That’s the thing about the bond. It means that, when the Blue finally hits the fan, neither of them has to say a word.
It’s an outbreak in Guìyáng, K3L6. This one’s virulent, airborne, can jump through pigs and bats as well as humans. Maybe other species, Newton isn’t sure, is still running tests, even as red-faced arseholes from EBERL keep bursting into K-Lab, bringing news and samples and dragging Hermann away from his work to do translation just because everyone on the fucking planet is apparently too lazy to learn some fucking sign language, Jesus.
Hermann’s not even sure anymore who those thoughts belong to. Maybe both of them.
He, meanwhile, is looking at numbers. Trying to find the Breach. They’ve helicoptered in teams from Hong Kong, have blasted the whole area in h-fields, but nothing’s coming back on their readings. The small Breaches are hard to find, and it’s possible that—with bats as a vector—the index case was miles away, but…
But there are Newt’s suspicions, too, bubbling hot and heady. It’s not until one of the EBERL oxygen thieves comes in, carrying a biohazard case, shouting, “Doctor! Doctor! You need to see this. We’ve got… I think it was a chicken!” that things start getting messy.
K3L6 only does mammals.
The EBERL officer is trying to get a look in over Newt’s broad shoulders, trying to get a handle on his work, when Hermann forcibly ejects him from the lab. They don’t need EBERL. They’re K-Lab. It might look like they’re alone but, in truth, somewhere buried under Hong Kong, K2 is an explosion of activity, dozens of hand-picked people working tirelessly on the sort of work the PPDC has grown too lazy or complacent or downright corrupt to fund.
Even still, it’s Newt and Newt alone who makes the connection. In a way, Hermann is relieved. They’re already targets, were going to figure this out eventually. He’s just spent the last few years hoping desperately it wouldn’t be now.
Today, it’s now.
They stop work. Both of them. There’s no need to continue, not any more. Instead, they each sit at their respective laptops, each start typing in the same document. Their minds are so close they may as well be one entity in two bodies; one mind controlling six hands, controlling two narratives that intertwine in the pages of an badly-formatted PPDC report.
There’s clipart in that report. Clipart and lies.
“Already? We’re still getting casualty reports.”
Hermann nods, tightly. “Yes,” he says. “We’ve done all we can do from here. Hence…” he gestures towards the tablet with his head.
“I… see,” says Hansen, eyes narrowing.
“Marshal?” Herman clenches his fingers around the head of his cane, tries not to feel the shaking. “On a more… personal note, I will require some leave. Effective immediately.”
Hansen’s eyebrows go up. “You can’t be serious. There’s a bloody outbreak—”
“With all due respect, Marshal,” Hermann says, “nowadays, there’s always an outbreak.” Something new every month, the death toll rising into the millions. It’s like the daikaiju, all over again, except this there won’t be any giant robots to save them. “And I’ve had… news. My uncle Vidkun has passed away. I’m required back in Courland. To attend matters.” Hermann’s practiced this line in his head a thousand times. He’d hoped he’d never have to use it.
He can’t meet Hansen’s eyes in the subsequent silence; long and awful as it is. Then:
“Fine. And Newt?”
Hermann tries not to wince. “We’ve made arrangements. Discreet.”
There’s a huff. Staring at the wall as he is, it takes Hermann a moment to realize it’s a laugh. “Now there’s a word I don’t associate with Newt.” A pause, and when Hermann dares look, the Marshal is smiling, heavy and humorless. “Alright,” he says. “Leave granted. But I expect your phones to stay on, understood?”
“Understood,” says Hermann. “Thank you, sir.” He feels some of the tension seep from his aching joints. Some of it.
When he gets back to their dorm, Newt’s already packed a suitcase. He hands it to Hermann, and they share a kiss and no words. What is there left to say? Hermann takes the suitcase, which follows behind him on automated wheels as he walks out of the Shatterdome alone. Newt will come later, via the water. Everything according to a plan they laid out months ago.
