Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Emperex: Chapter 1

I sit alone in the darkness of the ocean depths. It's peaceful down here; no life, no monsters, no nosey humans looking for me. One year. Six months. Seven days. How long has it been since I came down here? Numbers swirl around my head. Time has little meaning in the darkness.

One year. It's been one year since the first attack. Over the course of a single night, several communities along the coasts of Albania and Greece had been destroyed. There was no pattern or seeming cause to the destruction; they were normal, thriving towns one day, ruins the next. The governments of the world investigated it, but they could not find a probable cause. They blamed it on a freak tornado and moved on.

Two weeks later, another tragedy struck in the Szechuan province of China. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and millions injured or left homeless. All that remained of the area was a gigantic field of ash; it was almost impossible to tell farmland from the crowded cities that had once thrived there. The attack was different, but most of us believed there was a connection.

The Chinese government suppressed as much information as they could. They too investigated the incident, only releasing the barest of information to keep the rest of the world satiated. They refused the UN’s help in their investigation, which made many of us uneasy; had it been caused by a secret weapon that they had developed? Or had they found the true cause of the incident, and they were suppressing it to avert mass panic?

But that wasn't enough for some people. In this day and age, we’re all connected by the Internet; after the first incident, online forums and Facebook pages popped up, dedicated to exposing the truth behind these incidents. The second incident, specifically the treatment of it by the Chinese government, only made these communities work harder. They made pilgrimages to the sites of the incidents, investigating as much as they could without being noticed by the authorities.

But it wasn't long before someone found footage of the attacks. A number of groups claimed responsibility for leaking the footage; some claimed to have captured it themselves, while others claimed to have hacked into various government databases and stole it. And again, thanks to the Internet, it wasn’t long before these videos were uploaded on Youtube for everyone to see.

The first series of videos showed a gigantic, eight-legged lizard-like creature stomping across the coast, destroying everything under its feet. The second series of videos showed people and places inexplicably bursting into flames, along with brief glimpses of a spinning metallic disk.

Every video-doctoring professional in the world denounced them as fakes, either made with CGI or staged as a prank. But they were real. We all knew it. Even most of the authority figures were unimpressed, and the investigations were beefed up. If there were... monsters out there, they wanted to find out more about them.

When the third attack happened, two weeks after the second, people were prepared. Barely hours after the attack in Malaysia, hundreds of videos were uploaded onto Youtube, showing a creature beyond description literally burninating the countryside. Again, people tried to call them fake, but there was no denying it. All three of these incidents had been caused by monsters.

Since then, they have appeared once every two weeks. They seem to target populated areas, either large cities or groups of smaller ones, or famous landmarks. Besides appearing every two weeks, there is no way to tell where they will appear, or for how long.

The media collectively called them “kaiju”, after the term for those cheesy Japanese movies about people in rubber suits fighting one another. It was an unofficial term at first, but it didn’t take long for it to become the official term for these monsters; they even called the official organization set up to combat them the "Kaiju Defence Force."

After all, what else were we supposed to call them? They're all radically different from one another. Some of them are humanoid, or take after animals. Some others are metallic or even robotic. And others could only be charitably called “living”. But they are all different from one another, and none of them have appeared twice. They could even be completely unrelated. But we don’t know where they come from, or their agenda. We can’t reason with them. So, as humans are wont to do, we decided to fight back.

The KDF have set up defence posts all around the world, mostly around major world cities. They do their best to help, but they are woefully understaffed and underfunded. They continually develop new weapons to give them an edge, but nothing so far has proved to be effective against all targets; all they have done so far is scare a few of them off, but even then they take massive losses.

That’s where I come in.

Six months. It's been six months since I went on the run. All it took was a few minutes for my life to change forever, and once it happened, I knew I couldn't go back. I'd been given the power to stop these monsters, and for better or worse, I knew I had to use it.

I didn’t take this job by choice; whatever’s up there, God or Fate or whatever else, has chosen me of all people to defend the Earth against the kaiju. I don’t think they made the right choice. I don’t think I made the right choice in accepting it. But I can’t change the past, so I just have to accept that and just keep moving forward.

