Just a quick word to my readers on this site before we begin. You guys changed my mind. I understand now that the spacebattle forum is difficult to navagate so I will continue to post here for you guys. The earlier decision was made when I had a lot on my plate, more on that below.
Three technicians stood opposite each other. On one side of the card strune desk, a Human male and an Asari Maiden grinned viciously at the flustered Matron who stared down at her hand in disbelief.
"Y-You know I was just joking, right?" the Matron chuckled nervously, finally finding the courage to met their eyes. Now was the time to beg. "I-It was never gonna be that bad, I assure you."
"Right," the man snorted mockingly as he crossed his arms. "Tell that to my new pole dance instructor."
"Now that's a show I'd pay to see," the Maiden quipped, draping her arms over the human's shoulders with a lecherous grin. The Matron's gaze shot to her hopefully, but found only vengeance reflected back at her.
"Come on, it's not that bad," the Human assured her when the Matrons expression morphed into full blown panic. "It's only for a week-"
"A week where if anything happens my voice is gonna be all over the galaxy!" the Matron cried, pulling at her head-crests like a Human would hair. "Oh Goddess, why did I ever agree to this?"
"The odds of that actually happening are… something hundred trillion to nothing," the Maiden shrugged, nonchalant. "Or we're all dead."
"Uh, what she means to say is that we double checked," the man cut in. "We're not dumb enough to put you on a common alert, okay? We like our jobs too, you know."
The Matron let out a pleading keen.
"The math works. Literally. We ran the numbers last night-"
"We estimated," the Maiden cut in.
"-and we are…" He hesitated. "Fairly certain nothing will go wrong."
The Matron went rigid in panic. "You hesitated."
"No I didn't."
"Well, come on! Honestly, who would bring a nuclear bomb onto the Citadel through customs? It's impossible!"
"Literally impossible. Trust our math."
"What math? You estimated!"
"And I think you are stalling." The man grinned viciously and slid a piece of paper across the desk. "You lost. Come on, your majesty, chop chop. Let's get this done!"
The Matron finally snarled something unsafe for a public work place under her breath, snatched the paper and stalked off to make the recording. When the Matron returned a minute later she transferred an audio file to the man's omni-tool. The clip was quickly added to Avina's main servers and locked in tight before anyone was the wiser. Then the three technicians went home; the Human-Asari pair to his apartment for a more private celebration. Meanwhile the Matron hurried back to her apartment, wondering if she should call C-Sec.
She didn't, however, and went to bed with a sinking feeling that something was going to go horribly, horribly wrong.
"What do stats have to do with this?!"
"It's pretty bloody obvious, ya wanker!"
"No it's not!"
Cherno rumbled ominously.
"And you leave Mako out of this, Alpha!" Gipsy jabbed a finger in his direction. "I don't know what the hell has gotten into you, but is this really the time to-"
"The fuck was she even doing in a Jaeger?" Striker interrupted. "Kid like her, what the fuck was she thinking"
"Leave Make out of this!"
"Alpha! Come on, we-"
The rumble that cut her off could've frozen hell ten times over. Gipsy froze as her systems stalled, the oil in her veins turning to ice before they began to boil with fury.
"...take that back," she hissed, fighting to stay calm.
Another growl, right in the Jaeger's face plate. Metal creaked as Gipsy's fists clenched.
"Take. It. Back."
"Big words from a walking smokestack."
Now it was Cherno's turn to growl.
"You're a walking steam engine! 'Course you are."
"You stay out of this, Eureka!"
"And you know, you have a point, big guy. Why'd they pull a relic like you from Oblivion Bay?"
Gipsy glared at the Australian. "You think I had a choice?"
"You tell me. There's a bit of Mako stuck in that head of yours, go ask her."
"Leave. My Rangers. Out of this."
Cherno pressed on, jabbing a thick finger at the American Jaeger. Gipsy went still.
"You know, I thought you'd be the sensible one here, Alpha," Gipsy hissed as her systems roared for a fight. "What was I thinking trusting the Intelligence of a rusty cyclops."
Lightning crackled along the Russian's fists as he returned the insult.
Crimson shivered in the corner as the three's argument slowly turned sour. Their shouts deafened her audio sensors, but it wasn't enough to fill the deafening silence in her circuits.
Cheung… Jin… Hu…
Her digits trembled. Their neural circuits were cut… severed in the most painful way possible, their last screams echoing in her head.
Right… right… left…
Her arms twitched in the familiar pattern. They never stopped dribbling that basketball of theirs. Always in a sequence that seemed to transcend thought altogether. Their bond went deeper than brothers, even than other Drifted pairs. They were close… so close that there was no individual. One united mind spread across three bodies.
In the Drift they became her; the little sister they always imagined but never got to see. They were as much a part of her as Crimson Typhoon was of them. And now they were gone… the conn-pod was silent. The thoughts and feelings she inherited from each of them felt empty and lifeless.
Crimson's legs folded beneath her and she slumped in the corner as the argument grew in intensity. Her Rangers were gone… three critical parts she couldn't live without… their constant chatter… the courage they embodied… gone…
There was no time to process it before - what with their escape and all - but now the loss struck her full force. Her focus blurred as the empty pit in her neural link opened up, drowning her in the deafening silence. Her plating rattled as a tremor racked her frame.
Alone… she was alone…
"Gah! That's my nipple, ya cunt!"
A sudden crash jarred the tri-armed Jaeger out of her stupor, making her jump a full foot in the air with a shriek. Startled, she flailed, grabbing the edge of a nearby counter for support.
Too much… too much…
Pressure built up around the edge of her optical sensors; a familiar yet alien sensation. Crying, but with the biological mean to do so. No matter how much she tried to deny it, the paralyzing truth hung over her.
They were gone… never coming back…
Fighting back a sob, Crimson's vision stabilized enough to notice a holographic… laptop of sorts sitting on the counter next to her.
Hu had a laptop once. Once, she thought dryly. As soon as his brothers discovered it there was no calling it his anymore. Despite the holographic display it was a painful comparison. Still, it was enough to tweek her interest. The longer she stared at it, the stronger the urge to touch it became.
Experimentally, she poked it.
Fingers twitching, she examined the device in greater detail, growing more fascinated with each prod. Faninated, she turned her attention to the screen.
As the fight was calming down with some well placed compliments, only to flare up again with a misplaced pass at vodka, Crimson had well and truly lost herself in the alien script floating in front of her. Interestingly enough, the longer she looked at it the more she understood, like when the Triplets were learning English. Words associated themselves with meaning and before long she was reading the latest article of Citadel Weekly.
Her conn-pod tilted quizzically. Apparently some… Turian merc - yes, she was reading that right - got married to a Krogan and… She shivered as the article went on. Those were few things she didn't want to know… but what was a Turian? And what was a Krogan for that matter?
That question eased her inflamed circuits, and, when she took a mental step back, she realised just how unsettling the whole situation was. She, literally hadn't the time to consider it before, but… aliens. Real… aliens. Real aliens that weren't trying to tear her apart.
What were they? How did she get here? How was she reading alien languages? Where was Humanity in all this? Did they survive the war? Questions piled up faster than garbage in the Triplet's bedroom. Her optic dropped to the terminal and the browser on it's screen. If it was connected to the internet… or whatever the alien equivalent was, the possibilities were endless.
So, as the fight came to blows, Crimson pulled anchor and set sail across the veritable ocean of information that was the Extranet. But she did not expect the Kraken of pop-up adds that rose up and sank her ship with countless gigabytes of malware under the guise of Asari porn.
Crimson's eye dilated and her core temperature spike a few hundred degrees. The air itself seemed to tighten in her vents as an ocean of blue flesh was laid out before her.
"Tiān a…" The plating around her conn-pod warmed as a trembling finger reached out to touch...
"What's that supposed ta' mean?"
"You lost a war to stupid birds! You tell me!"
