San Francisco, United States of America
(Even over a decade after the city was levelled in the world's first Kaiju attack and its subsequent destruction by a nuclear missile, San Francisco remains a smoking ruin and traces of the Trespasser's blue blood still blight its landscape. It's around twenty miles away from the remains of the city that I meet my next interviewee, Ryan Linden, a stocky, red haired 'all American' USAF pilot, the single medal on his immaculate dress uniform embossed with the word 'K-Day' in bright silver and his dark sunglasses making him look like the stereotypical 'Top Gun' pilot. The bench we sit on overlooks the sea and the ruins of San Francisco are just visible in the distance as Ryan begins to speak.)
K Day. That's what the media called it. All the eggheads too. Even little kids on the street who have grown up knowing that Kaiju are the biggest creatures on the planet. Hell just today my kid comes home from school most days saying how he's been playing 'Jaegers and Kaijus' all day long and they started off with 'Kaiju and Jet Fighters' like on K Day, as he put it. Me, I remember things a lot differently.
Firstly K-Day is a stupid name. It wasn't even a day. It was a whole fricking week! Although maybe K Week doesn't sound as 'cool'.
Sorry, is this relevant?
Of course. Go on.
Ah good. I think it would be best if I started from the beginning and explain my whole role in all this and how I survived that week where millions of others didn't.
I was a pilot you see, as you no doubt guessed. That was my bird on that day.
(He hands me a photo of a grey A-10 Thunderbolt II warplane, his younger self grinning from the cockpit.)
Arrogant little asshole wasn't I?
Anyway me and my squadron were on leave from Afghanistan after a six month tour blowing up Taliban bases and technicals as easy as, I dunno, bulls eyeing womp rats… So we come home to our base just outside San Francisco and, for a few days at least, things were great. I would spend all day with my family and the evenings playing basketball or Call of Duty with my boys from the base. Those sure were the good days.
And on August 10th I'm out in the morning going for a quick jog before I swing on by the old flight simulator to check I wasn't getting rusty with my flying when I just feel the earth moving beneath me. I don't mean like a slight tremble or a bit of a shake. I was on my ass in seconds, felt like the whole world was coming apart… (The earthquake that morning was reported to be 7.1 on the Richter scale) Then I look out over the bay; our base was up in the hills and had some great views, and I just see this…thing, emerge from the water around the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember being rooted to the spot for a few seconds, not caring if an aftershock swept me off my feet or someone started laughing at the hard man pilot sat on his ass like a little kid. I just felt so afraid for some reason along with a sense that, whatever that giant shape moving across the bay was, it wasn't here for any reason other than death and destruction.
When it tore the whole bridge to shreds I was still sat there, heart beating like a freakin jackhammer. It was only when the radio at my belt crackled into life that I actually sat up and got a grip of myself.
It was my squad mate Wilson, his voice so scared sounding as he said simply 'The commander wants us in the air in five minutes.'
I started running then, pushing aside slack jawed mechanics and soldiers, the only thought on my mind was 'Kill that son of a bitch'. By the time I reached the airfield and got into my old Hog there the entire complement of planes on the base was either in the air or racing toward the runway. I was in the air only five minutes after the beast appeared and I can still picture all those planes out there, all flying in formations and full squadrons, all kinds. There were plenty of Hogs like mine. Loads of others. Freaking F-35's that looked like they had flown out of Star Wars, an AC-130 gunship flown in for military exercises, F-15's and F-22's on all sides. And of course there were all our allies. I had never been so glad that joint training exercises had been taking place, especially when Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons and Canadian Hornets were flying alongside us.
Was there an overall strategy?
Hell no. I guess our commanders believed the firepower of just under a hundred aircraft was enough to wipe whatever was attacking San Francisco off the map.
Did you know what you were facing?