That's not to say that I haven't thought about giving it all up. I could just run away from my responsibilities, and let them deal with the kaiju. Or I could just stay here, in the safe, peaceful darkness. But I don't think I could live with myself if I did that. I'm too stubborn. I’ve received the call, and my conscience, or ego, or both, will not let me refuse it.

Seven days. That's how long I've been hiding in the darkness. I used to hide high in the sky, but the KDF wised up to me. Not that they could stop me with their entire force, but it is an unneeded distraction. But I suppose it won't be long before an aircraft carrier or submarine catches me on their sonar, and I'll have to go back to the sky, I guess.

A red light flashes on my HUD. An arbitrary-large number, somewhere around 700 trillion, appears in the top-right corner of my vision. The top-left corner shows a map with a large dot to the northwest, and below that, an ETA. 10 minutes. It's close. Good.

Two weeks. It's been two weeks since the last kaiju attacked, which means that one will inevitably attack today. It’s almost becoming routine by this point. I lie in wait for two weeks, until a large number appears on my HUD. I don’t know exactly what it measures – energy level? Combat threat? Intelligence? Age? Who knows. But I know that, whatever it means, it’s way too big of a number to represent anything man-made. It’s another kaiju.

I wish I didn’t have to hide. I wish I could work out, in the open, with the co-operation of everyone else. But they don’t see me that way. To them, I’m just another kaiju - just another monster to destroy. They want to preserve the safety of the world, and I'm an obstacle. I'll be the first to admit that my methods have not been without cost (especially in the beginning), but I’d like to think that I’m at least a better alternative than getting your city totally destroyed.

ETA: 8 minutes.

What really annoys me is the public reaction. They almost universally hate me. I haven’t had the chance to check Youtube or Facebook or anything like that lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if captured footage of the kaiju battles are filled with comments about how I’m hurting more than I’m helping, or how I killed their pet and ruined their lives, or whatever inane things Internet users complain about.

The governments of the world have tried to downplay the kaiju attacks as much as they can. They claim that the KDF is much more effective than they actually are, or that the damage to affected areas isn’t so bad. They try to keep morale high. Maybe that’s why I’ve been demonized; they use me as a scapegoat for everything going wrong with the world.

Occasionally, when I muster up enough courage, I leave the darkness and return to the normal world. Though my particular lifestyle limits how long I can stay in one place, I have seen a lot of the world in a comparatively short time. I’ve seen natural and man-made wonders alike, and it really makes a person appreciate the planet we live on. Perhaps that’s what keeps me going – the thought that, even if I’m hated and feared, I can rest easy knowing that I’m doing what I can to make the world a better place.

ETA: 5 minutes. Has it really been 5 minutes already? I forgot how easy it is to get lost in a good old round of self-pitying.  No, I know why I do this – it’s because I’m one of the few who can. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility; and as cheesy as that line is, it sums me up pretty well. I have power, and I have to use it for a good cause, or at least a cause I feel good about.

Once this is all over, I’m sure history will paint me as worse than the kaiju. I’ve probably caused more destruction than any one of them. But for the time being, I can at least believe in myself and my cause. Whatever these things are, they’re killing us and wrecking our civilization. And I cannot allow that.

ETA: 3 minutes. I feel the long, cold needles digging into my spine. At first, they were excruciatingly painful, but I can barely feel them now. I wouldn’t say I’m used to them by now, but the scar tissue’s built up enough that I can barely even feel them anymore. My body goes limp as the needles pump foreign chemicals into my body, relaxing me for the battle ahead.

I suppose it’s a fitting metaphor. Or is it? I don‘t know if I’d call Emperex a drug; it’s not really all that addictive, and I don’t think it’s totally ruined my body. Not yet, anyways. I feel the drugs do their work, and my consciousness starts to expand as it fills up a much larger container.

Well then, never mind that. Maybe it is more like a drug than I thought.

Interface complete. Basic diagnostics OK. Armour integrity stable at 100%. Amplifiers at 20% and charging.

I open and clench my hand. Emperex’s hands only have four fingers, with each finger having four joints. Even with all of the time I’ve spent in control, I still can’t get used to the weird hands. It’s not a huge deal, though; I don’t use my hands much in combat, and I doubt I’ll ever have to perform neurosurgery with them. It’s just a reminder that, no matter how much I learn about it, it’s still utterly inhuman.

