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Doctor Lars Gottlieb is an A[r|s]se?hole

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The first time Newton Geiszler meets Hermann’s father, he calls the man Doctor Gottlieb and it makes Hermann want to strangle him. Or die. Or both.

He’s spent years, literally years, trying to get Geiszler to call him “Doctor”, all to no avail. And yet, within five seconds of meeting Father it’s all respectful distance and formal titles and—

Deep breath, backtrack.

The year is 2020 and the world is still ending. Hermann is newly arrived in Hong Kong, newly squabbling over lab space and house rules—entrails on your side only, Doctor Geiszler—when Father makes his unannounced appearance.

Hermann is alone in the lab when he walks in, striding the always-slightly-too-fast stride Father adopted as soon as he realized Hermann couldn’t keep up with it. His greeting is:

“Pack up your things, boy. I’m getting you out of this fool’s crusade.”

Hermann is thirty-one years old and his father’s voice still makes him crumple inside. Still makes him feel like a whimpering child, trembling beneath the vast and awful kaiju named Disapproval.

Father wants him to go to the Wall, of course. Father may have built the Jaeger—may be credited with building the Jaeger, a tiny, rebellious part of Hermann’s mind corrects—but now Father has deemed to project a failure, and thus it is. No matter what Father needs to do to make it so.

“The Wall is the future, boy,” Father says. “And the work there will be more suited for someone in… your condition.”

That ellipsis. Hermann hates that ellipsis.

He tries to argue, he really does. Hermann believes in the Jaeger. They’ve had setbacks, yes. But for god’s sake, they’re in a war. Of course there will be losses. And they’ll re-group and recover and, why, just last week they—or, rather, Geiszler—discovered a new weakness in the kaiju molecular structure that should be exploitable—

“Hermann, enough,” Father snaps. “Enough with this foolishness. You will come with me, you will help build the Wall. I will not have a son of mine dying in this abandoned slum to appease the vanity of—”

“D-Doctor Gottlieb? Oh. My god. It’s you, isn’t is? Doctor Lars Gottlieb?”

Later, much later, Hermann will admit that’s the moment he feels his heart breaking.

Father turns, scowling, disrupted from his ranting. “Yes. Who are you?”

It’s Geiszler, of course. Rumpled and aggravating and beautiful in his too-tight jeans and worn leather jacket. Hermann sighs. “Father,” he starts, “this is—”

But Geiszler is already running a mile a minute. “Oh, man. Doctor Gottlieb, I just… I never… wow. I mean, wow. I’ve read all your stuff. Like, all of it. I just, wow. I’m sorry, I’m making a total idiot of myself but I just, wow. I can’t believe you’re here and… Oh, man. This is terrible, but, like. Oh man. Can I shake your hand? Please? It’d be such— I mean. Oh man. Doctor Gottlieb. Here. I can’t believe it!”

Geiszler is… Geiszler. Vibrating like quantum string, eyes bright and wide and glistening, looking up at Hermann’s father with an expression Hermann doesn’t want to think about. He doesn’t want to think about the hopeful way Geiszler holds out his hand, the breathlessness with he says Doctor Gottlieb.

Hermann has been trying to get Geiszler to refer to him as “Doctor Gottlieb” for years. On a good day, he’ll get “Hermann”. On a bad day, it’ll be one of Geiszler’s awful repertoire of nicknames. Both will be interspersed with Geiszler’s screeching voice mocking and belittling everything Hermann is and everything Hermann does. His accent, his clothes, his doctorate, his research. Everything. Newton Geiszler is the most infuriating man Hermann has ever met, and yet for all of that, Hermann simply cannot quit him. For better or for worse, Geiszler is the closest thing Hermann has to a friend, to a lover. The sex isn’t always good and it’s never, ever anything other than rough and brutal, but at least it’s there. And there are moments—terrible, secret moments—when the world is dark and still and Geiszler has fallen asleep before he could return to his dorm or Hermann could return to his…

In those moments, Hermann can almost believe that the thing they have between them is… is something. That Geiszler shares his bed and his lab because, somewhere, somehow, he has some tiny, gleaming modicum of respect. For Hermann, for Hermann’s work. That maybe in some strange, parallel reality they’re still the people they were all those years ago, before they met in person. Back when Hermann had thought of Geiszler as Newton, had been carefully working his way around to Newt. Had thought that maybe, just maybe, they could…

Well. Never mind all of that. Sex-drunk delusions at four a.m. do not a reality make, and Hermann’s reality is a Geiszler who tears into his work and disrespects him to everyone he meets and—the most unforgivable of unforgivable sins—calls Hermann’s father Doctor and asks about his work like it means something.

“It’s just… the Wall, man. It’s such, I mean. Who’d think of an idea like that? It’s just… whoa.”

Hermann feels himself physically shrink, folding in on himself even as Father seems to grow bigger, puffed up by the effusive praise Geiszler is sending his way. “The Jaeger Program had its day,” Father says, “but that day is obviously over. To survive, humanity must adapt. The Wall is that adaptation.”

“Yeah?” Geiszler is nodding, more gormlessly enthusiastic than Hermann has ever seen him. “Wow. It’s fascinating to hear someone say that. You’re have some really, like, different ideas. I’d love to hear more.”

Father makes a huffing sort of sound, like he’s about to defer, but then Geiszler starts talking about the engineering behind the wall. About the strength of a kaiju versus the strength of concrete and steel, and Father is saying, “Yes, well. A common misconception made by common minds. But it’s all quite simple, really, when properly calculated…” And he’s talking, and Geiszler is nodding and saying things like “uh-huh” and “no way!” and “fascinating!” and suddenly the two of them are walking away. Away from the lab, away from Hermann, left invisible and alone in the wake of the vastness that is Doctor Lars Gottlieb.

And then, just before they leave, Geiszler has the audacity—the audacity—to turn back to Hermann and wink at him.

Hermann doesn’t speak to him for a month. He tells himself it’s because of Geiszler’s disloyalty to the Jaeger program—to the Marshal, to the Shatterdome, to everything they’re working for—and not… not any other reason.

Sometimes, at four a.m., he even believes it.

The year is 2032 and the apocalypse hasn’t been cancelled so much as changed horseman.

Hermann is alone in the lab. It’s 7:37 p.m. on a Friday, and their staff have long since been sent home. Newt is out in the bay, surveying wildlife or chemosynthesizing or simply scaring tourists for the joy of it. Hermann isn’t sure; he’s been tearing his hair out over h-field equations all day and, consequently, Newt has their bond muted, claiming “abstract math gives me a headache, dude”. Hermann doesn’t mind; no matter what Newt says, he always finds it so much easier to concentrate without earworms from horrid punk industrial acts echoing over and over in his mind.

(Hermann knows more about punk, industrial, punk industrial, punk metal, metal industrial, rock industrial, punk rock, goth rock, goth industrial, and assorted related genres than he really thinks a man in his position should know. If very drunk, under pain of a family member being harmed, he might even have a list of favorite acts. Hermann is absolutely certain Newt knows this, and doesn’t mention it out of a desire not to sleep on the couch from now until the end of time.)

Earworms or no earworms, Hermann find himself praying for the dulcet screaming of Newt’s latest obsession, Pacific Death Party, when he hears the voice behind him snap:

“When they told me you’d moved laboratories, I’d at least hoped your new surroundings would be more… appropriate.”

Hermann is suddenly very, very glad Newt is now violent allergic to chalk (”Dude! If only we’d known years ago!”). Dry erase markers are so much more difficult to snap in shock.

Hermann breathes in, breathes out. Schools his features into the kind of emotionless impassivity he hasn’t had to hide behind since the Breach closed. “Father,” he says, vowels plum and R rolling.

Hermann turns. Father is there, in the lab, scowling in paternal disapproval at the little Dr. K doll, currently manning a microscope at Saanvi’s station. The doll is slightly singed down one side, after an unfortunate accident, but somehow Hermann doubts that’s the source of his father’s disapproval.

“I wasn’t aware you were in Hong Kong,” is the politest opening Hermann can think of. Who the bloody hell let you in here? being number two on the list, degenerating from there. Father hasn’t worked for the PPDC since the Wall. Hermann has no idea not just why he’s here, but how.

The why becomes apparent as soon as Father opens his mouth. He’s here because of the article in WIRED, because of course he is.

“Bad enough that you continue to throw your lot in with this antiquated cause,” Father snaps. “But to have our family name associated with… with…” He cuts himself off, eyes dark and blazing, hand gesturing towards Newt’s side of the lab. “Have you no shame, boy? If not for yourself, then for your family. You sister has children, for pity’s sake!”

