What If?

What if Chuck broke his collarbone, instead of Herc? How would the events after the Battle of Hong Kong have gone down?

Battle of Hong Kong

Herc and chuck both agreed, it was time to end this fight. Herc spoke for both of them. "ENGAGING AIR MISSILES!"

With a "RRRRAAAAHHHHHH!" of defiance, both Rangers mimicked the gestures of Striker as the rocket launchers deployed. They tracked Otachi, and prepared to fire…

Suddenly, a pulse of blue-white light washed over the Jaeger, and every circuit instantly scrambled. The Rangers staggered under the impact of this new mysterious attack, fighting to keep Striker online and in the fight in spite of the electrical discharges flying around the Conn Pod and delivering pure agony.

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHGGGGGGHHHH!"

Finally, after a few seconds, it stopped, and the massive war machine was stilled.

Herc and Chuck pulled off their helmets. They looked around the cockpit, confused.

Chuck fiddled with some of the controls, hoping to get any response. "The hell was that?"

Herc tried to toggle the comms. "LOCCENT."

"I've never seen that before!"

"LOCCENT!"

Horrified, the two Rangers watched Otachi disappear into downtown Hong Kong, while Leatherback circled outside.

Herc tried every trick in the book to restore power, without success. "There's no emergency power. We gotta bail."

Chuck, ever the impulsive half of Striker, had other ideas. "I'm gonna try something else." He started to detach from the motion capture rig.

Herc looked at his son, and saw Leatherback's massive hand closing on the Conn Pod. "NO! DON'T DISENGAGE!"

Too little, too late. Leatherback's knuckle impacted into Chuck's side of the cockpit, flinging the young Ranger across the Conn Pod. Herc heard a sickening "snap" as Chuck impacted into the wall.

"AAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH! MY ARM!"

Herc disengaged from his motion capture rig and raced over to Chuck. "You okay?"

"NO, I AM NOT OKAY! IT HURTS!"

Outside, the Kaiju roared in challenge. Both Rangers looked out the viewport, concerned.

Chuck grimaced, fighting back the pain of the broken collarbone and the shattered Drift. "He's right outside. We ne to get out of here now!"

Herc, however, had other plans. "We're not going anywhere! Now, you and I are the only thing standing between that ugly bastard and a city of ten million people." He hit three hatches mounted along the side of the Conn Pod, revealing a series of flare guns that Chuck recalled were supposed to be visible over ten miles away… through a hurricane. "Now, we have a choice here. We either sit here and wait, or we take these flare guns and do something really stupid."

Chuck grimaced. "You know me. I'm always up for something stupid."

Herc grinned, and snagged three flare guns. "Right, let's use that exit hatch and go atop the Conn Pod."

-.-.-

Herc led the way as he climbed out onto the top of Striker's Conn Pod. He reached down and carefully helped Chuck clamber out. "How's your arm?"

"Ah, just give me the gun."

Herc handed over one of the flare guns, then turned to face Leatherback. "HEY, YOU!"

Chuck aimed and fired his flare gun, and Herc followed suit.

Chuck's flare glanced off the chin of the Kaiju. Herc's, however, burrowed into the center left eye. The Kaiju was clearly not happy about this, as it let loose an earth-(or Jaeger-) shaking roar of pure agony.

Chuck stared in shock, watching the bizarre series of events unfold.

Herc leaned over to Chuck and bellowed over the roars. "I THINK WE JUST PISSED IT OFF!"

The Kaiju lifted its arms to the sky, clearly intent on crushing Striker and his crew…

Until the Kaiju was suddenly backlit by a half-dozen spotlights.

The Kaiju turned towards them, curious… revealing Gipsy Danger slung under a formation of Jumphawks.

Gipsy dropped from the sky, splashing down as close to the Kaiju as they dared, then stood up and blared their rescue horn in challenge. Despite the incredible volume, Chuck had never heard a sweeter sound in his life.

The Jaeger took a ready stance that Herc recognized as pure Raleigh, and the Kaiju charged. With a speed and agility that seemed incongruous on a nearly 4 million pound war machine, Gipsy smoothly redirected the Kaiju's momentum and ducked around behind it, and proceeded to grab hold of the odd organ on its back. "YEAH!"

Chuck was more enthusiastic. "COME ON, GIPSY! KICK HIS ASS!"