I stretch my arms and legs, and crack my neck. I’m not getting any physical benefit out of it, but it’s sort of a pre-battle ritual. It psyches me up for the upcoming battle. ETA: 30 seconds.

Let’s do this.

The thrusters on the bottom of my feet start to hum, and I rise from the ocean like a classic movie monster. I step onto the beach, scaring the various beach-goers away. Why would they stay at the beach in the middle of a kaiju attack? The stupidity of people amazes me sometimes.

Auto-scan initiated. Ready to engage target.

Emperex’s HUD pops up, and I see the kaiju of the day. It’s a quadripedal reptilian beast, with a huge maw and short legs. From a far distance away, it looks like a scaled-up alligator – or like a cheap director is super-imposing stock footage of an alligator over a city backdrop. It’s covered head to toe in metal plating, but it looks organic underneath. The auto-scan tries to find weak points, but there’s nothing obvious. The inside of the mouth is well-armoured, and it’s too low to the ground for me to attack its underbelly. And I doubt it will react positively to me trying to flip it over. I’ll have to do this the hard way.

I glide over to the kaiju. Its mouth is open, and I can see bits of asphalt and steel girders on and around its tongue. I've never seen one eat before. I don't pretend to understand how these things function, but maybe it's low on energy or something. Whatever. It closes its mouth with a loud snap, and when it opens it again, all that remains of its meal is a bit of metal lodged around its teeth.

It stops its feast long enough to notice me. I know what's coming. I instinctively raise my arm to protect my head, but the kaiju's attack hits me before I can move. The air seems to shimmer and distort from the power of the attack, though I doubt anyone but me has noticed it.

I've seen this type of attack before. I'd call it a laser, which technically would be invisible, but it doesn't burn. Perhaps it's just a beam of nondescript 'force', or something like that. I suppose it doesn't matter, as long as it doesn't hurt me. A notification on the HUD notes that my armour integrity is still at 100%. Emperex's armour is tougher than any kaiju I've faced.

That laser attack has winded the kaiju for a brief moment. I take the opportunity to close the distance between us. I’m within melee range now – the auto-scan should start picking up weak points any moment now. My hand starts spinning like a drill, and I thrust it down on the kaiju’s jaw. Sparks fly like a firework show, but to no avail: its armour is dented, but I can’t pierce it with that particular attack. Figures. I don't want to have to resort to my more destructive weaponry within city limits, but it looks like I might not have a choice.

But even though it didn’t do much, the kaiju still doesn’t like it. It starts to back away from me, firing another round of lasers at me. Its aim sucks; one laser hits me square in the chest, but the other flies way off to the left. The laser slices clean through a skyscraper, leaving an almost cartoony hole in the middle. I’ve seen them do far worse; at least the building is still standing.

I rise a few more feet in the air and accelerate downwards, stomping on the kaiju’s massive jaw. I ascend again and stomp on it some more, each time activating the thrusters on my back to increase the force of the blows. Its metallic plating is dented but not broken, but at least my curb-stomping has dizzied the kaiju again. It doesn't seem to have much stamina. That should be a good thing, but it just worries me. It's just building up for something I can't expect.

Amplifiers at 28% and rising. 28%? That's probably enough to kill the kaiju, but I don't want to use it here. We've managed to keep the collateral damage in check so far; besides what the kaiju caused before I got here, the road’s cracked a bit, there are a few holes in the buildings around here, and there’s a crater from where I stomped on it. Alright then, I guess I can let loose a little bit. My left arm begins to transform; my hand splits into four parts, and each finger slides out to the sides of my wrist.

Three long gun barrels partially sticking out of my forearm retract inwards a bit, then slide out onto the end of my arm, replacing my hand with a triple-barrelled gatling gun. A bullet diagram appears on the bottom of my HUD, with 100/100 right beside it. An ammunition display, right out of a video game.

I don't pretend to understand how my gatling guns work. The bullets don't seem to have any shell casings, or at least none are ejected when I fire; presumably, the bullets are directly accelerated by magnetism or something. And my ammo regenerates from empty to full in around 10 minutes, though it takes a bit longer for the missiles and Cocktails. I don't know where the energy to produce all that ammo, or the space to store it, comes from, but I guess I can't complain.