So do I, Hermann doesn’t say. Can’t say. Forty-three years old, and he’ll forever be fourteen and trembling beneath his father’s ire.

Nothing Hermann ever does will be good enough in the eyes of Lars Gottlieb. Hermann knows this, has known it since he was a small boy. And yet, even still, here they are; decades later, and what can Hermann do but tighten his fingers around the head of his cane, hard enough to send the knuckles white and the skin tight enough to split. He tries, he really does. But father is savage; tearing into Hermann, into his work, into his clothes and his hair and the equations on his board and the projections from his simulator. Hermann says “But—” and “That’s—” and “I—” and that’s all he gets, that’s all he’s ever gotten. A high bar and impossible standards, as cold and unforgiving as Challenger Deep, as hostile as the Anteverse. Hermann feels his heart race, feels the impotent and humiliating rage prickle across his skin. Father is wrong, Hermann knows he is. Hermann’s a rockstar, he’s saved the world, more than once. He wakes up every morning next to someone who adores him and they make love and they—

“—a monster, Hermann. It was pathetic then and it’s repulsive now. If the Marshal was any kind of man he would’ve shot it years ago. The fact you all continue to carry on this… this delusion of it being something other than it is speaks poorly of everyone on this base. It speaks poorly of them, and it speaks poorly of you, and it speaks poorly of our family. I didn’t raise—”

“You need to leave.”

Hermann has one hand gripped around his cane, another on the edge of the lab pool. His fingers trail in the water, cool and soothing. He wants to jump into it, to slip beneath the surface and curl up in the dark. Safe and hidden.

“Do not presume to tell me what I need to do, boy.”

Hermann closes his eyes, finds the cold iron core of himself.

“Get out,” he says, proud of the way his voice barely shakes. “This is my laboratory. You are not authorized to be here. You are not authorized to be here and you are certainly not authorized to speak that way about the man I love.”

“For god’s sakes, it isn’t a ‘man’. A man would be better than—”

I said get out!”

A lot of hard surfaces in the lab. High ceilings, good acoustics. It’s why Newt always liked to play his godawful keyboards in here. Here, tonight, it means Hermann’s voice echoes.

There’s a moment, long and still, a stare-down four decades in the making. Father almost looks shocked.

Almost. Because then his brows are drawing down into a scowl, his mouth opening, and Hermann’s heart is beating so hard he isn’t sure he’ll be able to hear whatever terrible retort Father has planned.

In the end, it’s not his heart that swallows Father’s words. It’s the sound of a thousand kilograms bursting through still black water. It’s the wet slap of claws on concrete and of lungs the size of wine barrels letting loose a kaiju’s roar. Newt’s roar, a hundred and twenty decibels of fuck you, in the man’s own words, physically painful to stand in the path of.

Father certainly looks pained. Actually, from what Hermann can see, Father looks like he’s about to have a heart attack. He’s gone a horrible grey color, hand clutching over his heart, eyes so round they’re in danger of popping from his skull. Newt towers over him, all huge teeth and claws and flicking bioluminescence. And Hermann knows Newt’s a barker, not a biter, but, in that moment, he could certainly forgive a man for thinking otherwise.

Father certainly does. He does not, to Hermann’s relief, drop dead from shock there on the spot. Instead, he stumbles backwards, sending slides and Petri dishes crashing to the floor. The sight has Newt giving an irritated bark, and that’s all it takes for Father to turn tail and run from the lab. They listen, silent and unmoving, as his footsteps recede down the hall.

Finally, slowly, Newt lowers himself back to four limbs. “So,” he says. “Um. Your dad, huh?”

Suddenly, Hermann is finding it very difficult to breathe. His face is buried in his hands and his body keeps shaking and he can’t get any air into this lungs.

Herms? Hermherm?”

Hermann feels wet, scaled hands gently wrap around his shoulders. He collapses into them, against a chest still dripping with seawater, and it’s only then that his lungs remember how to work. He gulps in air, huge hiccoughing globs of it.

Then he laughs, and laughs, and laughs.

The shock doesn’t hit him until they’re back in their room. He’s halfway through unbuttoning his shirt when his hands start shaking and just won’t stop, and he fumbles six times with the same button before Newt brushes his fingers away and does it for him.

“I can’t believe—” Talking is difficult, his breath coming in choked little gasps. “Father will lodge a complaint. He’ll tell the Marshal you attacked him.”

Newt makes a pfft noise. “Oh yeah, right. Another complaint on my file from Gottlieb, Dr. Just add it to the ten thousand others, whatever.” He’s grinning, teeth casting a blue-green glow over Hermann’s skin.

“Father knows the Secretary-General,” Hermann says. “He… he could ruin your career.”

Newt barks laughter, hands stroking over Hermann’s brightly inked shoulders as his shirt falls to the ground. “Dude. I haven’t actually had a career since the War started. I have, like. A calling. So your dad complains, so what? I get a slap on the wrist, very solemnly swear I won’t do it again, and then go back to doing the work only I can do. Big deal.”

Hermann sighs, leans against Newt’s chest and tries to let the warmth still his pounding heart and shaking limbs. “Yes, of course,” he says. “How foolish of me. I’d momentarily forgotten about your capacity for self-destructive optimism.” Newt’s hands have ventured down to the waistband on Hermann’s trousers, are busy untucking his undershirt and sliding up beneath it. Hermann hums his appreciation, arches a little to allow the exploration. “Still,” he says, voice lower than before, huskier. “Thank you.”

For what, dude?”

Hermann scowls, pulls himself closer into Newt’s embrace. “For… choosing me. Father will very likely never speak civilly to you again. I… I know you admire him.”

The hands stroking Hermann’s belly go suddenly still. So does the rest of Newt, even his mind freezing up for the instant it takes him to splutter out, “Wait. What?”

“It’s… understandable,” Hermann says, because “okay” doesn’t seem like the right term. “He can be… brilliant, in his own way.” Hermann hasn’t seen eye to eye with Father for years, possibly forever, but if Newt respects the man the least he can do is—

Whoa. Whoa, wait just one second,” Newt’s big hands are suddenly around Hermann’s biceps, moving him back just far enough for Newt to stare into his eyes. “Dude. What the hell, man? Respect your father? What?”

Newt is honestly confused, Hermann can feel it radiating from him. Confused, and a little bit offended. Hermann scowls. “I…” and then doesn’t know where to go.

Where is this coming from, dude? Show me?”

So Hermann does, sighing and closing his eyes as dredging up the memory from a decade ago. He doesn’t want to. Doesn’t want to remind himself just how foolish he can be, how he used to push Newt away even as he tried to drag him closer. How much he craved Newt’s approval, Newt’s respect, Newt’s desire, all the while refusing to believe he already had them.

The grip on his shoulders relaxes, big claws pulling him closer as Newt’s small hands reach up to trace across his face. “Oh, dude,” says Newt.

And suddenly it’s 2020 again, and Hermann is short and anxious and mobile and Newt. Buzzing from too much caffeine and not enough sleep, brain tripping and tumbling over itself as he approaches the door to their old lab. His heart is stuttering because it’s the lab, and Hermann will be in the lab, and he’ll sneer and snipe and act like a asshole with his bright eyes and high cheekbones and slender fingers, and he’ll stand in front of his chalkboard and genius will unfold from his fingers and maybe, just maybe, this will be the day when Newt will finally, finally, manage to find the crack. The one thing he can do that will make Hermann smile, really smile, soft and happy and beautiful. And maybe he’ll touch Newt’s hand, just gently, and call him “Newton” in the way he never does, and say something kind about Newt’s work and Newt’s heart will burst and finally everything will be worth it. Because Hermann is beautiful and brilliant and perfect and maybe if they can be friends then Newt will be all those things, too. At least a little.

Newt is humming when he reaches the lab, buzzing so hard it feels like Yamarashi and Ceramander and Hammerjaw and all the others are thrashing inside his skin. He’s so lost inside his head he almost doesn’t hear the voices until he walks in on them.

It’s Hermann, of course, and Newt’s heart trips a little faster like it always does when he hears that adorable asshole speak. Except Hermann isn’t speaking so much as stuttering, mumbling platitudes against the storm that is the second voice. Newt peeks into the lab, eyes instinctively seeking Hermann, finding him hunched over near his desk, face down turned and pale skin ashen and damp. He’s miserable, folded inward and crumbling against the verbal smackdown getting laid by the asshole yelling at him, and Newt feels a sudden flash of anger so intense his vision goes black for half a second, kaiju roaring hot and angry on his skin.

