Forged in Fire, Chapter 1
Hong Kong Shatterdome
Gipsy Danger Repair Bay
April 27, 2025
Mako set the hammer down and stuck the block of metal back into the furnace before turning around to face Raleigh.
"No. I'm still jet lagged. You too?"
"Yep. I was headed down to the helipad to look out over Hong Kong when I heard you working on something, so I came to take a look."
At that, Raleigh took a few steps forward, closing in on the furnace's yellow glow. He crouched down to take a look inside. The block of metal Mako had just been hammering glowed a bright orange in the intense heat. He turned back to Mako, one eyebrow quirked up. "What is it?"
Mako grinned. "The beginnings of a katana, like my family has made for twenty generations. It's for sensei's memorial."
Raleigh smiled as Mako turned back to the furnace and pulled out the block, picked up the hammer, and began to work the metal once more.
Mako enjoyed the simple pleasure of the forging work. It allowed her to work through her feelings and emotions while having a place to vent her energy. The therapist she had seen shortly after Operation Pitfall's completion had suggested it. Now that she and Raleigh had returned "home" to the Shatterdome, she had finally gotten the opportunity to work on the sword for sensei she had been planning during their whirlwind tour of the world.
Redirecting her attention to the block of metal, Mako returned it to the furnace before it became too cool. It was good to be able to practice her traditional swordsmith skills, something she had not had time to do in the last few years. Yes, she had made two swords, some of the largest ever conceived and the largest built (as far as she knew), but Gipsy's Chain Swords were far from traditional. Gipsy Danger. My creative outlet for the last few years. Gone. Along with Sensei and Chuck and Striker Eureka.
A tear crept down her face as she remembered the losses of the Kaiju War. She pulled the block of steel from the furnace, and began to work it again…
Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean
January 12, 2025
Two hours after surfacing
Mako and Raleigh sat beside each other in the fold-down seats of the rescue helicopter, holding hands as the medics checked them over. No words were spoken between them; they didn't need to. The "hangover" from the Drift was still powerful enough to convey emotions.
Elation, awe, sorrow, pain.
One of the medics looked at them quizzically. "Didn't you two just literally save the world? Why aren't you excited?"
Raleigh sighed, thinking of some way to redirect the conversation. "We're exhausted. Driving a Jaeger isn't easy in the best of times, and when you're in pain from a wrecked leg and a torn off arm, you're fighting off THREE Kaiju, and you're running out of hope, it's REALLY tough. Cut us a break."
The medic blinked in surprise at the snappish response, shook his head, packed up his kit, and made his way across the cargo bay of the helicopter. "Sorry."
Mako leaned against Raleigh as they cruised back to the Shatterdome, still two hours away. It was too much to take in at once. Sensei, Chuck, Striker Eureka, and Gipsy Danger all gone. But the Breach was closed. Had it been worth it? All the loss? Mako's head spun.
One of the medics pulled out a tablet, looked at the incoming call source, then promptly handed it to Raleigh and Mako. "It's the Marshall."
Mako's heart jumped briefly before her brain realized that the medic had meant Herc Hansen, not Stacker Pentecost. She gulped, nodded, and took the tablet. "Thank you." She hit the "Accept call?" button, and the screen changed to a view from the Hong Kong LOCCENT. The noise came through a second later, loud enough to make even Raleigh flinch. Herc, Tendo, Newt and Hermann were all crowded around the camera, grinning like idiots. In the background, the beginnings of a party was clearly visible.
Herc started the conversation. "Well done, both of you. You're a credit to the PPDC, and to humanity. Pentecost would be proud of you. The rabble behind me, not so much."
Raleigh chuckled. "Hell of a party starting already, I see. Tendo, my man, make sure they don't blow through all the booze before we get back."
"No promises, but I'll do my best," Tendo replied before ducking out of the camera's field of view and yelling something unintelligible.
Herc motioned for Newt to go next. "I'm sure both of you have some truly interesting tales to tell once you get back, but we need to get certain details now while they're fresh in your mind. Raleigh, what was it like in the AnteOW! HERMANN, WHAT THE HELL?"
Hermann put his cane down and tried, without success, to wipe the grin from his face. "Newton, those details can wait until the debriefing back at the Shatterdome. You are an insufferable Kaiju Groupie, even after they're gone."
"Shut up, Hermann. We've been over this already, like, a thousand times."
