Rating: PG (for future parts)
Summary: The Second Kaiju War opens, and Ranger Cha Hakyeon, formerly Captain of the Republic of Korea Air Force, brought himself into the thick of it. There is no Jaeger piloting and Drifting, but the Kaiju War requires more than that from fighters.
Warnings: mentioned war and non-graphic violence, nothing serious.
A/N: part 1/? of the VIXX Pacific Rim AU
On the second of October 2037, a six point three Richter earthquake shook the bottom of the ocean a mere one hundred kilometers from Guam. Several coastal regions of Japan, China and the Philippines were warned of the possibility of tsunami. Water pressure off the Mariana Trench was detected to be lower than usual. This was assumed to be seismic activity of the ocean floor of the area, abnormal but explainable.
Three hours later, a large monstrous creature entered Hokkaido. Unprepared for something they hadn’t thought possible since a decade ago, half of the city of Kushiro was destroyed before the Japan government could react. Four nuclear strikes were barely enough to stop the terror, and along with it, more than thirteen thousand Japanese citizens were killed.
Twelve years, eight months and twenty days after ‘Operation: Pitfall’ and the closing of the First Breach, the alliance of countries along the Pacific Rim entered the Second Kaiju War.
The Japanese government, after surviving years of Kaiju terror only to have them come back again and attack their citizens, after their first and only direct experience with the alien monsters, was scared and afraid. When the Jaeger Program was reactivated by the newly reformed Pan Pacific Defense Corps, in an effort to protect itself, Japan spent billions of dollars to rebuild Kushiro to include a Shatterdome of its own - an epicenter for numerous Jaegers and their Kaiju-fighting. All salvaged resources from the old Shatterdome were moved here, and within a month after the first attack, Japan had its Kushiro Shatterdome in operation.
The South Korean government, though not yet affected by this upcoming war, was urged by the United States to join in protecting the East Asian coastal line. Politically, it couldn’t refuse to, due to several reasons. Firstly, it was rightfully part of the alliance that created the Pan Pacific Defense Corps and still had decorated Rangers living and breathing within its borders. Secondly, their participation in Jaeger research during peace time has put two Jaegers in the possession of South Korea. And lastly, South Korean citizens had already been in unrest ever since the Second Breach opened.
In the end, an agreement was reached between Japan and South Korea, allowing the South Korean government to send in one fifth of its military resource along with its two Jaegers to the Kushiro Shatterdome.
That was nine months ago, and Captain Cha Hakyeon of the Republic of Korea Air Force had remained in this god-forsaken coastal city ever since, one among the many officers of the first wave being sent off to Japan.
He was bored to death.
Pushing his tray of rationed dinner forward until he had enough space in front of him, he knocked his head into the metal surface of the table in a very exaggerated fashion, making a soft thunking sound.
- Are you being dramatic again, hyung? It’s dinner.
Someone said from above him, and Hakyeon didn’t bother to answer.
- Let the old man drown in his inflated sense of responsibility, Hongbin ah. Bored doesn’t look good on you, hyung. I wish I could invent a one-man Jaeger so you could go out there and punch some Kaijus instead of moping.
Hakyeon finally looked up to the two badmouthing him while he was right there, hello and gave them the bitchiest look he could muster:
- Shut up, you brats. Don’t make me hit you during a meal.
Jaehwan scrunched up his big fat nose and shook his head at the elder, before digging into his own meal of canned meat and unknown slimy soup. Hakyeon gave him another stink eyes before turning back to Hongbin. Only his mob of pink hair was visible, his head already buried inside a book, with no food tray in sight. His cup of coffee was twice as large as Hakyeon’s.
- Binnie, eat. And where’s Wonsik?
- He is working on the clock calculation with Jongin and Taemin again, they think they could reduce the time discrepancy with this new equation. And I still have some kinks to work out in the knee joints of Rovix I.
Hakyeon winced internally, because though he and Jaehwan were free due to having no drift-compatible partners, his constant whining about wanting to work might be insensitive towards people who had too much work on their hands like Hongbin and the mechanics, or Wonsik with his numerous works on the theoretical side of how-to-get-rid-of-Kaiju.
- Yeah, Hongbinie, mom said to eat, you should.