But the thing that gets me, is that the triple-barrelled rapid-fire railgun is my sidearm. It rarely does anything to armoured targets like this particular kaiju, but at least it chews through squishy ones. My other main weapons are more powerful, but I don't want to do too much damage to the surrounding area. So bullets it is.

The gatling gun starts to hum, and the barrels start to spin around. I hear a few clunks in my inner arm, and the first bullet shoots out of one of the barrels with a low-pitched popping sound, followed by a constant stream of pops as the gun warms up. A full clip lasts me about 20 seconds at full-auto, but I've turned down the firing rate a bit for this particular fight.

The bullets ricochet off the kaiju's armour with a high-pitched metal-on-metal screech, taking large chunks out of the surrounding street and buildings as they spray outwards. Fortunately, there's little to no recoil on my end, so I'm able to keep the bullets trained on the dented section near its head.

Finally, one of the bullets gets through, and the next few shots quickly shred through the brown skin underneath. It doesn't take long for the bullets to pierce the other side of the jaw, leaving the kaiju with a gaping hole through its mouth. Most of the kaiju I’ve encountered don’t bleed, which works just fine for me; the people would hate me even more if they had to clean up several thousand litres of blood after every battle.

The kaiju whimpers in pain, but I know better. They’re just crocodile tears. Argh, stupid puns. I point the gun at the kaiju’s eyes, emptying my clip into them. Presumably its eyelids are armoured too, but they offer little defence. The creature flails blindly, damaging the road even more. At least it can’t use its eye lasers anymore: they may not do much damage to me, but the rest of the world is not similarly invulnerable. And even though its thrashing is damaging the street and everything on it, I still think its lasers are a bigger threat.

I leap into the air and slam down on its skull; the blow stuns the kaiju again, and it goes limp. It’s definitely not dead, but as long as it’s not moving, I can get it out of here. I retract the gun barrels on my left arm, switching back to my normal four-fingered hand. Well, normal for Emperex, anyways. A soft blue glow emanates from the palm of my hand, and I fire a thin blue beam at its broken mouth, but even the limited armour plating remaining deflects it. I guess it's too heavy to lift with tractor beams. No matter, I'll just do it the old-fashioned way.

I position myself over the kaiju and grab its midsection with both hands. With some difficulty, I rise about 50 feet into the air, taking the kaiju with me. As I glide back towards the ocean, I take a look at the damage this kaiju did to this city. It’s mostly limited to the roads, though a few buildings have been toppled. I've seen worse.

There will no doubt be a large number of people cashing in insurance for their cars and homes tomorrow. Such is to be expected in a kaiju attack. I’m surprised that there are insurance companies still in business after a year of attacks, though they’re probably charging a lot more now. I know my rent had gone up in the time since they appeared, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s gone up even further. It's already been six months. That just seems unreal.

Regarding the collateral damage, I like to think I've improved since I first started doing this. I wasn't nearly as careful in the beginning, and I probably caused just as much damage as the kaijus of that time. Of course, not only was I inexperienced, I was more focused on eliminating the kaiju as quickly as possible, everyone else be damned; I realize now that that probably hurt my reputation quite a bit.

These days, I always try to move the fights outside of the cities when possible; at the very least, I try not to use my more powerful attacks in cities anymore. I’m lucky that this particular kaiju's pretty close to the coast; I can finish it off in the shallow water a few miles from here. I don't want to get too far away, in case this kaiju swims away (I've made that mistake before), but as long as I aim my attacks downward, it should be okay.

The kaiju’s struggling in my arms. It knows what's coming, and it's trying to get out of my grip. You want down, huh? I'll let you down. I drop it into the ocean, scattering tons of sand and water everywhere. It lands belly-side up, and the auto-scan finally notes a few weak points on the kaiju’s underside. It wriggles futilely in an attempt to right itself, but it’s still a bit stunned from the impact. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I suppose I should give it credit for not completely falling apart from the impact.