No one is allowed to make Hermann look like that. No one. Because, yeah. He and Hermann fight, clashing like their respective giant avatars, but Newt watches Hermann when they do and the man shines. As sharp as a GD6 and as bright as the blast from an I-19. And that’s awesome, that’s fucking awesome, and Newt loves it. Loves meeting that clash head-on.

This, he doesn’t love. This is Oblivion Bay, rusted and broken. This is not fucking cool, a waste of resources, assholes turning something something awesome into forgotten scrap. Newt won’t see it happen to the Jaeger and he won’t see it happen to Hermann, either. Not if he can help it.

He’s halfway across the lab, ready to bust in and save some skinny mathematician ass, when he realises exactly who it is that’s invaded their space. Lars Gottlieb. So maybe Newt’s earlier scattered analogy about broken Jaeger was a bit too accurate for comfort. Because Gottlieb made the Jaeger and he made Hermann and now he’s trying to disassemble both. Asshole.

Still. He’s Hermann’s dad. So maybe going in guns blazing with a yelling match isn’t the way to handle this. After all, Newt’s still totally gonna marry Hermann one day for sure (at least symbolically, if not literally, given Vans has first dibs in that department), and that means Lars is basically his father-in-law? Or will be. Totally. And, hold the phone, dude. Best. Idea. Ever. Because this is it, this is The Opportunity. Newt can swoop in and save Hermann and make nice with his totally-for-sure-future-father-in-law at the same time! Fuck, he’s a genius! Then Lars will be happy, and Hermann will be happy, and Newt will be a Big Damn Hero and Hermann will smile at him and kiss him gently and, oh man oh man this is gonna be great. So-oo-oo great!

“Doctor Gottlieb?”

So Newt makes nice. The truth is, it’s kinda grating; Gottlieb is as asshole and a coward and an idiot, and Newt can’t quite bring himself to praise anything the guy has done. (He’s not even going to give Gottlieb the credit for making Hermann. Hermann deserves all the credit for making Hermann, because Hermann is fucking rad.) But, luckily, Gottlieb’s the kind of preening son-of-a-bitch who puffs up the second someone calls him “Doctor”.

Newt’s been Doctor Newt, Ph.D., since he was a fucking teenager. To him, the title is meaningless; just another bullshit collection to pass the time between graduating university and being legally old enough to get a real fucking job. A genius fifteen-year-old brat at MIT is a headline-worthy novelty, but no-ones gonna give him serious employment while he’s too young to shave, let alone drink.

Still, that’s him, but he knows Gottlieb’s type. He’s the kind of asshole who confuses titles with worth, and Newt knows this because Hermann does it, too, and bad habits like that have to come from somewhere. Newt’s spent years trying to convince Hermann that he’s still a fucking genius world-saving rockstar no matter what people call him, but that’s because Hermann is a fucking genius world-saving rockstar (also: super, super hot), while Lars Gottlieb is… Lars Gottlieb. A guy who had like one good idea once then blew it by being a dickhole.

A tedious dickhole, as it turns out and, yeah? The only thing worse than getting lectured on the Wall of (Giving-the-Fuck-Up-On-)Life by Lars fucking Gottlieb is having to pretend to be interested in the man’s self-important bloviating. Newt manages, just, mostly by imagining summoning Yamarashi off his arm to chase Lars out of the lab. Now that would be hilarious. And Newt is so totally gonna do that. Like, when the war’s over or whatever. Clone little designer kaiju, real life Pokémon for everyone. And Hermann will pretend like he thinks it’s the worst idea in the world, at least until Newt presents him with a squirmy little Scissure of his own. (Hermann’s definitely a Scissure guy, Newt thinks. Maybe Newt can even tweak the wings, get the little thing airborne. That would be awesome.)

Fuck the Wall, basically, and fuck Lars Gottlieb and his dull little grey and cowardly world. No way is Newt gonna let Gottlieb infect Hermann with that bullshit, Hermann who pretends to being a prissy little shit but who dreams of giant robots and inter-dimensional travel. And if Newt has to spend half an hour getting lectured by the most boring man on the planet to keep those dreams alive? Well, Newt can do that. He’s a rockstar. No point saving the world if he can’t save Hermann along with it.

So he drags Gottlieb out of the lab, away from Hermann, keeping his face schooled into affected adoration, letting the “uh-huhs” and “wows” and “fascinatings” tumble from his mouth. As they leave, he risks one glance over his shoulder, back at Hermann. He has to do it quickly, so Gottlieb doesn’t notice, and it’s too fast for Newt’s shitty eyesight to focus on Hermann’s expression. But he throws out a you-can-thank-me-later-dude wink and—

—and it’s 2032 again, and Hermann is Hermann and his leg aches and his back hurts and his shoulders are shaking with laughter.

“God,” he tells the scales of Newt’s chest.

Yeah,” Newt agrees. “Get it, now?”

Hermann does. He should’ve “gotten it”, as Newt says, before. It’s not as if Hermann doesn’t know the component pieces: Newt’s aggressive idolisation; his deep conviction that respect is earned through deeds, not titles or connections or reputations; his need to prove himself through selfish altruism. His special brand of manic idiocy, etched so deep it keeps his very atoms spinning with its force.

“It wasn’t Yamarashi,” Hermannn says. “But I think you made an exceptional substitute.”

Newt huffs, a sound between amusement an annoyance, a deep bass rumble Hermann can feel more than hear. One of Newt’s small hands comes up to caress where Yamarashi now adorns Hermann’s forearm, content and still.

Or, perhaps, not quite still. Not with the electric hum that’s starting to build in Hermann’s belly. Starting to make the hairs on his arms stand up.

“I think,” he says, “that’s twice now you’ve saved me from my father’s terrible grasp. And yet I still haven’t thanked you for. That’s unconscionably rude of me.”

Very,” Newt agrees, long fingers tracing the lines of Hermann’s borrowed ink. “Super unconscionable. Like, I should report you to the United Nations.”

“Mm.” Hermann pulls closer, lips ghosting across warm scales, fingers dipping down below the end of Newt’s ribs. “Perhaps, before things… escalate, we can work out own resolution.” He finds what he’s looking for, a little slit on Newt's side, almost invisible, and ghosts his fingers along the edges.

Newt shudders, a tremor that runs his entire body from nares to tail. “Oh. Oh fuck, yeah. That could… Could be an option.”

“Stand up,” Hermann commands. “Against the door.”

Newt obeys, hitting his head against the ceiling in his haste. Chips of plaster fall into Hermann’s hair as a result, and he smirks as Newt hurries to brush them off.

Newt rarely walks or stands on his hind legs alone, though he’s perfectly capable of doing so. It makes him incredibly tall, tall enough that Hermann’s head barely reaches above the soft skin of Newt’s belly. Which is perfect, really. Perfect for Hermann to lean forward, to replace his stroking fingers with a tongue. To push into that grasping, pulsing little slit.

Oh! Fuck!” Newt lets out a long, low moan. There’s another dull thud as he slams one of his big hands against the ceiling, bracing himself even as he arches forward, wanting more.

“Do you like that?” Hermann can feel the tentacle, pulsing beneath his tongue, desperate to unfurl from the confines of Newton’s skin. It’s fellows already have; Hermann can feel them winding around his torso, around his neck, around his legs. Shifting and pulsing, pulling Hermann closer to their owner.

Please,” Newt says. “Please, I can’t—”

Hermann can be quite merciless when he wants to be, mouth working the tentacle slit, tongue and fingers pressing inside, widening the hole, swirling around the head of the muscle coiled inside. It trembles, wanting to emerge fully even as Newt holds it back, not wanting to hurt Hermann with its emergence. Newt is so big and so strong and so, so careful when they make love. Even when he’s lust-mad and frenzied, he never so much as lays a claw where it shouldn’t be.

That sort of care should be rewarded, Hermann thinks, and so he lowers his free hand to do so. To rub at the space between Newt’s heavy, muscular thighs. It’s already slick down there, half-open, the tip of Newt’s dick pulsing hungry in the air. Hermann runs an index finger around the edge of it, between its coiled length and the hot, wet wall of the pouch that contains it. “Open for me,” he commands. Newt groans, head thumping back against the wall behind him, but he obeys. His dick unfolds, long and slick and prehensile, glowing bright in the dimness of their room. It coils up Hermann’s arm instinctively, covering skin and tattoos alike, rubbing and squeezing. “Good boy,” Hermann says. “You’re such a brilliant, perfect, beautiful boy.”