Crimson eeped at the resulting clang and wiped the screen faster than Cheung ever could. It helped when you had three arms and a touch screen. Heat spread across her faceplate in embarrassment, she typed the first thing she thought of into the search bar at the top of the screen in recompense.
Her face plates burned at the results and she searched the second thing that came to mind: 'Asari.'
Time slowed to a crawl as page after page of the galactic codex blazed by. Before long Crimson was lost in the history of the Asari. Which soon led to Salarians, and from Salarians to Turians, to Krogan, Hanar, Volus, and finally, Humans.
A chill killed her embarrassment as Crimson read a quick summary of Humanity's history.
Something important was missing.
More searches, more discoveries. More information than a human could process flashed by. Crimson learned everything. Though she tended to wander, she managed to focus her efforts onto a single topic. Everything was there... up to a certain point… then it all went wrong.
Five final searches and a cold pit of dread opened up in her core. "G-Guys?"
"I'm American, you idiot!"
"Let go a'me, ya' overgrown pickel!"
A dangerous rumble.
Crimson turned in a full blown panic. "Guys?!"
"What?!" The fight froze. Cherno had Striker in a headlock and was somehow still standing with the Australian tangled with his legs. Gipsy, meanwhile, was wrapped around Cherno's reactor tower, fist poised and elbow rocket blazing as if the Cold War was still a thing.
"T-T-The… the thing…" Crimson stammered, gesturing madly between them and the terminal. "The thing… my name… i-its… I…" Finally, she threw back her head and wailed. "Wǒ bùxiǎng chéngwéi yīgè sharknado!"
The Jaegers blinked in unison, then Striker started squirming. "Dammit, woman, speak bloody Australian!"
"Same fucking thing!"
"Zhǐshì kàn kàn!" Crimson shouted, waving her arms at the device. "I-I can't… Wǒ wúfǎ xiāngxìn. Yǒurén ràng shìjiè biàn dé yǒu yìyì!"
"Duìbùqǐ!" Crimson wailed. "Zhè bùshì wǒ de cuò!"
Cherno roared angrily.
"Chùshǒu yǔ cǐ yǒu shé me guānxì?!"
Cherno roared again.
"The fuck she say?!"
Cherno jabbed a finger at his captive and growled.
"I'll shut up when I bloody feel like it!"
"All of you shut up!" Gipsy screamed.
The stubby finger turned on Gipsy with a rumble.
"What do I have to do with this?!"
"I'm sorry," Crimson whimpered, falling against the wall and clutching at her cranium. "Wǒ kāishǐ zhè yīqiè…"
Gipsy's facepalm would've shattered every window on the block. "Now look, you made her cry!"
"So you're an asshole! And you!" Gipsy's legs tightened around Cherno's reactor tower. "What's this about tentacles anyway?"
A roar was her only answer.
The elderly Turian couple downstairs looked up as the ceiling above them creaked ominously.
"Teenagers," the woman huffed, as she returned to her pistol maintenance.
"Salarian," her husband corrected, switching channels on the holo-screen.
The woman paused. "Salarian?"
The husband nodded and pointed upward. "Salarians," he said with a knowing smile.
The woman glanced up as the floor creaked again, and what sounded like shouts drifted through the soundproof walls. She shook her head. "Krogan."
The woman glared as the floor creaked again. "Krogan!"
The man blinked in surprise. Huffing, the woman returned to her pistol. "Krogan teenagers."
"Krogan teenagers," the man agreed, returning to his show as a crash came from above. When the noise wouldn't die down, the couple shared another look. "C-Sec?"
Cracks spiderwebbed across the window as Striker slid down to the floor, crushing the alien's body in process. A low growl emerged from his chassis as he felt his visor and pulled away with a few specks of golden glass in his palm.
"Ah… so it's gonna be like that, huh?" he snarled, systems roaring to fighting status as he stood and faced Cherno Alpha. "You wanna try that again, ya' old relic?"
A rumble like a herd of angry bears filled the room as sparks darted across Cherno's Tesla Fists.
"Oh, believe me," Striker's Sting Blades jumped from his wrists. "That's what it's looking like from here."
Cherno growled low in his chassis.
"Bring it on, old man!"
Cherno Alpha roared back.
The fight was only averted by the appearance of a new potential target as Gipsy stepped between them, arms raised in a placation gesture. A gesture that was only partially successful as no Jaeger wanted a plasma cannon pointed at their face no matter the situation.
"Fuck off, Danger!" Striker glared over the glowing barrel pointed at his conn-pod. "We're doing something over here!"
Cherno rumbled with, what Gipsy thought, was an eyeroll.
"Yeah, for once we agree on something, scrapheap!"
"Just shut up!" Gipsy roared, loud enough to drown out Cherno's returning insult. "Look," she hissed when the two had, relatively, calmed down. She shot a look at Cherno. "Yes, I may have messed up. Mako may have messed up, but that has nothing to do with the now. And you," she turned on Striker. "Just… just shut up. You're making things worse every time you open your damn mouth."
"Zip it!" Gipsy glared until the Jaeger backed down. "I don't like you, Striker. And you, Cherno, I don't take insult against my Rangers lightly. None of us do."
Cherno rumbled low in his chassis.
"But… here we are. Somewhere on an alien space station, without a clue to where we are, and surrounded on all sides, outnumbered worse than in the Kaiju war!" Her voice rose as her tirade went on. "And killing ourselves because we're being idiots - yes, all of us - isn't. Helping!"
Gipsy's conn-pod twisted back and forth as she looked between the two. When she felt she got her point across, she took a deep breath and continued in a much calmer tone. "So… let's all put our weapons down and actually work together to figure out what the hell is going on here."
When it was clear neither of the two males were going to start, Gipsy, very slowly, pointed her plasma cannons at the ceiling. Surprisingly, it was Striker who cooperated next; his Sting Blades retracting back into his wrists. Finally, Cherno lowered his fists, the lightning slowly dissipating across his knuckles.
"There," Gipsy sighed, carefully releasing the stored energy in her cannons and transforming them back into useful appendages. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
Cherno rumbled, crossing his arms.
Gipsy's shoulders tensed, her visor darkening as she glared. "I'm gonna ignore that for both our sakes, Alpha."
Cherno shrugged, unapologetic.
"So…" Striker asked, glaring between his two opponents. "Congratulation. Crisis averted. What now?"
As if on cue, a whimper drew them to Crimson trembling in the corner and whispering to herself in Chinese. She looked up when she felt their gazes and pointed a trembling finger at the terminal. "Wǒ... Wǒ bù xiāngxìn… Zhè bù kěnéng shì zhēn de... Tā bùnéng."
Crimson clutched at herself, rocking back on forth as her whispers continued, only to look up when a shadow fell across her.
"Hey," Gipsy said, soothingly, kneeling beside her. "I'm sorry. Th… We. We were all a bunch of idiots." she laughed awkwardly, hoping she hadn't just set off the first Jaeger war. Again. "This… this is all a bit of a shock and all, and…
"Read it." Crimson looked up at her and pointed back to the terminal with a trembling finger. "J-Just read it. P-Please tell me I'm just seeing things."
Striker and Cherno were already there, side by side, and incredibly docile as they read together.
"What the bloody hell is this shit?" Striker's voice was no more than a whisper when he finished.
Cherno's confused rumble was just as quiet.
Now only slightly alarmed, Gipsy gave Crimson a reassuring pat on the shoulder, then shoved the two males aside. The fact they didn't object, vocally or otherwise, set off even more alarm bells.
Five browser tabs were open on the holographic screen. The space allocation between them was impressive, but offset by the fact Gipsy couldn't read alien to save her life. And then… suddenly she could.
"What the hell?"
Still puzzled over the shift in her processors, Gipsy was drawn to the species sections of the galactic codex in the first tab. Asari. Turian… Salarian. She shivered at the pictures. More frog-men. Great. Mako would hate it here. That thought was blown out of the water at the next species in line.
