Pacific Rim: K-Day

Chapter 1: The Calm Before the Storm…

Challenger Deep, Mariana Trench

August 4, 2013

2300 PDT (5 Aug 2013, 0600 UTC)

Deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, astronomical energies were unleashed, tearing a hole in the fabric of space and time. For a brief few moments, the eternal night of the abyss was banished, turning the seafloor into a nightmarish landscape.

Then, a creature not of this world emerged, blocking the light for a few moments as it regained its bearings. Slowly, it began to swim upward, seeking the surface of the ocean.

Begin countdown clock: Landfall of Kaiju Trespasser in 6 days, 13 hours, 20 minutes.

-.-.-

Airspace over Las Vegas, NV

August 6

1924 PDT (8 Aug, 0224 UTC)

"BOTTLE 1, cleared to land, runway 21 right."

Luna Pentecost sighed in relief and toggled the radio transmit button. "Rodger that, Nellis Tower. Cleared to land on runway 21 right." 'Bout damned time. Been in the saddle for almost 9 hours now. She switched her radio to the squadron channel. "Tams, Sticky, aaaand… Moggy. We're going for 21 right. Finger four, chaps."

Tamsin's voice filled Luna's headset. "Thank god. Feels like I'm about to fuse to my ejection seat." The Typhoon FGR4 slid smoothly into place left and aft of Luna's own fighter. "Although I'd give anything to be allowed out onto the Strip."

Luna looked out of the canopy and down at the cityscape below, and at the cluster of casinos in the heart of the city. "Next time, Tams. We're here for business, not pleasure."

"Bugger."

Luna looked back to see the newest members of the squadron settle off of her right wingtip. "Right, look sharp. Gotta show the Yanks who's got class, even after 7 hours of ridge running in their own backyard."

"Copy." "Rog."

The four fighters dropped into the approach pattern and began performing a series of smooth breaks to space out their arrival onto the runway. Tamsin broke off to the left, dropping her landing gear and throttling back as she settled into the final approach to the runway. Luna followed a few seconds later, followed by Sticky and Moggy.

Luna watched the VASI off to the side of the runway, making sure that she stayed perfectly aligned with the glide path. Looking good… A brief glance at the taxiway, where Tamsin was taxiing towards her designated slot on the ramp, then back to the runway, which was clear. Almost done. Just a few more minutes, and that shower is calling my name.

Chir-dirp… chirp.

Luna's Typhoon settled back to the ground, brief puffs of smoke erupting from the tires as they touched down. Yes… Right on the mark. She triggered the dorsal airbrake and eased on the brakes, slowing her fighter to just above a walking pace.

"BOTTLE 1, follow BOTTLE 2 to your parking space."

"Roger that, Nellis." We've been here a week and have run fourteen flights in and out of this field. I know where my bloody parking space is. Luna shook her head and took another deep breath of oxygen from her mask. At least we're done for the day. No night sortie tonight.

Luna pulled up next to Tamsin's plane and eased to a stop, shutting down the engines and setting the parking brake. She waited for a moment, resting her head against the ejection seat headrest, then opened the canopy and unhooked her oxygen mask from her helmet. "Ack. Too dry here." She looked at the city that sprawled across the desert valley. "Why the hell would someone want to live here?"

The crew chief hooked a ladder into the edge of the cockpit and scrambled up it, a water bottle in hand. "Hey, boss. How'd it go?"

"Oh, nothing special." Luna pointed to the runway, where an A-10C was just touching down. "Rode shotgun on the Warthogs all day. Chased off a few Aggressor birds myself, but Sticky bagged two." She took the water bottle from the mechanic. "Gah. So damned dry here. Pure ox doesn't help."

Tamsin sauntered over, helmet tucked under her arm. "Come on, Luna. Unass and let's go get some chow."

Luna unhooked from her ejection seat and clambered down the ladder. "True. I could use some food."

The two pilots walked up to their younger counterparts, who were in the middle of talking about their day's exploits. "… And this Aggressor, he tries to oh hey, boss."

Tamsin gave a feral grin. "Come on, chow time."

Sticky immediately followed the red haired pilot to the crew bus waiting at the end of the row of aircraft.

Luna tilted her head towards the bus. "Come on, Moggy. Let's get some real food, yeah?"

The young Pilot Officer followed Luna to the crew bus. "Ma'am… Question about today's mission…"

"Go ahead and speak freely, Moggy. I'm not as straight laced as my brother was when he was the squadron CO."

"Why were we protecting the American aircraft, and why did they protect our Tornados?"

Luna settled into a seat and patted the seat next to her. Moggy paused for a moment before taking the hint. "Because that's how Red Flag rolls. International cooperation and all that jazz."

Moggy nodded, then pointed to the Australian AWACS aircraft just down the line. "So that's why they're running USAF missions, and we're under the control of an E-3."

"Exactly."

Moggy frowned, clearly deep in thought. "Well, it's been… educational so far."

"Cheer up, Moggy. You'll bag a Red eventually."

The bus lurched into motion and headed for the barracks.