The thrusters on my back launch me at the creature. Just before impact, the talons on my legs slide downward, sinking nearly all the way into its body. One of my legs hits dead center in its stomach, pinning it to the beach, while the other severs one of its front legs. I feel it struggling beneath me, ripping its flesh and armour in an attempt to get free, but it won’t be able to escape this.

Amplifiers at 41% and rising. Cannon mode ‘Star Buster’ primed.

“Step away from the creature!”

Something itches. I turn my head back, and I see a squad of 20 or 30 policemen on the edge of the beach. They’re firing their tiny little guns at me in a token show of defending the city. How quaint. One of the cops is holding a megaphone, and he's shouting at me.

“Attention, Josephina Hernandez! If you are in there, or if you have any control, please surrender immediately! We are only trying to help!”

Josephina Hernandez. Yes, that was my name. A long time ago, I was a human just like them; a weak, defenceless little human, hiding in fear of these monsters. They’re so tiny. I could crush any one of them in my hand right now. But the kaiju comes first.

I deploy the gatling gun in my right arm. Ten bronze-coloured blades, five on each side, fold out from pockets on my shoulder blades. They sort of look like wings, though I’m sure the resemblance is coincidental. White energy flows from the tips of each blade, through my body and into the empty chamber on my forearm. It only takes a few seconds for the chamber to be totally filled; from there, the energy starts to overflow, engulfing my entire right arm. The gun barrels spin at high speed.

Amplifiers at 43% and steady. ‘Star Buster’ ready to fire.

I aim the barrels at the kaiju's head. Fire.

I retract my talons from the kaiju's body. Three beams of white energy explode from my arm, and the recoil propels me backward a bit. The beams cleanly pierce the kaiju's body, decapitating it; I glide backward, bisecting the kaiju from head to tail. At 43% charge, the Star Buster gives me slightly under 10 seconds of firing time, but that’s enough. All of the kaiju I've faced so far have taken a lot of damage before dying, but I don't think this one will be getting up anytime soon.

The wings fold back into my shoulders, and once the last bit of white energy is drained from my arm, the gun barrels retract and my hand reforms. The ocean rushes into the miles-deep chasm created by the Star Buster. They should be grateful that I moved it over to the ocean; if I had used it over their city, there'd be a lot more damage. Perhaps I'll do that next time, just to put the humans in their place.

The humans are still firing at me. Perhaps I should teach them a lesson. I begin to glide over to the crowd, but my HUD warns me that the kaiju isn't quite dead yet. As I suspected. I turn back around, and I see the two halves of the kaiju's body pulling themselves together.

Regeneration. Ugh. I've faced more than one kaiju that can regenerate from seemingly-fatal wounds, though all of them have grown steadily weaker as they regenerate. I just have to put more bullets into them to keep them down. Of course, every kaiju's different, so this one might actually be stronger after regenerating... though I highly doubt it.

The two halves of the kaiju stop pulling themselves together. Instead, each half regenerates its missing limbs and head, creating two somewhat-smaller kaiju. Wonderful.

Now that they're in the water, the kaiju are quite a bit speedier. The first one lunges at my leg, clamping down on it with its razor-sharp teeth. The HUD registers a bit of armour damage, though only superficial; I'm also able to regenerate minor wounds, though it takes me quite a bit longer. I reach down and grab the kaiju's mouth and attempt to pry it off, but the other kaiju tackles me in the torso and knocks me down, keeping me pinned with its body.

They're smart. Can they actually learn, or is this just pre-programmed behaviour? I suppose it doesn't matter. They'll die soon enough.

My right arm's still free. I reach upwards and ram my hand into the second kaiju's stomach, spinning my arm while doing so. The first kaiju lets go of my leg and grabs my right arm, but the damage is done; the second kaiju rolls off of me, and into the shallow water belly-up. I get up, but the weight of the first kaiju rips my right forearm right off.

The first kaiju starts to run away with its prize, but I put a stop to that. I fly right over it and dive downwards, sinking my talons right into its back. The armour plating on the little ones isn't quite as tough, it seems. Just as well.