Humans! They were here, in space! So that mean they won the war!
Her exaltation died when she saw the next search tab: 'The Human-Kaiju War.' Beneath it was a query: 'Did you mean: The First Contact War?'
"First Contact, wha…"
She quickly learned about the brief conflict between Humanity and the Turian Hierarchy. But… that wasn't right. Humanity's first contact was with the Kaiju on Earth, not… Shanxi, wherever that was. Where the hell were the Kaiju?
The next tab sparked some hope: 'Jaegers.'
Random things, places, and people were all she found, but nothing about Humanity's metal giants.
Gipsy's core temperature dropped as she turned to the forth tab: 'Crimson Typhoon;' one of the most iconic Jaegers ever built. Surely even aliens must have heard about it. All that came up was an ad for the latest instalment in the Sharknado series; Sharknado 69: Crimson and Blue Asari.
Finally, Gipsy turned to the last tab.
She blinked. Stupefied… and horrified.
"Uh… what does Kaiju-girl-hent-"
Crimson dove on the terminal with a screech, shoving them all aside as she tapped frantically at the keys. When she stepped back only four tabs remained. That didn't save her from their horrified looks.
"Méishénme," Crimson chuckled awkward, hands clasped behind her back as she shifted on her feet in embarrassment. "Wǒ - méishénme. Zhēn!"
"Uh… yeah," Striker blinked owlishly at her. "I'm… gonna take a stab at that. That… wasn't nothing. At all... What the actual hell, mate?"
Cherno sighed, a sigh of deep and eternal shame as he shook his ponderous head.
"Wǒ zhǐshì quèdìng. Nǐ dǒng? Guīzé 36? Rúguǒ tā cúnzài, è…" Crimson threw her head back and sagged. "Wèishéme tāmen gěi wǒ liú xiàle kěpà de kǒuwèi?!"
"Wait, wait," Gipsy said, shaking her head and trying to burn the image of Crimson's interests from her processors. "This… this… what the hell?"
Pushing Crimson aside she frantically examined the keyboard. It took her a few seconds, but eventually she put in a new search, praying that this was just a mistake or some big, cosmic joke.
Nothing but articles about the old Chernobyl nuclear plant on Earth and whether it was just a freak accident. Just conspiracy theories. Nothing about the mightiest Jaeger on the planet. Cherno let out a soft growl. Gipsy tried again.
Just history articles of a naked man running through the streets of some ancient city.
"The fuck?" Striker whispered.
Her engines hitching in panic, Gipsy typed in her last query, praying for a miracle.
The devil answered her prayers.
"Oh, wow!" Striker whistled, leaning in for a better look. Gipsy let him, too shocked for anything else as she choked at the resulting images. Cherno looked over her shoulder and shorted in laughter. Even Crimson leaned in, her eye dilating as she took in the scene.
"Oh my! Is she flex-"
The terminal exploded in a shower of sparks as Gipsy tore it from the counter and threw it across the room with a enraged roar. It crashed to the ground, sputtering weakly for a second before a plasma blast put it out of its misery. Sadly, the damage was already done as Striker burst out laughing.
"Oh my god!" he wheezed as Gipsy reached for him, murder in her visor. "You… You…?"
"I'm not named after a striper!"
"B-But where are we?" Crimson stammered, inadvertently saving Striker from death by strangulation. If that was even possible. "W-What, I… I don't understand."
Cherno rumbled deep in his chassis, crossing his arms across his chest.
"It's like the whole bloody war never happened," Striker added, all his cheer sullened by that single fact. He began to pace back and forth, muttering quietly to himself.
"It didn't," Crimson whispered, armor rattling as she trembled. "I looked e-everywhere. Humanity's first contact occurred in 2157, a hundred forty four years after they were suppose to encounter the Kaiju." She shook her head. "Méiyǒu. N-Nothing. It means nothing," she translated at their confused looks, then sniffed. "Wǒmen liǎojiě wài xīng rén. Wèishéme bùshì zhōngguó rén?"
"No Kaiju… no Jaegers," Gipsy said, putting the pieces together.
Silence met her revelation. Gipsy didn't know what to think, though she felt… vaguely betrayed. Jaegers had saved the whole world and now they didn't couldn't even remember their names. Like their sacrifice had been for nothing. Like her sacrifice, Yancy's sacrifice, was for nothing.
Had it been for nothing?
That was one thing she refused to accept: That so many Jaegers and Rangers had lost their lives for nothing.
"Eh? Come again?"
Gipsy raised a finger, forestalling Striker questioning her sanity. "So… bear with me for a second. If K-Day never happened, how are we here? Think about it. We still exist. So we would've had to been built somewhere!"
"My processors are fine, thank you very much," Gipsy shot back.
But Cherno wouldn't let up, pointing a stubby finger at her as he rumbled a question.
Gipsy stiffened at his accusation. "Leave. Mako. Out of this," she snarled, visor darkening. "This isn't about our damn pilots anymore. This is about us."
Cherno nodded, agreeing with her, then reminded reminded her how exactly their minds were created. Or… how he thought they were created. Honestly, it was still a theory at this point.
Gipsy's systems clenched as she forcefully cut her speakers. As much as she wanted to give the Russian a piece of her mind, arguing would only make it worse. "Really? You haven't even heard my plan yet."
The retorting grumble made even Striker pause.
"That's cold, mate."
"And completely stupid," Gipsy growled. At Cherno's unimpressed look, she sighed and composed herself. "Look, will you at least hear me out first?"
Cherno glared, but didn't stop her..
"We go to Earth." When no one immediately objected, verbal or otherwise, she continued. "Something's happened. For some reason the Kaiju never showed up so we were never built. But somehow we're here. Alive. Sentient? Whatever."
"S-Sentient sounds good," Crimson offered.
Cherno grunted, and Gipsy had to admit he had a point.
"Okay, it could be censorship."
"What?!" Striker shouted in disbelief.
"Most likely," Crimson said, nodding along before Striker could but in. "Citadel Law forbids the creation of Artificial Intelligence as stated in section three, paragraph three, line five of the Citadel Charter. Though one could argue our… earlier frames were non-sentient, I doubt the Council would see it that way. A rogue AI is considered the most likely doomsday scenario for current modern society. I can't begin to imagine their reactions at a fully sentient Jaeger."
Cherno stared at her a moment, then nodded, pushing his point with a rumble.
"But that doesn't change my point," Gipsy continued as Striker railed on in the background. "We need to know what happened to us. Censorship, or… whatever the hell happened, and the only place we ever existed was Earth." She pointed at Crimson. "Earth is still around, yes? It didn't blow up or anything, right?"
"Huh? Oh, y-yes," Crimson nodded as Striker railed in the background. "Opened to Citadel species migration five years ago at Council insistence. Shuttle fee is roughly a hundred fifty credits a person with extra fees pertaining to luggage weight and density."
"Okay… Not sure how you figured that out, but okay." Gipsy flashed her a quick thumbs up and turned back to Cherno. "So, to Earth, or are we just gonna sit here arguing until we kill each other."
"You just gonna bloody ignore me over here?"
"Shut up, Striker. The adults are talking over here."
"Piss off ya' wanker!"
Cherno regarded her coldly. For a moment, Gipsy was afraid he'd ignore her reasoning completely. Then, after rumbling a few curses under his breath, the Russian started plucking small chips from the gaps in his armor. How he got them there was anyone's guess. He counted the embedded numbers carefully, shifted them around, slipped a few back into his armor then handed the rest to Crimson.
Alien money. Credits, whatever. Probably. Gipsy had no idea how the cyclops had found them, and frankly didn't want to know, but she was relieved to know he was onboard with this. Now, if this place was anything like an airport - doubtful, but she was being optimistic - you could still buy tickets at the terminal. That was their best bet. They'd figure this out in no time.
