blast that distracted the massive kaiju as Hyperion used its last railgun shot to take out the beast. The kaiju’s death flail hit Gipsy again. Chuck launched three of the dissolving agents down towards the Breach while the beast began to slide down the crevice. That last hit accelerated the hull integrity issues.
“Warhead is away. All jaegers return to the surface.” Herc’s command echoed in the dark depths. Yancy hit the ballast release and Striker began its climb. Monitors showed that Crimson and Hyperion were already on their way up. Both showing damage from their engagements.
Chuck watched as the external hull broke and water started to weigh down Gipsy. He disengaged the rest of his harness and forced Raleigh out of his. His leg couldn’t support his weight. They had seconds before the pressure tore Gipsy apart. Raleigh got over and pushed Chuck into the pod and then climbed into his own.
“Escape pods now!” Time was almost up. The warnings never gave enough time in the simulations for a hull breach.
They managed to get in right as the water broke into the inner hull. Raleigh hit the release and the high velocity escape pods ejected towards the surface. Neither man listened as LOCCENT called the Breach closed.
Raleigh looked around for Chuck’s pod and finally saw it emerge. He saw for it moment as the other three jaegers arrived at the surface. “Chuck!” It wasn’t opening. He dove into the ocean to get it.
Forcing the pod open, Raleigh checked on Chuck and found him breathing, but his left leg was broken for sure. There were so many cuts on him too. The suit seemed to be keeping those bound. “Babe, show me your pretty eyes.”
Chuck coughed and moaned. “That is a terrible line, mate.” He passed out on Raleigh as he tried to get him to wake up but Chuck was completely out.
The rescue choppers got the pilots on board. The jaegers would be picked up by the jumphawks after the pilots were cleared from the area. Chuck’s leg was stabilized and Herc’s arm put in a sling to keep his busted collar bone from moving too much. Every pilot was banged up in some form or fashion as they arrived back in Hong Kong.
Herc walked out and gave Pentecost a salute and a big hug. “Marshal, all pilots are accounted for, sir.”
“Ranger Hansen, the Breach has been sealed. Stop the War Clock!”
Cheers went up across the Dome. Herc pulled Yancy over and kissed him fiercely. “Will you marry me?”
“Hell yeah, I’ve been itching to say yes since Manila!” Yancy kissed him back.
They saw Chuck being wheeled on a stretcher towards the Med Bay and quickly followed. Yancy pulled Raleigh into an arm hug, mindful of his own broken wrist. “We can still feel him. It will be fine.”
Chuck leaned back in his Medical Bay bed and groaned. He had some minor oxygen deprivation from his pod and a mild concussion. He was stuck for three days to make sure the surgery took and his bones were healing. But he felt like the walls were too close. He could still feel the pressure from the deep and the water threatening to overwhelm him.
Raleigh sat next to him and tried to get him to laugh. He knew that Chuck was having issues. He carded his fingers through Chuck’s hair. Max sat on the floor and slept. He could feel the panic building in Chuck. He mentioned it to Herc and was thankful he listened.
“You know, we could see if they would let you convalesce in your room,” Herc said from the door. “Being a hero should have some perks.” He had a wheelchair and Yancy was holding an actual pizza. “Perks of being a hero.”
Raleigh held Chuck at night as the nightmares started. He could practically see them in the strong Drift they shared. Chuck’s nightmares as his uncle, tortured by the Insurrectionists. Chuck trapped in the flooding Gipsy. Each time he held tighter and whispered to Chuck that it was okay. More than once he’d come back to their room and see Yancy or Herc holding a panicked Chuck.
After a week of that, Herc walked into Pentecost’s office. “Sir, I need to make plans for my family.”
“Sit.” Pentecost handed Herc some papers. “You’re getting a much-needed promotion. When the Breach closed, several of the Insurrectionists in custody died. They think there was a stronger link to that dimension that we understood. We are still mopping up that mess. All Rangers are undergoing mandatory therapy. When that time is up, then we can make long term plans. But Marshal Hansen, welcome to a new gig.”
Chuck went to his therapy and rehab sessions, but he felt like the walls were closing in. There was a weight on his chest that would not move. Everyone had a job to do except him being on mandatory medical leave as he was. All he had was stuff to read from his independent study program. It was something. Mako stopped by every other day to play a few games of Chess and Tendo would catch him up on gossip, but those were small gaps in wide-open days. Fed up, irritated, and tired of feeling like the walls were going to come down on him, he limped to Pentecost’s office.
“Sir, I have a request.” He looked his father’s friend in the eye. He had to do this.
“Yes, Ranger, what is it?” Pentecost knew from Mako and Herc that Chuck wasn’t doing well. He could see it in front of him. It pained him.
“Can I be transferred back to Hawaii? I…I need away from here.” It was so hard for Chuck to say that, but he couldn’t breathe there. Didn’t think he would be able to be in Sydney either.
Stacker sighed and leaned back. The youngest Ranger ever was falling apart and still under death threats that were being hidden from him. “Your father was going to take up that post in another three months, but I think we can move that up by several weeks. We’ll get you to Pearl in about two weeks.” He looked at the visible relief and nodded. “Chuck, you’ll do fine. I’ve been there so has your dad. When you get back to Hawaii, just stand in the sun and breathe. It will be alright. I promise. It won’t be or quick but you will get there.”
The night before the Hansen-Beckets returned to the Pearl Harbor base, Hong Kong threw them a massive party. Chuck missed the party for closing the Breach so everyone thought he needed a going away party.
Mako made sure someone was with him always and that none of the quartet was stuck chaperoning the youngest Ranger, not that they would mind. Chuck appreciated the sentiment.