Hakyeon glared at Jaehwan, his hands raised and ready to hit the younger when the alarm blared.
Hongbin looked up from his book, face pale. Hakyeon and Jaehwan wore identical shocked expression – they had almost twelve hours on the clock, damn it, the Kaiju wasn’t supposed to hit them during the night when the Shatterdome had had a very tiring day.
They parted way, Hongbin towards his stations down at the deployment point while Jaehwan and Hakyeon headed towards LOCCENT. Though they barely had work, what with none of the Korean Jaegers operating, there was urgency to their steps. Shatterdome was a place of discipline, a military base with the sole purpose of running large operations that protect millions of civilians, and at times of attack, everyone had a certain role to play to ensure that the operation was carried out as effectively as possible. Even personnels without a purpose had a place to be, to stay out of the way or ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice to anywhere that might need them.
Halfway through their journey, Hakyeon vaguely heard a voice calling his names among the chaos of officers and rangers moving around base. He pulled Jaehwan to a stop:
- Ranger Cha Hakyeon?
Hakyeon struggled to remember who this person was, until he could place him as one of the navigating officers for the Korean spotter team.
He saluted the officer:
- The Japan spotter team requires your assistance. Please follow me.
- Yes, sir.
Jaehwan held onto his elbow. It’s the first time he was going to be in the immediate vicinity of a Kaiju, and Jaehwan seemed to understand the implication. He allowed himself to exchange a look of assurance with his fellow Ranger before tugging his arm free.
He was briefed on the way, his steps hurried by the officer almost running ahead. As it turned out, the Japanese spotter team had a helicopter out of commission due to being hit by the Kaiju two months back, and had requested for one replacement from the Korean spotting team. It wasn’t easy to fix a modified helicopter whose job was to go out there and potentially piss off Kaiju, shining lights everywhere.
As an ex-military pilot, one of Hakyeon’s roles after being in a Jaeger was to operate a spotter helicopter when a night attack occurred, but he hadn’t been called once during the nine months he had been here.
He clenched and unclenched his shaky hands, trying to will the nervousness out of his system.
- But I need a co-pilot. Shouldn’t Ranger Lee Jaehwan be with me?
- Our Ranger recruits had just arrived an hour ago, one of them has the best flight record from the Academy. The Captain requests for him to be your co-pilot.
Hakyeon tried not to let his surprise shown. Korea’s Ranger recruits were here? Jaehwan told him they wouldn’t be arriving until tomorrow, damn him and his incorrect gossip, Hakyeon had been waiting for them for months and he didn’t even know when they touched down?
And the guy was a civilian recruit; would he be able to get the job done? Of course he didn’t doubt someone with an excellent flight records from the Academy, being trained by America’s best trainers and all that, Jaehwan was trained there as well, but Hakyeon couldn’t exactly not question the spotter Captain’s decision to put a complete stranger to fly with him?
His feet on autopilot and his thoughts tangled, Hakyeon didn’t realize he had reached the helicopter bay until he almost bumped into the officer.
He hastily stepped aside, saluting the Captain. Next to them was a man with vivid black hair and a height that toweled over all of them, even Hakyeon and his 180cm.
- Ranger Cha, this is Ranger Jung Taekwoon, your co-pilot. Please proceed immediately to take off. - A shudder went through Hakyeon’s body at the word ‘co-pilot’, before Hakyeon had to remind himself that he wasn’t on his way to a Korean Jaeger, but only on a once-off mission.
That was all the acknowledgement from the Captain, a brief introduction that didn’t give Hakyeon any assurance at all about Jung’s ability. He bowed until the Captain and the navigating officer had returned to their control room.
He looked up to Jung Taekwoon’s sharp black eyes staring at him. Behind Jung’s shoulder, the Mark VII Japanese Jaeger Fubuki Silver was almost out of the Shatterdome and some of the Korean spotter team were ready to take off.
- Let’s go.
Hakyeon said, before brushing past Jung and towards the only helicopter at bay without a pilot.
Hakyeon’s hands shook visibly through the take off procedure. If Jung had noticed the tremor, he didn’t comment on it. He let Hakyeon do most of the communications as well, almost as if he wanted Hakyeon to lead. It was strange, because Hakyeon distinctly remember the training at the Jaeger Academy put an emphasis on working together as a unit and two halves being equal. That obviously wasn’t the case here with Jung Taekwoon.