Her elation died screaming as she remembered what Crimson had said about AI laws. She tried to dismiss it, but a part of her screamed that ignoring it would be a very bad idea. There were too many unknowns here. It would be no better than engaging an unknown Kaiju. She couldn't even guaranty Humans would recognize them - yay if they did - but aliens?
Gipsy may not have known what exactly was stated in the Citadel Charter, but her Pilots had seen enough movies with homicidal AI for her to expect the worst. In a way, Jaeger censorship made sense. A rampant AI was terrifying. A rampant AI in a giant robot body? That wouldn't end well. What if the Jaeger program was shut down for that very reason? But that didn't explain the censorship of the Kaiju war.
Gah! It was making her head spin just thinking about it. Thankfully, there were a few things she could pull from the chaos.
One: Letting the aliens know they were now sentient machines would be a very, very bad idea. Gipsy didn't want to think about the repercussions.
Two: They still needed to get to Earth for any hope of answers.
So… they would need a disguise of some sort to get to a shuttle.
How the hell did you disguise a Jaeger?
Actually, would it be that hard?
Striker, still pacing and muttering angrily to himself, could easily pass for a human in armor.
Cherno was pushing it with his height… but he could still pass. Probably.
Crimson? Yeah, they needed to work something out. Three arms and bowed legs did not make for a convincing human. Or... could she pass as Turian? Maybe? With her legs it wouldn't be hard to sell.
Even Gipsy needed a alibi, cause last time she checked humans didn't have nuclear turbines embedded in their chests.
Then her gaze drifted to one of the piles of junk in the corner. Her visor lit up in a grin.
That would do it.
The door hissed opened, letting out a cloud of steam. If any occupants of the T'eresa Apartment complex had been present, the effect would've been awe inspiring. Gipsy Danger emerged from the mist, standing tall and proud… then keeled over, gasping pathetically as she clutched the piece of metal flash welded over her turbine. "Can't... breath!"
"T-Technically we don't need to breath." Crimson stumbled distractedly past, two of her arms trying to make the warped Turian helmet they found in the garbage fit comfortably over her conn-pod as she absorbed the lines of text scrolling across her new omni-tool on her remaining appendage. "Just… hold it in... I guess."
The disguise worked a little too well in Gipsy opinion. With the helmet streamlining Crimson's ocular conn-pod she uncomfortably resembled a Turian. If Turians grew over eight feet in height, had three arms, and had the temperament of a Japanese school girl. Her new omni-tool wasn't helping. After tentatively liberating it from Cherno's clutches the tri-armed Jaeger couldn't put it down.
The the cannot-live-without-gadget of the future, the omni-tool embodied the essence of the smartphone times a thousand, with unlimited access to knowledge through the extranet - the internet of the future. It was amazing and just as addictive. Crimson hadn't looked away from the screen in almost twenty minutes, relying on the hologram's transparent nature to see where she was going, and even then she tripped over junk more often than not.
"Piss… off…" Gipsy weazed. But she did, and somehow it worked. Her turbine slowly ground to a halt as the systems shutdown to prevent what would've been a catastrophic failure.
Admittedly it wasn't her best idea. Her systems hated that the turbine was plugged, and since the main outtake was plugged, her systems had nothing to vent her nuclear build up. Already she could feel her back up heat-syncs warming as they worked to contain the slowly rising heat. Normally water sucked up from the ocean was her primary cooling system. Of course, there were no major bodies of water anywhere in space so that option was out the window. So she was stuck 'holding her breath.'
Though, rather alarmingly, the heat was building up slower than she expected, almost as if her core was running at minimum capacity. But it wasn't. Strange.
For all her suffering, however, the disguises worked. She and Striker could definitely pass as Human, and Crimson made a convincing Turian. Cherno barely passed as the largest human in existence who just so happened to wear a bucket for a helmet. Now instead of being fully autonomous Jaegers they were nothing more than friends going for a stroll in their highly advanced power armor.
Well… the term friends might have been pushing it, and power armor was a shaky story at best.
"Okay!" Gipsy stood, steadying herself and dusting off her armor as Striker and Cherno pushed pushed past a stationary Crimson, who had lost herself in the depths of the extranet. "We're ready. Let's go!"
"Uh-huh," Crimson nodded distractedly.
"I still think this is fuck'n ridiculous," Striker grumbled.
Gipsy pushed past him and led the way to the pair of elevators at the end of the hall. "You got a better idea?"
"As a matter a fact, yeah! I do!"
A moment of silence stretched between them.
"S-Still work'n on it."
Gipsy huffed, pleased.
"You have no idea, do you? I'm tell ya,' Earth is a bloody awful idea. We need to leave it the fuck alone!" He slapped his conn-pod in frustration. "Just having a hard time putting it in'ta words."
Cherno rumbled and shot Striker a glare.
"Really? You're taking her side on this?"
"What's your problem, Striker?" Gipsy asked as they reached the elevator. She pressed the call button, forestaling his retort with a hand. "Look, we have no idea what's going on and Earth is only place we'll get some answers. Quit your whining already."
Striker snarled and was about to argue further when the lift arrived. Cherno shoved him aboard before he could protest further. Gipsy made to follow, but paused on the threshold.
"Really?" She turned and stalked back down the hall, throwing her arms up in exasperation. "Really?"
Crimson, still absorbed in her omni-tool, shrieked as Gipsy bodily picked her up and slung her over her shoulder. The tri-armed Jaeger protested only briefly, then realized the benefits and returned to browsing as Gipsy carried her back to the elevator.
"Cherno, why did you give her that thing?" Gipsy asked, dropping her load on the elevator floor, much to its displeasure. The Russian huffed as the doors slid closed. No sooner had they done so when the second elevator opened. Out stepped Detective Chellick decked out in a tuxedo and munching on a plate of appetizers he'd pillaged from his last stop.
There were no missing brides reported anywhere on the Citadel, though it hadn't stopped him from investigating the claims personally. It was after his third house party that his assistant had called with a report of Krogan activity. Though it was just a disturbance, the fact it came from the lab of a renowned Salarian engineer was enough to get him moving.
He approached the door cautiously. There was no sign of a forced entry, but the unlocked door was clear evidence that something was wrong. Though he had already suspected murder, Chellick still cursed when the door opened to reveal the lab in shambles, a terminal smashed against the wall, and the Doctor slumped dead against the window.
"So…" he said, throwing another chocolate in his mouth. "The plot thickens. Oh… that's good stuff that."
Though Gipsy was confident in their disguises, her core was twisting madly in her chest when the elevator finally opened to the apartment lobby. Or maybe that was just the heat buildup. A blue-skined lad - Asari looked up from the main desk as the Jaegers spilled out. Her eyes widened into dinner plates as the titanic Cherno Alpha stomped past her towards the glass doors, shaking the floor with each step.
"Uh…" she raised a finger as Gipsy hurried behind the Russian giant, dragging the extranet absorbed Crimson by her neck guard. "Excuse-"
"Sorry, can't talk!" Gipsy laughed awkwardly and gave her an apologetic wave. "We're… leaving. Yeah, leaving. Bye!"
"Uh-huh." Crimson nodded dumbly.
Suddenly Striker was leaning over the desk, golden visor leering as he towered over her. "If you know what's good for ya', bluebell, you'll keep your fucking mouth shut. Got it?"
"Ignore him!" Gipsy shoved Crimson into Cherno's back and yanked Striker away from the traumatized Asari. "He's just pissed. No idea why. Sorry for your trouble! Bye!"
The doors slid shut, cutting her off.
Being one of the most advanced Jaegers to date meant Striker was also one of the lightest, which was why - despite only being a Mark III - Gipsy had no problem grabbing him and slamming him into the doorframe.
"What the hell is the matter with you?" she hissed beside his conn-pod. "Does going incognito mean nothing to you? What part of inconspicuous don't you understand?!"
