He was dead, had to be. Yes, Stacker punched him and got him into an escape pod, but he remembered Striker being damaged, the ejection angle sent him towards the Breach as the shockwave impacted. But here he was floating on the ocean’s surface and not feeling a thing ergo he was dead. Chuck Hansen died at the Breach and now he was floating in an ocean full of muck. Just his luck.
It wasn’t until the morning when he saw a ship passing through the area that he realized that things might not be what they appeared. He had no aches or pains, nor did he have hunger, but it was also clear that he wasn’t quite dead. Weirder still when he was suddenly on the ship and found out that Pitfall happened over a week ago.
“Am I a ghost?” Chuck spoke out loud and didn’t get a response, not that he expected one. He walked near the ship’s generator and felt a spark, a connection. The ship suffered a minor power blip as Chuck felt that spark. He interacted with the electrical field. That was exciting. Finally he took in his appearance and noticed he was still in his Drive suit. Not that he had anything to change into, but couldn’t the semi-afterlife be more comfortable?
It was thoughts of his father that triggered something and he was in Hong Kong. Herc looked like hell and Max was depressed. He listened as his father talked to no one about missing Stacker and his son. Chuck looked closely and he was talking to a picture of his mother.
“I failed, Angela. I saved him only to lose him. He hated me for not saving you, but what choice did I have. Parents are supposed to go before their kids…we looked and never found his pod.” Herc ran a finger along the picture’s face and wept.
Chuck’s heart broke. He reached out and touched his father and suddenly was in Sydney. Hong Kong was gone. But he was witnessing live Scissure’s attack on Sydney when Chuck was barely ten years old. He got an up close look at his father during the attack and how broken he was as he held onto then Charlie crying for his mother. He wanted to go anywhere but to relive this moment from another perspective. Being semi-dead was Hell.
In a flash, he was in a lab. It was a PPDC lab for sure, but the tech was beyond anything Chuck ever saw.
“Look, we pulled up all the readings, the Hansen pod vanished as it interacted with the nuclear shockwave and the Anteverse dimensional field. Matter doesn’t cease to exist. Something happened.”
“We see neutrino spikes and tachyons from the dimensional fields. All of that was excited at the same time and interacted with the pod…plus at those depths, salinity, and temperatures, it is a mess of influences.”
“There were all kinds of variable readings after Pitfall, but that interaction of trans-dimensional fields with high energy release of a nuclear device…we can’t replicate it. CERN has no idea how to even model it.”
Chuck listened and watched the equations. He knew some stuff, but this was over his head. He wandered around the lab and found a tablet just sitting around. Just larger than the palm of his hand. It looked cool. He reached and was able to touch it. It was on. He moved away from the scientists and started using the tablet. He wasn’t dead. He was somewhere else. He’d been hit by those waves. He was in limbo.
Time didn’t exist in Chuck’s state. He was able to move around Space/Time with ease once he figured out how. He kept that tablet too. As long as the solar battery kept charged, he was good. He listened at his father’s grave and watched as Raleigh fell apart when Mako died in a car crash.
He watched as the monsters returned.
He saw so many different realities. But mostly he wanted to find a way back to his point. He sat in on lectures at universities. Read books he downloaded illegally. He wandered around going back and watching young him turn angry and taking it out on their dad. He sat in LOCCENT when Knifehead happened. He listened to Raleigh emotionally collapse. He relived the double event that killed the few remaining Rangers they had. He watched as his father sacrificed his son and lover to the war. As his father gave up everything – again.
So it was an equation, where could he get the best result with one attempt to make a change? Could he change the timeline? He found he could interact with electrical fields and he could use a tablet which held tons of notes now. He tried to send messages out, but it looked like a one way street for now. He was working on that problem. He could store energy in him, like a battery. It was a one way flow, like the data. So he had the energy and could interact, but needed to channel it. Could he?
Chuck was a ready as he could ever be. Knifehead was attacking the Alaskan Coast.
“Raleigh don’t get cocky,” came from Yancy.
“Do Not Engage – that is a direct order.”
Chuck watched, listened, and yelled, “Obey the bloody order, you drongo, and watch for Romeo!” as loud as he could. He channeled his energy through his voice and he watched as the Beckets paused.
“This is LOCCENT, what was that?”
“We were going to ask you,” came from Raleigh. But he was spooked enough to fall back. Romeo Blue showed up. Gipsy Danger survived Knifehead and so did Yancy Becket.
