Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Emperex: Chapter 5

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“Black coffee, please.”

“That’ll be £2.” I hand the kid some money. He looks less than thrilled to be working at a fast-food joint, but I guess I can’t blame him. I worked a few retail jobs in high school, and all of them sucked. Technically, I guess working at a shoe store still counts as retail, but it doesn’t suck as much. Or didn’t. I haven’t been there in about seven months, so I guess I’m not really employed there anymore.

While I’m waiting for my coffee, a family walks into the restaurant. A man and woman, and two sons – one’s ten, the other’s five or six. I don’t know why, but the kids strike me as oddly well-behaved; they’re both quiet, even the younger one. Must be a British thing.

I’ve been thinking about my family and friends a lot lately. How are they dealing with everything? It’s pretty well known that I’m piloting KE-14b, so I’m sure that anyone with even a tangential relation to me has been questioned by the police. Or would it be the police? I’m sure the KDF is involved in hunting me down, so maybe they’d send agents in place of the police or RCMP. Or maybe the police report to them.

I really wish I could visit my mom, or at least let her know that I’m alright. My cell phone’s been cut off for a while, and I don’t think I can risk calling her; they probably have her home phone bugged like crazy, and she doesn’t have a cell. I suppose I could call one of my co-workers, Allison or Casey or whoever, and tell them that I’m okay, but they probably have their phones bugged too.

“Here you go.” He hands me the coffee.

“Thanks.” I grab the coffee and sit down in the dining room. It’s not great, but it’s pretty good for fast-food coffee. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Martin’s coffee, and everything else just tastes like sludge. Maybe I should risk calling my mom. They won’t be able to catch me if I call her right before getting into Emperex. The worst they can do is sending drones after me, and I can deal with drones.

I take another sip. The dining room is oddly empty; it’s just me and that family. It’s like 10 AM or so, though it is a Wednesday, so maybe that’s what it is. I’d question why those kids aren’t in school, but whatever, I don’t really care.

There was one of those newspaper boxes in front of the restaurant. I step outside and put a few coins into its slot, and I get a newspaper in return. The picture on the front page is Emperex fighting the kaiju from a couple of days ago. I’m not sure how they got that picture. Maybe the drones have some sort of cameras? The headline is “Bizarre kaiju behaviour has experts worried”. I flip through the article.

It looks like they still don’t know why Renzokuzer appeared between kaiju attacks. Of course, so-called ‘experts’ are warning that this is a signal that the kaiju are getting more aggressive, and that the KDF should step up its defenses. They’re probably just looking for more money, though I suppose I can’t blame them. They want to look like they’re at least doing something.   

Also, they’re giving out cash rewards for useful tips on me or Emperex. That’s new. They must be getting really desperate. Then again, that might help me; there’s probably tons of fake tips flooding their tip line and obscuring the genuine sightings. Or maybe they have some sort of sorting system to throw out most of the crap, and it’s actually really bad for me. I won’t be able to tell right away.

Well, it’s too late now. I have another two hours before Emperex picks me up, so I’ll just have to go incognito for now. I have my usual disguise of a baseball cap and sunglasses on; sure, it makes me look suspicious, but at least it obscures my face. Even if someone thinks I’m suspicious enough to call the KDF, what are they going to say? “I think I saw Jo Hernandez! I couldn’t tell what she looked like, but she looked totally suspicious!”

I look over to that family. They’re quietly eating their breakfasts, though the five-year-old is squirming in his seat. He looks like he wants to get up and start dancing or something. Kids at that age never really run out of energy. But he’s still pretty well-behaved.

I don’t know if I’m cut out to raise a kid. I was on the pill when I was actively dating, but I haven’t bothered for a couple of years now; if you don’t count the dinner date with Casey, I haven’t actually had a serious date for... well, a while. And even when I was on the pill, it wasn’t because I never wanted to get pregnant. I wouldn't mind raising a kid at some point, I just wanted to plan it out a bit. I wanted to make sure that I was at least decent financially, and hopefully I would be with someone who was in it for the long haul.

But ever since I started piloting Emperex, I haven’t had a single period. I know that women athletes tend to have their periods thrown out of whack, and I’m pretty sure that anorexia or disorders like that can throw it off as well. But I don’t really exercise all that much anymore, and even though I don’t eat as much as I used to, I’m definitely not starving myself. It could just be my body reacting to stress, or maybe it’s Emperex’s fault.

