Saturday, 17 March 2012

Emperex: Chapter 3

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Every day, it gets more and more surreal.

It’s been a week and a half since that incident. It wasn’t a dream, that’s for sure. There was definitely a kaiju attack on the outskirts of Winnipeg, where a giant spider was fought off by a mysterious silver mecha. The spider’s corpse, helpfully already split into more manageable chunks, has been hauled off to god-knows-where. And the damage to the road and the outlying communities is going to take months to repair. No, the kaiju attack definitely happened. But I was the one controlling it.

I still haven't told anyone about it. I really get the feeling that I should, but I don't know, I just think it's a bad idea. The media's already in a frenzy about two kaiju appearing at the same time; if I revealed that someone was controlling one of them, they'd probably implode. Or no one would believe me, or they'd call me an attention-seeking whore, or something along those lines. For now, I'll just keep it to myself.

My car was totalled by that robot, and Allison doesn’t work until 12 today, so I’m stuck taking the bus to work. But I don’t mind that much – I don’t have to worry about traffic, and it gives me a bit of time to relax before getting to work. And hey, I got $3000 for the car. I guess kaiju attacks count as an act of god in the insurance people’s eyes, even if I was kinda stupid for trying to drive directly into a kaiju attack. It’s not enough to buy another car, but I can pay off a few bills and add the rest to my savings. It never hurts to have a nest egg.

I’m waiting at the bus stop right now. It’ll be here in about 10 minutes or so, but until then, I’ve gotta wait here in the cold. It's a bit warmer than it has been, but the wind has picked up. Now I actually kind of miss my car. I’m wearing actual winter gear (a heavy overcoat, a toque and a scarf), but that wind chills you right to the bone. Oh well, the bus should be pretty warm.

I notice an old native lady crossing the street. She’s dressed in more layers than I am, though her clothing’s a bit ragged. She’s carrying a bunch of plastic bags filled with beer bottles.

“Spare some change, miss?” the woman asks. I reach into my pocket and find a few loonies.

“Here you go.” I hand the change to her. I was going to use those for a coffee, but I think she deserves it more than I do. She sets down one of the bags and takes it, stuffing it in one of her many pockets. She beams at me.

“Thank you, kind lady!” she says. “So, did you hear about the monster attacks a week ago?”

“Yeah, I did. One of them crushed my car.” I’m not sure where she’s going with this, but she doesn’t look threatening. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to listen.

“Oh, that’s too bad.” She shakes her head. “Well, I’ve got a secret. I know what those things are.”

“Is that so?” I ask. This should be interesting.

“You betcha. They’re old gods.  Old old gods, like from before the Egyptians.” She puts down the other plastic bags, and starts gesticulating wildly. “They come back every 7,000 years or so. We couldn’t explain ‘em, so we started worshippin’ em.”

“That’s fascinating.” I say. I’ve heard a lot of theories about the kaiju; the prevailing theory is that they’re extra-terrestrial in nature. Others think they’re supernatural; either some sort of gods, or beasts spawned by Gaia herself to punish us for abusing the Earth. There's tons of lesser theories about them, of course, but then you start getting into stuff like this where they're old gods from another time...

“See, every time they come back, they fight. They use Earth as a tournament field, and whoever wins gets to decide what happens with the sun.” The woman points at the sky; it's overcast and lightly snowing at the moment, so she's not sure exactly where the sun is. “’Cause that’s where they live, see. The leader can move the sun around in the sky, or they can make it brighter or darker. But they gotta be careful, because if it’s too bright, it boils all the water away, but if it’s too dark, all the plants die.”

The woman picks up her bags. “Pretty soon, the sun’s gonna go dark, and that’s when the attacks’ll stop. ‘Cause if they don’t choose a leader by then, everyone dies, even the gods. So don’t worry, they’ll be gone pretty soon.” The woman walks off as the bus arrives.