I reach down with my left arm and pull the first kaiju's upper jaw back. It does its best to resist, but its jaw muscles aren't up to the task. I lean back, and the entire upper jaw of the first kaiju comes right off. A blue beam fires from the collected blue energy in the space where my elbow should be, connecting with the empty socket of my right forearm; the arm's pulled back into place, reconnecting with a satisfying pop. It's somewhat fortunate that Emperex's limbs are held in place by what I assume are some sort of tractor beams, since I would've lost plenty of limbs otherwise.

The second kaiju tackles me from behind, but I accelerate forwards before it knocks me down again. I turn my torso around and unload half of my missile stock, firing a dozen missiles at the two kaijus. Each missile explodes with a resounding crack, and when the smoke and water clears, both kaijus are missing large chunks of their bodies and most of their limbs. The missiles are auto-programmed to go after weak points, and they're also pretty good at homing on to said points.

It looks like they're both trying to regenerate again. The amplifiers are only at 10%, I'm out of bullets and I want to save the other missiles for an emergency. Okay then. Time to get visceral.

I turn around and dash at the first kaiju, the one missing its upper jaw (and only two legs, as opposed to the second kaiju who's missing all four. That one won't be going anywhere). It futilely tries to crawl away from me, but I grab its lower jaw and swing it around a few times, until the lower jaw's ripped off with a sickening squelch. I reach into a hole in its stomach and spin my forearm, ripping right through its back. My hand's covered in some sort of brown viscera, but that'll wash off.

I throw the first kaiju at the second kaiju, and they collide and roll over a few times. I fly upward and slam down with my talons, impaling both of them at the same time. I do that a few more times, ripping more and more holes in the kaijus. Try and regenerate that.

The first kaiju's down for the count, and it doesn't look like it's regenerating. The second one's holding on, but not for long. Against all odds, it still has both halves of its jaw. I'll fix that. I grab both sides of the kaiju and pull with all of my might, ripping the kaiju right in half. Its innards, which are mostly just nondescript brown and red fleshy things, slop into the shallow water as I throw both halves of the kaiju down.

Just for good measure, I fly up about 200 feet and unload the other half of my missiles into the kaijus, reducing them to little bits. The mini-map on my HUD stops registering any major targets. Experience has taught me that that means they're dead for good.

I stand in the bloodied water for a moment, admiring my handiwork. I prefer to stay at range if possible, but it's rather satisfying to get my hands dirty once in a while.

The humans are still firing at me. I'm quite surprised that they weren't scared away by my rather brutal one-sided fight with the kaiju. They must have strong stomachs. No matter.

I float towards them, leaving the corpses of the kaijus behind. What they do with the remains is none of my concern. As I approach, they back away. I can see the looks of awe and terror on their faces. But they keep emptying their useless little peashooters into me. If they’re serious about wanting me to surrender, they would throw their weapons away and plead for their lives. I deploy the gun barrels on my left arm, and aim it at the humans.  Most of the cops drop their weapons and run for their lives. They’re small targets, but I’ve been meaning to work on my aim. The gatling gun warms up as I-


Suddenly, I snap back to Jo Hernandez, the weak human in the cockpit of the metal titan Emperex. My body – my real, flesh-and-blood body – is still limp from the drugs. I feel the needles embedded in my spine. More than anything, I just want to rip those needles right out and leave this infernal thing. My body struggles futilely, but I can’t muster the energy to escape.

It takes a couple of minutes before I can think clearly again. I’m still connected to Emperex, but I’m not actively controlling it at the moment. It’s in some sort of standby mode; it’s hovering in the same spot, its massive gun pointed at the few brave cops who didn’t flee. Without fully reconnecting, I will it to retract its guns. It does so. Tears of rage and sadness are streaming down my face. I lost control. It was just for a moment, but if I hadn’t stopped myself, I would’ve killed all of those men.

I feel my body go limp again as I reconnect to Emperex. Only two of the cops were brave enough to stand their ground, but even they look like they want to run like hell. I look down at them. Even if I tried to talk to them, there's no way they could understand me. And if I leave the cockpit, they'd at the very least try to arrest me, and I'm not ready to turn myself in yet.

I hover back toward the ocean, sinking into its icy depths. I was able to take care of the kaijus without too much damage, but it came at a huge cost. I almost killed those men in cold blood. I lost control. I’ve lost any remaining credibility I might have had with them. I didn’t have much in the first place, but from now on, they won’t hesitate at all.