Chuck felt like he was on fire. Like he was being ripped into pieces. He held on as best he could and collapsed against a wall in the Ice Box. He screamed again as pain wracked his body from head to toe.
The techs tore apart Gipsy’s conn-pod trying to find where the voice came from. Chuck simply watched and hoped his pain would subside. He tried to move in Time to see what the outcome was for his gambit. He couldn’t. Concentrating, he managed to make it to his dorm room at the Academy. Fifteen-year-old him was asleep. He could move in Space, but not Time. He changed Time and now had to let those consequences play out.
“Who are you?”
Chuck looked at teenaged him and frowned. “You can see me?”
Teenaged Chuck pointed to the mirror. “I see you there, but not here. Who are you?”
It was then Chuck realized he was still in his Drive suit and had on his helmet. He took it off and looked at mini-him. “I’m future you.”
The ball of rage, hormones, and angst groaned and flopped back on his bed. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
Older Chuck sat on the bed next to his younger self. He was going to be a pilot soon with his dad. Scott just left the program, but no one knew why. It left Herc without a co-pilot and a jaeger at the moment. They looked at each other in the mirror. He reached over to his younger self and focused while touching his head. It was a memory. Them being rescued in Sydney. But he sent the pain and grief that their dad went through.
“Think about giving the old man a break, yeah?” Chuck vanished. Exhaustion overwhelmed him again.
It was weeks before he felt at all like he was recovered. He could interact with electrical fields, but not like before. He damaged something in himself at Knifehead. Ignoring that implication as best he could, he could see the ripples in the timeline change slightly. He also figured out that his voice recording was a huge mystery that the Alaskan LOCCENT staff wasn’t going to let go.
He let younger him do his own thing without watching his every move. He checked in for a few minutes once a week or so. Younger him was a Ranger and in shakedown with Striker. That didn’t change. What did change was a noticeable lack of hostility between he and dad. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t seething rage. Herc praised him during one of their sparing matches. Priceless.
A few other changes rippled through this timeline. The Wall was discussed, but not with the passion it had before Knifehead took out the Beckets. It was an option on the table that was only taken seriously in small circles. Implementation would be on a test basis.
The first time Striker took on a kaiju, ‘Ghost’ Chuck watched from LOCCENT as his younger self performed better than he had the first time this happened. The drift between the two Hansens in this timeline was better than his Drift.
But Chuck could feel the changes happening, there was a pull, more like a tether than was never there before. He could move in space some, but more and more he was restricted to areas where ‘Now’ Chuck was.
As the war continued, Chuck was forced to rest as his energy faded. Recharging lasted hours now. His best bet was to ride shotgun with his younger self. He heard whispers of something strange in the Drift, but he was too tired. He was really fading. His time was coming to an end.
“I can feel you, you know?” younger Chuck said one day. “Haven’t seen you in years, but I can feel you. Hear your thoughts from time to time.”
Chuck appeared in the mirror and frowned. “Didn’t want to crowd you. Besides, I’m fading as we get closer to the Time this happened.”
His younger self shrugged. “We’re getting kicked out of Sydney, money is running dry. UN abandoned us, seems doing nothing is better than something. Heading to Hong Kong soon.”
“Already?” older Chuck had no idea so much time had passed. “When you get there, there will be a double event. Make sure Gipsy is already deployed. One of the kaiju has an EMP weapon, Gipsy isn’t affected by it. Only way to save the others.”
“There are only six jaegers left, and not sure how well the Gages can pilot now. Yancy and Raleigh do okay.” The small smile as he said those names made older him smile.
“Still have a crush on Rals?” he had to ask.
“Met him a few times, nice guy. Broke his leg and Yancy his arm last year, they were down for half a year. But they’ve been defending the north and we’re way down in the south. Yancy and I talk more. A few of us Rangers talk jaeger engineering and stuff.” There was a slight blush on his neck.
That was different. “You got a crush on Yancy?” the laugh made it clear that was not an option. “Just Raleigh always…” he got cut off.
“Still very much so, one reason I try not to talk to him much. I’m such a girl around him. Don’t tell Mako I said that. She’ll kick my ass,” was said with a sigh. “Mako loves to tease me about Raleigh though.”
It was funny to see himself blush like that. “Dad and Stacker?”
Younger Chuck rolled his eyes. “Acting as though it’s not happening, but all of us know it is. Wanker!” there was no heat there.