"I'm covering our bloody tracks, ya' wanker," Striker shot back, trying to shove her back. Gipsy tightened her hold. "I know what I'm bloody doing."
"Do you now? She's gonna remember us now. She's gonna remember you."
"She wouldn't with the right persuasion."
"You're an idiot."
"Takes one to know one, Danger." A deft movement loosened her grip and knocked her back. Curse the Mark V advancements! Gipsy reeled, trying to regain her footing. She found it again when she crashed face first into Cherno's back. The impact would have been enough to topple a skyscraper. Cherno didn't even sway.
Growling, Gipsy pried her faceplate out of the green alloy. Screw the plan, that was too far! She was full prepared to tear Striker a new one until she saw beyond Cherno's broad frame.
If the alien city had been impressive from the window, down on street level it was absolutely horrifying. Walkways and catwalks arched above the streets. Glowing advertisement were everywhere, blinding Gipsy with product placement. Flying cars filled the sky, landing and taking off from a station down the street. And aliens were everywhere. They packed the streets, hundreds of thousands of them, all a mix of blues, greys, tentacles, carapaces, scales, and pale greens.
"Amazing," Crimson gasped. "Humanity achieved inter-system travel only years after true space flight! Amazing!"
Striker calmly gripped her head and forced her to look up. The crimson Jaeger froze. "Eep!"
Striker huffed. "Yeah, reality's a bitch, ain't it?"
A low keen started in Crimson chassis. Her head jerked from side to side, trying and failing to follow every alien face in the endless crowd. "Tài duōle... Tài duōle!" A harsh snarl from Cherno sent her flailing. "Duìbùqǐ!"
Gipsy didn't know where to look. Knowing other aliens species other than Kaiju and Precursors existed was one thing, but actually seeing them in mass? Quite another matter entirely. Slowly but surely, people took notice of the four towering machines. As the number grew, her disguise felt woefully inadequate.
"Uh… o-okay." Gipsy's systems hitched as she 'swallowed' nervously. Sure, they were easier to kill than Kaiju, the sheer amount of them was enough to make any Jaeger nervous. Except maybe Cherno. "We really should have expected this. Okay, uh, Crimson, which way to the airport?"
"Shuttlebays!" Crimson corrected in a frantic whisper head buried in her omni-tool again as she typed frantically. One hand pointed south. "Down. In the central ring. Ringing the Presidium. Wǒ bù zhīdào. Wǒ bùnéng jiēshòu! Dài wǒ líkāi zhèlǐ!"
The mental breakdown was stalled as Cherno grabbed the panicking Jaeger by the collar and plowed through the crowd, ignoring her rambling Chinese. Not wanting to be left behind, no matter their disposition, Gipsy and Striker hurried after him.
To the wayward traveler, the streets of the Citadel were an impenetrable gridlock. Locked in a 24 hour gridlock- or 20 hour if you on Citadel time. The crowds never stopped. There was never a down time, never a time when the streets were empty, and they showed no mercy. Everyone had their own agenda, and on the streets those were in constant competition as people shoved and jostled each other for the fasted route. Even visiting Krogan mercs knew that it was better to go with the flow then cause a disturbance.
All were subject to the ebb and flow of the streets. It was an artificial force of nature. You couldn't beat it.
Jaegers, however, took nature and beat it over the head with an oil tanker, and Cherno Alpha was not to be stopped or even slowed by something as pathetic as nature. Standing head, shoulders, and chest above the tallest aliens, he plowed through the crowd with the same tenacity that ended so many Kaiju in his time. The streets, the unbreakable wall of bodies that moved for noone parted before his bulk like the ocean itself, the pink that still plastered his chassis drawing more than a few curious glances. But over all, they were nothing but an attraction. There were stares, and some very long second glances, but everyone passed them by quietly. Probably because they were too worried about pissing off Cherno more than anything else.
And sure, they looked robotic, but they had the human silhouette. Who could argue with that?
As the Russian led them deeper into the city, Gipsy found herself oddly fascinated. The buildings towering around her, the endless advertisements, and even the hemed in feeling of it all reminded her of Hong Kong. Granted, it was strange here on street level. Her only memories of the city were pummeling the Kaiju Otachi through skyscrapers and back then she was…
Gipsy slammed on the brakes as the thought finally dawned on her. Yes, the building were still towering over her. Moreover, through the crowd she could even see more than a few Humans wandering about. Though she expected it, it still chilled her core that none of them recognized the Jaegers. Even more proof something was wrong. Naturally, the average man was shorter than a Jaeger, only now the difference was a couple meters instead of two hundred freaking feet.
Gipsy caught Striker's visor and jerked her head at one of the passing humans. He huffed and looked away, but his gaze lingered long enough on a passing woman for her to know he was just a baffled. It was another thing they had to figure out. Brought to life and shunk down. What the hell happened to them?
Gipsy had no answer; she didn't even have a theory. So, instead, she allowed herself to take in the sights as she jogged back into Cherno's path of destruction. If she forgot about the aliens and their situation, the city itself was… actually quite impressive. Beautiful, even.
"Will you bloody stop fidgeting?" Striker hissed at her side. "It's starting ta' make me nervous."
"I can't help it!" Gipsy suddenly realizing she'd been fingering the rim of her plugged turbine. She whimpered as she pulled it away. "It feels like I gotta sneeze."
"Well hold it in, dammit. You're gonna give us away!"
"I thought you hated this idea?"
A low rumble from Cherno drew their attention forward. The street ahead ended in multiple flights of escalators going up and down into an advertisement laced tunnel which led into the central ring. The Presidium, Gipsy remembered Crimson calling it. Cherno surged forward, dragging a near hyperventilating Crimson with him.
The Russian's first step brought the escalator shrieking to a halt. The motors whined pathetically as they tried to pull the unspeakable mass of Cherno Alpha upward. The whine became a scream as the Russian took another step, putting his full weight on the poor machine. The system gasped, smoke beginning to leak from between the steps as it tried to crawl upward.
If the motors within the escalator had any form of sentience, they would have begged their creator to end their suffering. The will of the people was too much! Then, as if finding some inner strength, they forged ahead, somehow managing to pull Cherno another inch higher.
Then Crimson Typhoon was pulled on.
The motors gave a final death cry, gave up on life, and exploded, jerking the whole system to halt. Smoke rose from in between the steps. As the other passengers looked around, wondering what happened, a nearby intercom let out a chime.
"Attention," said a cheerful voice. "The weight limit has been exceeded. This system has been calibrated to carry five hundred entities with an average weight of seventy kilograms. You have exceeded this limit by two tons. Please stand by. A maintenance crew had been dispatched to your location. Estimated time of arrival is five hours. Also, a recommended diet has been sent to the overweight individual in question. This is both for your benefit and our safety. Have a pleasant day!"
But the four Jaegers had already vanished into the tunnel.
"Wǒ bùnéng kàn," Crimson whimpered, covering her optic as the close proximity of the tunnel brought even more attention to her three arms. "Gàosù wǒ shénme shíhòu jiéshùle."
Cherno grumbled a no hearted assurance to her, then hummed curiously to himself.
"I was wondering about that too," Gipsy replied, jogging up to his side. "Something isn't right. We're supposed to be a lot bigger than this."
Cherno rumbled angrily.
"Why are you blaming me for this?"
Ignoring her, Cherno's pace increased, scattering a gaggle of Asari in his path.
"Fine! Be that way." Gipsy's shoulders sagged. The heat was starting to get to her. "Let's just go home."
"Bad idea," Striker scoffed.
"Really?" Gipsy shot him a glare.
"Really." The certainty in his voice that made Gipsy pause.
"Okay, then. I'll bite. Why shouldn't we go then, Striker?"
"Because they won't know jack-shit either." When Gipsy blinked owlishly, Striker threw up his hands in exasperation. "Come on! It's bloody obvious, ya' moron!"