Hakyeon consciously stopped this train of thoughts, refocusing his mental energy to taking orders and falling in line behind the Korean spotter team. All of their head lights were on, doing their job of lighting the way for the two Jaegers treading through the cold dark ocean. This part was easy; Hakyeon had gotten three years under his bell on the air before the Kaijus.
They were five kilometer out of the indicated location of the Kaiju when Hakyeon could see the shape of the monster. As briefed, its skin was scaly and some blue liquid was leaking out from underneath, a shade lighter than the usual bright blue of Kaiju’s blood, almost white.
Hakyeon, among the loud sounds of helicopter engines, among the roaring blackness of the sea, could hear Jung Taekwoon’s intake of breath over the comm, silent, hitched.
He stopped himself from doing the same thing, because as much as Jung Taekwoon had been a normal citizen, Hakyeon himself hadn’t felt this much danger ever during his stint in the Air Force. The force from the 30-storey-tall Kaiju was oppressing at this distance. Hakyeon suddenly felt like a small flies, insignificant to the creatures, supported (trapped) by an unarmed helicopter – ready to be swatted away without much effort. He allowed himself a glance to the Jaeger on his left, almost as tall as the Kaiju, and wished he had been the one piloting. His psych could have used the help of a gigantic robot and a weapon arsenal at his disposal.
Jung waved his hands in front of Hakyeon’s face, and Hakyeon snapped out of his thought, realising control was asking for his vision report. He made an apologetic expression towards his co-pilot, before relaying a description back to base, fussing the head light around a bit for better sighting.
They received a command in return, a position on the left of the Kaiju, codenamed ‘Snider’. They were slightly behind its left front leg and far out of its reach. Just enough to do the job of viewing the battle, not so close that the Kaiju would want to engage and endanger them.
Hakyeon focused on the three main controls to maneuver them into their designated spot, leaving Jung to listen to the Kaiju biological profile briefing. When they were almost there, two other helicopters on either of their sides, Hakyeon turned his attention to the spotter light and head light, their part of assisting the Jaeger in killing Kaijus.
His co-pilot had already finished adjusting the spotter light. He blinked at Jung.
- I have the lights, you can focus on keeping us in position. Hovering is hard enough.
Giving Jung a grateful nod, he refocused his attention on the main controls. The area was slowly lit up by the arrival of more spotter helicopters, and the confrontation was moments away, Snider only a few hundred meters from Fubiku Silver with backup Jaeger Meander Samurai already on its way.
Fubuki Silver raised its iron fist in the air, ready to strike and Hakyeon stopped breathing entirely. His shoulder tensed up, his eyes focused on the giant scuffle that was about to take place, the blue glow of Kaiju already burning at his retina.
The first contact was accompanied by a heavy slapping sound, metal against scaled flesh. Hakyeon’s hands almost shook along with the impact, but he resisted, keeping the plane steady. The only thing moving was the spotter lights of the helicopters. Hakyeon didn’t care to figure out which one was his.
Suddenly, they were lurching to the right. Seconds later, something crashed onto Hakyeon’s side of the aircraft, a force so heavy their speed was accelerated despite already on the trajectory. They were thrown from their position, and there were people screaming at Hakyeon’s ears in both Korean and Japanese it has a tail fuck Snider has a tail, at least two hundred meters long spotters pull back pull back .
A sharp pain shot up his left arm and Hakyeon realised his door was pressed in by the hit from the Kaiju, and a small part has turned into sharp metal edge, punctuating past his uniform to scrape against his skin. Something warm and wet trickled down his arm and seeped into his overall. Damn, Hakyeon did not expect an injury flying a spotter.
A hand shook his shoulder, and he looked to his right to find Jung Taekwoon with his hand on the second cyclic and a look of concern. He managed mouthing an ‘I’m okay’, but Jung’s eyes flickered towards his left arm.
- Report in, I’m fine, just a flesh wound.
Jung hesitated for a second, before nodding and turning on the intercom back to base, still with a mess of voices shouting and requesting for status reports.