Suddenly he was wracked with pain again. It felt like his guts were being pulled out while his limbs were being folded like origami. Funny how Time went from endless to almost gone.
“What’s wrong?” there was panic in that voice.
“Time’s almost up.” It hurt so much, but it was better when younger him tried to touch him. Before he knew it he was riding shotgun inside little him.
He was barely aware when they took on Mutavore and left Sydney. The final days were coming.
Herc glared at his son. “How do you know that the double event has to have Gipsy out there?”
“I just do! Trust me,” Chuck yelled back.
The Weis, Kaidonovskis, Gages, Beckets, and Hansens were there along with Mako Mori and her partner, Sun Yei. They all watched as Chuck argued against Pentecost’s preferred lineup. Yancy stood up and looked at Chuck. “Say something loudly again.” He held up his hand and silenced everyone. “Chuck, say follow orders loudly.”
“Follow orders?” Chuck asked in a loud voice. “Why?” but he caught Pentecost trading looks with Choi and the Beckets. “What?”
“That’s not possible,” Raleigh said. “He was in the Academy and Herc was recovering from Manila and you tested Herc’s voice.”
“Say it again little Hansen,” Choi stated. He watched his recording as Chuck did as he was asked. “Voice print comes back as a match. That was little Hansen’s voice.”
Pentecost looked around the room and everyone was as shocked as he was. It was an urban legend now about the voice that saved Gipsy, but a voice match from a Ranger who was too young to have done that back then, it was odd.
“Very well, Mr. Hansen, Gipsy will fight with Crimson. Cherno and Romeo will guard the Miracle Mile.”
After the fight with Otachi and Leatherback proved Chuck to be correct, everyone looked at him strangely. “And Pitfall?” Pentecost had to ask.
“Three, including a huge Cat V.”
Everyone made it out of Pitfall in one piece except Chuck. Head trauma, cracked ribs, internal bruising, and severe injuries to both legs had him out and under heavy monitoring. Dr. Lightcap and the techs in LOCCENT reviewed everything and kept finding anomalies in Chuck’s brain patterns every so often as they went back years. He wasn’t in a coma exactly, but the doctors weren’t sure what was happening in Chuck’s head. People weren’t sure those two data sets weren’t connected.
“It is clear that the message was directed at Raleigh during the Knifehead attack,” said Choi. “It is Chuck’s voice.”
Herc scrubbed a hand over his face. Chuck was still out after four days and all the Rangers were worried. “Can we hook him up and Drift? See if we can reach him?”
Stacker was about to say something when Raleigh cut him off. “I’ll do it. Someone talked to me all those years ago and Herc, you never noticed anything all these years. Chuck is too close to you. I’ll go.”
Mako placed her hand on Raleigh’s shoulder. “Are you sure? We grew up together…” She backed off at the look of determination in Raleigh’s eyes.
“Medical advises against this but has no reason for him to still be out with that level of brain activity.” Stacker paused and then nodded. “Get it ready.”
Chuck’s brain was almost on hyperdrive, the exact opposite of a coma, but he was unresponsive. Raleigh hooked the pons to his head as Mako hooked up Chuck. “Go.”
Raleigh stepped into a world in chaos. He’d been drifting for years now, over a decade including training, but nothing like this. “CHUCK!” There was no anchor point in this storm. He could get lost if he wasn’t careful. “CHUCK!” He screamed again and saw as the chaos opened to a central point and he saw the Chuck he knew and another version dressed in an aged and failing drive suit.
The older man looked at Raleigh and smiled. “Always the hero, Becket. My time is done, but I had to leave a warning.”
Younger Chuck nodded, “Raleigh…” there were tears in his voice.
Rals moved closer and suddenly the older Chuck touched his forehead. He moved through his memories of another Time. Knifehead and Yancy’s death, the Wall, Romeo Blue falling, Hong Kong, the double event, and Pitfall. All the Rangers lost…all that pain. That voice from Knifehead, he understood it now. The sacrifices this Chuck made.
It was the image of him broken after Knifehead that stuck in his head. The look of despair and loss. He looked at the fading Chuck. “Thank you.”