But even if I can’t naturally conceive anymore, I could easily adopt. I’ve thought about doing that anyways, but I suppose being rendered infertile by a giant alien robot is as good an excuse as any. Of course, my particular lifestyle means I’ll probably either die young, or I’ll be in jail for the rest of my life, so I guess it’s not a huge deal.

I drain the last of my coffee. That was it? I thought I ordered a large. Then again, I’ve heard that North American portion sizes are larger than the rest of the world. At the very least, the coffee was better than that stuff from last week. Well, I’d better get moving. I throw the empty cup and the newspaper into the trash on my way out; it was just one of those trashy tabloid papers, so I don’t think I missed much. I need a few supplies before I head back up, so I’ll have to look for a grocery store of some sort.

On my way out, the younger kid jumps up and runs over to me.

“Uh, yes?” I ask.

“Miss! Miss! You’re the lady with the robot, right?” he says. What the hell do I say to that?

“Uh, no. No, I’m not.” I respond. As flimsy as it is, I can’t afford to blow my cover. I’ve got a bit less than two hours before Emperex picks me up; that’s plenty of time for the police to catch me.

“Oh...” The kid looks disappointed. “Because giant robots are cool! And killing monsters, like pow!” He swings and presumably hits an invisible monster. Something tells me that this kid watches too much Power Rangers. Do they even have Power Rangers in the UK? Whatever the equivalent is, then. Doctor Who? I don’t know.

The mother walks over and puts a hand on the boy. She leads him back to the table, without even saying a word to me. British stuffiness and all that, I guess.

It only now occurred to me that I probably shouldn’t be so close to the site of the last kaiju attack. According to the paper, Renzokuzer appeared somewhere near the France-Germany border, but the actual fight happened on the north coast of France, near the English Channel. The police, or the KDF, or whoever’s looking for me probably has their eyes out for me. Then again, would they think I’m stupid enough to come here? I don’t know. Reverse psychology can be tricky sometimes. I just need to keep a low profile and do my shopping in peace. Then again, if a 5-year-old can recognize me...

I leave the restaurant and walk down the street. I’m not really sure where I am exactly, though I think I’m near the east coast. Definitely nowhere near London. Then again, I might blend in better with a million other tourists. But I don’t really like majorly crowded areas. Either way, this place seems nice enough. I catch a few weird looks every once in a while, but for the most part, no one really seems to care who I am or why I’m here. They’re just going on with their own business.

I may have been wrong in thinking that everyone hated me. That boy seemed pretty excited when he thought I was Emperex’s pilot. Then again, he’s probably too young to understand why exactly everyone hates me; if a kaiju attacked this city and I knocked over his house in the ensuing battle, he’d probably change his opinion. To everyone else, I’m just an impersonal, impartial god of destruction; they want me specifically because I’m a face to that destruction. A scapegoat.

But there I am, getting all emo about it again. If I keep thinking like that, that’s what I’ll become. As tough as it is, I’ve got to maintain a positive outlook. I’m doing what I think is right, and I’m sure someone out there agrees with me.

I step into an Internet cafe. I wasn’t aware that these things were still around; these days, everyone’s connected to the Internet 24/7, either by a tablet or a phone. Hell, I know people who don’t even have PCs anymore. They just have laptops, tablets and/or smart phones, and they just alternate using them. I grew up with a PC, so I suppose I’m just clinging to nostalgia.

“Hello, miss!” A cheery young chap greets me on the way in. He’s standing behind a shelf full of video games and trading cards. There are about 20 computers off to the left. Even though there are windows and plenty of lights, the whole building seems kind of dark.

“Uh, hi. What’s the rate for using a computer?” I ask.

“Oh, you’re not from around here. I’d say, based on the accent... Canadian?”

“Yeah. I, uh, my hotel room doesn’t have Internet.”

“Must be a cheap room, then. The rate’s £10 per hour.”

“I just need it for one hour.” I hand him a £10 note and sit down at a computer. It’s pretty empty in here. I guess that’s not too surprising.

I login to my email account. Surprisingly, it’s still active; I figured they would have either shut it down or changed the password while investigating me. Can they ‘bug’ an email account? Will they be able to tell where it was sent from? Probably, but I have an hour to compose it; I’ll just make sure to send it right at the end of the hour. It seems a bit risky, but I’m probably just being paranoid.