Herc intervened before the argument started going over well-worn ground. "Gents, knock it off. Go have a few drinks on me." He then turned back to the camera as Newt and Hermann left. "Mako, Raleigh, I'll see you back here in a few hours. I'm going to go back up Tendo on protecting some of that booze."
Raleigh laughed. "Thanks, Marshall. See you on the flight deck."
Mako put the tablet down, grabbed Raleigh's hand, and looked out the viewport at the ocean going by beneath the helicopter. Sensei, I'll miss you…
Mako shook her head to clear the memories, looked at the block of steel, and gave a startled "eep!" as she realized it had gotten dangerously close to being ruined by becoming too cold during the forging process. She shoved it back into the furnace, breathing a sigh of relief.
Raleigh came over and massaged her shoulders, a worried look on his face. "You okay? You kinda zoned out there for a bit."
Mako nodded, grabbing a nearby towel to wipe off the sweat on her face. "I'm fine, Raleigh. Just… remembering. And I almost ruined the steel. Another thirty seconds, and it would have gotten cold enough to ruin the whole process."
Raleigh let her go, looking puzzled. "It's that sensitive to temperature changes? Then what if you need to, I dunno, go get something to eat?"
Mako's musical laugh filled the now-empty repair bay. "Not that sensitive, but yes, it can make a remarkable difference. Here let me show you how you work the steel." She pulled the steel block back out of the furnace as it glowed yellow, set it on the anvil, and grabbed Raleigh's hands with hers. "Pick up the hammer, then strike the steel as if you were driving a nail into wood. But not as hard as if you were trying to break concrete with a sledgehammer. Start at the center, then work in a spiral outwards and clockwise."
Raleigh did as he had been instructed, and the sound of hammer on steel once again filled the air.
Mako watched Raleigh work the metal. Not bad for a first time. My father would have liked him. He's already found the balance between force and finesse. "Good. Now apply a little bit of a forward motion to it as you repeat the pattern, but go from the outside to the center."
Raleigh started the new pattern, and the now-orange steel bathed them in a warm glow. I see why she likes this. It's actually kind of fun! "How long until we need to reheat it?"
"Soon. See how it's getting darker in color and intensity?"
"Once it turns as red as the morning sun, we'll put it back in the furnace."
Raleigh stopped hammering as he recognized the color Mako had spoken of. He placed the steel, now looking more like a bar than a block, back into the furnace. Then he paused as a confused look spread across his face. "Wait, how did I know…?"
Mako grinned. "It must have been something that bled through from a Drift. Well done, by the way. You're learning quickly."
Raleigh shrugged. "I have a good teacher."
They both stood together, silent for a few moments, watching the steel heat up again.
Mako leaned on Raleigh, sighing. "I'm finally getting tired. What time is it, anyways?" She grabbed her watch. "Nearly four in the morning. Want to pick this up later?"
Raleigh stretched. "Sure. Meet for lunch first?"
"Sounds like a plan."
Mako shut off the furnace, turned off the lights, and headed back towards her room with Raleigh. They walked silently for a few minutes, enjoying the eerie quiet of the nearly-abandoned Shatterdome. She looked around as they neared the elevator. "Do you think they'll turn this into a museum?"
Raleigh was silent for a bit. "Maybe," he replied. "God knows we need somewhere to show the world our story. What better place than here, where we made our last stand?"
They entered the elevator and headed up to the living areas, now nearly empty. With the Jaegers gone and the PPDC being stood down, it was to be expected. Only a few people remained. Some of the techs had been busy mothballing certain areas: unused repair bays, empty quarters, Scramble Alley. Other techs worked on emplacing new sensors at the Breach. It was still only a fraction of the force present four months earlier, though. They soon reached their rooms. They looked at each other, knowing what the other was thinking. Not tonight.
Mako peeled off her tank top, fingering the still-healing scars around her right shoulder from where the circuitry suit had overloaded when Raiju tore Gipsy's right arm off. And to think I once wanted these and was jealous of Raleigh for having them… Now I wouldn't wish them on anyone else.
She also still felt the phantom pains of the feedback from Gipsy from time to time, something Raleigh told her would fade with time. Mako hoped so. It could be irritating when they occurred while she was working on a project. Or when I'm carrying a tray of food in the cafeteria… That was a mess. Poor Herc had Jello in his hair! Mako giggled at the memory. Oh well, today was a good day. Let's hope tomorrow goes just as well.
She stretched her arms, changed into some pajamas, and climbed into bed, staring into space in the direction of Raleigh's quarters across the hall. Soon, she was asleep.