It must be Emperex’s fault. I’m still fully aware when I connect to it. I’m still myself. But when I get into the heat of battle, I stop thinking. I just act on pure instinct, defending and attacking as easily as I would walk or talk. I can blame it on Emperex. The drugs it pumps into me must raise my aggression, or remove any inhibitions I have about killing, or something that alters how I think. I wish I could say that with all certainty.

But in the corner of my mind, I wonder: what if it’s my own fault? I’ve been fighting these things for six months now, with minimal human contact in between. Maybe I’ve just completely lost it. I’ve gazed into the abyss, and it’s starting to gaze back. Everyone else is right; I am just another monster.

I start the disconnection procedure. One by one, the long needles slide out of my spine, adding even more scars to those already present along my back. I get out of the harness, and I look around the featureless cockpit. Soft red light illuminates every surface. I grab a change of clothes – mine are ripped and soaked with sweat and blood – and I sit in the harness. I press a button on one of the arm rests, and the walls of the cockpit turn transparent. I’m surrounded on all sides by darkness, sealed inside a metal coffin at the bottom of the sea.

I could stay here forever. Emperex keeps me nourished, and whatever power source it uses isn't going to run out any time soon. I could just wait here, cut off from everyone else. Or I could just wait here until someone finds me and kills me. Or maybe I’ll dive into the deepest trench I can find, and see how much pressure it takes until Emperex is crushed into a tiny ball.

The bruises on my back vaguely throb with pain. Emperex may not be a drug, but I’m addicted to it all the same. Some part of me craves this power, and I don’t know if I could willingly give it up. I’ve thought about surrendering. I’ve thought about just giving myself up, and letting the professionals handle Emperex. But could I go through with it? Could I willingly give up one of the most powerful weapons on this planet, when I’m the only one who knows how to work it? Could I live with the fact that I ran from that responsibility?

No, I shouldn’t think like that. I’m not doing myself any favours by wallowing in my own self-pity. I knew, from the moment I found Emperex, that my life would be different. I made the decision to go through with it, and even when I was forced to leave everything behind, I knew that I was making the right decision. It’s not psychologically healthy to live like this, but I can bear it for a little while. It's the choice I've made, and I'm going to stick with it.

I have the advantage of mobility. If I were to hand Emperex over to the powers that be, everyone would suffer; either they would take it apart and study it for years, or they would bog it down in so much red tape that it would take forever to launch. And in a kaiju attack, response time is the most crucial factor. Maybe I’m just trying to justify it to myself, and that’s my excuse.

Maybe one day, they’ll develop a weapon that is able to destroy the kaiju. Or maybe they’ll just leave, as mysteriously as they appeared. When either of those days comes, I’ll hand Emperex over to the authorities, and I’ll take responsibility for everything I’ve done. But until then, I’m one of the few hopes this planet Earth has against these monsters. Even if I’m a monster myself, I’ll keep fighting for what I believe in.

My stomach rumbles. I haven’t eaten for a few days. I look through one of the bags in the cockpit, but all I find is a bit of jerky and a couple of water bottles. I scarf them down, but I feel even hungrier afterward. I need something to eat.

But I think I’ll wait for about a week. I want to see how people react to... that. If I get caught now, with that incident fresh in people’s minds... well, I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours. I’ll survive until then.  I’ll just have to kill some time. I’ve gotten very good at that in the past six months.

I grab a pencil and paper. I always loved writing when I was a kid; I almost always had a journal on me when I was younger, and I would fill it with all sorts of short stories and musings. Of course, I lost the habit as I grew up, mostly because I didn’t have any free time... but down here, I have all the time in the world. I’m still shaken from the kaiju attack, so I start writing down how I feel about it. I feel kind of stupid for keeping a diary at my age, but hey, that’s basically what a blog is, right? This is just an old-fashioned blog.

Maybe, once this is all done, I’ll write an autobiography. I’ll probably be stuck in jail for the rest of my life, so I’ll need something to occupy my time with. Or if I don’t survive, someone might find my memoirs and get rich by writing an actual biography about me. Well, if I’m going to start writing memoirs, I should probably start at the beginning. I start to reminisce about that day...

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