He draws his head back, using his hand to coax out Newt’s final tentacle. Newt shudders when it emerges, his small hands fisting in Hermann’s hair, stroking his cheek, slipping between his lips. Hermann sighs, smiles. Feels the weight leave his legs as Newt lifts him, cradles him close. Hermann tilts his head, rubs his cheek against the slick tip of the prick that’s coiled all the way up to his shoulder. Then he runs a tongue across the end, dipping into the opening. Newt makes all kinds of lovely sounds in response, mind a static buzz of oh fuck yes Hermann yes more so good you’re perfect so fucking perfect how did I deserve you I.

There’s another slit, Hermann knows, nestled at the very base of Newt’s thrashing dick. He runs his fingers across it, questioning. “May I?”

The answer is almost physically staggering, just a torrent of yesyesyeapleaseyesinsideyesHermannyes. Hermann does not need a second invitation, pressing his hand forward. The flesh parts easily, wet and shifting and hungry, and Hermann’s fist isn’t quite the same as the head of another kaijin’s dick, but Newt takes it all the same, the walls of his ovipore contracting and pulsing in pleasure as Hermann flexes his fingers and rubs his knuckles against the hot, inner walls.

More.” The thought manages to surface within the chaotic haze of Newt’s mind. “God, Hermann. So good. More, please, I just—” Then nothing but incoherent lust as Hermann swallows the head of Newt’s prick, tongue pressing deep into the opening.

Newt stifles a bellow, biting down against one of his large arms. His tentacles writhe across Hermann’s skin, beneath his undershirt, soft scales scraping across his nipples. Another is between Hermann’s thighs, and Hermann’s ruts his own full prick against it, slow and lazy. He’s achingly hard, as shivery and wanting as Newt is, their mutual pleasure pulsing and building between them. Hermann feels a tentacle fumble against the front of his trousers, but they’re not dexterous enough to undo the clasps and zippers on their own.

Please.” Newt’s small fingers fist in Hermann’s hair. “Please let me touch you.”

Hermann smiles, pulls his mouth off Newt just long enough to say, “Since you asked so nicely…” And then he’s using his left hand to free himself, even as his right is still disappearing slowly into Newt’s body, Newt raising to his tiptoes to take more, deeper, Hermann yes!

It’s a struggle, unzipping his fly with his left hand, but Hermann manages it and his prick bobs free. He has one moment to see it—big and red and cut, the only part of Hermann’s body he’s ever felt at least mildly satisfied by—before it vanishes beneath a shifting coil of grasping tentacle. Now it’s Hermann’s turn to groan, and he allows his eyes to flutter closed, to feel nothing but the delicious friction of scales on soft skin, of the hard bar of his arm rubbing slicked muscle, of the warm wet inside of his mouth, of the delicious heavy fullness of his fist.

Hermann comes first, in hot, messy bursts that paint white across the scales of Newt’s belly. Newt, who isn’t far behind, and Herman feels the spermatophores as they push up Newt’s length, round globes that press against the muscle of Hermann’s arm.

Newt pulls himself from Hermann’s mouth, and Hermann holds up his free hand to catch the strange capsules as they emerge. Like soft, faintly glowing eggs, three of them, one after the other, Hermann’s body shuddering in pleasure with Newt’s as they emerge, held briefly before Newt’s tongue flicks down to pull them into his mouth. (”No use wasting a perfectly good nuptial gift, dude. And they’re not edible to you,” had been Newt’s excuse, the first time Hermann had seen him do it.)

After, Hermann is sweaty and panting and covered in faintly glowing mucus, the air is heavy with the salt-sour musk of kaiju sex. They don’t move for a while, Newt’s arms lowering to cradle Hermann against his abdomen, Hermann sated and content to drift, pressing lazy kisses against tentacles and fingers. The skin on his arm tingles, and he knows he needs to shower soon, but… Soon. Not right now.


Y’know, dude. If your dad knew what we just did, I think he’d actually have some kind of fit and die.”

“Good,” says Hermann, because he’s too sex-dazed to think otherwise.

Newt just curls closer.

By the time they’ve washed and changed, Hermann has determined enough time has passed such that they’re unlikely to run into Father if they visit the mess for dinner. Hermann wears a pair of old jeans and a tshirt for the trip, partly because he knows Newt has, quote-unquote, “a thing” for Hermann “in real person clothes, dude” (also any clothes, and no clothes), but mostly because Father would whole-heartedly disapprove. Particularly of the tattoos (clothes, at least, can be changed).

I guess forty-three isn’t too old to go through your teenage rebellion phase.” Hermann can feel Newt’s smirk as he says it.

“Better than a midlife crisis,” Hermann replies. “I already saved the world, married a model, and sleep with a rockstar, and I don’t think you would fit in a convertible.”

I could probably carry you around in one,” Newt suggests, trying to squash down his pleasure at being called a rockstar and failing miserably. “Like a cute little red manbag. Cheap gas, great mileage. Environmental impact…” he makes a rocking motion with one hand.

“If you’re offering to carry me, I think instead I should design some kind of harness and saddle. You have a predator’s gait, so a traditional over-the-spine arrangement wouldn’t work. But your shoulders should be broad and stable enough.”

Kinky. What if I wanted to stand up?”

Hermann scoffs. “Please. Gyroscopic compensation is trivial. At least pretend to challenge me.” Newt just grins in response, radiating adoration and self-satisfied contentment.

They don’t see Father as they wander the halls of the Shatterdome, though they do draw more stares than usual. Hermann isn’t sure whether this is due to his attire or whether Father has been spreading rumors.

As it turns out, Father has been spreading rumors, which they find out when Tendo throws himself down at their table, reaching over to grab Hermann’s biceps with an exaggeratedly urgent expression.

“Hermann, brother,” Tendo says. “You’re alive! Thank god. Rumor was you got devoured by a rampaging kaiju in the lab! Your father saw the whole thing, man. He’s been telling everyone how tragic it was, how he tried to valiantly defend you and barely made it out with his life.”

Hermann rolls his eyes. “Wonderful.” He’s fairly certain Tendo is, at least in part, exaggerating Father’s account. In part.

“And you, man!” Tends turns his attention to Newt, slapping him reproachfully on the arm. “Where where you? You’re supposed to protect this poor, defenseless soul from big bad monsters.”

Newt grins. “Are you kidding me?” he signs. “Hermann defends me, dude. You know that cane’s really a sword, right?”

Hermann raises one eyebrow. “Newton,” he snaps. “I can’t trust you with anything! The surprise isn’t effective if people know.”

Newt holds one big hand up next to his face, as if he’s whispering to Tendo. “Herms is secretly a Bartitsu master, but don’t tell anyone.”

“I’d believe it,” Tendo says, no hint of mockery in his tone. “And don’t worry, brother. My lips are sealed.” He mimes zipping them.

“Seal Newton’s while you’re at it,” Hermann says. “For someone with no voice, he is truly a tremendous gossip.” Which earns him a long, glow-tongued raspberry, so: “Promises, promises.”

Tends just laughs. “Seriously, though,” he says, feigning solemnity even as his eyes gleam. “On a completely unrelated note, me the crew did a bit of a whip-around, and well. Happy birthday.” And suddenly he’s producing a large box from somewhere, placing it onto the table.

“It’s not our birthday,” Hermann says, then instantly feels like an idiot.

“Well, it will be at some point.” Tendo, smooth as ever. “And I’m sure we’ve missed one or two we could be making up for.”

Hermann can see things peeking out of the box: a bottle of whiskey, some egg custard tarts, chocolate, and what looks like someone’s crystal Christmas tree ornaments. (Those, Hermann assumes, are for Newt’s consumption more so than the beautification of any seasonal displays.)

Newt is busy thanking Tendo for the gift, but something ugly and cold curls at the bottom of Hermann’s gut. For all Father abandoned the Jaeger program, he can still be aggressively tyrannical about its operation. “Tendo,” Hermann says. “On… another unrelated note, if my father is being… demanding—”

But Tendo just grins, cuts him off with a hearty pat on the back. “Don’t worry ‘bout it, brother,” he says. “We survived. And, somehow, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a return visit any time soon. So happy birthday.”

Hermann nods. “Thank you, Tendo,” he says. “And extend our thanks to the crew, as well.”

“Anytime, man.” Another hearty back-slapping later, and Tendo is wandering off, hands in his pockets, whistling like a man with nothing to lose.

For the rest of the night, j-techs keeping coming up to make small talk with them while Hermann eats. They ask Hermann about his tattoos (“I didn’t know you had ink!”), and Newt gets more affectionate arm-punches and faux one-two hits and vigorous back-slapping than he has in quite possibly forever. The experience isn’t unpleasant—everyone is very friendly and polite and sincere—but it is… odd.

What was that all about?” Newt asks as they make their way back to their room.

