One year later…
It was a scene straight out of a travel brochure – a white-gold beach gleaming beneath a brilliant sun, turquoise waves foaming over the sand, gulls and crabs dotting the sands while a breaching whale burst from the sea. Before the Kaiju War this would have been a slice of paradise… and a highly coveted piece of real estate. During the war it would be seen as a death trap, deceptively beautiful but vulnerable in the event of a creature of the Breach making landfall.
To a select group of warriors, both human and mechanical, it was a welcome respite, a rare moment of sanctuary from a chaotic world.
"Papa, Papa, we found another!"
Aleksis had been laying back in a reclining beach chair, the warm sun and the rhythmic hissing and sighing of the surf lulling him into a doze, but he raised his head to look at Cherno. The little Jaeger stood beside him, sandy up to the elbows and knees, beaming with pride as he cupped a bright red starfish in his hands.
"Ah… that's wonderful, Cherno!" Aleksis had no need to feign excitement at Cherno's find – while he was no stranger to the ocean, the tropical waters of this island were full of surprises for their entire family. He and Sasha were often as thrilled as their Jaeger to come across some exotic shell or fish or bird, and after only a few days on the island they had amassed a collection of shells and other trinkets to take home – with the islanders' blessing, of course.
"Are you going to keep this one?" he asked, taking the starfish and carefully turning it over to examine the underside.
"No. Newt says it's a perfect specimen – not missing any legs. He says it might be best to throw it back and make sure it keeps the population strong." He shrugged. "I don't know what that means… but if it's alive, I don't want to kill it just to take a present home."
"Newt is a smart one," Aleksis acknowledged. "Especially when it comes to animals and genetics." He handed the starfish back. "Be gentle with it if you're going to throw it back."
"I will." He cupped the animal carefully in his hands. "After I put it back, Mama and Uncle Ilya and I are going to build a sand castle. Want to help us?"
"I'd be delighted to." He pushed himself up from his chair, wincing at the pain in his bad leg. Cherno hovered at his side, practically vibrating with worry, but Aleksis gave him a reassuring pat on the reactor tower before walking over to join Sasha and Ilya.
This island was not home by any means – while the inhabitants, who revered Jaegers as gods and hailed their Rangers as something akin to prophets, would have gladly razed every hut and tree to make way for a Shatterdome, Tendo and the newly re-organized PPDC wouldn't stand for that. And while the Rangers had all grown close during their time in Hong Kong, all had agreed that it didn't make tactical sense for them to remain clustered in one place when the kaiju threat remained global. Projects were underway to reopen – and in extreme cases, such as Vladivostok, rebuild – the PPDC's installations around the world, and with the exception of Crimson Typhoon, who called Hong Kong home, all Jaegers would be returning to their home bases within a few years.
In the meantime, however, even a Jaeger needed some respite. And so Marshal Tendo Choi had declared that all Jaeger teams take a break from the rebuilding efforts to take a vacation. And despite Striker and Chuck's complaints, the island that had played host to the Mark V for months seemed to be the perfect destination.
As Cherno dashed ahead to toss the starfish back, Aleksis let his gaze travel up and down the beach, taking in the sight of a group of heroes enjoying a well-deserved break from the war and its aftermath. These were the beings who had sacrificed so much, shed blood and oil and tears, in order to defend humanity. Who could deny them a moment of pleasure such as this?
Four of the Jaegers waded in the surf up to their knees, alternating between human-like chatter and laughter and the signature crooning and thrumming of their kind. Gipsy, Striker, Brawler, and Mustang had gotten ahold of a ball somewhere along the line, and had convinced a group of native youths to join them in a game. Now human and Jaeger chased each other around through sand and water, laughing and shrieking as they tossed the ball back and forth, keeping score in accordance with some complicated rules Aleksis couldn't immediately follow.
As he watched, a gangly young man tackled Striker around the waist, trying to wrestle him down to the sand. Even in his smaller size Striker could have easily fended the boy off, but he feigned a stumble and fell, the ball rolling out of his hands. Gipsy scooped it up with a bubbling trill, and she lobbed it to Mustang, who in turn held it over his head out of Brawler's reach. The children laughed uproariously to see the Mark I cursing and flailing to snatch the ball, the Mark VI giggling like a naughty schoolboy the whole time.
Mako, Raleigh, the Weis, and Newt watched the game from the shore, and laughed and cheered the participants on. Privately Aleksis thought Newt looked just a little ridiculous in swim trunks – years of spending almost every spare moment in a laboratory meant that what exposed skin wasn't covered in tattoos was pale enough to be nearly blinding in the sun. But then, he at least looked slightly less ridiculous than Hermann, who wore a straw hat and the sort of striped full-body suit normally not seen outside of an old-timey movie or black-and-white photograph.
"Damn it all to hell, Newton, keep a leash on the parasite, will you?" Hermann shouted, looking up from where he was forcibly hauling Spike out of a cooler.
"Come on, Hermann, you're missing the game!" Newt shouted back. "Gipsy and Mustang's team is ahead!"
"If you know whatever is bloody going on out there, let alone can keep score, you're ahead of me," Hermann grumbled, but he finally left Spike to his own devices and limped over to sit beside the biologist.
Aleksis chuckled. Those two were spitfires, and each had their own brand of eccentricities, but they were fine Rangers. Never mind their lack of training or physical shortcomings – they had drifted with Mustang, accepted him and been accepted by him in turn. And in the minds of the other Rangers, Marshal Choi, and the new PPDC, that was more than enough.