There’s a taxi waiting at the entrance to the Shatterdome. Hermann didn’t call it, but the driver hops out to help load the suitcase into the boot. Hermann makes smalltalk with the man and tries not to look at the tattoo on the inside of his wrist. A stylized vulture in mid-flight, five tears spilling from its wings.
“Where to?” the driver asks, as Hermann slides into the backseat.
“Hong Kong international.” Hermann thickens his accent as he says it. His German accent. Always assume you are being watched. “I have to return to Courland. A death in the family.”
“Sorry to hear that,” the driver says. His eyes meet Hermann’s in the rear-view mirror, dark and piercing.
They pick up their first tail just after the Tsing Ma Bridge. A black sedan, unmarked and conspicuous. Hermann closes his eyes, tries to steady his breathing. Tries not to hear the pop of the glove compartment or the sound of the driver, loading a clip into a gun.
“Are you traveling alone?”
One breath in. One breath out.
“No,” Hermann says. “My partner is coming also. By sea.”
“Good to hear it,” is the reply. “No one should do these things alone.”
“Oh,” says Hermann. “I think this will definitely be a family affair.”
The second tail joins them past the bridge, at Tai Yam Teng. Two motorcycles this time, two people riding apiece. They stay behind the sedan, weaving in and out between the traffic.
The taxi pulls off at the Tung Chung interchange, heading west down Yu Tung Road. The sedan follows, as do the motorcycles. Hermann focuses on his breath, and tries to be brave.
The exchange happens on a backroad, somewhere Hermann doesn’t even really know. Somewhere up in Mok Ka, he thinks, judging from the trees and huge statue of Buddha, looming above them. The taxi stops, and so does the sedan. The driver takes his gun, and gets out, and then the shooting starts. Hermann slides down low in his seat, eyes closed and hands fisted, feeling very small and very cowardly. Feeling the reassuring pulse from Newt, currently swimming in the bay, en route to his own pickup.
“Let them do their job, dude. I know it sucks.”
They all have their jobs, in this terrible, awful war.
Eventually, the shooting ends. The shooting ends, and footsteps approach the taxi, and for one moment, just one moment, Hermann’s heart stops.
Then the back door opens. The opener isn’t Hermann’s driver. It’s a woman with a half-shaved head and a tattoo of a vulture on the inside of her wrist. Her vulture has no tears, and Hermann wonders if it will, come next week.
“Doctor Gottlieb,” the woman says. “Please come with me.”
He does so, trying not to look at the bodies or the blood or the man dressed in slacks and a sweatervest who replaces him in the taxi. The man with the passport for Hermann Gottlieb and the planet ticket to RIX.
Instead, Hermann is handed a motorcycle helmet and a bulletproof vest and motorcycle jacket, and he puts all of them on. Then he gets onto the back of a bike, and returns to Hong Kong.
There are no words, only an endless, mindless grief. Themselves, and the dozens of staff around them. All hand-picked, all loyal and brave and devoted to one thing and one thing only: the preservation of Earth.
Eventually, Hermann manages to stand, supported by Newt’s strong and scaled arms. He looks out at the faces looking back at him, anxious and determined, all at once. It occurs to him, in this moment, that they want him to make a speech.
“We’ll do it together,” Newt tells him.
So they do.
Two hours later. It’s Hermann and Newt and Hannibal Chau and Marshal Hansen. Hansen is out of uniform, wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt so old it has multiple holes and no surviving hems. It also has a Bintang logo on the front and a pair of sunglasses clipped on the collar. The outfit makes Hansen look… small. Like a tourist. Which is entirely the point.
Hermann shares a look with Newt. “Bad, sir,” he says. “Very bad.”
“The outbreak in Guìyáng,” Hermann begins, “we couldn’t find evidence of a breach. K3L6, it’s carried by bats. We think perhaps the index case is outside the city, somewhere remote we’d never find.” Hermann swallows, thick and dry. He feels Newt’s hand curl into his. “EBERL delivered the sample that confirmed… a suspicion we’ve had for a while. A chicken.” Hermann pauses. “Sir, K3L6… it doesn’t manifest in birds.”