Hermann looks at the box, held in Newt’s small hands. “Reasonable doubt,” he says, an awful feeling settling into his gut.

To entirely no one’s surprise, they’re summoned to see the Marshal at 0800 the next day. He looks at them flatly when they walk in, neither smiling nor scowling. Just… intense.

“Tell me your version of it,” is all he says. They don’t need to ask what he means.

“I was working in the lab, late,” Hermann starts. “Doctor Geiszler was out, in the bay, we’d sent everyone else home. I was alone. My father entered the lab and engaged me in a discussion which grew heated and, quite frankly, inappropriately personal. I requested he leave. He did not. At this stage, Doctor Geiszler returned and reiterated my request—”

“‘Reiterated’ how?”



“He did not touch my father, if that’s what you’re asking.” The Marshal nods, so Hermann continues: “I believe Doctor Geiszler’s presence startled Father, and he exited the lab with haste. I was… distressed from our encounter, so Doctor Geiszler and I returned to our room. That’s the end of it.” Straightforward, factual, truthful, and utterly misleading. There’s a reason Hermann does the talking in these situations.

Marshal Hansen, of course, knows this. He stares down Hermann for what feels like an impossibly long time. Hermann does his best not to fidget under the scrutiny, though he does allow his fingers to tighten around Newt’s where their hands clasp beneath the desk.

Finally, the Marshal turns to Newt. “And you. Would you agree this is an accurate account?”

“Yes, sir,” Newt signs.

“Anything to add to it?”

Newt hesitates. Hermann can feel quite clearly what he wants to say; a rather long and unhelpfully explicit diatribe of his thoughts on one Doctor Lars Gottlieb. In the end, however, what he adds is: “I came back to the lab as fast as I could because Hermann… Honestly, sir, it felt like he was being attacked. I can’t… I mean, like, he’s my family, sir.”

“You wanted to protect him?” Hansen asks. Newt nods, so Hansen adds: “Doctor Gottlieb, Doctor Lars Gottlieb, has lodged a formal complaint against you. He claims that he, and I quote, ‘was savaged by a dangerous monster, emerging from an unfenced pool, while attempting to hold a family discussion with my son.’” Hansen shoots Hermann a look that very clearly says two can play at that game, son. After all, Hermann had to learn his ability to navigate bureaucracy from somewhere.

“Sir, please!” Newt starts, alarmed, at the same time as Hermann scowls and snaps, “For god’s sake, he wasn’t ‘savaged’. Newton startled him at worst. It’s hardly Doctor Geiszler’s fault if people react inappropriately to his appearance.”

Hansen raises an eyebrow. “Are you making this a diversity issue, Doctor Gottlieb?”

“Isn’t it?” Hermann challenges. “Doctor Geiszler has the equivalent of a physical deformity—”


“—and associated mental trauma—”

Dude, seriously!”

“—caused by an injury sustained in wartime. In any traditional circumstance, anyone attempting to raise complaints to PPDC HR because they were squeamish over the scars of a decorated war hero would be severely, and rightly, reprimanded. The fact that Doctor Geiszler’s circumstances are unique still does not make him responsible for the reactions of others.”

“It does if he has a history of intentionally provoking them,” the Marshal says. He turns back to Newt. “There’s an almost identical complaint on file against you from Doctor Samson Coombs.”

“Who?” Newt asks. Unadvisedly, judging from Hansen’s scowl.

“Formerly of the EBERL decon/recon team.” EBERL’s equivalent to Hannibal Chau’s vultures, in other words. Kaiju corpse clean-up. “He claims you attacked him and his team when they attempted to gain access to the corpse of Aurora.”

Hermann tries not to groan. He remembers the incident. He told Newt there would be repercussions.

“That guy?” Newt is signing, obviously agitated. “That guy was a corrupt, incompetent asshole—”


“—who was contaminating our recovery site and being a dickshit to Herms! EBERL don’t— didn’t have recovery rights over dead kaiju this side of the Pacific, he knew that. He was just trying to bully Hermann into giving them up anyway!”

“So you decided to intervene by”—another quote from another piece of paper—“‘roaring and charging’ at Doctor Coombs and his team?”

Now it’s Newt’s turn to scowl, an expression substantially more ferocious than he perhaps intends. “It was a shitty day, okay?” Hermann resists the urge to bury his face in his hands.

“That’s exactly my bloody point, Newt,” the Marshal snaps. “This thing goes both ways. The PPDC does not accept incidents of physical and-or verbal harassment from any of its employees.”


“No! These allegations are serious. And the fact that you perform vital work for the PPDC does not make you above its basic code of conduct. If there are found to be mitigating circumstances they’ll be taken into account but, for god’s sake, there are already plenty of people who think you’re at best, a cowboy and, at worst, rampaging monster that needs to be put down. Playing into that stereotype is not doing you any favours.”

“So, what?” Newt’s signing with his big hands, his equivalent of yelling. “You expect me to just sit and do nothing while assholes bully my boyfriend and invade my lab and shit on my work?”

“I expect you to address those incidents like a goddamn adult, like everyone else does. Because, let me tell you, it’s exactly what’s being done to you and right now you are not coming out of it smelling like roses. Doctor Gottlieb, Doctor Lars Gottlieb, may not be Corps but he has pull in this organisation. Pull you don’t—”

“I saved the fucking—”

“Shut up!” Hansen’s hand slams down onto the table. “Listen to me. They’re sending independent investigators out to look into what’s going on. We all have to cooperate and they’re already asking me to pull evidence. So imagine my surprise when I went this morning to get the feeds from the CCTV in the lab, only to find someone tampered with the feeds and we have nothing, nothing, since you two moved in.”

Hermann’s heart drops into the bottom of his stomach. That had been him, of course. They’d had quite a lot of sex in that lab. Of course he’d tampered with the cameras.

“Sir—” he tries, but Hansen isn’t done.

“How do you think something like that makes you two look? After your stunt with the press—”

“I got kidnapped! Tortured! Hermann nearly died! Where was the PPDC’s ‘investigation’ then? What else were we supposed to do?” Newt is standing, towering above the Marshal, plates raised and luminescence flashing, growl forming behind large teeth and he is terrifying, absolutely terrifying, and—

And suddenly Hermann understands. What the Marshal is doing. And it’s funny, because they’ve always thought of Hercules Hansen as a sort of rough, brawler type who’d lucked into the role of Marshal after Stacker’s death. Hansen drinks and swears and is altogether about as unlike Stacker Pentecost as any man could be. But before the War, before he was a Ranger, Hansen had been an Officer in the RAAF. The fact his career had taken a detour via fighting giant aliens didn’t change where it had started.

Newt is angry, very angry. At the PPDC, at the Marshal. And he’s physically big and could eviscerate Hansen with ease. And yet all he uses his claws for are words.

There are cameras all over the Shatterdome, including one inside the Marshal’s office. Hermann does his best not to look directly at it.

And, because Hermann knows Hansen’s plan, so does Newt. The fight deflates out of him in an instant, leaving him stunned and blinking. He lowers himself slowly back down.

Hansen just raises an eyebrow. “Are you done?”

“Yes, sir,” Newt signs, back to his small hands.

“As I said,” Hansen continues, as if the yelling had never happened, “there’ll be an investigation. You’ll both be interviewed and, Newt, you’ll very likely need a psychological assessment. They’ll want to know about your surgery schedule.”

Newt winces, but: “Yeah. Okay.”

“Given your unique circumstances, I’ve argued for the same provisions we apply to Rangers. Namely, you may conduct any interviews or sessions together, if you so desire.” Rangers are assumed not to have secrets from their Drift partners, are assumed to always be colluding. They wouldn’t be compatible if not.

“Thank you, sir,” Hermann says.

“Don’t thank me yet, it may be more hindrance than help. Nonetheless, I expect full cooperation with the investigators, do I make myself clear? No games, boys. This is serious.”

It is serious. It’s nearly a whole month of serious. The “independent investigators” turn out to be a humourless pair of drab-suited bureaucrats who interview what seems like the entire Shatterdome, as well as pour over documents and emails and video footage.

It’s intrusive, incredibly intrusive, and the whole ‘Dome resents it. Hermann worries at first that this resentment will filter down to Newt; that what gains he’s made in social inclusion will evaporate in the face of what amounts to a formal investigation of his humanity.

“It’s bullshit is what it is.” Carter Larson, of all people, walking down the hallway with his sister. “They wouldn’t be doing this to someone who… you know.”

“Was human?”

“Well, yeah. But, like. It’s just the Newt, man. He’s such a puppy dog. He’d never, y’know. Do the things they’re saying he did.”

“To defend Doctor Gottlieb he might.”