An image of a tablet formed in his head. He looked at the younger Chuck. The kid was assimilating as much knowledge from his other self as he could. He wasn’t trapped so much as processing. The tablet! There was a tablet, it had data for them. A warning and time to rebuild…
Herc, Stacker, Tendo, Mako, and Yancy watched as tears filled Raleigh’s eyes. He breathing came in shorter and shorter bursts as the tears just fell from his eyes. Suddenly he ripped off the pons and lurched into Yancy’s arms, hugging him for dear life. He sobbed into his older brother’s neck, not caring who saw.
“Yancy,” Raleigh tried to gather his thoughts. “He saved you with that warning. He saved us all.” He couldn’t stop the tears. So much had been changed and he knew the price. He felt it.
Chuck’s eyes opened. He looked at Herc and smiled. “Hi dad,” and promptly passed out.
Raleigh moved out of the room and made his way to Chuck’s bunk. He knew that Yance was following him and probably Tendo. The code unlocked the door and there on the desk was a battered tablet that wasn’t even built yet. Other Chuck pushed it through the dimensions, but no idea how he did it. He grabbed it and handed it to Choi. “I have the code. It will explain everything if the data isn’t corrupted.”
Raleigh sat down on Chuck’s bed and looked at the room. There was so much to process, but he needed a moment to think. Two Chuck’s had been there and one ceased to exist after meeting Raleigh. The kid needed sleep. He looked around. Yancy was Chuck’s friend. His brother told him on more than one occasion that the kid had a crush on Raleigh, but he blew it off. Now he knew for sure. Two separate timelines made that clear as day. Huh.
Later, while Chuck was still sleeping, but showing normal brain activity, all the pilots gathered in their Rec Lounge. Bruce Gage pointed to the central chair as Herc led Raleigh in. “You aren’t one to break down, Raleigh,” Bruce never used first names, “what gives?”
He knew this was going to be crazy. “The Chuck that spoke in the conn pod five years ago was a dimensional shift after Pitfall from another timeline. From that timeline Knifehead,” Raleigh swallowed because it felt so real, those memories of how he looked and sounded. “Yancy was killed by that kaiju and shortly after that Romeo was lost and then one by one until Hong Kong. Cherno and Crimson fell before Pitfall. It was only Striker and Gipsy, Chuck with Stacker and me with Mako.” Raleigh shook his head. He looked up and saw that his fellow pilots got it. They knew the Drift and knew what he’d seen was real.
“They come back in a decade or so,” Raleigh whispered. “In that timeline there were no defenses ready. Herc faded with the loss of Stacker and Chuck. We lost everything. The Chuck from then is gone. Our Chuck has some of his memories and thoughts. Probably will keep a lot of the engineering and technical knowledge, but the rest…who knows.” He got quiet and folded his hands together.
Aleksis cleared his throat. “When Little Hansen is free, we have big party.” He stared at Raleigh. “You keep an eye on him.”
“So we made it. Now we have to get ready for round two in a decade or so,” stated Stacker. “Mandatory leave first then we’ll start planning.” He stood up. “We made it. Chuck will recover – eventually. Get some rest, we’ve earned it.”
Stacker looked across his desk at Herc, who was helping get the PPDC in order now that the threat to humanity was temporarily removed. A knock on the door brought Tendo in and a familiar stranger.
“Marshal, Herc,” said Scott Hansen as he walked in. He offered a broad grin and tossed a bag at Tendo. “There’s the coffee blend you like so much. The truck outside has all your normal extras the PPDC couldn’t provide.” It was a challenge to Stacker and a note for his older brother.
Herc stood up and took in his little brother. Looking broader and healthier than when he left, he pulled his brother into a crushing hug. “Look good, mate.” Herc pulled back and grinned too. He missed his brother so much, but Scott Hansen had to leave as the war became too much. He’d given up and Lucky was lost at that fight. “What brings you here?”
A deep laugh erupted from Scott. “Heard my favorite person on the planet was injured saving humanity. He’s as much my boy as yours!” Scott had been Chuck’s favorite toy. After Scissure, Scott helped with Chuck and kept the kid entertained. But he also kept Chuck interested in learning. Scott had to leave when the war finally was about to break him. He went to help in other ways and now was part of the Black-Market Co-Op. Scott knew how to land on his feet and if he made a little money, so be it. “I stayed away so he could focus. I have five years to make up for.” He had a few gifts ready for Chuck and stuff tucked away. He was here to make sure the kid had a path out. Herc might not see it, but it was time for Chuck to be Chuck, not Ranger Hansen.