The organ finally tore loose and was hurled away into the bay. Before Gipsy could regain her footing, however, Leatherback wrapped the older Jaeger in a bear hug and proceeded to spin around and toss it across the bay, through Stonecutter Bridge. While Gipsy tumbled through the air, Leatherback raced towards the expected impact point.

As soon as Leatherback was clear of the area, a particularly bold pilot flew their helicopter over to the top of Striker. A rescue basket was dropped, and Chuck scrambled aboard. The flight mechanic winched Chuck aboard and handed him over to the medic. Herc then boarded the basket, and the helicopter began its short flight back to the Shatterdome. Herc watched Gipsy finish off Leatherback…then turn around and shoot the corpse a few more times, just to be sure. Herc roared with delighted laughter as the radio transmitted Raleigh's words.

"No pulse."

-.-.-

Herc missed Gipsy's landing in the stadium after being dropped by Otachi, due to his visit with the medics. However, he made a point of dragging Chuck along to the mess hall to greet the crew of Gipsy. "Raleigh!"

Herc pushed through the throngs of people surrounding the two black-clad Rangers, shaking hands with a beaming Mako. He looked at Chuck, who was looking on from the edge of the crowd, then back to Raleigh. "My kid'd never admit it, but he's grateful." He stuck out a hand. "We both are."

-.-.-

Herc walked into Stacker's office just after the Breach alert sounded again. "Stacker… I know what's going through your head now."

"Do you?"

"I need a copilot. Chuck's hurt, and you're the only other Ranger on base who isn't paired. And, we're compatible."

Pentecost looked out the window over the harbor. "You're right. I am the only choice."

Herc walked over to stand with Pentecost. "You sure you can handle the load? Striker's a handful."

"I'll manage."

"You going to talk to Mako before we Drop?"

"Are you going to talk to Chuck?"

"Yeah, soon as we're done here."

Pentecost turned to face Herc. "Herc, we're both leaving behind our children."

"No, I am. Mako's going with us."

"And she'll make it back. I trust Raleigh to do the right thing and eject her if there's any doubts about survival."

"If the situation was reversed, with me being the gimp… Would you do the same for Chuck?"

Stacker laughed sadly. "I think he'd rather die in Striker than of old age."

"You're probably right." Herc sighed. "Well, let's go face the music, shall we? Last stand of the old guard."

Stacker nodded once. "To the suit room?"

"Suit room." A sad smile from Herc. "One last time."

-.-.-

Herc and Stacker walked towards the elevator, already thinking ahead to the mission.

Chuck jogged up behind them. "Hey, Marshall!"

They stopped.

"Can… I have a moment with my old man?"

Stacker nodded, then stepped into the elevator.

Herc turned around. "Chuck… I'm sorry it has to be like this."

"I know. It should be us in Striker."

"I just don't want to regret not being there for you. For all the things I've never said…"

"I know them all, dad."

Herc fought back the tears that threatened to overwhelm him.

Max barked once, and Herc stooped down to pet him and kiss him goodbye. "I'll miss you, Max." He stood back up. "Take care of yourself, son."

"I will."

Herc nodded, then walked to the elevator to stand with Pentecost. The doors closed, and Chuck just stood there and stared.

-.-.-

Chuck stood in LOCCENT, watching over Tendo's shoulder for the first time in a long time. I should be out there, not stuck here with a bum arm.

"Disengaging transport." Tendo flicked the switches that remotely released the Jaegers from the Jumphawks, and the icons of the two Jaegers plunged downward in the holodisplay.

Herc's voice echoed through the radio. "LOCCENT. All ports sealed, ready to submerge."

Raleigh's voice filtered through moments later. "All ports sealed, ready to submerge."

Tendo checked the maps as the two Jaegers strode into the deep waters that they had never been designed to fight in, but now had to in order to end the war. "Two actives still in circle formation in the Guam Quadrant. Code names: Scunner, Raiju. Both Category IV."

Pentecost replied for both Jaegers. "Roger that. Half a mile to the ocean cliff… We jump! It's 3000 meters to the Breach."

Chuck smiled as his father growled his dismay at the visibility. "Half a mile? I can't even see a damn inch ahead! How are we supposed to deliver the bomb?"

Raleigh came back with an answer that was obvious. "Visibility's zero. Switching to instruments now."

Suddenly, Tendo jumped to the mike. "Gipsy, you have movement on your right. Three o'clock. THREE O'CLOCK!"

Raleigh's frustrated voice came back. "Right flank's clear. I got nothing."

"Left now, and moving fast! Fastest Kaiju on record!"