“Well… maybe. But then Doctor Evil would have to admit he was threatening— Doctor Gottlieb!” This last because the Larsons have finally rounded the corner, have finally noticed Hermann standing by the coffee machine.

“Mr. Larson,” Hermann says, nodding politely. “Ms. Larson.”

Carter opens and closes his mouth, like he wants to add something, but his sister elbows him in the ribs to shut him up. “Doctor Gottlieb,” she says instead. “We haven’t seen you down by the bays for a while. You should come visit sometime. We just got the new contact pulse net installed the other week. They’re going to let us take it for a spin next Thursday. It would mean a lot to us if you were there to watch the trial.”

Hermann tries his best not to smirk. “Should I be attempting to persuade Doctor Geiszler into performing another hands-on demonstration?”

It takes Addi a moment, but eventually she realizes he’s joking. “Only if he’s into that sort of thing,” she says.

Hermann extracts his mug from the coffee machine and takes a sip. “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

“Are they really calling my father ‘Doctor Evil’?”

“Hm?” Tends looks up from his pork bun, eyebrows raised quizzically. It’s noisy in the mess. More so due to the fact Hermann’s table has, for the first time in his life, apparently become the hip and popular location to sit. Techs and officers and pilots jostle him on all sides, their very own Wall of Life against the onslaught of outside aggression. The fact Hermann finds the ploy transparent does not, in any way, shape, or form prevent him from enjoying the strange popularity while it lasts. (Nor from hoping it does, in fact, have an end date. There’s only so much socializing with others he can take, and it’s difficult to work quietly over dinner given all the noise.)

“My father,” he clarifies. “I heard him referred to as ‘Doctor Evil’ today.”

Tends snorts, chewing and swallowing his mouthful of bun before answering. “Ah, yeah. Don’t be too hard on them, man. People just don’t know what else to call him.”

“‘Doctor Gottlieb’ would seem to be the obvious choice.”

But Tendo waves a dismissive hand. “No way, brother. You’re Doctor Gottlieb. People like you.” Hermann is middle-aged, damnit, and the emphasis in that sentence should not make his heart clench like a socially anxious youth.

(”Teenage rebellion phase, remember,” comes Newt’s opinion, filtered up from where he’s working in the lab.)

“To be fair,” a tech to Tendo’s left says. “I first heard it as ‘Evil Doctor Gottlieb’. I think people just shortened it ‘cause it was a mouthful.”

“Father isn’t… evil,” Hermann says, out of a sense of factual accuracy if nothing else. “He’s simply… Father.” As if Father would, in Newt’s words, even know simple if he Drifted with it.

“No offense,” adds someone to Hermann’s right, a LOCCENT officer by the uniform. “But I think he’s just got it out for you. ‘Cause, y’know. You backed the Jaeger when he went with the Wall. And we all know how that went down.”

Hermann won’t necessarily say he felt pleased when Mutavore tore down the Sydney wall. That would be crass. But he could certainly be persuaded towards “bitterly vindicated”.

”Hey, dude. You’re, like, the God of Predictions. How do you think this is all gonna end?”

“Oh,” says Hermann. “With the eventual heat death of the universe, I expect. But it’s still a fair way off, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”

Har har. Physics jokes, cute.” Newt lifts his head, his big bright eyes appearing in the dark above Hermann’s line of sight. It’s late, they’re in bed, sex-sated but still anxious. “I’m serious, though. This shit with your dad. I mean… how do you think it’s gonna go?”

Hermann sighs, reaches a hand up to caress Newt’s pebble-smooth snout. “I think Father is burning more currency than he realizes,” he says eventually. “I think people are going to notice—”

So… you think we’re gonna win?”

“—and I think you’re going to be formally reprimanded for intimidating behavior and bringing disrepute onto the Corps.”


There’s a pause, long and awful. Hermann can see Newt’s eyes, shifting restlessly in the dark. Can feel his mind do the same. “Whatever happens,” he says, “we’ll survive it. This won’t be what beats us.”

Turing won World War Two and they still killed him with a sodomy conviction,” Newt points out.

Hermann, who does, in fact, have a Turing Award for his work on the Jaeger (as well as a lifetime crush on the long-dead man), is painfully, painfully aware of this. When he tugs gently on Newt’s head, it lowers, muscle and scale and warmth enveloping Hermann as Newt curls closer. Until he’s nothing but a big, armored ball, Hermann’s body hidden entirely underneath.

I’m scared,” Newt admits. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Hermann sighs. “I know,” he says. “But it did.”

Newt just lets out an anxious little keen, and they hold each other until they fall asleep.

The results of the investigation come down a week after the dour-faced auditors leave. Hermann and Newt are called back to Hansen’s office, the man sitting stern and poker-faced behind his desk as he passes over a tablet with the findings.

Hermann gets through a single paragraph before he hears Newt give a choked-off little cry.

—ultimately found to be minor and interpersonal in nature. It is the recommendation of this in investigation that they be dealt with by Dr. Geiszler’s supervising officer, Marshal (MSHL), Hong Kong Shatterdome (HKSD), as per normal processes as outlined in Pan Pacific Defence Corps (PPDC) Human Resources (HR) guidelines.

Regarding the more substantial claims made in the original allegations against Dr. Geiszler by Dr. L. Gottlieb, an exhaustive investigation was conducted, artefacts of which may be found in Annexes B through O. Artefacts include:

formal interviews with present and former HKSD staff, present and former members of the PPDC Kaiju Science Division (K-Science), former members of the now disbanded Extraterrestrial Biological Entity Research Laboratory (EBERL), and civilian friends and family of Dr. Geiszler (Annex B);

• psychological interviews with Dr. Geiszler (Annex C);

• findings from Dr. Minh Leigh about psychological interviews with Dr. Geiszler (Annex D);

• paper titled “Overview of Remote Biological Neural Network as Pertaining to Anteverse Kaiju” by Dr. Geiszler (Annex E);

• paper titled “Anatomy, Capabilities, and Speculative Function of K1-Type Kaijin, Designation ‘Dominator’” by Dr. Geiszler (Annex F);

• documentation on the procedure titled “K-Lobe Excision from Secondary Brain of K1-Type Kaijin (Human Origin)” by Dr. Geiszler (Annex G);

• commentary from Dr. Geiszler on said procedure (Annex H);

• commentary from Dr. Martin Wu on said procedure (Annex I);

• schedule of procedure occurrences, past and future, as they relate to Dr. Geiszler (Annex J);

• paper titled “Anatomy and Speculative Function of Neural Parasite in K1-Type Kaijin” by Dr. Geiszler (Annex K);

• special testimony by Dr. H. Gottlieb (Annex L);

• findings from Dr. Leigh on special testimony by Dr. H. Gottlieb (Annex M);

• miscellaneous closed circuit television (CCTV) footage from the HKSD (Annex N); and

• miscellaneous unsolicited submissions received by this investigation in support of Dr. Geiszler (Annex O).

After extensive review of these evidences, it is the finding of this investigation that Dr. Geiszler potentially presents three specific risks to the health and safety of those around him.

The first risk, designated R1 and detailed in Annexes D-J, involves Dr. Geiszler’s inherent biological Pons-style link to the hostile extraterrestrial entities designated “Precursors”, as well as their bio-engineered weapons network, referred to popularly as the kaiju hive mind. It is the finding of this investigation that Dr. Geiszler is keenly aware of the risk posed by this connection, and is proactively at the forefront of scientific efforts to counteract it. Dr. Geiszler’s work has not just resulted in treatments for himself, but has formed the basis of critical advancements in weapons systems designed to counter the broader Anteverse threat, such as the prototype NP-0 “Icepick” neutraliser spike currently being deployed to selected Mark-6 Jaeger. On the subject of his own condition, Dr. Geiszler manages risk via regular brain surgeries involving partial amputation of his secondary brain. Reviews show Dr. Geiszler has exemplary (100%) compliance to these highly invasive procedures. Psychological interviews conducted by Dr. Leigh confirm treatment effectiveness, with Dr. Geiszler consistently expressing extreme loyalty to Earth and its people and fear and revulsion of the Anteverse and its goals. Ultimately, it is the finding of this investigation that current controls mitigate R1 to the status of LOW risk.