“You’ll have to come visit. I don’t think I’ll be up to travelling for a while,” Chuck mentioned as he nursed his beer. He was under orders not to drink much at all.
She hugged him and kissed his cheek. “You and I will be building and designing the next generation of jaegers. Plus, I hear you have plans for a very nice house in the hills near the Harbor.”
“It will take time, but yes, we are going to build our own house.”
As the party started to wind down, Bruce Gage walked over and pulled Chuck aside. “I wanted to tell you to hang in there. Our dad had PTSD from Iraq. Just take it one step at a time and don’t rush. Find ways to self-care.” He offered his hand with a big smile. “You’re a damned fined pilot, Little Hansen, even if you are practically married to Raleigh Becket.”
Chuck laughed and walked away. “Thanks!” He gave Raleigh a kiss and walked to their room for the last time.
The laps in the pool refreshed Chuck like few things could. The hum of love in the back of his mind from his family was as soothing as the slow glide through the cool waters. It was a calming presence that made his anxiety recede from the forefront of his mind. It was peaceful. As he climbed out he noted the time on the wall and smiled. He always felt better with a morning swim. Tackling the day was much easier after these exercises. A quick glance and a deep breath allowed him to center his mind and take in everything he was grateful for: kaiju carcasses cleaned up, oceans returning to normal, rebuilding proceeding, and a world focused on helping. That was a win.
Chuck looked out the floor-to-ceiling glass windows as he walked back upstairs. Years of piloting made him ache a little for only being twenty-five, but saving the world was worth it. Padding across the wooden floors he caught a glimpse of his naked body in a mirror. He was still in fighting trim should the need to climb into the Gipsy Danger arise, but he hoped the class Raleigh was training would remove that burden. He liked his new title, Chuck Hansen: Jaeger Engineering & Design Manager, much better.
Walking into is stone covered overhead shower, Chuck let the hot water cascade all over him. He loved their house in Hawaii. Loved that his dad was the Marshal in command of Pearl. Loved that Yancy was Operations Director of Pearl. While he liked that his husband was one of two piloting instructors, he didn’t love it. It drove Raleigh crazy when it was his turn to host the newbies at Pearl. But they were together and that mattered more than anything. His family was whole.
Climbing out he caught sight of Raleigh’s naked back and longed to climb back in bed. The PPDC had their pensions ready, but none of them felt ready to retire. He could feel the occupants on the floor above them moving around and preparing to start their day. This was the Hansen-Becket household still and always would be. He gently stroked his aging pet, Max’s ears while he was still sleeping. The vet told him that Max had maybe another two years at most. He hoped.
“Get up you lazy, sod! I know being thirty makes you old as fuck but get up. You got kids to train!” Chuck loved to hit his husband where it hurt somedays. He’d always be a little shit when he could, anxiety be damned. “We only went two rounds last night!”
Raleigh threw a pillow at Chuck. “Go bother your dad! Fucking, brat!”
Knowing he’d done his job, Chuck walked out the door and down the stairs and waved at Yancy, who was busy in the kitchen. He gave the man a tight hug and started pulling together stuff for lunches. He smiled as his dad walked in, dressed in his Marshal’s uniform. Proud of his dad and their accomplishments, the whole family’s accomplishments.
“Morning, dad,” he handed him a cup of coffee. “Was the go ahead given?”
Herc eyed his son as he sipped his coffee. Years in Hawaii, away from the spotlight and in this place that was free from constant threats they’d lived with allowed them all to relax. But for Chuck it was a chance to really grow as a person. Also allowed him a place that didn’t feel claustrophobic. It was after the war that Chuck was hit with all the issues he couldn’t face while fighting. The personal threats on his life, the inability to go beyond PPDC bases. The recovery from Pitfall. All that took a toll on Chuck. But he was recovering. The kid thrown into a jaeger far too young had the space to mature.
Chuck helped design the house and it was perfect for the four of them. The homes they had in Sydney and Anchorage were nice too, but they weren’t where the Hansen-Beckets relaxed, no that was right here in Hawaii. Chuck designing was more than a job, it was a passion. It was his outlet.
“Harassing, Raleigh again? You’ll be thirty, one year and the harassing will be endless,” Yancy threw over his shoulder.
Chuck spotted Raleigh walking down and his heart did that flutter it always did when he saw him. “He could be an old wrinkly arse and I’ll still love him.” Always.
Herc and Yancy rolled their eyes and picked up their bags. “Chuck, its your turn to cook dinner. And don’t forget Stacker and Mako will be here next week. Semi-retired my ass!” Herc yelled.
“I know! Working from home today so I might roast a whole pig!” Chuck laughed at the two finger salutes he got in response. “Love you too!”
Raleigh pulled Chuck into a hug and kissed him fiercely. “What has you all wound up?”
“Nothing. Just happy.” He kissed Rals and laughed. “Just happy.” Safe, loved, and happy…all that mattered.
Herc and Yancy heard that and laced their hands together as they walked down to the garage. “He has a point.”
“He does.” Yancy leaned over and kissed Herc. “Never been glad for a kaiju attack, but I am for Manila.” That first night was magical for so many reasons. He owed it everything.
Laughing, Herc pulled out and headed for the base. “We never got a proper honeymoon. Shall we return to Manila and reenact our first night together?”
“You promising handprints on my hips and a sore ass for a week?” Yancy bit his bottom lip as he tried to keep the spike of lust down from their still existing ghost drift.
“My love, that is the very least I plan to do.” Herc reached over and gave Yancy’s crotch a light squeeze. “Got all the accrued vacation time in the world.” He could still see the young man he met over a decade ago in the Officer next to him. They’d all grown and all were wounded, but they were together. They survived and were together.
“Manila it is then.” Yancy leaned back and let Herc drive them. It was going to be a good day in Paradise.