I get on the bus. I flash my bus pass at the driver. It’s absolutely sweltering in here, so I unzip my coat a bit.

“You okay, miss?” he asks. “I see old beggars like that all the time. Sometimes they get violent, so you gotta be careful.”

“No, I’m alright.” I say. “She just told me a funny story about the kaiju. Says they’re sun gods who fight on Earth to decide who leads them or something.”

“Is that so? Well, who knows? She might be telling the truth.” The driver chuckles to himself as I find a seat. I don’t really think it matters what the kaiju are, or where they come from. We’re able to hurt them with conventional weapons, so it doesn’t really matter whether they’re gods or aliens or whatever. Besides, if she was right, why haven’t we seen any of them actually fight each other? Unless destroying cities is some sort of preliminary round...

Why am I even thinking about this? She was just some crazy old lady with a made-up story. The bus is pretty busy today, so I find a seat next to a dark-haired man in a suit. He has his headphones on, so he doesn’t pay me any attention. He has a newspaper open, turned to an article about the kaiju attack.

“Kazumi Takahashi, head of the Kaiju Defence Force, has announced today that the unprecedented appearance of two kaiju in the Winnipeg, Canada attack a week ago is of extreme interest to them. In a slight deviation from their normal naming scheme, they are calling the spider-like kaiju ‘KE-14a’, and the robotic kaiju ‘KE-14b’.

“Takahashi also announced that they have received a piece of the corpse of KE-14a, which they will study in an attempt to shed light on the kaiju. The whereabouts of KE-14b are still unknown; anyone with information on the attack is encouraged to contact them through the KDF website...”  A picture on the right shows the two kaiju fighting. The giant spider looks exactly like I remember it, but it seems kind of weird to see the robot from an outside perspective.
“It’s unreal, isn’t it?” The man notices me reading over his shoulder. He takes off his headphones. “To think how close those two got to destroying our city. Makes you wonder why they were fighting?”

“Oh, uh, I don’t know.” I say. “I heard that they might be fighting over control of the sun.”

“Pardon?” the man says.

“Er, sorry. Some old woman told me a crazy story today.”

“Indeed...” the man says. He puts his headphones back on. The rest of the article just re-states common information about the kaiju; they appeared about six months ago, appear every two weeks, and target major cities or landmarks. Still makes me wonder why they came here, of all places.

As I look out the window, I see a few nutjobs holding “Repent, The End Of The World Is Coming” signs. They’ve been saying that ever since they started appearing, but it hasn’t happened yet. There have been all sorts of self-proclaimed religious figures saying that the kaiju are divine punishment and all that, but I don’t think anyone actually listens to them anymore. I guess we’re all just too jaded.

I get off of the bus. I’m about half an hour early for work. That’s the major problem about buses; they’re never convenient for you, no matter when you catch them. Oh well, I can make it work. I zip up my coat again and start walking toward the mall; on the way in is a coffee shop. I could definitely use something warm.

“Mornin’, sunshine.” Martin, the elderly owner of the shop, greets me in his usual manner. He’s been happily married for a long time – probably since before I was born – but he still hits on all the women who come in. Most of his customers are regulars though, so that doesn’t affect us much. It probably should, but he’s harmless. And he makes a damn good cup of coffee.

“The usual, Martin.” He hands me a steaming cup of strong black coffee. I sip it gingerly as he reads the paper.

“Didja hear? There was another one, last night in Transcona.”

“Another what?” I ask.

“Murder-suicide. Some bastard shot his wife and kid before turnin’ the gun on himself.” Martin shakes his head. “We’re livin’ in tough times, but they’re not that tough. We’re survivin’...”

Unfortunately, incidents like that are becoming depressingly common. Ever since the kaiju first started appearing, suicide rates have skyrocketed all over the world. Not to mention the crime rates; burglary, arson, murder... all sorts of stuff that most people would never do, unless they sincerely believed the world was going to end. For the most part, the governments and police forces have been able to keep the world running. But it’s still really sad to see some people driven to such despair.

