Author's note: Well, this is the final chapter of Herc's Holiday. Herc will be rejoining the crew in California in the next chapter of Forged in Fire.

Herc's Holiday, Chapter 5

Miranda's Apartment

Sydney, Australia

June 6, 2025

1300

Herc dialed Raleigh's phone, hoping that he wasn't busy. As he waited, he put the phone on speaker and began to help Miranda pack her belongings.

Raleigh picked up. "Good morning, Herc. How's Australia?"

Herc chuckled. It's not morning, but close enough. "Good, considering its winter here." He tugged at his sweater, trying to get it comfortable.

Mako's voice drifted through the connection. "How'd that personal task go?"

Herc looked behind him at Miranda, who smiled. ""Wonderful. I'll go into more detail later, but we're going to be picking up another person for the Senior Staff. Now, Raleigh, did you tell Mako about that briefing I gave you before you left?"

Herc could hear the chagrin in Raleigh's voice. "No, sir. I wanted to relax for a bit."

Herc smiled. Good call. "Fair enough. Mako, be nice to Raleigh. I totally understand where he's coming from."

The young Ranger was clearly not enthused by the prospect of having something vital hidden from her. "No promises."

Herc could almost hear Raleigh's smile. "So, when will you be here?"

Miranda paused, eager to hear the answer. Herc looked at the ceiling for a second, thinking. "Sunday. We'll spend Monday getting settled, then go to Oblivion Bay on Tuesday."

Miranda cocked an eyebrow and mouthed "Oblivion Bay?"

Herc simply gestured to be patient as Raleigh spoke again. "Sounds like a plan. Anything else, sir?"

"No, that's it. And Mako? I'm sorry in advance for not telling you what Raleigh's going to share, but I also wanted to make sure you had a chance to relax. And I want a promise, on sensei's honor, that you won't jump straight into designing a solution to the problem."

There was a pause as the two Rangers apparently talked something over through the Ghost Drift. Finally, Mako spoke. "Okay, Herc. I promise."

Miranda suddenly called out from her room. "Herc, can you give me a hand with something?"

Herc groaned inwardly. Great, she was loud enough to have been picked up by the phone. "Right, I'll see you guys Sunday."

"See you soon, sir."

Beep.

"Okay, Miranda. What do you need help with?"

-.-.-

Hong Kong Shatterdome

Motor pool

June 7, 2025

1800

Herc exited the car and saw Tendo's face and knew something was going on, and it wasn't good. So Herc decided to help Miranda from the car first.

"Thanks, Herc."

"Not a problem, Miranda.

Tendo coughed gently.

"Okay, Tendo. What's up?"

"The Pan Pacific Working Group is on the line."

"Well, that's lovely. Tell them it can hold a little longer… unless you'd like to help Ms. Schaeffer here to the guest quarters."

"Uhm… I'll take her there."

"Thank you, Tendo. You're just as nice as Chuck said you were."

Tendo's face fell as he made the connection. "I'm so sorry for your loss, ma'am."

Miranda smiled sadly as she held her swollen stomach. "Thank you, Tendo." She winced. "I swear, the baby enjoys kicking my kidneys."

"Come on, let's get you set up for the night. I'll have Alison come by to talk with you."

"Who's Alison?"

"My wife. She may have some tips for you…"

"Thanks."

Herc watched Miranda and Tendo go into the elevator, then headed for the stairs. I'm going to make them wait a little more. Just to dig the knife in a little more…

-.-.-

LOCCENT

5 minutes later

"Marshall Hansen, thank you for joining us."

Herc bit his tongue to keep himself from saying some very choice words about his "joining" the conversation.

"We've been reading the after-action reports from Operation Pitfall, and we're concerned."

"About what? We closed the Breach. There are no more Kaiju attacks. Isn't that what we were aiming for the whole time?"

"Marshall… We do appreciate the job you and your people did. However, it's time to face a harsh reality."

"Which is?"

"You don't provide any proof that the Breach is going to stay closed."

And that's the rub, isn't it? "You're right. We don't. Because we don't know enough to say with certainty that we're totally safe."