"I don't see anything. It's moving too fast!"

Herc chimed in. "Eyes front, Gipsy. 600 meters from the drop."

Both Jaegers jumped over the edge of the cliff and plunged more than a kilometer deeper into the ocean.

Herc radioed again, giving a status update. "400 meters and closing!"

Tendo looked back at the map, and jumped back to the mic. "Bogeys are stopping! One o'clock!"

Striker stopped dead in its tracks, and Chuck grabbed the microphone. "Striker, what are you doing?"

Pentecost replied. "They're stopping. Why the hell are they stopping?"

"I don't give a damn, sir! You're 300 meters from the jump!"

Herc responded. "Something's not right."

Tendo reclaimed the mic. "Striker, the bogeys aren't following. Take the leap, NOW!"

Suddenly, Newt and Hermann burst into LOCCENT. "DON'T DO IT! DON'T JUMP! IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK!" Newt shoved Tendo aside. "Move, you hipster. Blowing up the Breach, it's not going to work!"

A very confused Pentecost replied to this bombshell. "What do you mean? What's not going to work?"

"Sir, just because the Breach is open does NOT mean you're going to be able to get a bomb through!"

Gottlieb expanded on this. "The Breach genetically reads the Kaiju like… like a barcode at the supermarket and then lets them pass."

"Okay, so you're going to have to fool the Breach into thinking you have the same code."

Raleigh's strained voice could be heard clearly. "And how are we supposed to do that?"

"By making it think you are a Kaiju."

Hermann rolled his bloodshot eyes and expanded on Newt's rather vague plan. "You have to lock onto the Kaiju, ride it into the Breach. The throat will then read the Kaiju's genetic code and let you pass."

"If you don't do it, the bomb will deflect off the Breach like it always has, and the mission will fail."

Chuck shoved the scientists away. "Okay, now that you've heard all that… Striker, take the leap!"

Tendo, however, decided now was a very bad time to jump. "WAIT! Third signature emerging from the Breach!"

The two scientists were just as stunned as Chuck. "It's a Triple Event."

"Oh God, I was right."

Pentecost's voice filled the LOCCENT. "How big is it? What Category?"

Tendo saw the figures and paled. "It's a Category V. Our first ever."

There was a long pause before Striker deployed his Sting Blades.

Raleigh called out over the radio. "Striker, we see him. We're right behind you, about 100 meters. We're gonna come around your three o'clock, try to flank him. Standard two-team formation. Just keep him busy for a few-" A thud came through the radio.

Chuck hadn't had to sit out a fight for five years. Now, he had no choice. He watched the telemetry feeds, hoping to get some small insight that could help provide an edge.

Suddenly, Herc's voice broke through the swirling thoughts that consumed Chuck. "BRACE FOR IMPACT!"

A series of groans came from Striker, and Chuck winced as he saw the damage that the Mark V had taken. Gipsy was having an even rougher time, being tag-teamed by the two Cat IVs. She lost an arm, then had her right knee savaged. And to think that I thought of them as mediocre! Mako and Raleigh are taking a ton of damage, and they just keep fighting. More than I could take, actually.

Raleigh's pained cry filled Chuck's ears. "LET'S GET THIS SON OF A BITCH!"

Chuck noticed Raiju charging towards Gipsy, and decided that he should warn them. "Gipsy, coming up on your twelve o'clock! Full speed! GET OUT OF THE WAY!"

To Chuck's great surprise, and secret delight, the old Mark III stuck her sword out, and proceeded to bifurcate the fast-moving Kaiju from nose to tail.

However, Striker wasn't having any better luck. Herc checked the systems, and was dismayed by the results. "The release is jammed! We can't deliver the payload! We're still armed, but the hull is compromised, and half our systems are offline, Stacker."

The Marshall remained calm. "We need to override the-"

"WHAM!"

Chuck winced at the screams of the damaged Conn Pod absorbing yet another fearsome impact. The status display began to show more and more red systems as Striker was take for a tumble by Slattern. Still, the Mark V delivered a phenomenal amount of punishment, slicing the throat and nearly severing the arms of the Category V Kaiju.

Tendo was fixated on the map display, fear evident in his face. "Both Kaiju are converging on Striker, fast!"

Chuck spotted Gipsy still limping forward, eager for another round with Scunner. "Hang on Striker! We're coming to you!"

"No! Gipsy! Do not come to our aid! Do you copy?"

"Hang on!"