Martin hands me a cinnamon bun. “Sorry to start your day on such a depressin’ note, hun. This one’s on the house.”

“Thanks. Well, according to some crazy old lady, they’re gonna stop attacking soon.” I look at my watch. “I gotta get to work, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Thanks for the cinnamon bun.” I scarf down my cinnamon bun and grab my coffee. He waves at me on the way out.


As usual, work is uneventful. Casey called in sick today, but we weren’t particularly busy, so it just gave us a bit more to do. I had to reschedule our dinner date, so we ended up going on Tuesday; it was fairly nice, I guess, but a bit awkward. We went to a seafood place on Lagimodiere. It was actually kind of nice to get to know him a bit better, but I honestly think that he wanted it to be a bit more than just a dinner between friends. I’m still not sure; going out with co-workers is always awkward, especially if you break up on bad terms.  I think I’d like to go for dinner with him again before I make up my mind either way, though.

But the thing is, he’s been acting really strangely since the kaiju attack. Yeah, he was acting weird before, but it's only seemed to amplify his strangeness. Now he's practically a nervous wreck who can barely function in front of customers. He never was much for small talk with the rest of the staff, but it seems like he’s been consciously avoiding us now. We’ve tried asking him about it, but he doesn’t want to admit anything is wrong. We decided today that we would confront him about it tomorrow, assuming he comes in (he hasn't been into work since Tuesday). Even if I’m not exactly romantically interested in him, he’s still a friend, and we want to help him out.

The bus is a lot more crowded on the way home. That’s what I hate about public transit; it’s, well, public. Right now, I’m sitting next to a man who looks like he hasn’t seen the sun in a few months. He smells like body spray and cigarettes, and his hair is matted and wild. He’s tapping furiously on his phone.

“They’re saying there was a pilot in KE-14b,” the man mutters to himself. He looks over at me. His eyes are intense and piercing. “Did you hear about that?”

“Uh, what?” I say.

“That’s how it was in Maou Renzokuzer EX. Ever heard of it? No, probably not. Tokusatsu series made in ‘89. You know, men in rubber suits on miniature sets, using kung fu on each other.” He gets right in my face, almost whispering, like he’s paranoid about someone overhearing him. “This ‘KE-14b’ is a monster from that series. They called it ‘Emperex’. Divine counterpart to the Demon King Renzokuzer. They were enemies for a while, but they had to co-operate to fight off the invading aliens.”

“That’s... interesting.” I say. I watched a few toku series when I was younger, but I don’t recall ever watching a series like that. Something tells me he’s just making it up.

“See, someone knew. Someone knew that the kaiju attacks were gonna happen, but they got their memories erased by the higher-ups. All that remained was a vague idea, which they made into a TV show.”

“That seems unlikely.” I instantly regret saying that. It’s just going to make him ramble on more.

“You don’t know, man. Things like this have been happening for years. All sorts of coded messages in media.” He taps something on his phone, and brings up an image. “See this? World Trade Center attack. Someone drew it in an ‘80s Nintendo game. They knew.” This man is making me extremely uncomfortable. I really want to try and refute his points, but I doubt anything I could say would change his mind.

“That’s actually kind of interesting.” I lie. “I think I’ll look it up when I get home.”

“Good to hear. Here, here’s my website.” He scribbles down a link on a piece of paper and hands it over to me. He goes back to typing on his phone. I put the scrap of paper in my backpack, likely never to look at it again.

I get off the bus at the next stop. I head up to my apartment, but the door is unlocked and hanging open. I peek inside it, but I don’t see anyone or anything inside. Cautiously, I step inside. I grab a knife off the table and check around the apartment, but there’s no one there, and nothing seems to be missing.

I step out of my apartment, and knock on the door of my neighbour. An older lady opens the door.

“Hello, Jo.” Elise is smiling, as always. She’s like one of those old grandmothers you see on TV all the time. In fact, I think I can smell something sweet baking in her apartment.