Holding his hands up in surrender, Herc nodded. Scott had to get away and Chuck could not be conflicted. “He saw it in the drift. He punched me in the gut when he was almost eighteen. He doesn’t blame you…well he didn’t. It’s all weird now.”
“Your boy Newt likes to talk. I got a few bits from Chau. Another reason I’m here.” A wicked grin flashed across Scott’s handsome face. “Yancy around by any chance? I still remember Manila.”
It was the middle of the night as Raleigh took Chuck’s hand in his. Both Chuck’s had feelings for him. That was clear as day. All Raleigh could feel right then was overwhelming gratitude. He couldn’t imagine a Yancy sized hole in his life. But it happened once and Chuck, a Chuck, prevented that. He knew Chuck more from Yancy’s thoughts and memories. Smart as hell, sarcastic as hell, and cute as a button. He also knew Chuck from Mako Mori, one of the kid’s few friends. She loved the prickly Australian in her own way. That helped make the kid real.
Yancy and Tendo had left him alone in Chuck’s room earlier and Raleigh took in how the kid had things arranged. But he wasn’t a kid even though part of him was still sore that his youngest pilot record was broken. A few pictures with Max and his dad. Books, a reading tablet, and lots of modeling kits. Engineering manuals just like Yancy. The kid had a crush on him the size of Alaska instead of Yancy. That should be a huge point for Raleigh to exploit in the future; someone liked him over Yancy.
The hand in his tightened, bringing him back to the present, as he looked over and saw that Chuck was awake. “Hey.”
“Figures, got lost in Time after Pitfall last time and this time I’m the wounded warrior.” Chuck sighed. “Lot to take in.” His injuries were extensive, but he’d recover in time.
Taking a deep breath, Raleigh nodded. “It will be awhile before you can walk. Longer still before you can run, but you will. Don’t think we are going to let you do this on your own. Sasha has a motorized wheelchair on its way for you. Three care packages arrived from Sydney yesterday. The Gages are on vacation but are bringing back everything for a huge Barbeque. I’m told their cousin is an award-winning chef so…”
Chuck looked away and took a deep breath, wincing when he did. “Sorry for what you saw in there. Doesn’t have to mean anything…”
That made Raleigh laugh. “Yancy never shuts up about you. If he wasn’t completely certain about his affinity for older men or women then you’d have been off the market three years ago.” He reached over and squeezed Chuck’s hand again. “I know you through Drifts and how you liked to ignore me at Ranger events.” He blushed and shrugged his shoulders. “I might have a few magazines where you were featured. Not to your level of spank bank material…”
“Oi! Owww,” Chuck glared at Raleigh and tried to punch him. “Wanker! That hurt.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Chuck. We have time to get to know each other. Thanks to you, we have time to live.” Raleigh gave the younger Ranger a hug. “Besides, someone has to make sure you don’t push your recovery too fast. I have a vested interest in making sure you recover fully.”
The next time Chuck woke up he looked over and had to do a double take. Nowhere in any of his other self was there any hint of Scott Hansen. And there he was reading a book and looking like he’d never been plagued by crippling self-doubt or anxiety that threw him out of the jaeger program. His uncle looked good. “Uncle Scott?”
“Chucky boy!” Scott was up in a flash and hugging the life out of his nephew. He looked over his favorite boy and let the tears form without remorse. “You made it!” He pulled back and grinned again. “I have a few surprises for you, but we got to get you out of here first. Did you finally land Becket boy?” The blush told him everything. Getting Raleigh on his side would be easy.
Reaching down, Scott pulled up a backpack. He rifled through it and handed over a chocolate bar. “That will help with your digestion and mental health. Dark chocolate is a health food.” He slid over a book and smiled again. “War is over and you have time on your hands. I know some about what happened. I have some contacts.” He looked his nephew directly in the eyes. “Everything you do from here on out is all about you, Charlie. If Raleigh is on board then perfect, but you haven’t lived your life for you, ever. Don’t worry about money. I got you covered on a number of fronts. We’ll get you healed and on the road.” He leaned over and kissed Chuck on the forehead. “Never getting rid of me again, kid. Neither is that arse of an old man of yours.”
Chuck picked up the book and smiled. “Old robotics manuals for when they wanted to go to Mars.” He was handed another box and his smiled broadly. “FARSCAPE! Mum loved this show!”