“Jesus Christ.” They’re outside the Shatterdome, on K2 turf. No need for Hansen to pretend to be strong, to pretend to be the Marshal, and so he doesn’t. Just collapses against a desk, hand against his brow. “Tell me… tell me it jumped. Tell me it was natural.” But he knows it wasn’t. None of them would be here if it were.
“Sir, the pigeon was carrying K3D2,” Hermann says.
“From the outbreak in Lima?”
“Jesus. Fuck me, I…” He trails off.
“We think…” Hermann glances at Newt, glances at Hannibal, scowling at them from the corner. Hermann swallows, starts again: “We think the K3L6 was Anteverse in origin, we have people still searching for a Breach.”
“And the… the other strain? Is this… a new Double Event?” And, god. What kind of world do they live in when that option is the hopeful one?
Hermann takes a shaky breath, feels Newt’s big claw against his back. Reassuring. “The Anteverse has never hit us with the same strain twice, and we have a spectrum vaccine for the K3 line. Doctor Geiszler’s team think the fact we’re still seeing A-origin variation is a sign our enemies are attempting to”—a murmur of agitated technobabble from Newt—“test the robustness of that vaccine. I… Sorry, sir, this isn’t my area of expertise. Doctor Geiszler can provide a more accurate—”
Hansen holds up one hand. “Thank you,” he says. “Stick with the small words for now. I’m not sure I known enough HKSL to keep up with a technical breakdown. Sorry, Newt.”
“It’s okay,” Newt signs. “I’m not sure I do, either.”
“I’d ask you to put it in your report,” Hansen says, “but, well…” His face crumples again, disgust and fury etching out every decade of age.
“We think the second strain was chosen as another K3-line variant due to the similar symptoms and similar response to the vaccine. Essentially, once we’d identified the initial outbreak and moved in response teams, I believe it was hoped we wouldn’t be looking for a second outbreak. And, honestly sir? If we hadn’t found the bird, we never would have.” A pause, then: “We… haven’t. In the past.”
“Jesus. How… how many…?”
“We’re still looking, going over… over remains. We’ve identified at least six so far, going back at least eighteen months. Same pattern every time; a second outbreak buried in a first, one A-origin, one…” Hermann swallows. He doesn’t want to say it out loud. Saying it out loud makes it real, and… and he doesn’t want this to be real. “Sir, the second outbreaks, we believe they’re being engineered by someone on Earth.”
Marshal Hansen roars. Takes his arms and sweeps them across the desk he’s been leaning against, sending china and gold and crystal smashing to the floor. At least something on the desk was kaiju in origin, the room flooded by the sharp chemical bite of acid and ammonia as its container shatters and its contents ooze free. Hannibal raises a single eyebrow, but otherwise does nothing.
“Why?” Hansen is saying. “Why? This bloody war… After everything that’s happened, after everyone we’ve lost… Why?”
“I’m going to tell him.”
“Newton…” Hermann turns, finds six bright eyes looking back.
“I… Dude. We would’ve told Stacker, right? And Stacker…” A pause, a lot of jumbled memories, fleeing like startled rabbits. “I want to trust him.”
“So do I.” It’s why Hansen’s here. He’d figured out Hermann’s code. Hermann has no uncle Vikun, of course, but Hansen’s military. He’d know of Vidkun Quisling, the Nazi collaborator so infamous his name became synonymous with traitor. And Courland, the location for the German evacuation known as Operation Hannibal.
(They’d argued a lot over that last choice in particular. Hermann still doesn’t like it, for obvious reasons, but hadn’t been able to come up with something better. He does mathematics, not spy novels.)
He must be giving Newt too many intense looks, because Hannibal says, “This is war, boys. I’ve lost three people in the last six hours. The wrong words to the wrong people, and I start losing more.”
Hansen must sense the shift in mood, because he’s straightened. Schooled the despair out of his features. He’s the Marshal again, now. The Marshal in cargo shorts, but still the Marshal. “Hermann?” he asks.
Hermann sighs. “Marshal Hansen, sir… Doctor Geiszler and I, we haven’t exactly been… honest. With you.”