-.-.-

San Francisco International Airport

August 7

1917 PDT

David Ashburn walked off the flight from New York City, briefcase in hand. Back home in San Fran again. I just wish this deal was running more smoothly. I seem to be spending more time on the east coast than here lately. He walked along the concourse, headed to the baggage claim. Could be worse, though. I could be having to hop across the pond for these meetings.

David reached the claim and grabbed his small bag, then headed for the pickup. As he expected, Mia was there in her Corvette. "Hey, good looking. How was it?"

He settled into the passenger seat. "Oh, you know how these things go. Bright kids with a great idea but absolutely no business sense whatsoever, and I get to be the one to tell them that they can't just run things like they are now if they want to make it to the market."

"Which is why you get paid the big bucks by Paul."

"Yeah… but this deal should be the one, Mia. The one that makes it possible to get that house in we've been eyeing."

Mia pulled the Corvette onto Highway 101 and headed north towards the city of San Francisco. "Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves, yeah? You still need to close that deal." She smiled as they drove. "I take it you stopped at Chau's again?"

"Of course. Sorry I couldn't bring any leftovers back… you know how the TSA can be."

Mia shook her head. "And since its real Chinese… it doesn't keep very well. Nowhere nearly as well as the Americanized version."

"True."

They drove north in silence for a few minutes, watching the Bay pass by on the right. David finally spoke up again as they headed inland. "So, any plans for Saturday?"

"No. Why?"

"I was wondering if you'd like to go to Outside Lands."

"You scamp! I thought they sold out of tickets months ago!"

"Let's just say that I've got some… connections."

-.-.-

U.S.S. Boxer (LHD-4)

Somewhere off the coast of California

August 8

0600 PDT (1300 UTC)

Sergeant Enrique Sanchez jogged along the currently-quiet flight deck of the amphibious assault carrier as it steamed through the Pacific Ocean, headed back to its home port of San Diego. Not many people up and about at this hour… not after CERTEX. He grinned at the sight of some of the younger members of his platoon stretching and warming up before joining the Sergeant in his morning jog. Although it'll be nice to get a night or two ashore before we ship out… this is home for me.

As Sanchez jogged back towards the bow, his platoon leader joined him. "Morning, Sergeant."

"Morning, sir. Sleep well, sir?"

"Still getting used to the ship's noises and smells. I mean, I can sleep with a rock for a pillow, but throw me in a room in the bowels of an LHD? Pfft. Insomia central."

"It does take some getting used to, sir."

"Foods better than in combat training, though, so that's a plus."

"Indeed it is, sir."

They jogged in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the brisk breeze. Finally, Sanchez stopped by the island. "If you'll excuse me, sir, I need to go clean up before inspecting the bunk rooms."

"Very well, Sergeant. I will see you later?"

"Indeed you will." Sanchez nodded and headed into the ship.

-.-.-

Nellis AFB Flight Line

0900

Olivia "Boomer" Carson scrambled up the ladder to the cockpit of her A-10C Thunderbolt II in preparation for the upcoming sortie. A quick final check of her kneeboard was the only reason she hesitated at the top of the ladder before settling into what she called "the REAL office". She gave her scalp one last quick scratch before beginning her pre-flight ritual: screwing in her earplugs, pulling a bandana over her pixie-cut hair, and settling her helmet on her head, seating it with a final open palmed thwack. One of her support crew made the final connections between her and the aircraft, and the cool rush of oxygen from her mask helped her focus on the task at hand. "Talk to me, Mike."

Down below the aircraft, Olivia's crew chief made a final inspection of his aircraft. "Clear!"

Olivia flicked a switch, and the APU howled to life. "Check?"

Mike grinned beneath plane. "In the name of the Father…"

Olivia pushed the stick all the way forwards, and the elevator dipped towards the ground.

"And of the Son…"

Olivia pulled the stick back, and the elevator rose towards the sky.

"And of the Holy Spirit…"

Olivia toggled the A-10's distinctive split-aileron airbrakes and moved the stick all the way to the left, then to the right, then centered it and retracted the airbrakes.

"Amen."

Olivia pushed her right foot all the way down, then her left, then centered it, and the rudders waggled in response.

"Controls good. Cycle flaps."

The young pilot reached over and moved the flaps to the "LANDING" position.

"Aaand… Good. Retract flaps."

The flaps slid back into their normal position, and Olivia looked over to the squadron commander's aircraft. Any time, sir…

As if on cue, the CO's voice crackled over the radio. "Alright, Bulldogs. Ready? Canopies…. NOW."

Olivia flipped the switch to close her cockpit canopy, and the large bubble of Perspex slid down and forward to seal against the frame. The sudden drop in noise from the bustling flight line was a welcome relief.

"Cleared for engine start, Bulldogs."

Finally! Olivia hit the starters for the right hand engine, and the powerful but fuel efficient TF-34 turbofan began to spin up. Time to get this show on the road.

-.-.-

0905

"Aw, come on. Again?"

"Stuff it, Moggy. We did good last time."

Flying Officer Rupert "Moggy" Katz growled at his wingman. "Why do we keep getting the babysitting duty?"