Scott brushed Chuck’s hair with his hand. “Figured you’d like a history of space exploration and how they were planning on using robotics to help. Got tons of stuff for you to study.” He fixed Chuck with a stare. “Even if it is just learning as a hobby, you’re too smart to not keep your mind active.” He tapped the DVDs and smiled again. “These and a few others are for the boredom and to relax. Another thing to learn now, Charlie, to relax again.”
There was a sudden squeal from the door as both Chuck and Scott looked over at a giddy Yancy Becket. “SCOTT!” Chuck laughed as his uncle was tackle hugged by the older Becket and then given a more than friendly kiss.
“Come to keep your nephew company?” Yancy took the seat next to Scott and was leaning on him.
It took Scott a moment but he reached over and hugged Yancy tight and gave him a quick kiss. “So I guess you remember Manila too?” They both blushed. “Yeah, here to make sure Charlie knows he has options. Whole world out there to explore.”
At that moment Sasha walked in holding a giant stuffed koala. She unceremoniously parked him on top of Chuck and then walked over to hug Scott. “It is good that you have come. You look better than when I last saw you.” She gave him a kiss on each cheek and winked at Yancy. “It appears Beckets have a thing for Hansens.”
“Oi, Sasha, what’s with the cuddly?” asked Chuck as he tried to look around his new friend.
She smiled at him and moved the hair from his face. “To protect from bad dreams. To squeeze when it hurts too much and the pain killers don’t work. To yell at when you are frustrated.” She sat on the bed next to him and ignored the other two men in the room. “You are very young and used to being active. It will be months before you can be as active as you want.” She patted his cheek and smiled. “We will rebuild the PPDC and prepare for the future. We will be here as you recover, but there will be points, my prickly koala, that you will demand to be alone. He is here to sit and remind you that you will never be alone.”
Chuck stared at her for a moment and then moved the koala to give her a hug. “Thank you.”
Raleigh walked in with Herc and smiled. “Oh man, where am I going to sleep if Scott is here? I know Yancy’s going to kick me out!”
“My room,” Herc said as he slapped Rals on the back. “Chuck is here and I’m with Stacker now, so sleep there. Besides we all know you’ll be there when Chuck gets out in two days.” He nodded at his son and then the koala. “Got a twin I see.”
“Dad, look what Uncle Scott brought me!” He held up the Farscape DVD set.
“Your mum loved that show!” Herc walked over and looked at the other things sitting with Chuck. “Good thing because it’s three weeks before that ankle is healed” He tapped Chuck’s right leg. “But another six before the left leg goes into a soft cast.” He let his voice take on its stern dad tone. “There is no hurry, let your body heal.”
Herc stood up and cleared his throat. “Can we have the room for about twenty minutes?” No one said anything as they cleared out. Herc walked over and closed the door. Sitting down on the bed next to Chuck he took one of his hands in his. “Son, when you are healed in a few months I want you to leave.”
“What?” Chuck felt panic start to rise, but his dad’s hand caressed his cheek and he leaned into it. Memories from a different him warred with what was happening. Other Chuck didn’t have this level of contact with his dad. He did. “Why?”
“Son, I want you to take six months and travel. Go places and see things. You’ve no childhood memories. We never took any vacations except when you were eight. I’ve a feeling Raleigh is never letting you out of his sight.” He smiled and squeezed Chuck’s hand again. “Take six months and if you want to stay gone longer, do it. If you only come back to visit that is perfect too. I want you to take all the you time you need.”
“What will I do? I…I’ve always done something!” To Chuck the endless future with no structure seemed scary. He clutched his koala without thinking about it.
“Tendo says they got the formula you sent on how to clean up kaiju blue. They think in a year the oceans will be heading back to normal.” Herc leaned over again and looked Chuck in the eye. “Scott has a plan to get you started and that other Chuck had tons of knowledge I’m sure you kept of engineering. The future is yours to enjoy. And Raleigh too if you want.”
Herc got up and hugged Chuck. “I want you to think about a vacation. If this is home then come back and live here.” He pulled back and smiled at Chuck. “I just want you to have a chance to enjoy life son. You’ve earned it.”