"Stay as far back as you can!"

Chuck looked at Tendo, confused. What is the Marshall planning?

"We can still reach you! We're coming for you!"

"No! Raleigh, listen to me! You know exactly what you have to do! Gipsy is nuclear! Take her to the Breach!"

Chuck suddenly realized what the Marshall and his father were planning. Oh, God. It's a sacrifice play. NononoNoNoNOOOOO!

"I hear you, sir. Heading for the Breach now."

"Mako! Listen. You can finish this! I'll always be here for you. You can always find me in the Drift!"

Herc took a moment to say his goodbyes as well. "Chuck! I hope that someday, you'll forgive me for the choices I made. For the missed opportunities and conversations."

Chuck grabbed the mike. "Don't worry. I already have. I'll miss you, Old Man."

"Don't call me that!" Herc chuckled darkly.

Chuck wiped away tears. "Then don't let me stop you. You've got the shot. Take it."

Striker stood up, and faced Slattern. "Stacker… It's been a pleasure."

Pentecost transmitted his response, mostly for Mako's benefit. "It has. Now, let's clear a path! For the Lady!"

Everyone in the LOCCENT gasped as they realized what was about to happen.

"Then let's do this." The status boards for Striker showed the bomb arm, and the two Kaiju charging the Jaeger.

Chuck closed his eyes. "Goodbye, Dad."

At the same moment, Mako also sent a final farewell. "Sensei… aishiteimasu."

Striker, Slattern, and Scunner all vanished from the screens.

Deep inside Chuck's mind, a small spark went dark, and he began to sob.

-.-.-

Chuck was barely aware of the rest of Pitfall, or the party afterwards. He just stayed in his room and cuddled with Max, coming out only to pick up food. No one bothered him…

Until the day afterwards, when Mako knocked on the door. Chuck could tell it was her. So polite and graceful, but firm. He opened the door. He'd been correct, as Mako stood at the door. However, behind her stood Raleigh, who held up a bottle of Russian hooch with a sad smile.

Chuck paused, not sure what to do. Max, however, saw Mako and barked happily as he ran to greet her.

"Max!" Mako knelt down to pet him.

Chuck shook his head as if to deter a mosquito. "C'mon in, guys."

Raleigh leaned against the wall next to the door, clearly uncomfortable. Mako, however, sat on the bed a foot away from Chuck.

Raleigh poured them all a healthy serving of the rotgut. "How's the arm, Chuck?"

Chuck grimaced. "Been better."

Raleigh sheepishly looked at the ground. "Sorry about beating up on you earlier."

"Honestly, I think I'll take you punching me over Mako just flat-out dropping me any day."

Mako's face worked as she stared at the floor.

"Look, I know you didn't come just to share a drink with me…"

Mako giggled. "True. But we wanted to get you some before it all vanished."

Raleigh sniffed his cup and whistled. "Damn. Those Russians can get anything. This is primo stuff!"

Chuck grabbed a cup and gulped it down, coughing at the burn in his throat. "Whooo…"

Mako took a sniff of hers and opted to not drink it, as it reminded her of some of the fluids she had used to clean Kaiju Blue off of Jaegers.

Raleigh set his cup down. "Chuck… everyone's worried about you."

"Well, they didn't lose their father."

Mako stiffened, clearly offended."

"No offense, Mako."

She relaxed.

Raleigh was clearly not moved. "Chuck… My brother was killed while we were in the Drift. I know better than most people what it feels like to lose someone close to you."

"Do you now."

"Look, I know you and your dad didn't get along much, even in the Jaeger..."

Chuck snorted, then took Mako's abandoned cup and swallowed its contents too. "That's an understatement, mate."

"I also know that there's nothing that Mako and I can say to make it feel better."

Mako looked at Raleigh, clearly confused.

"So if you ever need someone to listen to you… We're here."

Chuck looked at Raleigh, then at Mako. Mako's eyes were bloodshot from all the crying she'd been doing lately, and Raleigh was clearly tired from staying up with her.

"Thanks, guys. That means a lot to me."

Mako stood, and Raleigh set the cups and the bottle of hooch on Chuck's desk. Politely, the left Chuck's quarters, closing the door behind them.

Chuck looked at the door, stunned. Slowly, the tears began to flow. However, they were not tears of sorrow or grief. They were tears of joy, because he realized that there were people out there that cared for him, no matter how broken he was, no matter how much of a jerk he'd been.

He had friends.