Hakyeon closed his eyes, slowly moving his arm from its squished position, careful to avoid the sharp metal. Jung’s voice was strangely anchoring over the comm system, not low or loud but still heavy with the weight of his information. Apparently, he had spotted abnormal movements from the Kaiju and only had seconds to pull them out of the way by pure reflex, though not fast enough to avoid the hit. Hakyeon wondered why he was on the same copter as the guy and couldn’t see anything.
His arm was wrapped up with the torn out sleeves of his uniform by the time Jung finished his report. Hakyeon opened his eyes to see the area significantly darker – they had lost two with its pilots still inside and another three teams had to abandon their copters, jumping down into the sea, toxic Kaiju blood waiting for them. The rest from the two spotter teams had to stay out of the range of its tail.
The fight between Snider and their two Jaegers was well on its way to bloody. From Hakyeon’s view Samurai had its hand damaged, limply trying to work while the other kept punching at the Kaiju.
- Its weaknesses were on its tail and its back.
Jung relayed the information back to base, and Hakyeon turned to look at his co-pilot with wide eyes. How did he find that without any direct contact with the Kaiju, or a databse of Kaiju biology at hands? Jung kept up his communication, explaining his observation of two loose scale/skin patches on the Kaiju, as well as the stilled movements and favoured spots. The navigating team at base patched their intercom to LOCCENT halfway through.
- Ranger Jung, this is General Hwang Sejun. Are you sure?
- Yes, sir.
- Hold your position.
And then the intercom was cut off, leaving Hakyeon and Jung to sit idly on the copter.
- We will need to get back in there. It’s too dark for Silver and Samurai to take down the Kaiju. I only found the spots after I had our lights directed at Snider’s back. – Jung’s eyes again flickered towards Hakyeon’s arm. – but we don’t have to. We’re only spotting.
Hakyeon heard the silent question loud and clear. Jung Taekwoon was a man of actions and few words, Hakyeon had figured. He would want to go. He would want to assist the Jaegers at the expense of his safety. He was only saying this out of consideration for Hakyeon, his mind already made up. If Hakyeon said no, he would ask Hakyeon to jump out of the aircraft here, it’s a distance far enough from the fight to remain safe from Kaiju’s radioactive blood.
Hakyeon did not know why he understood all that, but it seemed as clear as day to him, as clear as the determined set of Jung’s shoulders, or the intensity of his gazes.
The intercom opened to tell them just that. They had seven spotter copters left, and all had been given a choice to return to base or venture into the range of the Kaiju’s killing tail, knowing all the pros and risks. Their two Jaegers might be able to defeat the Kaiju without any spotter lights needed. But they might not, as well. That’s military speak for ‘we need someone in there’ – the failure rate was too high.
Damn it, did all of them forget that Hakyeon was a Ranger as well? He signed up for the job knowing he could die trying to protect his country, whether it be in a Jaeger or a goddamn malfunctioned helicopter.
- General Hwang, this is Ranger Cha Hakyeon and Jung Taekwoon. We request for permission to engage.
It’s Taekwoon’s turn to be surprised, though it showed through his eyes only. Hakyeon smirked at the guy, and Taekwoon returned a small laugh. It’s beautiful.
- For the record, if we die, Taekwoon, you have a beautiful laugh, and you will die looking at the prettiest Ranger at the Kushiro Shatterdome.
They flew back into battle while the blush still hadn’t left Taekwoon’s cheeks.
The Kaiju’s tail made contact with their landing skids again, leaving the aircraft to shake dangerously. Taekwoon pulled them up higher, and while he had his hands full with the cyclic and the collective, Hakyeon tried to keep their nose steady with the tail rotor and controlling the spotter light. Their head light was out due to a frontal impact. The front glass on Hakyeon’s side was cracked during that hit as well, leaving Taekwoon to be the only one with perfectly clear vision of the battle and control of the main components.
Of the three spotters that went back to support the Jaegers, they only had two left. The other, an old Japanese navigating team that had experience being spotters during the First Kaiju War, was in charge of being in front to provide better vision for the two Jaegers, with a higher chance of a direct hit from the Kaiju’s claws. Hakyeon and Taekwoon were at the back, avoiding the tail and constantly shining lights onto the weak spots detected.