“Uh, hey Elise. Listen – I think someone broke in to my apartment. Did you see anyone today?”

“Oh dear!” Elise gasps. “Oh, come in, you must be scared witless!” She ushers me in. “I’ll put on some tea for you. What kind would you like?”

“No, I’m alright-“

“I insist! How about some chamomile?” She grabs a kettle and fills it with water. “I’m afraid I was visiting my son for most of the day, so I wasn’t around much.”

“That’s alright. I just wanted to make sure.” I’m a bit disappointed that she doesn’t know anything. The apartment complex doesn’t have any sort of surveillance, and I don’t really have time to ask everyone living in it. I’ll just ask my landlady next time I see her. “The weird thing is, I did a quick once-over, and they didn’t seem to steal anything.”

“Well, make sure to check everything when you get back, and keep a list for the police report.”

That hadn’t even occurred to me. I’ll have to file a police report about this. But what if they want to investigate? Or what if it was the police who did it in the first place, looking for evidence to connect me to the kaiju attack? No, I’m just being paranoid.

The kettle whistles. Elise pours the boiling water into two fancy cups and dips teabags into them. She brings them over to the table.

“Would you like anything to eat, dear? I’ve got some carrot muffins baking right now, or I could fry some hamburgers if you haven’t had any dinner yet.”

“No, really, it’s okay-“

“Listen, dear. You’ve had a very rough couple of weeks. This is the least I can do for you.”

“...okay.” I quietly accept her offer. She smiles as she grabs some frozen hamburgers and throws them on a frying pan.

We chat late into the night. She tells me to ask her if I need anything, and she gives me a few carrot muffins on the way out. I go back to my apartment, put the muffins on the counter, and I do another check of all of my valuables. I still don’t notice anything missing. Why would someone break into a house, if they aren’t planning on stealing anything? It doesn’t really make any sense. Still, I guess I should report it to the police, just in case.

I’m not really tired yet, so I sit down at my computer. I putter around on my Facebook page and watch some videos on Youtube, but something’s bugging me. On a whim, I open up Google and put “Maou Renzokuzer” into it. I think that was the name. It suggests something else, but both results have about 20 links combined.

Most of those are just scattered posts on message boards, all parroting the same idea that it’s some sort of conspiracy related to the kaiju. One result leads to the website that guy gave me. Against my better judgement, I click it.

The website seems to be written by someone who read Time Cube and thought it was too sane. The alleged toku show is only one link in a massive chain of events that includes pretty much every major unsavoury event in the past 5000 years, plus all sorts of more famous conspiracies: Area 51, the Illuminati, Majestic Twelve, that incident in Chile a couple years back... And like my day hasn’t been weird enough, they manage to link several sun gods into the supposed conspiracy, saying that they represent various figureheads throughout history. I feel like whatever gods might be out there are just trying to make me paranoid. Or maybe it’s some kind of divine punishment for not reporting what I know about that robot.

I get through maybe half of the pages on the site before getting fed up. All of this is just some guy with too much time on his hands, trying to make sense of events that just don’t fit together. The dedication to this idea is impressive, but I just can’t believe it. I turn off my computer, take a shower and go to bed. At least it’ll serve as good conversation fodder tomorrow.

I drift off to sleep, but not for long; a deafening smashing sound wakes me up. My room is illuminated by bright green light. I get up and run to the balcony, and I see the giant face of that same robot staring back at me. The gold crest on its head flashes again, and the mask opens to reveal the same cockpit from last time. Why is it here all of a sudden? There can’t be another kaiju; it hasn’t been two weeks yet.

I look down to see several cars stopped around the giant robot’s legs; I can see a few people looking back at me. Well, there goes my idea of trying to keep this a secret. Even if I claim I don’t know why it’s here, the police are going to figure out that I was the one piloting it last time. I should’ve gone to them and told them what happened. But it’s too late now.