I start to compose an email to my mom. I want to let her know that I’m okay, and not to worry about me. But how does she feel about me now? Her daughter is one of the most wanted people in the world, and she’s probably been hounded by every major agency I can think of. And I didn’t even tell her that I was leaving, or anything about Emperex.

“Hi, Mom.

“I’m really sorry for not calling you or anything since I left. I’m sure that you’ve been under a lot of stress in the past few months, and I know that I should’ve told you about KE-14b. I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry for everything I’ve put you through. I don’t know if you approve of what I’m doing or not, but I just wanted to tell you that I’m doing okay, and that I think about you and Dad every day.

“Love, Jojo”

It’s short, but sweet. I thought about trying to justify running off with Emperex to her, but I don’t think it would’ve changed her opinion of me. I was lucky enough to have a really close relationship with my mom when I was growing up, so I know that she still loves me, regardless of what I’m doing. She doesn’t have to approve of it, but I know that she just wants what’s best for me.

I spend the rest of the hour reading online newspapers. The major news today seems to be the KDF offering cash for information about me and Emperex. It must be something they just announced.  I still don’t know how I feel about it, but hey, whatever works. I could call in and taunt them with where I am, but that doesn’t seem like the greatest idea.

My hour’s almost up. I send my email, and I’m just logging off the computer when the entire room shakes. I’m thrown off of my chair, and everything else in the cafe goes flying; a couple of chairs fall on me, though I’m fortunately not hurt too much.

“Are you alright?” The man’s standing over me. He grabs my hand and helps me up.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I say. “But what was that? An earthquake?”

“Hell if I know. I don’t think we usually get earthquakes ‘round here, but with all the craziness in the world, who knows?”

“No kidding.” I look around the cafe. It looks pretty trashed; there’s stuff lying all over the place, and I’m sure that at least a few of the monitors lying on the floor are broken.

“Oh, don’t worry about those. I’ve got insurance on this whole place.” he says. “I’m paying out my arse for it too, so it better be worth something. I guess you didn’t get your whole hour, though.”

“It was close enough.”

“Haha, that’s what I love about Canadians. Always so polite.” He chuckles a bit. “Well miss, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to ask you to leave so I can clean up.”

“Oh, I can help you out if you like.”

“Really? Well-“ He’s interrupted by an aftershock, or whatever it is. We’re both thrown to the ground, and even more stuff goes flying. A couple of the windows break, scattering shattered glass everywhere.

“They’d better cover this.” he mutters. “I’ve got a basement. If this is an earthquake, we’d better get down there.” He heads toward the back of the cafe; as he tries to unlock a door at the back, a huge crab-like creature bursts through the entrance in the front.

“What the fuck?” The guy just stands there, looking at the strange creature. On second thought, it only vaguely resembles a crab; it has pincers and a reddish-pink exoskeleton, but it has a swollen abdomen and huge mandibles, almost like a spider. Also, it’s about the size of a large dog. Whatever it is, it’s definitely not natural.

The crab... thing slowly approaches us, stepping over the broken equipment in its way. The insides of its pincers, and the bottom of its feet, are tipped in metal. Wait, is this thing...

“I think this thing’s a kaiju.” I say out loud. It’s only been a couple of days since I fought Renzokuzer, and I don't think it's been two weeks since KE-27, but we've seen that they're willing to break their schedule. I was hoping that they wouldn't attack me while I was outside of Emperex, but that's just my luck. At least Emperex is close by.

“What? But it’s way too small!” the guy protests.

“It’s... it’s hunting me.” I don’t know if it is or not, but it’s definitely not a coincidence that the kaiju appeared here of all places.

“Shit, you’re that Hernandez woman, aren’t you!?” I ignore him as I grab a chair and fling it at the kaiju. The chair bounces off its body, not even scratching it. It looks like I’ve gotta fight this thing off without Emperex’s help. Well, I suppose it’s only fair that I do things on my own once in a while.

The kaiju lunges forward, trying to grab me with its pincers. I step forward into its ‘blind’ spot; its pincers aren’t very flexible, so I think I should be okay as long as I stay right close to it. Then again, it could bite me with those huge mandibles, and knowing the kaiju, they probably decided to add poison or acid to its bite, just to make it that much more deadly. Then again, its mandibles are big and fleshy...