Luna Pentecost's voice cut off Sticky's reply. "Because it's our bloody job. Now stuff it, Moggy. We'll be riding with BULLDOG 5 through 8 today. And watch out for the Reds. They've been getting crafty lately."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Right, let's go meet our friends, shall we? Brakes off in three… two… one… ROLL."

-.-.-

15 miles north of Rally Point Delta

Nevada Test and Training Range

1300

Captain Miriam Ramirez banked the MH-60G Pave Hawk around a mountain peak, rotors almost brushing the sagebrush that dotted the rocky slope. A whoop from behind her indicated that her door gunner/hoist operator was still strapped in and thoroughly enjoying himself. Hehehe… Jake hasn't seen much of this before. Wait'll we get in closer. A quick glance over to the left at her copilot, then back to the task at hand: Extracting two downed pilots from behind enemy lines. Nothing new to me… Did it over in the Rockpile two years ago. This is nothing.

Ahead of her, a pair of A-10s scissored through the air, ready to pounce on any pop-up threats. As she watched, one of them suddenly broke off to the right. Miriam pushed the helicopter a little lower, trying to hide behind the small ridge to her right as much as possible. Oh, come on… Please be a false alarm…

The A-10 soon reappeared and waggled its wings, and Miriam climbed slightly higher, then banked around a small stand of cottonwoods as she closed in on the location. She toggled the intercom. "SIXTY SECONDS TO DROPOFF!"

Behind her, the PJs readied themselves for a rappel descent. The doors slid all the way open, and ropes were clipped to the frame of the helicopter.

"TWENTY SECONDS!" Miriam pulled back on the cyclic and up on the collective, and the Pave Hawk slowed it's headlong rush through the high desert air. "TEN!" The helicopter slowed to an almost hover, the most vulnerable it had been since the mission began. "UNASS!"

Behind her, the Pararescue Jumpers slid down the ropes to the ground below. Above her, a pair of A-10s circled, waiting to pounce on any threats. And off to her right, a pair of other Pave Hawks disgorged their own PJs, closing in on the positions of the downed pilots. Good so far…

-.-.-

Lieutenant Brandon Pines watched as the PJs from his own Pave Hawk retrieved one of the downed crew and signaled for pickup. He eased the helicopter down to the ground, and the three people hustled aboard. "Good to go?"

A thumbs-up from one of his door gunners was the only response, so he pulled the cyclic up and pushed the collective forward slightly, easing the helicopter into the air and forward.

Off to his right, the third bird in the formation followed suit. Lieutenant D'Onofrio had been a new arrival to the unit just before Red Flag, so he didn't know much about him. But what Brandon had seen was enough to indicate that Sergio was a skilled pilot and a great wingman.

Ahead and to the left, Captain Gonzalez's helicopter dipped its nose and accelerated forwards. "Hang on, everyone! It's about to get a little bumpy!"

-.-.-

Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean

U.S.S. Albuquerque (SSN-706)

August 9

0908 PDT

The Albuquerque had been tailing an unusual sonar signature for the last few days as it made its way across the Pacific. It had popped up suddenly off the coast of Guam on the 4th, just as the attack sub had been transiting the area on her way home from a nearly 7 month deployment. The sub commander looked at the latest tracking projections and frowned. If the Chinese have a new toy, this would be a really ballsy way to test it out. "You're sure about this?"

The sonar tech nodded and pointed to another signature on the ship's fire control system readout. "It's been trailing this cargo ship for the last few hours. Whatever it is, it's nothing we've ever seen… or heard… before."

"Any ideas? And you have my permission to be as outlandish as you want."

"Honestly? Listen to this." The tech handed the skipper a pair of headphones. "I swear, it sounds like a heartbeat."

"Yeah, I hear something rhythmic… but it's really slow. You sure it's not the cargo ship?"

"Yeah. Here's our cataloged data from two months ago outside of Hong Kong…" A few seconds of clicking, and a waveform appeared on the screen in front of the tech. "That's the tub. Now here's what I'm getting from the system right now." Another waveform appeared. "Now, if I separate them, I get a perfect match for the freighter, and this oddball…" Again, a new line appeared, drastically different from the freighter. "I ran it past everything we have on board. Volcanic eruptions, whales, schools of fish… even that thunderstorm we went under last cruise. Nothing matches."

"So, what's your guess, if it is a heartbeat?"

"Something that big? Gojira."

"What?"

The tech sighed. "Godzilla?"

The skipper frowned. "Godzilla. You're saying that Godzilla is a mile off our bow, stalking a cargo ship headed from Tokyo to San Francisco."

"Not saying that's what it is… That's just my wild-ass guess based off of what data I have. It's the only thing that makes sense."

The skipper nodded slowly. "Well, let me know if it changes its pattern."

"Yes, sir."

-.-.-

The massive creature had been stalking the noise source for four days. It was not deviating from its course at all. Perhaps, it mused, it is headed to its home. There shall be many vermin there. Finding their source is more important than eliminating this… nuisance... and eliminating the element of surprise.

Silently, it continued to trail its prey, unaware that it was itself being stalked.