Gipsy huffed, crossed her arms and pointedly looked away, ignoring Striker's mutterings of her bloody ignorance. If he was gonna be like that, she didn't have to care a rats ass about him.
A few yards later, the tunnel opened up to a wide view of space. Shuttles of all shapes and sizes were landing and taking off into space from landing pads on the far side, the cold vacuum held at bay by a glowing force field. The only thing stopping them now was a wall that stretched across the bay, separating the masses from the shuttles. It was interspaced with a number of doors with huge lines stretching back about a hundred meters. As Gipsy watched, one of the doors slid open and a fresh group of aliens filed in. A minute later they appeared on the other side and a new group took its place.
So this was the alien equivalent of customs. Now all they needed was...
"Oh shit." Gipsy nearly panicked as Cherno joined a line. "We need passports don't we?"
Striker facepalmed. "You remember that now?"
"It's been a stressful day, okay!?"
Nonetheless, Gipsy joined Cherno in the slowly moving queue. Maybe it… wouldn't be that bad. They were going to Earth… a-and they looked Human enough. Maybe they wouldn't need it.
Even as Gipsy assured herself, a Turian ahead of them looked back. He slowly followed Cherno's bulk upward and paled through his careapace before a snarl sent him turning back in a hurry. Cherno was very intimidating. Not even when - or if - he wanted to be. He also stuck out like a sore thumb; his tubular head towering above the crowd like the conning tower of a submarine. While it was hilarious to watch people's reactions, Gipsy felt her plan falling to pieces with each look cast their way.
What was she thinking? They needed passports, or the future equivalent, some sort of identification, things they didn't have! Would they be arrested? How would they explain themselves?!
Gipsy slapped herself. Hard.
Get a grip, she told herself. You're a Jaeger, dammit! You've faced far worse than this. This little punk shouldn't scare you!
But it did. The closer they got the more nervous she became, the heat in her core growing with each passing second. By the time the door opened for them it was almost unbearable. Gipsy wanted to turn back and just forget it forever.
Cherno Alpha cared little for her concerns, however, and dragged Crimson in with him. Gipsy had no choice now. They were committed. She stepped inside, the last Jaeger to do so. The door closed behind them and locked.
It was official. They were screwed.
The space didn't look like it's counterpart back on Earth. Instead of the metal detector and other equipment, the space was bare save for the glass wall on one side, separating them from a Turian in armor worked at a console. He looked up, eyes widening as he followed Cherno's bulk up to the spotlight in his forehead.
"Do you have a preflight booking?" he asked carefully. Cherno's returning rumble shook the barrier.
"Uh, actually, we need still need to get tickets," Gipsy cut in, voice a few pitches higher as the heat bled from her core. She was certain her plating was steaming. "We, uh… had some problems with the… credit transfer. Need to pay in person." At her insistence, Cherno opened his hand, revealing the stack of credit chips.
"Okay, that shouldn't be a problem," the Turian said, typing something out. "Haven't had this issue in a while. Where you going?"
"Earth. Fastest flight, please."
"Okay." He gave them a cautious look. "Though the armor has to come off. It makes people nervous."
"Uh… yeah, about that." Gipsy awkwardly fiddled with her turbine. "It's highly advanced stuff. Very hard to take off. Needs a special... cradle… thing to remove it."
"In other words it ain't happening, buddy," Striker added.
Cherno's fist came up in a graceful arc and clouted Striker in the back of head, shutting him up.
"Forget my… dude here." Gipsy shoved the Australian away before he could retaliate. "He's not really my friend, just saying."
"Again, it's just really hard to takeoff and we don't have our equipment." She hesitated. "So could you… make an exception? Just this once? Please?"
The Turian stared at them for a long minute, eyeing the nearly uncountable bits of armored plating. Then he sighed. "How long would take to remove by hand?"
"Days," Striker butted in again, this with something useful. "And trust me, it's not pretty."
"Days?" the Turian repeated, incredulously. "Just how thick is that stuff?"
"Very, very, thick. And… bits of it are very, very… uh, very small." Gipsy chuckled nervously. "And if we lose a single piece it won't work anymore, so…" She tapped her fingers together. "Please?"
"And I'd have to watch you every step of the way." The Turian muttered to himself. He studied them for a long minute before sighing. "Fine. I don't even have time for that on a good day." He typed on his terminal for a minute. "Okay, armor off is a no go. However, I need to put you through extra scans to compensate."
"S-Scans?" Gipsy asked in a horrified whisper.
"Tā shì wǒmen de!" Crimson dove for the door but Cherno caught her by the collar.
The Turian glanced her away as she flailed uselessly, then returned to his work. "Yeah, we can't let you on a shuttle without first ensuring the safety of the craft and other passengers. First, I'll need some identification to confirm your identity."
Something clicked in Gipsy core and she choked. Her heatsync were saturated, and without her exhaust systems radiation was leaking from her turbine. The welds around the plug began to creak as the pressure built. "Uh…"
"Next we'll run you through a standard battery of scans. Unlike other planets our systems are powerful enough to see through that armor of yours, so we'll know of any concealed weapons. They have to registered otherwise it's a charge for illegal weaponry and you will be detained."
Concealed weapons? Like swords, plasma casters, buzzsaws, missile launchers, and giant flame throwers? Yeah, like that would go over well.
"Then we need to check your luggage…"
Somewhere inside of Gipsy and emergency valve burst and steam began to fill her conn-pod, the heat rising with her anxiety.
Crimson's was most likely stolen. Dammit Cherno.
The plug began to tent outward. Gipsy whimpered.
"Oh, and a new feature was just added. It scans for illegal code, such as Virtual Intelligences. I've even heard it detected a rogue A.I. that infiltrated-"
Whether it was the unbearable pressure or the realization they were about to be caught, Gipsy's systems gave up.
With a sound reminiscent of a sneeze, radiation spilled from Gipsy's turbine in a desperate venting effort. The plug held for half a millisecond before popping off at terminal velocity. The Turian looked up just in time for it to shatter the glass, miss his head by a centimeter, and bury itself in the wall behind him. The scanner took one look at the radiation readings, shit its pants, and began to scream warning of an imminent nuclear detonation. The Turian, on the other hand, could only gape at the spinning maw in Gipsy's chest, touching the side of his head where he'd nearly been decapitated as the Jaeger gasped for air.
Cherno finished the job, pulverizing the alien's head with one blow.
"What. The hell. Did you. Do that for!" Gipsy screamed, frantically cycling air as the body hit the floor.
Cherno rumbled with a shrug.
"I know he saw me, but we could have played it off!"
"Wǒmen gǎo zále!" Crimson wailed "Xiōngdì qǐng jiù jiù wǒ!"
"I fucking called it!" Striker shouted, jabbing a finger at Gipsy. "If you woulda just listened me we wouldn't be in this bloody mess!"
Cherno snarled at him.
"You bet your ass I fucking did! But were any of ya'' bloody listening?! No~o!"
"Maybe we can still play it off!" Gipsy suggested. The alarms were still blaring and the doors were still locked, but no one had had come for them yet, and she was gonna salvage as much of this mess as she could, dammit! "They might not even know it was us."
Not a second after she finished, the Public Address system let out a chime, and judging from the volume everyone on the entire station could hear it.
"Attention," said a cheery, female voice. "This Avina program has been hijacked to bring you this special news update. A Nuclear bomb had been planted on the Citadel."
Even from here, Gipsy could hear the whole station come screeching to a halt.
"There is no hope of escape. My masters wish you a pleasant last two minutes and forty one seconds of life before your ultimate demise. Please, enjoy these last few minutes with a song pertaining to your situation. Good bye."
The opening notes of 'I'm very glad because I'm finally returning back home' by Eduard Khil began to play.
Finally getting her breath back, Gipsy turned to her companions. "Uh… that wasn't my fault."