Not at all. Maybe we would have done things differently if we had thought it was a giant monster, like the crew of that survey vessel that washed up near Los Angeles a few days later said it was, and not just a crazy North Korean super submarine or Chinese giant robot come to destroy the West Coast, as most of command seemed to be saying…
(He laughs grimly)
A bit ironic almost… Anyway we were almost above San Francisco when a voice comes on the radio, proper British accent, not like the rednecks from my squadron."
"Need a bit of inspirational music for this?"
(Ryan smiles sadly)
I recognised that voice. Luna Pentecost. One of the hottest women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, except the missus of course, and with a cute accent to boot! I remember all my squad mates hitting on her and her friend Tamsin in the local bar the night before. I'm almost lost in the memory as our unofficial air fleet powers through the cloud layer when I hear this thumping beat through my radio. Took me a second to realise it was freaking Iron Maiden screaming out The Trooper! I learnt a few things that day and two of them were that Brits and Canadians are some brave bastards and that British heavy metal is awesome!
(His expression darkens)
Shame that upbeat attitude didn't last…
We emerged from the clouds and over the city a few seconds later as the music got even louder and faster and individual squads starting peeling off into attack formations.
When I saw the monster smashing its way through the city below I felt that same fear come back, but when I placed my thumb on the fire button of the huge rotary cannon slung below my craft it subsided, and I was determined to bury this beast.
As we came into weapons range and I saw the planes on all sides moving into firing positions I heard Luna's voice crackle over the net one more time, shouting triumphantly 'Let's slay this dragon!'.
That's when my forward view was just filled with smoke and missiles. Every plane in the sky was going all out, firing off Sidewinders and ground to air missiles and filling the sky with trails of white. I felt my thumb pressed to the fire button, feeling the heavy machine cannon below me opening up with a dull whir, the hail of bullets slamming into the monster with dull puffs of smoke.
Did your guns harm the Kaiju?
In about the same way a splinter harms me. I think I saw a little puff of blue blood but I only had time to think 'Oh shit' at how useless my weapons were before the missiles all struck as one.
For a few agonising seconds all I could hear was the roar of engines around me and the thumping music in my ears as the smoke from the hundreds of missiles began to clear.
Then I heard the monster roar.
The smoke cleared and it was plain to see that the ugly, twenty storey high mass of armour plating was anything but harmed. The radio was soon full of people shouting out 'It's invincible!' while others screamed' Back to base! Back to base!' Then, in the midst of all that chaos, one voice spoke up, calm as anything, but with enough authority behind it to shut up the entire radio net.
'I'm putting a Sidewinder down this thing's throat' the voice said, and as I watched the RAF Eurofighter scream out of formation and head straight towards the monster I only had one thought…
(Ryan pauses and looks out over the sea beyond, a single tear appearing underneath his dark glasses)
That Luna girl had more balls than every man in that formation combined.
That's when other voices came onto the net from across the formation, not whining or screaming about how scared they were, but saying things like 'Red Sqaudron, follow me in' , 'Fire at will. Keep it distracted' and 'Let's show this monster how dangerous a load of Yanks, Limeys and Canucks can be…'
We all flew after Luna's fighter then, all spiralling off in different directions, firing off bursts of rockets and auto cannon from all sides, watching the beast turning to face the dozens of individual threats it faced. I flew straight down to the beast's head, peppering it with bullets that could carve through battle tanks, keeping one eye on that single fighter, the Union Jack proudly displayed on its underside as it corkscrewed towards the beast's gaping mouth, its escort made up of American, British and Canadian jets all working as one.
I think every single pilot out there must have been keeping an eye on Luna's plane, wishing for it to fly even faster and hoping that we could take this thing down like the Death Star with just one well-placed missile. We all saw the Eurofighter corkscrew one last time, swooping straight in, the Sidewinder on its wing just beginning to lift off.
Then the Kaiju just turned its head upwards and, in a heartbeat, brought its claw swinging down…and sliced that jet in two in one blow.
That's when my hope died.
What happened then? Did you regroup?