I take a chance and punch it right in the mouth as hard as I can. It recoils in pain, and I follow up with a kick aimed underneath its mandibles. It collapses to the ground, and I stomp on its head for good measure. It tries to nip my foot, but I jump to the side. I’ve definitely hurt it, but I’m not going to kill it with punches and kicks. I need to cut through its exoskeleton.

I grab one of its pincers, and with a mighty heave, I rip the pincer right off. The kaiju tries to get up and run, but I jump up on the kaiju and stab it with its own pincer. The blade cuts right through its body like tissue paper. I stab it a few more times near its head; I cut one of its mandibles off, and some sort of foul-smelling clear liquid spews from the wound. It doesn’t eat through the floor Alien-style, so it’s probably a poison. Or some sort of blood. It doesn’t matter. The kaiju stops moving, which in my experience, means that they’re dead.

“Blimey, woman...” the guy says.

“Sorry for saving your life.” I say back. I’m not really in the mood to be berated. “I really hope your insurance covers kaiju attacks, or acts of god, or whatever they classify it as these days.”

“...Yeah, I’ll check it out. Uh, thanks.” He opens the door to his basement. “Uh, for the record, I think you’re doing a good job with that robot.”

“Thanks.” He’s probably only saying that because he just saw me kill a giant mutant crab with its own claw. Whatever works, I guess.

“Speaking of which, where is it? The robot, I mean.”

“Pretty close. You should get downstairs, in case more of them show up.” If they are hunting me down, there’s no way they’d only send one of these crab kaiju after me. There’s gotta be more.

The guy takes my advice and heads down into the basement, locking the door behind him. At the very least, if more kaiju show up, they won’t be able to fit through the door. They could probably cut through the wall or floor, but I don’t think they would bother; all of the kaiju I’ve seen so far only attack whatever’s in their line of sight.

I step outside of the cafe. Sure enough, I see a group of people being chased by another giant crab. Giant crabs. There’s a double entendre in there somewhere. But what really surprises me is the kaiju-sized crab off in the distance; it looks like it’s spawning these smaller ones from its stomach. It looks pretty much the same as its spawn, just scaled up about ten or fifteen times, though its claws look a bit smaller, and it has a number of fleshy bumps on its back and abdomen. Again, it could only be superficially called a crab. It actually looks more like the spider kaiju I fought way back when, just with pincers. Palette-swapped kaiju. Are they really getting that lazy?

I run at the smaller crab chasing those people. I grab a nearby trash can and chuck it at the kaiju; just like the chair, it bounces off harmlessly, though it does draw aggro toward me. It runs at me with surprising speed, but I get close to it and kick it in the face a couple of times. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s not the greatest idea, since it could easily bite my hands or feet, or cut them off, or whatever.

Okay, plan B. Actually, let’s mix it up this time. Rather than a pincer, I rip off one of its legs; the metal plating on the bottom looks sharpened as well, so I can use its leg as a makeshift spear. I stab it near the head, and it drops to the ground. I try ripping the leg out of it, but I rip the leg, coating my hands in a gooey green fluid. I really hope it’s non-toxic.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” A police officer runs up to me.

“Well, I saw this thing chasing people, so I stopped it.”

“You’ll get yourself killed!” the cop says. Or whatever the UK equivalent for a cop is. Bobby? I think I heard that term once or twice.

“I’ll be fine. You should be worrying about yourself. Don’t you have a gun or something?”

“No, I don’t have a gun.” He mutters something that sounds suspiciously like “bloody tourists” under his breath. “Listen, just get somewhere safe. The KDF’s on their way.”

“I can’t. I’m waiting for someone.”

“Waiting for- are you daft, woman?!” he stammers. “Who could possibly be that important that you would stand out here, killing mutant crab monsters-“

“Emperex. Or KE-14b, as you would call it,” I say. The cop’s expression changes from shock, to realization, to anger.

“You, you’re Hernandez! You’re coming with me. Don’t resist, I know twenty ways to subdue you with my bare hands.”

“I’m afraid I can’t, sir. My ride’s here.” The cop realizes he’s standing in an inexplicable shadow. He turns around, to see a giant robot standing right behind him. Emperex fires a tractor beam at the cop, moving him a few feet away; it fires its other beam at me, pulling me toward the cockpit. Its mask opens, and I run in and practically jump on the connection chair.

You know, I probably shouldn’t have been such a dick to that cop. He was just trying to help me, and I was being really rude. Oh well. He probably thought I was an irredeemable monster anyways, and I don’t think I could’ve changed his opinion no matter what I said. Although, if I keep acting like that to people, they’re never going to think differently...