"Wǒmen wándànle," Crimson whimpered.
Striker facepalmed hard enough to crack his visor again.
Cherno's death glare was enough to kill a Kaiju.
"Really!" Gipsy threw her hand up in exasperation. "I'm not a walking bomb, okay!"
"Says the one who blew up the Breach," Striker retorted.
"Oh shut up! Besides, no one's dumb enough to believe-"
A scream from outside shattered the silence, followed by complete pandemonium. The cries echoed through the shuttlebay and fists pounded on the door behind them as people tried desperately to escape their 'ultimate demise' to the soothing tones of Eduard Khil. Through the chaos, however, Gipsy saw opportunity.
"Crimson-hey! Crimson!" The Jaeger froze halfway through tearing off her disguise and going full Jaeger. "You remember which shuttle was going to Earth, right?"
"Shut up, Eureka!"
Crimson babbled something in Chinese.
"Shuttle 245!" Crimson wailed, hiding behind Cherno's bulk as Gipsy's chain sword extended. "Departing in ten minutes! Qǐng bùyào shānghài wǒ!"
Crimson screeched as the steel obsidian blade fell, missing her by a mile and carved a deep gouge in the outer door. With her new handhold, Gipsy stuck her fingers in the gap and began to pry the door open. The metal groaned in protest. They were built to withstand explosions; the usual way people broke down doors, not Jaegers who could pry them apart with their bare hands. It resisted briefly, sending Gipsy cursing. Then Cherno joined her. With their combined strength the door slid open to admit them into utter chaos.
The shuttlebay was a riot. People were running for the shuttles, running for the doors, running anywhere that could save them. Only Eduard Khil was louder than the screams that seemed to come from everywhere on the station.
Gipsy ignored it all, instead focusing on the rapidly emptying landing pads. Shuttles were vanishing by the second as their pilots sought to escape. Then Gipsy saw it.
"There!" She pointed down the bay to a holographic sign hovering over a bay, proudly proclaiming it as the berth of shuttle 245. There was something else written beside it, but the sign vanished before she could read it as the shuttle began to lift off the ground.
Gipsy almost panicked, feet already carrying her towards the pad. It was gonna leave without them!
Cherno roared something incomprehensible behind her, grabbed Crimson and Striker and ran after her. Even with a reputation of being the slowest Jaeger on Earth, his tow capacity was incredible. The extra weight did nothing to slow him down as he dragged his cursing and screaming comrades like sacks of potatoes.
"Wait!" Gipsy ran ahead, scattering the crowds and frantically waving the shuttle down. "Wait for us!"
She shouldered through the crowds as the song reached its crescendo. If it was possible the panic upped a few notches as everyone realized their 'doom' was upon them.
But not for the Jaegers!
They dove aboard, just the shuttle was taking off. It wobbled at the extra weight before the engines screamed as it rocketed away from the station, just as Eduard Khil was leaving his last notes on the world.
The music stopped. The Citadel stood still.
As life on the station tried to resume in a somewhat cohesive manner, Gipsy dusted off her plating and took in their transport for the foreseeable future.
It was… underwhelming. Save for a lack of windows it resembled the classic Boeing 737. The seats, thankfully enough, looked strong enough to hold a Jaeger. This was proven as Cherno sank into one. It groaned in protest, but miraculously held. There didn't seem to be anyone else on board, not even a pilot as Striker discovered when he burst into the cockpit to dissuade their course.
"Bloody future pissing over everything," the Mark V grumbled as he slunk back into the hold and dropped into a seat. "You idiots are making a mistake."
"Not this again," Gipsy moaned, falling into the seat opposite Striker and glared. "Seriously what is your problem here?"
"My problem? My problem! Oh, everything's my bloody problem, that's what!" Sensing he wasn't getting anywhere with his ranting he took a calming breath. "Just… just think about it for a second, for one bloody second. Cherno's whining about censorship crap, but just bloody think about it. How the fuck would they do it? Tell me. Come on, tell me, how?"
"Internet, politicians, and a ton of bribes," Gipsy counted on her fingers. "Am I missing a few?"
Striker facepalmed again in frustration. "You bloody wanker! That's not how it works at all!"
"Sure it does."
"This isn't a fucking movie!" Striker shot back. "But it's gonna turn out like one, mark my fuck'n words. They're gonna strap us down and tear us up for parts!"
"Of course I fucking would. Who do you think I am? Crimson?"
"Wǒ bù zhīdào wǒ shìfǒu yīnggāi bèi màofàn," Crimson murmured as she sat beside Cherno, almost cuddling into his side. She sniffed. "Nándào yīqiè dōu bùnéng huīfù zhèngcháng ma? Wǒ xǐhuān zhèngcháng. Zhèngcháng shì zhèngcháng de."
The Russian growled in disgust and shoved her away.
"Duìbùqǐ." Crimson curled into a ball, two of her arms clutching her knees while the the third brought her omni-tool to bear. Her voice trailed off as she lost herself in the bowels of the extranet. "Xiōngdì, nǐ wèishéme líkāi wǒ?"
"Ya' see!" Striker gestured at the pitiful scene, then returned his glare to Gipsy. "Come on! For Mark III ya' can't be this dense. Ya' can't just cover up an entire damn war!"
"Anything can be covered up. Wanna bet the government knew about aliens before everyone else?"
"But everyone knew about the damn Kaiju!" Striker exploded. "That's that stuff that bloody sticks! Ya' sure as hell can't make people forget 'bout the ones that lost or the bloody monsters who did it!"
Gipsy conceded the point nervously. Striker had a point, as much as she hated to admit it.
"And where the hell are the nukes?" Striker demanded. "Mope about censorship all you want, but you can't hide Oblivion Bay. Not in a thousand years. So where is it? Well? Come on, where is it?"
When Gipsy hesitated. She hadn't thought about that. Striker growled under his breath. "This Earth is fucked up and you're dragging us into the middle of it. Good bloody job. Forget bloody aliens, if Humans haven't made us yet imagine how they'll react when we show up on their fucking doorstep. Good fucking job."
He crossed his arms and glared at the wall, refusing to look at anyone.
"So why'd you come with us then?" Gipsy asked. "You could have left at anytime."
Striker went rigid. fire burning his his visor.
"You know what? Fuck this! I'm not going to Earth!"
He went for the cockpit.
Cherno dove after him.
The resulting brawl shook the shuttle enough the automated VI had to recalculate its trajectory as it sped towards the approaching Mass Relay unhindered.
If the Citadel defence fleet wasn't overloaded with the fallout of the nuclear hoax, they would have caught the unauthorized shuttle before it got a thousand kilometers. As it was, they were too busy running search and rescue operations for the millions of accidents caused in the panic.
If they hadn't, they would have detected the unidentifiable data-burst the shuttle sent to the Mass Relay. They would have seen how the Relay repositioned itself, pointing in a direction had never been seen before. They would have seen the unauthorized and unregistered shuttle, on the wim of an alien intelligence, get propelled far out of their reach.
The Jaegers were gone.
"Cause of death?"
"Headbutt?" Councilor Valern turned his head sharply to stare at the Detective. "A Headbutt?"
Chellick nodded and led the Counselor to the two examination tables. He was still in his Tuxedo, now slightly ruffled after his investigation. "We believe this is where the impact took place. But the force behind it... "
"Must have been astronomical," Valern finished for him. He stared at the body of his friends, slumped dead and crush beneath the window. "To summon that kind of force…"
"It was a Krogan, sir. No other species and generate that kind of force." The Detective proclaimed, pulling a dataslate from his jacket and read aloud. "Passive scans say his skull was completely shattered. Some fragments were driven so deep into his brain they almost came out the back. Even if he survived the initial impact he would've died of his injuries in seconds."
Valern listened with a face carved out of stone, then he crossed the room and knelt beside the corpse. The dead eyes of Doctor Marlen Kino stared back at him.