This gets a wry quirk of Hansen’s lip. “No, really? Was this before or after you started poaching my best people into your secret illegal triad-funded lab?”
Hannibal just rolls his eyes, apparently deciding to save the “legitimate businessman” speech for another day.
“Before, sir,” says Hermann, because it’s the truth. “It’s… It’s part of the reason why we started.”
Newt steps forward. “The truth is…” He shares a glance with Hermann. “Sir, I know how to stabilize the k-virus. I’ve, um. I’ve always known. It’s how Herms and I are, you know. Not dead.”
Hermann can tell the exact moment the Marshal processes this, because his face goes dead blank. His voice cold as he says, “Newt. People are dying. People have died.”
The sharp lurch of guilt, of self-recrimination, from Newt makes Hermann’s heart ache.
“I know!” Newt lunges half a step forward, hands working furiously. “I know! And it’s… it’s not like we’ve been doing nothing! The stabilization… I mean, we call it that but it’s more complicated. That’s why— I mean, I… the version I used on myself. The Phase I. It, well. I didn’t die. But…” He gestures to himself. “Ended up the full kaiju. But for Herms… for Herms, I figured out what I did wrong. And his… Phase II. Stabilization, but equilibrium, too, and—”
Hansen holds up his hands. “Wait,” he says. “Newton, wait. Slow down. Are you… are you telling me…” He turns to Hermann. “You’re kaiju?”
Hermann winces. “Not… exactly,” he says, even as Newt lurches forward with a, “No! No, he’s human. Well, I mean. Mostly. Like, 99% human. If you took a hair sample, blood, saliva. You’d just get human DNA. But—”
“I’m a genetic chimera,” Hermann says, because Newt’s signing is getting harder and harder to read, his brains and hands outpacing the ability of the human eye to follow gestures. “If you took the right biopsy from the right place, you’d get kaiju tissue.”
“It’s mostly just dermal,” Newt adds. “Just some minor changes in his skin—”
“The tattoos,” Hansen guesses. “It’s why you…”
“I, um. I glow in the dark,” Hermann says, trying not to feel the blush creeping up his cheeks. “The luminescence is harder to notice. Under the color.”
“The strains of the k-virus,” Newt adds, “they’re species. I mean, well. Obviously they are. But, uh, I mean… the strain of k-virus corresponds to the body plan and function of the resulting converted kaiju. The K1 strains, that’s us”—he gestures between himself and Hermann—“we’re, well. Um. Dominator types. Built to infiltrate human settlements, use the neural parasite on key targets. Drag them into the hive mind, that sort of thing. We’re gen ones, the first trials. Imperfect, I guess. Which, yay for Earth.” He waves his big arms, a half-hearted imitation of an excited schoolgirl.
“And the other strains?”
“We don’t really know,” Newt admits. “Because, well. They’ve never stabilized. We can take some guesses. K2s seem to be based off Leatherback, so we think they’re shock troops. The K6s have a high correlation with Otachi so maybe they fly or spit acid or both. The K8s—”
Hansen holds up a hand. “Enough. I get the idea.” Newt will go on all day if they let him, and this isn’t what they’re here for.
“The point,” Hermann says, “is that the stabilization process Doctor Geiszler used for me is tailored both to the specific k-virus strain we were infected by, and to my own genetic makeup.”
“We can’t mass produce it,” Newt adds. “I… It wouldn’t help in an outbreak. We’re working on something that will… a Phase-III, even. Something that will reverse existing damage, but…” But it’s been slow. Laborious. The k-virus is alien and invidious. Has been designed specifically to thwart exactly what they’re trying.
Hansen scowls. “In theory,” he says, “if you had a single infected subject, and the time, and the resources, could you replicate the stabilization?” Now he’s getting it, Hermann thinks. The reason they haven’t shared what they know.
“Yes,” says Newt. “Both the Phase-II… and the Phase-I.”
“And the hive mind?”
“That’s the catch, yeah. But…” He hesitates. “If, theoretically, you didn’t care that much about the, um. The mental faculties of the result, a full amputation of the hindbrain should be enough.”