The second major risk, designated R2 and detailed in Appendices K-M, involves the so-called “Neural Parasite” (NP), a weapons system currently thought to be unique to K1-Type (“Dominator”) kaijin. The NP is best understood to the layperson as an organic brain implant that establishes a permanent, Pons-style Drift or “psychic bond” with a human victim. Speculation by Dr. Geiszler himself indicates that the intended function of the NP is to violently indoctrinate key human targets into the kaiju hive mind, for the purpose of covert espionage as directed by the Precursor command structure. The current only known victim of an NP implantation is Dr. H. Gottlieb. Whatever the original intent of the NP, special testimony by Dr. H. Gottlieb, supported by Dr. Leigh, seems to indicate the implementation as exhibited in Dr. Geiszler is faulty to the point of operating in reverse. That is, the NP implant in Dr. H. Gottlieb contributes to the ability of Dr. Geiszler to resist hostile Precursor influence. Moreover, Dr. H. Gottlieb appears to be a willing host to the NP, to the point of consenting to a second implant after his first was forcibly removed. Findings from Dr. Leigh indicate that both Drs. Geiszler and H. Gottlieb consider the bond formed by the NP analogous to, and as intimate as, a Drift partnership and, when pressed, Dr. Geiszler expressed physical revulsion to suggestions of an implant in any individual other than Dr. H. Gottlieb. (It is worth mentioning at this point that Drs. Geiszler and H. Gottlieb are also Drift-compatible in a conventional sense, having demonstrated this ability as part of a reconnaissance exercise in 2025 that provided the key intelligence required for victory in the Kaiju War.) As such, it is the opinion of this investigation that R2, at least as it relates specifically to Dr. Geiszler, be rated LOW.

Finally, the third major risk, designated R3 and attested across all Appendices, relates to Dr. Geiszler’s physical size, strength, and overall effectiveness as a bio-engineered weapons system. Specific information on this subject may be found in Appendix F. However, in summary, Dr. Geiszler is approximately 5 meters long, stands roughly 1.8 meters tall on four legs, 3 meters tall on two legs, and weighs a little under 1 tonne. He exhibits a body plan roughly on par with previously documented six-limbed daikaiju, as well as physiology such as toxic internal fluids (“Kaiju Blue”), the ability to spit a highly corrosive acidic substance, and immunity to most conventional human weapons (e.g. firearms). Despite his origins, Dr. Geiszler’s appearance is entirely non-human and, frankly, can be startling to those unused to it. Limitations of the NP (described above) aside, Dr. Geiszler’s physical effectiveness as a combat weapon is incontestable, and supported by his voluntary participation in programs designed to prepare PPDC Rangers for engagements with daikaiju. Despite this, the overwhelming majority of friends and colleagues interviewed by this investigation described Dr. Geiszler in positive terms that repeatedly stressed an eccentric but nonviolent nature. Comparisons with non-threatening items such as plush toys, small animals, and pastries recurred. This sentiment is supported by formal findings from Dr. Leigh showing Dr. Geiszler scoring significantly below the population average on all indices designed to measure aggression and proclivity to violence. Dr. Geiszler describes himself as “a pacifist by politics”, and though he is physically animated when discussing subjects he feels passionate about, something which is undeniably startling to outsiders, this investigation did not directly observe him making physical or verbal threats, nor expressing any desire to do so, even when questioned on individuals that have, in the past, caused him direct and measurable harm. (His closest “threats” involved, a) repeating a previously publicly expressed desire for the orchestrators of the so-called “E-origin” k-virus bioterrorist attacks to “step on Lego forever”, and b) occasional statements to or about Dr. H. Gottlieb of a lascivious, rather than violent, nature.) Friends and colleagues interviewed were similarly hesitant, though when pressed most expressed the opinion that Dr. Geiszler could likely be goaded to violence in the service of directly preventing harm to others (as, it must be noted, could most people). In short, unless the PPDC plans on instituting a policy assuming all physically imposing individuals are inherently threatening—something that would seem devastating for the Ranger programme, if nothing else—then it is the opinion of this investigation that R3 be rated LOW.

In conclusion, this investigation found no evidence to support Dr. L. Gottlieb’s allegations that Dr. Geiszler poses a risk to either the health and safety of those around him or, for that matter, humanity as a whole. There is, in fact, more substantial evidence to support the hypothesis, expressed by numerous interview subjects, that Dr. L. Gottlieb’s insistence on a full formal investigation over what essentially amounts to a minor interpersonal conflict with his son and his son’s partner represents a vexatious misuse of PPDC resources, though of course further speculation on this subject is out of scope of this particular investigation.

“This is an outrage!”

To say Father is unhappy with the findings of his own investigation would, in Hermann’s opinion, be a severe understatement.

They’re in one of the holoconference rooms. Himself and Newt and the Marshal in Hong Kong, father in Berlin, and the Secretary-General in New York.

Hermann’s met Secretary-General Kreiger twice before, first after the initial successes of the Mark-1 Jaeger, second after the success of Operation Pitfall. His main thought now is that Kreiger looks old. Weary. It’s been a long war.

“You insisted on an independent investigation, Lars,” Kreiger is saying. “You got one. This was the outcome.”

“That what?” Father splutters. “That the— the monster that attacked me gets a slap on the wrist and let loose to terrorise others?”

Kreiger sighs, the flicking holo-display doing nothing to hide just, as Newt would say, how fucking done he is with this drama. “Marshal Hansen,” he says. “I assume you’ve implemented the recommendations of the report?”

“Yes, sir,” says Hansen, crisp and calm. “Dr. Geiszler has been formally reprimanded for his behaviour, and has prepared an apology to read to Doctor Lars Gottlieb.” It’s funny, Hermann thinks, how they always qualify his father’s name. Hermann’s so used to being the PPDC’s secondary Gottlieb. He wonders when things changed.

When you won us the war, dude.”

“Thank you, Marshal Hansen,” the Secretary-General is saying. “Doctor Geiszler, if you wouldn’t mind, now seems like a perfect opportunity.”

Newt nods, a tablet appearing in his big hands. With his small hands, he starts signing. Hermann translates.

“Thank you, sir. If it’s okay, Hermann has offered to be my speaking voice human for today.”

The corner of Kreiger’s mouth twitches, just a little. “Of course, Doctor Geiszler. When you’re ready, Doctors.”

Newt nods, turns to Hermann’s father, and starts reading. Hermann doesn’t need to read along or watch Newt’s hands, just lets the knowledge of the words flow into him. Through his mind and out his mouth, his accent dropping into Newt’s own nasal whine as they do. He hears Kreiger say “fascinating!” under his breath, but nothing further when Father explodes with:

“No! Absolutely not! For god’s sake, Dustin you can’t expect me to sit here and watch this travesty! Watch as my son is— is used by that thing!”

Newt’s jaw snaps shut with an audible crunch, his body flinching as if he’s been struck. Hermann reaches out a hand to caress his shoulder, a near unconscious offer of comfort, even as he says, “Father, please. Stop this.”

It is, perhaps, not the clearest statement he could have made, and Father seizes onto it in the worst possible way. “See? Did you hear that, Dustin? That monster is controlling my son! It says as much in your damn report. This is unconscionable, the PPDC should be ashamed it allows this… this torture to continue!”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” The force of Hermann’s voice startles even him, as does the weight of his fist when it hits the conference table. “Father, be quiet. Your nonsense has gone on long enough. I’ve indulged you as you’ve forced yourself into my private life, as you’ve cast aspersions onto myself and my work. But for god’s sake, you can’t expect me to sit here, wasting the Secretary-General’s time as you throw a childish tantrum and insult the very humanity of the man I love! I’m sorry you can’t bring yourself to accept the choices I’ve made in life, but that’s hardly a world emergency that requires resourcing from the PPDC. For all our sakes, Father, just… just stop. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

It’s only when Hermann stops that he realises just how silent the room has gotten. Father is turning all sorts of interesting colours, mouth opening and closing like a land-stuck fish.

Holy shit, dude. You are, like, so hot to me right now.”

Hermann is not in the mood. “Newton, not now.” Instead, he turns to Kreiger. “Secretary-General. I… I apologise. That was inappropriate of me.” He absolutely refuses to believe he’s blushing. He is much, much too old for blushing.

Kreiger shrugs, and seems to be about to say something when Father finally finds his voice. “How— how dare you! You ungrateful little wh—”

Kreiger shifts, like he’s pressing a button just out of frame, and Father’s voice abruptly cuts. “That’s quite enough, Lars. I’d listen to your son, if I were you.”

Whoa, dude. The Secretary-General just put your dad on mute!”

“This farce has gone on long enough,” Kreiger says. “Doctor Geiszler, if you’d please email your apology to Doctor Gottlieb, to Lars, then perhaps he can be more receptive to it when he’s feeling a little calmer.”

Newt nods, an enthusiastic gesture that need no further translating.

“Excellent,” says Kreiger. “Now, if there’s nothing else—”

“Actually, sir, with all due respect, there is.” Hansen, who’s been oddly quiet, speaks up.