I run back into my room to get dressed. I have a few minutes before the police show up. What will they do? I’m almost sure they’ll arrest me, or at least take me in for questioning, but what about after that? Will they blame me for all of the damage caused during the kaiju attack? Or maybe the KDF will take interest in me, and recruit me to help them with the kaiju. No, I doubt that; there’s no way they would let a civilian pilot a weapon like this. They’d probably just give it to a member of the military, and leave me to rot in jail.

I grab a duffel bag and throw several changes of clothes in it. There’s a reason Emperex is here. What if there’s another kaiju somewhere in the world? The KDF might not be prepared to intercept it if it’s not on the schedule. I grab my purse and cell phone, and run back out to the balcony. Emperex raises its hand, destroying a chunk of the balcony on the way up; I step onto its hand, and it leads me to the cockpit.

Yeah, I think I’ll call this thing Emperex. I can’t just keep calling it ‘robot’ all the time; that seems almost disrespectful. And these giant robots always have names like “Ultra-something” or “Something-Kaiser”, so why not Emperor-King? Or maybe it should be Emperor-Queen; the body overall looks a bit feminine, though I suppose gender doesn’t really matter when you’re a giant robot. Is it even intelligent?

I throw my stuff against the wall of the cockpit, and I look at the chair in the center of the room. I feel like I’m making the wrong decision. I should turn myself in, and let the professionals deal with whatever threat is out there. But at the same time, there might be a threat out there that only I can deal with. Circumstances have made me the pilot of an ultra-powerful weapon, and I feel obligated to use that for the good of the planet.

God, that sounds cliché.

I sit in the chair, and I feel the needles pierce my skin again. It's strange, but it feels different from before; it feels more painful initially (probably because I'm not in shock this time around), but I start to feel more relaxed. It feels like it’s putting some sort of sedative into my body. Did it use a sedative before? I don’t think so. Maybe I didn't notice.

Suddenly, my mind is clear, like I've been instantly sobered up after drinking a dozen beers. I look at my hand, and I see that I’ve taken control of Emperex again. My new body pulses with energy. I feel like it’s become more powerful since last time, but that could just be the drugs. I stand upright, dwarfing my three-story apartment building. This thing is huge. I remember thinking about the impracticality of a humanoid robot last time, but how tall is this thing anyways? I think they usually say around 15-20 metres, which looks about right.

I hear several cars screeching to a halt. I look down at the police cars, and see about a dozen tiny little men scrambling out of them. One of them is holding a megaphone, screaming something at me in a language I don’t understand. Wait. Yes I do. He’s yelling at me in English, telling me to surrender. The men point their guns at me, as if they’re threatening in the least. They might as well be cannon fodder.

I’m almost tempted to fire back at them, to show them how useless they really are. No, I can’t kill them. If I’m really serious about becoming a defender of Earth or something like that, I can’t start my career off by killing innocent men. The thrusters on my feet activate, and I rise into the dark sky. I feel the clinking of bullets as they ricochet off of my armour. They’re just wasting their time.

The radar pops up on my heads-up display, showing me several targets approaching me from the west. The radar blips are a lot smaller than the giant spider. What exactly are those things? Are they a group of smaller kaiju? Wait – maybe they’re a part of the Kaiju Defence Force. What if they detected Emperex and dispatched their fighters to take it out?

The first of the radar blips approaches me. I look around, but I can’t see it. Suddenly, I’m temporarily blinded by an intense light, and my body shudders from the impact of an explosion. I’m dazed for a few seconds, but the light quickly fades. That must have been some sort of missile. I look behind me, long enough to see a streak of white flying into the darkness.

I ascend to around 10,000 feet, helpfully pointed out by an altitude meter below the radar. I'd question why a potentially-alien weapon has an altitude reader calibrated to Earth sea level, but I'm distracted by the circular radar turning into a three-dimensional globe. The globe shows off the rest of the yellow dots, presumably the KDF's fighters; nine of them are flying in a rough formation, while the last one, the one that hits me, is flying back toward the pack.