They swerved to the left, and Hakyeon turned the tail rotor, heading downwards. Snider’s tail passed by them cleanly, and Taekwoon took them up again, their spotter light the brightest point amongst the darkness and fainter lights installed on the Jaegers. Hakyeon’s adrenaline spiked higher, making his fingers tremble. It’s not fear.
Hakyeon hadn’t thought this kind of maneuvers possible for such a static aircraft such as the helicopter, slow to react with difficult controls to boost. But Taekwoon’s scores from the Academy reflected his ability to fly – he was quick to react to the Kaiju’s movements, his reading of situations was excellent and he had just an edge of recklessness that could have put him in a fighter plane if he had been career military like Hakyeon.
Hakyeon had started wondering if he was truly a civilian.
Snider’s front leg suddenly swung back towards them, and Taekwoon had to let go of everything to pull them back with the cyclic. Hakyeon grabbed hold of the collective, and they were out of danger as soon as they were in. They pulled higher, just in time to see what had pushed the creatures back – Samurai had grabbed hold of its right arm, while Silver scuffled with Snider to hold on to it and reach for its back.
It’s the decisive moment.
Taekwoon took back control of the mains, while Hakyeon tried to bring their spotter light to the exact spot they had been trying to show the Jaegers.
They remained steady for almost a minute, and Hakyeon saw the end of Snider’s tail headed towards them, a confirmed direct hit if they remained in this position.
Taekwoon refused to move.
Silver grabbed, and grabbed, and grabbed. Its robotic fingers suddenly dug under the patch of loose scale on Snider’s back, deep and unmoving. Silver pulled the Kaiju forward.
The sharp end of Sniper’s tail never touched Taekwoon and Hakyeon’s copter. The Kaiju roared. Silver had ripped out one third of the scale on its back, blue blood spattering everywhere.
They moved out of the way just in time for Snider to fall onto its back. Silver went in for the kill with its built in rocket.
And it’s finally over.
The mood back at the Shatterdome was as celebratory as it could get in a war zone. Taekwoon touched down to roaring cheers and numerous back pats, making him blush and constantly bowing. Hakyeon trailed behind him, reveling in the feeling of victory, shaking hands with whomever and especially enjoying the display of shyness from Taekwoon.
His hands were still shaking, adrenaline not yet ebbed. It’s not fear, but not the razor focus during the battle either. He chanced a look at Taekwoon, before turning away.
They were required at LOCCENT for a debrief, which surprised Hakyeon because spotter pilots were usually debriefed down at their own control room, not at Centre.
Hakyeon took care of the verbal briefing for their team, expecting Taekwoon to help him with the written report. He clenched his hands to try and reduce the tremor, trying his best to recount any and all information he could remember from their missions. He turned to Taekwoon only when information he felt important regarding the Kaiju was missing, and Taekwoon gave whatever he could, before knocking his fingers against the back of Hakyeon’s hand, impatient for the more experienced Ranger to take over the formality for him.
General Hwang Sejun, true to the rumours Hakyeon had heard, was all business. But he was also generous with his praises, saying they had been crucial with helping to defeat this Kaiju, especially Taekwoon and his observation skills. Taekwoon’s shyness and inability to receive a compliment amused Hakyeon endlessly, and towards the end of the briefing, he was almost tempted to make Taekwoon talk more about his accomplishments. Of course, Hakyeon wasn’t that cruel.
The debriefing took a total of one hour. Most personnels debriefing the two Japanese Jaeger teams as well as the other spotter team had started showing some signs of fatigue in some forms during the last five minutes. The general dismissed them all, and Taekwoon ducked out as quickly as humanly possible. Hakyeon almost missed him, if he hadn’t anticipated the guy’s flighty tendency.
Outside LOCCENT, Jaehwan, Hongbin and Wonsik was waiting for him. On his left, Taekwoon was approached by someone in a white lab coat, probably one of the Kaiju biologists wanting further debrief from Taekwoon’s impressive wealth of knowledge.
Taekwoon wasn’t even looking at her. Hakyeon’s eyes met his.
- Where is the Kwoon Room? – Taekwoon asked.
It’s the first time Taekwoon had asked something of Hakyeon, during their four hours together. They had been flying a helicopter around a Kaiju for three fourth of that time. Hakyeon was tired and he needed to head to the medical bay to have his arm looked at. Taekwoon was probably equally tired.