The American representative had been the spokesperson so far, but now the Australian rep spoke up. "Marshall, that's a load of bullshit and you know it. We've heard rumors…"

Herc laughed. Loud and long. "RUMORS? You're trying to use rumors to determine what to do about a possible new Breach? BWAHAHAHAHA!"

"Marshall Hansen, We've shown you a great deal of respect…"

Herc cut off his laugh in the blink of an eye, and instantly switched his tone to one of deep loathing, one he had perfected while training soldiers in Australia. "Respect? What respect? You've given us no respect at all. You cut us off when we needed you most. When the people, who we swore to protect, needed us to defend them. Instead, you cowered behind the Wall of Life. A program that cost TEN TIMES as much as the Jaeger Program. And what did that buy you? LESS THAN AN HOUR." Herc scowled at the politicians, who were taken aback at Herc's vehement rant. "You killed the Jaeger Program because, despite our losses, we were succeeding. We were the ones in the headlines, not you. You are all career politicians and lawyers. Not a single one of you has had to contemplate laying down your life for another human being. For a country. For a way of life. For an idea. You look at the PPDC, and you can't comprehend what you see: a team of people from around the world, working in harmony towards the betterment of mankind. You see the world working together, without your meddlesome input. And that scares you.

"So before you go preaching to me about respect, I suggest that you grow a pair and go talk to the people who you're supposed to represent. The very people who put you into the lofty posts you now inhabit." Herc pointed at the American rep. "You, sir, are up for reelection this November, right? How do your numbers look now?" Herc smiled. "All of you are in deep shit with your people right now. I suggest you actually go talk to them and find out what they want for a change."

The Japanese representative sheepishly spoke up. "Marshall, we need to know… The rumors about the Kaiju coming back…"

Herc sighed and rubbed his temples. "I have no idea who leaked that, but if I ever find out, they had better run to the ends of the earth. Possibly beyond." He looked back at the multi-monitor display. "Yes, the Breach will be reopened. Precisely when and where are still unknown. Yes, there will be more Kaiju. What they'll be like, we don't know for sure. Probably smaller, faster, and stronger. But we have plans in motion to deal with all possibilities." Herc glared at them. "But you will NOT be retaking control of the PPDC, because we'll be gone before the Second Breach appears. Thanks in large part to yourselves, I might add. First, you cut us loose. Then you get mad at us for being creative with our funding. THEN you have the GALL to threaten us with arrest for getting the supplies we needed to do the job that needed to be done. One that no one else was even able to conceive, much less execute. No, we're not going to be falling under your auspices again."

"Then what about this new Pan Pacific Defense Contractors that we've been hearing about?"

Herc's expression once again underwent a lightning fast shift. This time, it was a feral grin. "Aha. That's the ticket. I'm not the man in charge, but I suspect that he'll want you to contract our services to hold the Kaiju at bay again… and end the threat for good." Please back me up on this, Chau.

The politicians muttered amongst themselves for a few minutes, while Herc stood impassive before the monitors. Finally, they looked back at Herc.

"We'll be in touch with Pan Pacific Industries once it's up and running." With that, the feeds cut out.

Herc sighed and smiled. It was good to be back at work, refreshed and ready to go.

Tendo walked in. "So, how was the holiday?"

"Superb. Got to meet my daughter-in-law, and got some much needed rest."

"She said that she's a secretary."

"Yeah."

"Alison is going to be so happy to hear that you're bringing in an expert."

Herc laughed. "Yeah, I bet she will. How's Miranda doing?"

"Your grandchild's kicking up a storm. But she's taking it well, and is eager to head to the U.S. to start a new life… and a new job. She says it's the least she can do to repay her debts to the PPDC."

"Glad to hear she's in high spirits." Herc looked out over Scramble Alley. "Tendo, will you miss Hong Kong?"

Tendo walked over to stand with Herc. "A little. Especially the food."

Herc grinned. "I'm going to miss Sydney more… but the West Coast is where we are needed." He put a hand on Tendo's shoulder. "I'm going to get some sleep. Jet lag and I don't get along well… And tomorrow's going to be a doozy."

Tendo took Herc's hand and shook it. "Then I'll see you in Sacramento."

Herc headed back to his quarters, flopped into his bunk, and was out like a light.