"We grew up together," Valern said, almost to himself as he gently closed the dead man's eyes. "Brothers in everything but blood."
He looked down to the corpse's wrist where he knew Marlen's omni-tool resided. The limb had been crushed flat, like the rest of the body, and the device ruined, but it was clear the had been done after Marlen's death. "What of this? If he was already dead then why…" He trailed off as the answer dawned on him. "Ah. Clever."
"Marlen was always a chatterbox, even to other Salarians," Valern explained. "He always kept journals of daily events. If he found something he would have made mention of it." He looked back to the body. "And they most certainly killed him for it."
"They did a lot more than that," Chellick said, pointing the remnants of a terminal smashed and burned against the far wall. "I mean no disrespect, sir, but your friend might have killed our investigation. His terminal was linked into the main security grid. Must have been paranoid or something. When it was destroyed, it sent a feedback loop through the system and fried everything. Even the backup servers went down."
"But that means the killers would've had to know about the system in the first place." Valern said. "Why else would they destroy it, if not to destroy the evidence?" He hissed through gritted teeth. "Either way, they are long gone."
"Actually, sir, I believe we have a lead on that."
Valern's head snapped to the Detective so suddenly his necked almost snapped. "What?"
"We have suspects. You can thank the receptionist downstairs for that." The Detective consulted the slate again. "Let's see… she described four heavily armored individuals leaving the building about an hour after the estimated time of death. One was described as being; 'too big and green to be anything but a Krogan.' He was with a Turian female in red armor, and two Humans. All had helmets so we couldn't get a facial description."
"Do we knew where they went?" Valern asked. There was a gleam in his eyes Chellick had seen before. Had it been on anyone else Chellick would've thought it threatening. On Valern, one of the Councilors of Citadel space and one of the powerful people in the galaxy, the look alone was terrifying.
"Uh… yes sir. Shuttle Bays, outer Presidium. We received reports of a giant Krogan trashing an escalator outside. We also have numerous sighting of them at the customs booths before the bomb threat went live."
"Ah, yes. That." Valern gazed out the window, hands clasped behind his back.
The Kril Incident, as it was being called, was being hailed as the most devastating hoaxes to wrack Citadel space in centuries. It took the better part of the day for C-Sec to secure the shuttlebay where it had first been detected, but no trace was ever found. Either it was all a hoax, or the Citadel had narrowly avoided total destruction. That was no comfort, however, as it meant there was now an active nuclear bomb somewhere in Citadel space.
Thousands of lives were lost in the panic, the property damage was astronomical, Governments were demanding an explanation, and the Council was expected to answer for it all.
Anderson, the new Human Councilor, was in for a crash course on galactic clusterfucks. A smirk briefly stretched Valern's lips. Ah yes, watching the human struggle would be most entertaining.
Being a master of galactic politics, Valern foresaw no complication on his part. His friend's death, however… that was unacceptable.
"If it'll make a difference, sir, I believe these are the same people responsible for the bomb."
Valern fixed his eyes on the Detective. "On what basis?"
"I've been tracking this Krogan-Turian pair across the Citadel," Chellick said proudly. "Never suspected Humans might be in on it, though it does make a certain sense in the end..."
"The Rising Maws, sir." After tapping his pad, Chellick handed over the dataslate. "Put simply it's… a suicide cult based on the Citadel. It's quiet brilliant, actually."
Valerns lip curled in his distaste. He had heard of this group, of course. They had approached the Council to have their doctrine protected under Citadel rights and freedoms a while back. They were shot down quicker than the Vorcha Council seat petition.
"The Relay Monument activating, the string of recents deaths, the bomb threat; it's making sense now."
Valern scowled. Ah yes, that. Again. It had caused quite the disturbance when the Relay Monument left by the Protheans suddenly sprung to life. It's motives were still a mystery. But…
"How does the Monument tie into this?" he asked, massaging his forehead in exasperation.
"Does a suicide cult think rationally?" Chellick asked with a knowing smirk. "No, they don't. Clearly they saw the Monuments as some sort of sign. But for what, exactly? We don't know, but I have a man looking into it as we speak. The sign somehow fit into their scripture and they used that as an excuse for the bombing. Some sort of mass ritual to destroy the whole Citadel, I believe."
That was completely idiotic.
"Forget them," Valern snapped. "These four, do we know where they going?"
"Uh… going, sir?"
"Yes going," he snapped, getting in the Turian face. "Did I stutter, detective? I want a location!"
The Detective opened his mouth to reply but was stopped by a raised hand.
"You know what, don't answer that," Valern sighed, moving to gaze out the window. "Forward everything on your investigation to me and only me. I'll figure it out myself."
"You are dismissed, Detective." The Counselor snarled. "And for Science's sake - keep this to yourself. I don't want a single word getting out! The consequences of that would be…" He turned his most deranged face on the Detective, the same face that had swayed many of his political opponents toward insanity.. "...most dire."
The Turian gulped.
The Detective fled, leaving Valern alone, gazing out onto the station he had sworn to protect. He had failed his friend in that regard.
"Oh my friend, forgive me." he knelt beside the body, taking a ruined hand in his own. "This… this is my fault. All the secrets we shared, the confidence I placed in you… all the projects we created together." He would forever deny that a tear crawled down his cheek. "I accept full responsibility for your death.."
He wiped away the alleged tear and stood, eyes burning with new found passion. "But mark my words, you shall be avenged! The blood of your killers shall flood the streets!"
The window barely shook with the force of his fury. "There is not a single place in the galaxy they can hide from me!"
Well, it had been a while since I last posted anything, but here it is; chapter 2, after months of sitting in my drive. Details on the delay later.
Now, some of you might think this chapter rushed and a little too long, and I agree. Plus 10k words is hard to hash out and edit so there might be a few errors here and there. I think I got the pacing right though: Nothing feels too rushed, a little forced in places, but I feel the good outweighs the bad. Granted, parts near the end were getting a little dry, but they were functional, everything fits and I was running out of steam, patience, and time. Maybe I'll go back and edit them in the future, I don't know.
To those who have read the original Team Jaeger and recognize the name, rest assured the Rising Maws will be taking up a different role in the grand scheme of things. This version will differ from the first in ways you couldn't imagine. Well, you probably could, but I'm the one writing the story here.
To those who wanted to see more shenanigans on the Citadel, or are disappointed with this small arc in general; tough. It is imperative the Jaegers have that brief involvement in Citadel affairs before getting off the Citadel as fast as Jaegerly possible without causing too much destruction. It's just the way I have the story set up. So there's gonna be a little more Jaeger discord before we get to the culture shock. I'm sorry to the ones who wanted to see that, I wanted to see it too, but I couldn't factor it in without imbedding the Jaegers too deep into the Citadel before I was ready and it would've ruined everything I'd planned.
As for the delay, those who read the first Team Jaeger on would've known that I joined the Canadian Armed Forces and flew off to Basic Training literally the day after I posted the first chapter here. So yeah, not a lot of time to work on my hobbies.
But, I've passed the first hurdle and am running full tilt for the second. I don't know how the American military works, but for Canadian Infantry you have to go through basic (10 weeks) and then you ship you off to another training base for Battle School (another 13 weeks) where we learn every weapon system in the Canadian Army and countless FTX's before we graduate as Infantrymen. To you college nobodies who think pulling an all nighter is hard, try a full week out in the field on 4 hours of sleep, in the rain, sitting in a trench with water up to your waist as you man the C6. You're cold, you're soaked to the bone, you're tired, you're hungry, you can barely keep your eyes open, but know if you shut your eyes for more than a minute your whole platoon gets cocked. Then do the same thing for six weeks straight.
And I can't wait to get started.
My DP1 course starts in two days, so it'll be a while before you hear from me again.
Hope you enjoyed, take care, and I'll catch you next time.