It’s one am.
Hakyeon took hold of Taekwoon’s wrist, and they headed for the Kwoon Combat Room.
There were people crowding into the room, wondering what both of them were doing at past midnight.
Hakyeon ignored them, picking up his familiar full length rokushakubō and twirling it a few times before holding it with his right hand and settling into his starting position.
Taekwoon picked up a few staffs before taking out a hanbō and a rokushakubō not dissimilar to Hakyeon’s, hanbō on his left hand and the traditional bō on his right.
Hakyeon raised an eyebrow at that.
"Aren’t you ambidextrous?"
"Favour my left."
That’s all the information he volunteered, before he lunged at Hakyeon.
He threw the shorter staff forward in a jab, reminding Hakyeon of a fencing move. So they weren’t doing traditional Jaeger Bushido. Hakyeon could work with that.
Hakyeon blocked the move with his own staff, using the force to push Taekwoon back a step. It’s a formal move to start off the match, Hakyeon knew. He pushed further forward, and Taekwoon’s full length bō came at his ankle. Hakyeon stood his ground, and his knees buckle under the unexpected force, forcing Hakyeon into a kneeling position. What happened to starting off lightly one move ago? Damn you, Taekwoon.
"One-zero." Someone called from the sideline, probably Jaehwan.
Hakyeon aimed a kick at Taekwoon’s feet, and the fake worked as Taekwoon didn’t saw his staff swinging upward and catching Taekwoon’s ribs. ‘One-one’, he called in his head.
Taekwoon also realised Hakyeon caught up to him in the not-gonna-go-easy-on-you department, and they swung both their staffs forward, the impact creating a loud sound. They fell into it easily.
Hakyeon forcibly went out of his way to not fall into his bad habits of going for the ribs, instead using his flexibility to dodge around Taekwoon’s forward and powerful blow. Taekwoon reversed the grip on his hanbō, using the shorter span to go at Hakyeon’s upper half, while the longer bō was used to attack Hakyeon’s easily recognised weak ankles.
Hakyeon weaved his way under the third forward thrust, darting forward and using his bare hand to aim a strong push against Taekwoon’s shoulder. Weakness of using two staffs: no room for bare hand maneuver. Taekwoon dodged as if he had been expecting the move from the start, using his shorter staff to hit at his lower back. He twirled around it, but Taekwoon caught him at the back of his knee with the rokushakubō and Hakyeon was falling down. Taekwoon used the shorter staff to support his chest, preventing him from falling face first. Hakyeon winced, and looked up at Taekwoon’s victorious quirk of lips, almost a smirk.
Neither of them went too hard after that, going for predicting each other and creating a rhythm, a pace, a flow instead of trying to take each other down. Each step forward or backward was met with not much resistance, and for every counterstrikes or dodging moves Hakyeon could put down, Taekwoon was there with his observational eyes to receive him. They never gained more than one point on each other before it’s even again.
Bushido was the method to determine whether or not Rangers were good enough together, whether they were Drift-compatible. And Hakyeon hadn’t met someone who could match his unpredictable movements with such strong and steady sureness. Hakyeon had backgrounds in dance, taekwondo, and a few other hand-to-hand combat styles, making him a mess of movements and twirls. He hadn’t expect to be able to create this dance, a back and forth of movements, graceful, fluid, intense, sure, with anyone.
They had a connection, a matching rhythm, and Hakyeon’s adrenaline spiked with every step, every block. His hands started trembling again, and Taekwoon saw that, forcing him down with a frown, his head tilting like a curious cat. He opened his mouth, but was cut off by Jaehwan.
Taekwoon and Hakyeon looked over in mirror of each other. Most occupants inside the room were wearing awestruck expressions.
Hakyeon laughed, pulling Taekwoon down to his eye level and smiled as bright as the day he enlisted into the Air Force.
“Taekwoon, I’ve been waiting for you. Nine months, eleven days.”
“Five months, three weeks.”
Taekwoon answered, and that’s that. Thirteen years, eight months and twenty three days after the First Kaiju War, South Korea found themselves a pair of Jaeger pilots in Cha Hakyeon and Jung Taekwoon.