I’m back in control of Emperex. There’s dozens of small targets on my radar. There’s no way I’ll be able to take care of all of them; I’ll just have to take care of the big one, and hope that the people and the KDF can clean up the rest. The arbitrary number is a whole lot smaller, only around 200 million, so it's nowhere near as powerful as Renzokuzer. I should be able to take this thing out without trouble.

A small kaiju runs up to me. I crush it with my foot. All that’s left is a green splatter on the road. They generally don’t have blood, but I guess they have guts. Hopefully they’ll be able to hose that off. The cop from before is just looking at me; he’s probably scared for his life. I guess I’d be in the same position. I give him a makeshift thumbs-up as I fly toward the kaiju.

The kaiju’s on the other side of town, but it only takes a few seconds for me to get there. And that’s barely what Emperex is capable of; I’ve never tried clocking its speed (I honestly don’t know how I go about doing that), but it can go damn fast, that’s for sure. The kaiju turns toward me, snapping its claws threateningly. I don’t particularly want to get near those, even in Emperex. Well, ranged attacks it is.

So far, the damage doesn’t look too bad; it hasn’t entered the city yet, so it’s mostly just ripped up some farmland and the road, at least from what I can see. And right now, it’s just standing in one spot, spawning its little minions. There’s a group of them swarming around its legs, and it seems to be spawning new ones about once a minute or so. It’s a bit puzzling, actually; so far, the kaiju have focused on mass destruction, so why are they all of a sudden using an army of smaller creatures for more personal attacks? Are they just trying something different, or am I missing something here?

Either way, I should probably take care of those little ones while they’re right here. I switch my right arm to gun mode and start firing at the kaiju's feet, reducing the spawns (and most of the road around the kaiju) to gibs. The bullets are, of course, just ricocheting off of the kaiju's exoskeleton, so let's try something a bit stronger. Emperex’s chest flaps open and fires half a dozen missiles at the kaiju; once the smoke clears, it looks a bit hurt, but mostly okay. It's tougher than I thought, I'll give it that.

One of the fleshy bumps on the kaiju’s abdomen wiggles a bit, spraying some sort of opaque white goo at me. It hits me right in the chest, hardening instantly. Did it just spray me with some sort of web fluid? Even though it’s supposed to be a crab? Whatever, I should stop trying to apply logic to these things. The goo doesn’t seem to slow me down or anything, though it’s right over my missile launchers. I try firing some more missiles, but the flaps won’t open. That’s some strong stuff.

The Star Buster’s only at 20%. I’ll save it for a bit. Another one of the fleshy organs on the kaiju’s body twitches, firing a near-constant stream of tiny needle-like objects. Its aim is all over the place, and the ones that do hit me aren’t doing a thing. At the very least, it seems to be focusing on firing those spikes at me, as it’s not spawning anymore children. Okay, it’s distracted; let’s try getting close to it.

I reach over to my damaged shoulder and pull out the hilt of Renzokuzer’s energy sword, kept in place by a blue force field. I don't know how it works, so I just kinda will it to activate, and a focused green beam of energy bursts from the hilt. Renzokuzer’s hands were a lot bigger than Emperex’s, but the sword isn’t heavy and it seems to fit into Emperex’s hands, so hey.

While it’s firing those spikes at me, I rush the kaiju and thrust the sword into its head. I kind of expect to hear a sizzling sound, or smell cooked shellfish, but it just sort of... cuts through the kaiju without any resistance. This kaiju is more durable than its spawn, though; it tries to grab me with its pincers, but I dash backward, cutting part of its right pincer off on the way. It occurs to me that I should probably be careful with this sword. I know that it’s pretty effective on me, and I don’t particularly want to lose an arm. Which makes me wonder, has a Jedi ever cut their own limbs off due to inexperience with a lightsaber? Probably, somewhere in the Expanded Universe.

The kaiju fires more of that goo at me. This time, it hits my left arm’s nonexistent elbow, causing my lower left arm to drop to the ground. There’s another double entendre in there. Well, at least I was holding my sword with my right hand. I’m not intentionally doing that. I suddenly remember that I can fly, and I get up a few hundred feet; but the kaiju fires more goo at me, hitting the thruster on my right leg. It doesn’t seem to affect me much, but the kaiju hits the thruster on my other leg, and I start to fall. I unnaturally bend my legs to use the smaller thrusters on the back of my legs to maintain my altitude, but they don’t fire up in time, and I hit the ground.