“I thought it grew back?”
Newt winces. “Depends on what you left behind in the cavity, doesn’t it?” He shares a look with Hermann. “Herms, wanna fess up?”
Hermann sighs. “My team is already prototyping something similar, albeit on a… bigger scale.” A daikaiju-sized scale, in fact. Brain surgery as a field weapon.
Hansen’s eyebrows hike. “You two have been busy.” Hermann says nothing and, for once, so does Newt. The Marshal doesn’t exactly look… pleased by their extracurricular activities. He stares them down for a moment, then says, “And the outbreaks? Where do they fit in?”
“It’s the stabilization,” Newt says. “It uses a modified version of the k-virus as a delivery vector. And, um. It leaves traces. In… someone who’s had it. Like, um. Me. So, um. If, for example, I got kidnapped at some point? And someone got access to a lot of my blood and tissue samples? They, um…”
“They’re trying to reverse engineer what you did.” Hansen finishes. “And hide it in the same efforts being done by… by our enemies.”
“Near as we can tell,” Hermann says, “yes.”
“Fuck,” says Hansen.
“Basically, yeah,” says Newt, though Hansen seems too busy rubbing his eyes to notice.
The next question, they were expecting:
Hermann looks at Newt, who looks back. Neither of them say a word.
“I see,” says Hansen, after the silence gets long. “You think it’s Corps?” More silence, so: “You’ve gotta throw me a bone here, kids. You realize I could have you up on court marshal for the shit you’ve done.”
Very casually, Hannibal reaches over to a side table. Said table hosts an unlit cigar in a gold astray, an untouched glass of scotch, and an MP7.
Hansen notices. “Put it away, Chau,” he snaps. “I said could. We’re all on the same side here, assuming someone would tell me which fucking side that was.” Then, back to Hermann and Newt: “I can’t protect you if I don’t know what I’m protecting you from.”
“With all due respect, sir,” Hermann says. “We know. That’s why we’re here.”
“Jesus, Hermann. You’re gonna trust the fucking mob over—”
“Marshal!” Hermann says. “Please. The people who are doing this, they’ve already shown they’re willing to hurt me to get to Newton. And…” This is a low blow, but: “And we have a family. Can you guarantee them protection?”
The Marshal scowls, gestures to Hannibal. “Can he.”
“Already done,” Hannibal says.
There are things, Hermann knows, a man like Hannibal Chau can promise that one like Marshal Hansen can’t. He’s sure the Marshal is very, very well aware of what they are.
“Fuck.” Hansen looks away, lips pressed thin and brows drawn. “I joined the Corps to save the Earth from giant monsters,” he says after a while. “Not… this.”
“We all did, sir,” Newt says. “But it was never going to be that simple. Human nature is human nature.”
Hansen doesn’t look like he disagrees. “The Anteverse doesn’t even need to point their weapons our way. They just need to send us the schematics. We’ll do the work of wiping ourselves out for them.”
Hermann and Newt share another look. They’d be lying to say a similar thought hadn’t already occurred.
“‘The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it’,” Hermann quotes.
It earns him a wry smirk from Hansen. “Burke, Doctor?”
“Einstein,” Hermann corrects. “We aren’t running. We’re just… being circumspect. But when you need us, we’ll be there.”
“We’re still PPDC,” Newt adds. “We’re just… AWOL. For a while.”
Hansen nods. “I don’t like it,” he says. “But I guess I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
“No.” From Hannibal. It’s a very final sort of sound.
Hermann has twelve missed messages from Vanessa, when he finally gets a chance to look at his phone. A combination of texts and voice mails, starting confused and edging into panicked.
Hermann takes the phone into the quietest, blandest unused office he can find, sits down, spends ten minutes staring at the ceiling, then makes the call.
Vanessa picks up on the second ring. “Hermann,” she says, “Hermann, there are men outside, I—”
“Vanessa.” The brutal cold in his own voice startles him. Hermann thinks it startles Vanessa, too.