I need to get out of here. I can’t risk them missing me and destroying parts of the city below. I head north for about ten minutes, and the fighters follow; they must be able to track me. The HUD shows “ETA: 3 minutes” in the top-middle section. So they’ll be here in 3 minutes, I guess. The fighters have regrouped, and they’re all flying at around the same altitude.

After waiting for what seems like an eternity, I see another one of the KDF’s fighters. They’re a lot smaller than I expected. It fires another missile at me, but I know it’s coming this time; I fly right at the missile, destroying it mid-flight. Neither of those missiles damaged Emperex’s armour at all, but I don’t really want to keep taking hits like this, just in case. More fighters follow, launching their missiles one by one at me. Two more hit me, but I dodge the rest.

I try chasing after the fighters, but I’ve lost them. Don’t I have any sort of tracking system of my own? Or hell, some night vision would be nice. I try ordering Emperex to activate night vision, but nothing comes up. The globe seems to zoom in a bit, but that’s all I can get out of it.

Another one of the fighters whizzes by me. I dodge to the side at the last second, but if I hadn’t, that would’ve hit me. Are they trying to sacrifice themselves to destroy me? I find it hard to believe that. If they’re out of missiles, they should just retreat... right?

Another fighter flies right at me, and I dodge by flying up a few thousand feet. Okay, happening once was improbable, but happening twice? That’s deliberate. They’re really trying the kamikaze manoeuvre against me. They think I’m threatening enough to send their men to their deaths in an attempt to stop me. Unless-

Wait, that’s right. They’re unmanned drones. I think they announced a few months ago that they were switching to UAVs to cut down on pilot kills. These things are just toys, remotely controlled by some guys in a comfy bunker somewhere. I guess that means I can destroy them without worrying about killing the pilots; even still, these things have got to be too expensive to just throw away like that. Are they really that desperate? I try evading them some more, but they keep trying to fly right at me. I guess I could fly away, but they’ll just keep chasing me.

Missiles. The flaps in my chest open and fire a barrage of small missiles. They speed off into the darkness, and a few seconds later, I see a couple of small explosions. Looks like I hit three of them, indicated by three of the dots on the radar disappearing. An icon of a missile, with "0/24" to its right, appears on the bottom section of the HUD; I guess I used all of my missiles in that attack. I used them last time too, against the giant spider. But how did I get them back? Can Emperex just produce missiles out of thin air?

No time to think about that. A drone flies at me, barely missing as I roll to the side. My reflexes are good enough to dodge them, but I don’t have time to directly attack them. What other weapons do I have? I could shoot my rocket fists at them, but they're pretty slow, and I doubt they can home in. I have that Star Buster too, but I don’t feel comfortable just firing that blindly into the night – and I only get a few seconds’ worth anyways, so I probably wouldn’t hit anything. Doesn’t this thing have any other weapons?

As if on cue, my right hand splits into four. Each finger slides up my wrist, but the fingers stay parallel to the rest of my arm. A hole opens where my hand was, and a small spherical object slides out; each of my fingers shoots out a beam of orange energy, holding the object in place. My entire lower arm starts to rotate clockwise, and the orange light steadily grows brighter.

A string of text appears on my HUD, replacing the missile count. The icon is of an orange-colored starburst, and it's labeled "EM Cocktail"; it shows "4/4" to the right side of the icon and "30%" to the left. What is this, a video game? Okay, so I guess I have four 'EM Cocktails', and they're at 30% charge? What does EM mean anyways? I think that stands for ‘electromagnetic’. So maybe this thing creates an EMP? I briefly wonder if it’s safe to use, but if Emperex can hold it so close to its body, it probably has shielding of some kind.