The kaiju goes to work, firing huge torrents of the stuff and completely covering my body. I’d make a bukkake joke here, but I’m actually kind of grossed out that I even know what that is. But on to more pertinent matters; I’ve totally underestimated this kaiju. I can’t move at all; my head is still free (enough for me to see, at least), but my body’s totally immobilized. Damn it. I can’t open my missile launchers, my sword’s deactivated and I can’t reactivate it, and I don’t think an EM Cocktail will help me out here, especially not while I’m so close to a populated area.

And the kaiju... walks off, toward the city. Its back is turned to me, but I can see it firing a stream of spikes into the city. Wait a minute, I was just in front of the city, and it missed me before... but it wasn’t aiming for me at all. And the world’s not as invulnerable as Emperex; those spikes may be small, but with so many of them...

I’ve been so stupid. This thing has a lower threat rating, so I've been taking it easy, but it’s been using my own arrogance against me. If I had just chopped this thing to bits in the first place, I could’ve avoided so much. I’d claim that the kaiju outsmarted me, but it’s not exactly a hard thing to do if I keep acting like this. No wonder everyone else hates me.

I need to rectify this. I can’t fix my stupid, stupid mistake, but I can stop it before it does any more damage. But that goo is still holding me down. The kaiju knows it can’t take me down with physical force, so it’s just paralyzing me while it goes about its business. Hell, it’s probably expecting me to break out of this any time, but by then, it’ll be too late. God damnit.

Come on, Emperex. We’re supposed to be protecting these people. We can’t let this thing get the better of us. I don’t know how smart you are, but I know that you understand me. I need you to break out of this... I can’t do it on my own. Please...

I feel something stir within me, and my vision is obscured by... blue. A blue aura surrounds me and pushes outward, cracking the hardened goo and breaking it off in huge chunks. I stand up, and the talons on my legs flip down, apparently with enough force to crack the goo on my thrusters. I fire a tractor beam at my fallen arm, attaching it back in its rightful place. Finally, I cross my arms on my chest, and with a final mental push, the rest of the goo shatters into little pieces. I don’t think it was necessary to strike a pose, but having a bit of fighting spirit never hurts.

Now for the kaiju. I fire a rocket punch at the kaiju, hitting it in the abdomen. With my arm pretty deeply embedded in its body, I fire a tractor beam into the empty socket of the arm; a blue energy field spreads from the arm, surrounding most of the kaiju’s body. I retract the tractor beam, dragging the kaiju toward me; it’s desperately trying to escape, but it won’t break my hold.

Star Buster’s at 65%. Holy crap that’s high. I’ve never seen it go above 50%. Maybe anything above 50% would be too powerful? I don’t know why it’s up so high this time, or how it charged up so quickly. Is Emperex... angry? The wing-blades deploy on my back, and my other arm switches to cannon mode; the empty chamber fills up quickly with the Star Buster’s white energy.

I rip my arm out of the kaiju, leaving a huge wound in its abdomen. More clear fluid sprays from the wound, killing the grass around me. It doesn’t seem to affect me much, even though it presumably got in Emperex’s sword wounds. I fly above the kaiju and cut it into many, many small pieces with the Star Buster, leaving a huge chasm in the ground.

While up in the air, I look at the city. Yeah, it looks like the kaiju’s spikes did a lot of damage to the architecture. I can see at least a few toppled buildings, and there’s probably lots of civilian casualties. And there are still plenty of small targets on my radar, which means those small kaiju are running around and probably killing more. But if I get involved with Emperex, I’ll just do more damage. And even if I do get out of Emperex and directly help them, I can only do so much. I... I really hope that the KDF can clean them up.

Speaking of which, five or six KDF drones appear on my radar. I need to get out of here before they start firing at me. The kaiju’s good and dead, though there’s lots of damage that will inevitably be entirely blamed on me. But this time, they’re totally right. I was acting completely stupid, and I deserve it.

I fly back into the upper atmosphere. The drones and the small kaiju disappear from my radar. It might just be me, but Emperex seems to be flying a bit slower today. I suppose I’m not surprised, though; whatever energy source it uses was probably pretty heavily drained by charging up the Star Buster and using its tractor beam field thing a bunch. Can its energy source replenish itself? There’s been a couple of times where I feel like it’s stronger or weaker than previously, but that could just be me.