“No. Silence. I’m talking, Vanessa, and you need to listen.” God help him, he sounds like his father.
The phone call takes seven minutes. Vanessa is crying after two. Hermann, at least, manages to hold out until he gets back to his room.
Their suite in Hannibal’s compound is orders of magnitude bigger than their one at the ‘Dome. It’s marble and polished brass and red velvet. Hermann hates it. He hates the private pool and the enormous flatscreen and the well-furnished and utterly unused studies. The only thing that makes it bearable is the soft, warm feel of Newt’s scales under his cheek, the faint smell of sauerkraut and home.
Hermann can’t remember the last time he cried. Maybe he just doesn’t want to.
“We talked about this the last time she was here,” Newt reminds him. “Vans is a smart lady. She’ll know what’s going on.”
“I made her cry.” It comes out in German. He doesn’t mean to say it in German, he just… can’t remember how to speak anything else right now. His mind feels like an enormous ball of grief and loathing, a hulking daikaiju so big it’s displaced every other thought.
There are some lies, Hermann thinks, a husband should never have to tell his wife. I’m filing for divorce. The lawyers will send the papers next week, being very high on that list.
“Dude, of course she’s crying. She’s crying ‘cause people are fucking up the planet and her husband’s in danger and she can’t do shit about it.” And, god. What does it say about their mad, broken world that suddenly Newton is the calm and reasonable one?
“Hey, hey. I heard that.”
“I can’t remember what I said.” The panic lances through Hermann, hot and sharp and sudden. “What… Oh, god. What if I said it wrong? Missed the codes? What if she thinks…” Thinks it’s real. That Hermann would really leave her, leave Lena.
God. Lena. What will Vanessa tell her? What—
Newt makes a shushing noise, arms curling closer around Hermann’s shaking shoulders. He has his own grief; a tangled yarn-ball of worry and fear he’s keeping as far from Hermann as he can. “Dude, you did great. Said everything you needed to say.”
“You were listening.”
“Yeah. Sorry not sorry.”
“Let Vans worry about Lena. Monster Girl’s still young. Folks lie to their kids about shit like this all the time at her age. Then when she’s, like, thirty you’ll mention it offhand as a joke and Lena’ll be all like, ‘Wait. That’s what that was all about?’ Then we can all tell her what a badass James Bond type you really are.”
Hermann squeezes his eyes shut hard enough for them to burn. He doesn’t feel like James Bond. He feels…
“I feel like my father.”
Newt sighs, presses his nares against Hermann’s temple. “I won’t lie, dude,” he says, “’cause you sure did sound like him. But, like, no offense? I can’t imagine Lars going to pieces ‘cause he thinks he upset your mom.”
That’s entirely the point, of course. Hermann knows what people think he’s like, knows what people think of his marriage. Assume you’re always being watched, Hannibal told them, years ago when they’d made these plans. Use their assumptions about you against them. People think you’re a kaju-obsessed lunatic and an emotionless asshole? So be exactly that, nothing more. No one looks too hard when they think they’re right.
It’d sounded so simple, when Hannibal had explained it. He’d somehow neglected to mention how hard it would be in practice. Because Uncle Vidkun may not be real, but the bank account in his name certainly is. Fat and heavy with money laundered through Hannibal’s empire, Hermann’s cut of their vulture’s work. And Hermann, now independently wealthy, dropping wife and child rather than share the spoils.
The kaiju are gone, he remembers saying with his father’s voice. I intend to retire from the PPDC. With the job, goes the pension. So I hardly see the point maintaining this… charade any longer. Hermann worked on the frontline of the War. His life expectancy had been low, the widow’s benefits generous. Why else, after all, would someone like Vanessa possibly debase themselves to marry someone like him?
God. He loves her. He loves her so, so much.
“She loves you too, dude. You know she does.”
She hadn’t said as much, on the phone. That’d been one of the signals. No mentions of the word love in any context. Why would a business arrangement need it?
“On the plus side, I now own an island.”