I look at my arm, and I see that the small sphere is gone; instead, all that remains is a brilliant orange light, held in place by the rotating energy beams. The light is painful to look at, so I turn my head away from it. Conveniently, I see another drone approaching me.

I roll out of the way of the drone and throw the light grenade after it. After traveling a short distance, the grenade explodes, flooding the entire area in orange-yellow light. I turn away from the explosion, but I still feel the waves of energy strike my body. I don’t think the blast is damaging Emperex at all, but I’m pretty sure that the drones won’t be in any shape to fight afterwards.

Once the light fades a bit, I check my radar. It only shows 4 targets remaining, all on the ground. I fly over to one of the dots, and I see one of the damaged drones; it’s missing a wing, and the exterior is burnt and damaged. Even if it’s still active, there’s no way it’s able to fly. I don’t know why they would try and sacrifice these in a vain attempt to destroy me, but they failed.

So, what now? I suppose I could still turn myself in, but they won’t like the fact that I just destroyed several KDF fighters. I try and think of an excuse for destroying them, but nothing remotely justifiable comes to mind. Even if I claim that I did it in self-defence, they could still say that I wasn’t obligated to pilot Emperex.

I could go back home, maybe grab some more stuff, but I get the feeling that my apartment is already swarming with police. I had the foresight to grab my wallet and some clothes, so I should be okay for now, plus I have some money stored away; I’ll need to go and withdraw as much of that as I can before my face is posted all over the Internet.

Damn it, I should have just turned myself in after the giant spider. But it’s too late for that now. If I turn myself in right now, I don’t think I’ll be seeing sunlight for a very long time. At the very least, they’re going to want me for all of the damage I’ve already caused, if they’re not already filing criminal charges for war crimes or whatever. And who knows what they’ll do with Emperex?

I’m in a position to actually destroy these kaiju. If I give up now, then doing this will have been for nothing. If I’m going to go on the run, I want it to actually mean something. I’ll have to give up a lot, but if I can save at least one person who would’ve otherwise died against the kaiju, it’ll be worth it.

For now, I need to hide. The KDF still knows I’m here, and they’ll probably send more drones after me. I fly up. Up and up and up, until I’m far above the ground. The altimeter shows "70,000 feet", which is pretty high up; I think most commercial planes usually cruise at 40,000 feet, so I don't think I'll be running into any of those anytime soon. Even if the KDF's still tracking me, I don't think they could send their drones up so high.

I disconnect from Emperex. I get out of the chair and stumble to the ground; my body feels like jelly. I can still breathe normally, so I guess the cockpit is pressurized. I hear Emperex softly humming beneath me. It’s still moving, I guess. The walls of the cockpit suddenly turn transparent, and I freak out for a moment; but I press my hand against the floor and walls, and they still seem to be there. I look out and see stars, more of them than I’ve ever seen before. I must be really high up.

I look down, and I see the earth below me. It's mostly dark, with patches of light here and there; there's a fairly big one to the south, which I guess is Winnipeg. I'm not really afraid of heights or anything like that, but this is a bit overwhelming; not very many people have seen the Earth like this, especially not from my particular viewpoint.

I feel like I should say something profound, but nothing comes to mind. I look out to the stars, and I think about how insignificant our little blue world is; it’s just a grain of sand, on the shore of a cosmic ocean, as said by Carl Sagan. Or something like that. What's out there? Aliens? Kaiju? Whoever built this robot?

But you know what? No matter how insignificant we are in the grand scheme, what matters is that we’ve made a pretty good life for ourselves. Sure, we’ve got a lot of problems as a species, but for the most part, I think we’re doing fairly well. And I’m not about to let a few aliens, or gods, or whatever the hell the kaiju are, ruin that.

The next kaiju should appear in a few days. I suppose I’ll need to go back down there and get my affairs in order before then. I should probably do it soon, before they start actively looking for me. But I have lots of time; I think I’ll admire the stars for a little while longer. This life is going to be difficult, but for now, I can just sit and wait.

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