Kreiger is very visibly trying not to sigh. “Of course there is. Go ahead, Marshal.”

“Sir,” says Hansen, “I’d like to give yourself and Doctor Lars Gottlieb warning that I intend to raise a formal complaint about this, as you put it, ‘farce’ when I return to my desk.”

Hermann was not expecting this. Neither was Newt, judging from the shocked thrill, nor Father, as evidenced by his still-muted spluttering.

“On what grounds, Marshal?”

“Sir, this process has been deeply disruptive, not just to Doctors Geiszler and Gottlieb—Hermann Gottlieb—but to my entire Shatterdome. We’ve lost countless man hours to this investigation, and yet I’ve instructed my staff to comply under the assumption that there are legitimate concerns about Doctor Geiszler’s condition. Concerns that have now been formally assessed. Doctor Geiszler himself has been incredibly patient with this process, particularly given how invasive it’s been to his person and his life.”

“I understand the background, Marshal. Get to the point.”

“Sir, given all of that, I find it deeply disheartening to sit here having to listen to Lars Gottlieb refer to one of my key officers using inappropriate slurs based on physical appearance.”

Kreiger’s eyebrows get very high. “You’re making this a diversity issue?” he says. “Because Lars called Doctor Geiszler a monster?”

“That and other things, yes,” says Hansen. “The PPDC has always prided itself on its commitment to diversity, to representing all citizens of Earth. We both know the sort of language Lars Gottlieb has been using would not be tolerated if it were directed at someone who was a member of a more conventional minority group. The fact that Doctor Geiszler’s situation is unique and novel doesn’t mean the general principles don’t apply.”

Hermann isn’t sure if Kreiger looks impressed or irritated. He isn’t sure he wants to know. He definitely doesn’t want to look at Hansen right now. Not with the expression he’s almost certainly making. It’s the same expression Newt used to tease him about, when Hermann directed it at Marshal Pentecost.

Don’t worry, dude. Right there with you on the 7:16 to Mancrush Station.”

“Marshal,” Kreiger is saying. “You’re aware Lars isn’t actually a PPDC employee?”

“Yes, sir. But he still does consulting work, when the PPDC requires it.” When Lars demands it, more like. A complaint from the Marshal is unlikely to impact Father’s career or his influence, but it will be there. A tiny, minor blemish that Hermann knows, absolutely knows, will drive Father mad. More importantly, it’s a symbol, a statement. A permanent warning from Marshal Hansen about what behavior he will and will not stand, whose side he will and will not take.

Kreiger just sighs. “Very well, Marshal Hansen. Thank you for the forewarning. Now, gentlemen. I think we’re done. Thank you for your time, and I hope you’ll excuse me for saying I never want to hear anything about any of this ever again. Good day.” He disconnects the call. Hermann takes an inappropriate amount of joy at seeing Father’s projection wink into mutely outraged darkness.

They don’t celebrate. That would be crass.

I feel like I should get it printed on a tshirt. ‘OVERALL RESIDUAL RISK RATING: LOW’. Except for the part where I don’t fit tshirts, I guess.”

“I’m sure we could make you some kind of poncho.”

They aren’t celebrating, but they are curled together in their room, television playing some awful film of Newt’s choosing, muted by Hermann’s. And if Hermann happens to have a glass of Tendo’s whiskey and a plate of chocolate and Christmas ornaments? Well. Someone has to eat them.

Poncho’s not very rockstar, dude.” Newt thinks for a moment. “Whiny indie folk band, maybe. Not rockstar.”

Hermann picks up a lead crystal ornament, some kind of horrifically ugly fat little bird. He holds it up, and Newt opens his mouth obligingly, tongue perhaps licking more across Hermann’s skin than the glass as he pulls the latter into his mouth.

“How about a cape, then?” Hermann asks, fingers twining around Newt’s long, mobile tongue. “Capes are sufficiently ‘rock star’, yes?”

A cape could work.”

“I’m sure Giotto could design you something fabulous.”

Newt grins, the sound of crunching glass and hissing acid coming from somewhere deep in the back of his throat. “So, um hey,” he says, tongue withdrawing and mind suddenly going soft and hesitant. “About that. You’re going back to the UK to see the girls for Christmas-slash-Non-Denominational-Midwinter-Slash-Midsummer-Cultural-Festivities, yeah?”

“Most likely,” Hermann says. His model for the A-origin k-virus outbreaks is up and running and available in easily-read graphical form on the Internet. There will be outbreaks in December, but nothing the regularly churning infrastructure of their ruined world can’t handle.

There have been no new E-origin outbreaks since the one just after the article in WIRED. No more hiding, in other words. The next time a human organization uses k-virus, it will be a public declaration of war.

So, right,” Newt is saying. “I was thinking, um. With me, yanno. Not being like a big international secret any more, that I could maybe… come with? And then on the way home we could make a detour to see Dad and Uncle Illia?” Newt hasn’t seen his family in person since the obvious, though he corresponds with them regularly. Hermann met Jacob and Illia Geiszler once, after the Breach closed, and they’ve spoken on and off since. He’s never encountered Newt’s mother, and wouldn’t even be able to pick her from a crowd. She writes occasionally and the feelings Newt gets afterwards are… conflicted.

“We could bring Lena,” Hermann suggests in response. “I’m sure she’d love to meet them.”

The suggestion is met with an instant flood of pleasure and relief so bright it makes Hermann’s head spin. “Oh, man. Really? Oh, yeah. That’d be so cool. They’d love it, man. They ask about her all the time.”

“I assume you’ve considered how you would, in fact, physically travel to Europe.” In theory, Newt could run and swim—he doesn’t get exhausted in a conventional sense—but it would be a very long way.

Yeah,” comes the answer. “I figure we buy you into First Class on a plane and stick me in the cargo hold. It’s not like I get cold or depressurized or whatever. I’ll just sleep and jack off and make you watch films you’ll hate for me.”

“You’ll need to get a new passport.”

Oh, man yeah. Hadn’t thought of that. That’s totally gonna mess around with the facial scanners at the airports.” A pause. “Also. I’m pretty sure I’d set off metal detectors. Just by, like. Existing.” Newt is large but can fit through surprisingly small spaces when required. Still, the mental image of him squeezing through a shrieking metal detector or, worse, a millimeter wave scanner, makes the corner of Hermann’s lip curl.

There are going to be more logistical issues than Newt realizes, particularly traveling via a commercial airliner. Hiring a private jet might be simpler, assuming the aircraft can take Newt’s weight. Hermann isn’t sure. He’ll have to do some research. They have the money. They may as well spend it.

“These are all problems with solutions,” he says. “We’ll manage.” If nothing else, Hermann can start gently reminding people about the time(s) they saved the world. Surely a single trip to visit family is not an unreasonable request in compensation. And definitely worth the trouble, judging by the roiling ball of Newt’s humming excitement at even the thought he might be allowed to leave, to see his family, to finally get out of Hong Kong.

There is one more significant problem:

“I suppose, if we’re in the area, I should at least make an effort to see Mother. Karla and the others may be there also, at that time of year.” Mother was always slightly more religious than Father, at least in the sense of attempting some kind of family togetherness at holidays.

“‘Mother’ sounds like something that hangs out near ‘Father’.”

Hermann sighs. “Assuming my name has not been permanently stricken from the family history by then.” A pause, just the clink of slow-melting ice in Hermann’s glass and the dull roar of Newt’s lungs, expanding and contracting somewhere deep beneath where Hermann’s head rests against his flank. “It’s entirely possible,” Hermann suggests, “Father will simply not be there.”

Well. I’m game if you are, dude.” A pause, then. “I’m sorry it worked out like this. With your dad. I really did, y’know. Want him to like me or whatever.”

Hermann runs a hand reassuringly down Newt’s huge thigh. “Father has disapproved on principle of everything I’ve been and done from the moment I was born,” Hermann says. “You never stood a chance.”

Well. At least I’m in good company.” The glow in the room brightens as Newt starts to grin. “‘Cause, like. You’ve done some pretty awesome stuff, dude. Including me. Like, often.”

Hermann throws back the rest of the whiskey, now mostly water, before handing the glass to Newt. In a show of great self-restraint, Newt puts the tumbler on a side table and does not, in fact, eat it.

Like, now?” Newt continues. Then, after a moment: “I’m trying to be subtle here, dude.”

“Are you? I hadn’t noticed.” But Hermann stretches, rolling aching joints and shot nerves.

Okay, asshole. How ‘bout, ‘Shut up and fuck me, Doctor Gottlieb’?”

Hermann closes his eyes, smiles, and does.