Hermann laughs. Just one bark, thick and hysteric. This is Newt’s cover story; black market sales of his own amputated organs, just enough to cover the cost of a private island in the Philippines. Undeveloped. For Newt to “get in touch with his kaiju side”.
“It’s a nice island, shaped kinda like a rocket, which I thought you’d like. We can take the girls when this is all over.”
Like it ever will be. Nearly two decades of war and every victory a gateway to something worse.
“Don’t think like that, dude.” Hermann can feel Newt’s despair. But it’s threaded through with hope, too, bright and gleaming like the glow in his hide. “We’ll get through this. By the time Lena has her own hellspawn this is all gonna be a distant memory.”
“How?” Hermann says, his fingers tightening around the muscles of Newt’s secondary arms. “How can you believe that? For every victory against the Anteverse we build a weapon that Earth can turn against itself. How long before we see Jaeger battling Jaeger? Destroying cities already turned to toxic cesspits from the slaughtered corpses of dead kaijin soldiers, converted against their will?”
“Oh, dude.” Newt sighs, is silent for a while. Thinking. Then: “If we didn’t have missiles, we wouldn’t have space travel. If we didn’t have the atomic bomb we couldn’t treat cancer. If we didn’t have stealth jets we wouldn’t have microwaves, and if we didn’t have bullets we wouldn’t have tampons. I mean, c’mon dude. Do I really need to give you, of all people, the ‘technology isn’t inherently evil’ speech? Yeah, we’re in a war and the world is full of assholes with tiny dicks and no imagination. So what? The whole of human history has been like that. And then while the small dick assholes are fucking about with their rulers, someone else’s gonna come along and say, ‘Y’know. If you built a Jaeger arm real small I bet you could stick it on an amputee’. Or, like, ‘You know where it’d be cool to open a Breach to? Alpha Centauri’. And in a hundred years, a thousand, no-one’s gonna remember all the bad shit because they’ll be too busy planet-hopping through portals with their awesome robot bodies, a different one for every day, changed like suits. All they’ll be called ‘herms’, and no-one except history nerds will remember how or why and that won’t even matter because things will be so fucking awesome that no one will care. The curve of history goes up, dude. It always does.”
“You’re so certain.”
“Yeah, dude. Things only suck in the short term. On the scale of human history… I mean, for all things are fucking awful, you still wanna trade it to go and live back in the 1950s? Or the 950s? Or the 50s?”
Hermann does not. He likes not dying of smallpox and being an academic and not being hung for sodomy or burned for deicide. And for all he wishes the War had never happened, that they could be living in some strange alternate timeline where wormholes and aliens and monsters were still fictions… for all that, he’d still want to be living now. Just a different sort of now.
He’d take the future, too. Newt’s future, bright and hopeful and strange.
Very slowly, Hermann uncurls from Newt’s arms. Not moving away, just not clinging quite so desperately. “I want to see Vanessa,” he says. “I want to hold Lena.” Funny. Hermann loves his wife and his daughter deeply but god knows he’s not always the most attentive to social interactions. He’s gone days, weeks, without speaking to them before. But it’s… different now. Before, nothing was stopping him but his own absent-mindedness; the only person he had to blame was himself. Now, there’s something keeping him from his family and he’d give anything to have it gone.
“I know, dude,” says Newt. “Hannibal’s gonna send someone, and I’m sure he’s got some criminal mastermind way for you guys to pass notes in class. I know it’s not the same, but…” He shrugs. “And if things… get bad…”
If things get bad, they bring Vanessa and Lena here. It’s a last resort, the girls have their own life in Europe—Vanessa her work, Lena her school—and deserve better than being smuggled into the country and locked up in a bunker.
It’s not like they haven’t planned this. They have. They’ve planned and discussed and half of everything they’re doing was Vanessa’s idea in the first place. But, god. It still hurts. It’s unfair. They saved the world. Things were supposed to get better after that, not worse in a different way.
Hermann does not consider himself a violent man. Still, sitting on that strange bed in that strange room, he makes a vow.
He’s going to find the people doing this; find the people who’d hurt his family to hurt the world. He’s going to find them, and he’s going to end them.