But something happened back there. Emperex definitely felt... angry. I don’t know how I even know that. A gut feeling? Or maybe it’s some sort of psychic bond? I’m sure that Emperex is intelligent on some level, but does it have feelings? Maybe I should ask it. Well, Emperex? Are you angry?

My question is naturally answered by silence. I didn’t expect Emperex to answer back. After all, if it was smart enough to talk to me, I’m sure it would have done so already. Actually, it’d be really nice to have someone else to talk to. I can’t imagine that a giant robot would care about how I’m feeling, but it would be at least nice to have a conversation every once in a while.

Hold on a minute. When Emperex arrived... it moved that cop out of the way with a tractor beam. From what I’ve figured out, Emperex can’t fight without a pilot; without me in the cockpit, its actions seem limited to “find pilot” or “run away”. And it’s definitely used its tractor beam without me, since it can pick me up whenever I go to the surface. But it probably could just have grabbed me without moving that cop. God, none of this makes sense!

Come on, Emperex! Say something to me!

...Nothing. Well, I tried. I disconnect, and I feel the needles removed from my spine as I’m returned to my body. You know, I’m still not sure how those needles work. Presumably, they connect to my nervous system somehow, and my meagre knowledge of human anatomy tells me that the spine has a lot of nerves in it. But how exactly does it know what I want to do, and do it? The connection is seamless; if I want to move Emperex, it moves exactly how I want it to. And it compensates sometimes, too; mostly when I’m flying, it takes the third dimension into account as well.

So it’s smart enough to help me control it, but it can’t pull off complex stuff by itself? Whoever designed Emperex must have really wanted a flesh-and-blood pilot in control. Then again, I have no idea who built it; maybe they have completely different morality than a human, so they want a human to pilot it. But if they’re powerful enough to build a super-advanced giant robot, why couldn’t they just take care of the kaiju by itself, without involving a giant robot?

Whatever, I’m thinking too much about this. I’ve changed a lot in the time I’ve been piloting Emperex. But one thing hasn’t changed about me; I don’t care what the kaiju are, or where they come from, or who created them, or whatever. They’re still attacking the only planet I’ve ever lived on, and I cannot allow that. I’m sure learning more about them would help me in the long run, but I don’t think we could ever actually communicate with them; as smart as they get sometimes, I don’t think they’re intelligent enough to have any sort of morality. They’re just mindless beasts. They appear, wreck stuff, and disappear. None of them have a greater plan than that.

It’s a black-and-white conflict. I wouldn’t exactly call myself the “white” option here, but they’re definitely the black option. That sounds kind of racist. Okay, how about good and evil. They’re about as evil as it’s possible to get outside of a kids’ cartoon; they’re just sorta-portable forces of destruction. And if there is a higher power behind them, they’ve gotta be pretty sick to think that this is the best idea to communicate some sort of message. Then again, I’m no expert on xenomorality. Is that even a thing? But when you get down to it, I guess I’m just a sorta-portable force of destruction as well. At least I can justify my actions, even if they’re destructive. I’m not evil... I hope.

And there I go waxing philosophical again. It’s not like I don’t have the time to think about these sorts of things, but if I keep thinking negatively, it’s only going to hurt in the long run. I’m actually kind of surprised that I’m feeling pretty good, despite my stupidity costing a lot. I’m far from perfect. I’m probably about as far from perfect as a person can get. But I’m still trying, and that’s what keeps me going.

I’m not hurting too much today, at least. I grab a can of coke and some crackers and force them down. I haven’t really been watching what I eat either, but it’s not like I eat a whole lot. Maybe that’s why I haven’t had a period in so long: I’m staying nourished, but I’m still not eating a whole lot. Does that happen? I have no idea. I guess I can’t complain, though; I don’t have an immediate way to get more money, so that’s one less expense I have to worry about.

Once I’m done with my snack, I start thinking about the future. Renzokuzer appeared in an ‘off-week’, and this kaiju appeared a few days early. So are they just going to show up semi-randomly, or was this just a fluke to take advantage of me being outside of Emperex? I guess only time will tell. In the meantime, I grab a book out of my collection. Moby-Dick. I guess there’s lots of symbolism that I could wring out of that, but... eh, I don’t feel like it.

I read it until the sun sets, and I settle in for another night of dreamless sleep. Only time will tell.

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