How? Everyone on the radio was just screaming about how the thing was unstoppable. I guess once Luna's brave finishing move was knocked from the sky we all kind of lost any sort of battle plan. All the planes were flying in all directions, way too close to the monster, firing off their weapons and swopping down in near suicidal moves. So many got knocked out the sky then. So many just made a wrong turn or looked the wrong way and got smashed to pieces by the Kaiju… Oh and before you go all armchair general on me like everybody else and start bitching about how we flew too low and too close like dumbasses, just remember we didn't know what the hell was going on. Command was silent, our best hope of killing the beast had failed and it seemed like nothing we did could harm it. And how through all the explosions and that beast trying to swat you out the sky do you expect us to calmly pull back and fire from a longer range? My only thought as I flew along the Kaiju's back and fired long bursts into its spine was that maybe if we got closer the bullets would penetrate more or that a lucky missile might get through it's armoured sides and detonate inside.
By the time my ammo ran dry half the jets from our formation were gone. The monster by now was just ignoring us, wading through the bay and into the city proper, tearing apart whole streets with a single step. As I turned tail back to base I saw the AC-130 swoop in low, firing all of its weapons simultaneously, managing to make nothing but a small scratch in the Kaiju's side before it just turned and swatted it from the sky like it was an annoying insect.
The airbase was complete chaos when I landed and I literally had to threaten some ground crew to repair and rearm my bird. All over there were planes lined up, their pilots either shaking their heads in complete denial of what they had seen or vomiting onto the tarmac. The base commander was out there with his staff, bellowing at every pilot to get back out there and fight that thing. As I sat there for what felt like hours waiting for the ammunition to be loaded on board and the plane checked for damage I saw squadron after squadron of jets soar overhead from inland, every so often the dull drone of attack helicopters roaring past at rooftop level, firing off long range missiles towards the city.
Soon as the plane was ready I was back in the sky, burning through all my ammo shooting at that creature as it ripped apart San Francisco below me. And then, after what felt like only a minute my ammo was gone and I was heading back to repeat the same process. Every time there would be less of us flying out and even fewer returning and the city would be even more of a ruin…
This went on for the entire week?
Pretty much. I would catch a few hours of sleep every so often and might grab something to eat. They had the guys from the base kitchens wheeling in these trolleys piled with burgers and big energy drink cans, anything just to keep us going.
It just seemed almost ridicoulus, grown men just grabbing this awful food and stuffing it in their mouths and chugging cans of Red Bull before getting back in their planes to shoot at the monster for a few more minutes. We were literally getting the minimum amount of food and water needed to keep us going while we spent almost every waking minute flying sorties against the Kaiju still tearing up the city beyond.
The next few days were just more of the same. I would wake up, kiss my wife like I would never see her again, bearhug my kid then run out the door and back to my plane to try and fight the Kaiju. By the second day there were convoys of trucks stacked high with missiles and ammunition rolling into the base as our stocks grew low, while armoured divisions of tanks and heavy artillery were visible when we flew over the highway.
What were the orders from command?
Orders? They barely even understood what was going on out there. We only knew that every time we flew out there we were slowly wearing the thing down. By Thursday it had its first noticeable wound from a Tomahawk cruise missile on its left leg. Friday there were whole armoured divisions shelling it from the hills and by Saturday there were warplanes from international air forces flying alongside us.
Btu still that thing wouldn't die! By Sunday we were starting to wonder if this thing was actually killable! I had seen it sweep aside a whole unit of tanks like they were nothing and shrug off cruise missiles as if they were freaking raindrops so every time I fired upon it and watched only puffs of smoke rise from its side I felt my hope dying a slow and painful death. Sunday, things really were desperate. It seemed like the Kaiju was getting bored of destroying San Francisco and we had reports it was moving towards the rest of the West Coast.
That's when only one option remained.
The last thing I saw on Sunday was a dark shape streak towards the city beyond and the Kaiju still feasting upon it. Then that bright light enveloped the Kaiju and I heard its final roar…
(He carefully removes his dark glasses to reveal sightless white eyes.)
Then I saw no more.