Raleigh wheeled Chuck to the Hansen’s quarters that were now Chuck and Raleigh’s since Yancy and Scott took over the Becket’s quarters. Those two walked around with permanent grins and had no idea how to not be handsy around each other. Herc and Stacker gave up the pretense that they weren’t together. They’d danced around each other beginning about two years after Scissure and then started a long-distance relationship that they thought no one knew about. Chuck tried to drop hints he was okay with it once he was piloting with Herc, but Aussies were stubborn. He liked Stacker and he got along with Mako for the most part. Older sister wasn’t a slot he thought would get filled in his life. But there it was. After Sun became her co-pilot, it got much worse. Two big sisters was a nightmare sometimes.
“You okay,” Raleigh asked as they got into the room. He knew Chuck wasn’t happy that his right ankle was broken and left leg a mess. He helped get Chuck on the bed and situated. He spotted a recliner in the room along with a box full of old media. “Scott may’ve kicked me out of my room, but gotta love him for all this.” Raleigh dug through the box. “Farscape, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, X-Files, all kinds of random stuff.” He tossed Chuck a small bag. “Chocolate too!”
“Gunna make me fat is what is going to happen,” Chuck grumbled as he opened the pack. “Put something on, yeah? Might as well get used to a few weeks of sitting on my arse.”
Raleigh scoffed, “Please, you’ll be active once you get your ankle cast off.” He looked over Chuck and frowned. “This will sound…odd, but would you like a sponge bath?”
“Oi, mate, I know I’m ripe, would love a hand!” Chuck blushed as he responded, but showering was out and he was feeling gritty.
Raleigh moved Chuck over to the recliner and stripped him. Getting some soapy water and a sponge, he began to wipe down Chuck as best he could. He grabbed a towel and dried off his friend. He grabbed the dry shampoo and worked it into Chuck’s hair. “Not the best, but at least you’ll feel a little better.”
Chuck tried to stretch after getting a clean shirt and shorts on. “Thanks mate. This seriously sucks!” He sighed and reached for the control. He knew Scott loaded all kinds of things for him to watch so he wasn’t bored. “You don’t have to stay the whole time.”
“Until you are out of the ankle cast, you will be shadowed the whole time.” Raleigh gave him a smile. “I’m homeless thanks you your uncle and Yancy so at least I can keep you company with your new pal Cranky Koala.”
“Oi, dad named him that not me!” Chuck tried to pout, but Raleigh kissed him and made Chuck smile. “Well, if there is more of that then it might not be too bad.”
Raleigh handed Chuck a glass of water and sat down next to him on the recliner. “Your dad told me they found over 40,000 hours of recordings on that device. None of the video worked and only a quarter of the audio. But they have all kinds of evidence on dimensional shifts and…stuff. They think they can locate breaches as they are trying to form. Just…Other Chuck delivered everything they needed to get started and then some for the next event.”
He hugged Chuck and pulled Chuck’s head onto his shoulder. “But yes, once you are healed we are going to follow Scott’s plan and go on vacation. Just take our time and see the world. Yancy and I traveled as kids and I know Scott’s been around, but you…shatterdomes don’t count.”
The younger Ranger leaned back and was silent for a bit. “Seems weird not doing something, not getting ready for a fight.” He flipped through some movies while gathering his thoughts. “The further we move away from Pitfall, the less I feel other me’s memories as a separate thing. I have the engineering and science stuff. That’s like almost hard wired now, but the personal stuff, I know what I lived, but his is like a dream now. I had to write a lot down so I wouldn’t forget.”
Raleigh moved in front of Chuck and smiled. “That’s good, he deserves to be remembered because he saved you as much as he saved all of us. Sucks how much he, and you, are suffered and are suffering, but like I said, you aren’t in this alone. And your dad was clear to everyone, you deserve time to become the person you want to be. Time that you gave to everyone.” He placed a kiss on Chuck’s lips. “Time to make dreams come true.”
“Yeah?” Chuck had to ask, to make it real when so much was different in his head. “With you?”
Running a hand through his over-long floppy blond hair, Raleigh smiled brightly. “Oh yes, I’m here for the long haul. To learn everything about you from you and not my dick of a brother. I want to be part of your life.”
Chuck released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Bonzer! Well, get my legs healed, see what plans Uncle Scott has for us, and off we go. Thanks, Raleigh, for…for giving this a chance.”
He leaned in and kissed Chuck again. This one lingered and deepened. “You fought to give us this chance, only fitting I try too. Besides, you like me more than Yancy. Means you have way more character than most of the planet.”
“Oi! Don’t let Scott hear you say that you drongo!” He leaned in and got another kiss. “Movie?”
“Yup. Anything you want. We’ve plenty of time.”