The old PPDC might have argued, of course, or simply rejected the thought of recruiting new Rangers at all when they were trying their hardest to phase the Jaegers out entirely. But public outcry and the difficult but resounding victory at Koko Guyot had resulted in enormous pressure from multiple governments for the heads of the organization to resign. An entirely new leadership, all supportive of the Jaeger program, had been instated, and the few holdouts who had refused to resign peacefully had been shuffled off into positions where they could do little harm.
Rain Morris, the new head of the PPDC, had immediately called for the reopening of Shatterdomes around the world, as well as a widescale dismantling of the Wall of Life. The news had been met with resounding acclaim, and for months civilians armed with crowbars, hammers, axes, and even shovels had turned up in droves to help professional crews tear the wall down. And in an ironic twist, material from the wall was being crushed and melted down to use in restoring both Shatterdomes and Jaegers to full functionality.
The Age of the Jaegers had not ended… it had only just begun.
Farther down the beach, the Hansens were enjoying their own private break, playing a game of fetch with Max and Bruno. Coyote reclined in the sand not far away, idly turning a piece of driftwood over and over in her hands as she watched the Rangers and dogs at play. She seemed oblivious to Crimson's approach… at least, oblivious until the red Jaeger sat down a few feet away, rather pointedly not looking at her even as he set a handful of tropical blossoms down beside her.
The Mark I gave the bouquet a long, hard look, then looked back at Crimson, who was doing his best to look innocent and casual. Then she reached out and jerked him closer, making him flail briefly before he settled in beside her.
Alekis smiled. So Gipsy and Striker were no longer the only pair among the Jaegers. Crimson had always looked at Coyote with nothing short of admiration, but he had always assumed it was just awe at her status as one of the first Jaegers. He had no idea he had fallen for her… or that she reciprocated the feelings, or at the very least was willing to let him court her. But then, life had been full of surprises in the past few years, so what was one more?
By the time he joined his family, they had already heaped together enough sand to form a mound that came up to his knees. Cherno patted the hill into the rough shape of a cube, while Sasha carefully molded the corners to form turrets. Ilya sat with one leg tucked under him and his bad leg out at an awkward-looking angle, seeming content with the role of a supervisor and occasionally barking out that a turret was crooked or one side needed smoothing. Cherno didn't seem to mind the orders, though Sasha occasionally rolled her eyes.
Aleksis sat down and, without prompting, began to dig a moat around the castle. Cherno hummed in approval and scooped away the excess sand for him.
"Too shallow," Ilya informed him. "What good is a moat if the enemy can just wade across it? Dig it deeper!"
"It's just a sand castle, Uncle," Aleksis informed him.
"Bah, excuses!" Ilya retorted. "Anything worth doing at all is worth doing right!"
Sasha laughed and patted another turret together. "I think this warm weather is agreeing with you, Ilya. You're much livelier now that you've finally come out in the sun with the rest of us."
The old man snorted. "These bones are getting too old to withstand another Russian winter. You should just leave me here when you go back to Vladivostok. The natives'll take care of me, eh?"
"But Uncle, who will tell me stories if you stay here?" asked Cherno, looking up at Ilya with a plaintive whine.
Ilya chuckled and patted his back. "At least someone here will miss me when I'm gone."
Aleksis went back to digging, though he smiled to himself. Perhaps making a permanent home for Ilya here, or at least someplace warm, wasn't a bad idea. They had the means to visit from time to time, after all, and after so many years of living on his own, it would do him well to live out his final years someplace pleasant and accommodating.
As they worked, smoothing out the final shape of the castle and adding stones and small shells to decorate it, Aleksis caught snippets of conversation from close by. Not from Mako, Raleigh, and Newt – this was another trio sitting on a blanket nearby, all rather overdressed for a day at the beach and two of them swiping notes onto personal tablets.
Tendo wore his usual pants, suspenders, and bow tie, and was sweating uncomfortably but seemed determined to ignore it. Caitlin Lightcap, a bit lighter dressed in a breezy sundress and a wide-brimmed hat, looked more suited to a leisurely stroll through a garden than anything scientific, but her expression was studious as she made notes and kept a careful eye on the Jaeger-vs-islanders ball game. The last member of the group, a visiting anthropologist, looked like an Indian version of Dr. Geizler, complete with glasses, facial stubble, and sleeve tattoos (though his appeared to be of Hindu deities rather than kaiju). And unlike Tendo and Caitlin, who wore professional and attentive expressions as they watched the game, he grinned like a maniac, gushing excitedly even as he jabbed notes into his tablet so hard it was a wonder he didn't crack the screen.
"This is simply amazing!" he exclaimed. "Fascinating!"
Tendo raised an eyebrow. "It's just a ball game, you two. Though it's nice to see people mingling so freely with the Jaegers."
"Just a game?" the young man repeated. "JUST a game? They're not just playing a game, they're inventing their own rules! This is a game of their own devising, not some human pastime they've picked up for fun. We are witnessing a culture developing right before our very eyes – a culture unique unto itself!" He gave an exultant laugh. "My thesis paper is going to rock!"
Caitlin laughed. "Now that they're not so focused on trying to save the world, they have the opportunity to develop a culture of their own. And perhaps, if humanity's willing to give them the space for it, their own civilization. One sure to be markedly different from our own. Though I suppose that's for the anthropologists to watch and study, not the scientists."
"Don't put yourself down, Caitlin," Tendo replied. "Your help is still going to be invaluable in the next few years. Not just in getting our current crop of Jaegers settled, but in bringing forth new ones."
"Oh… it went through? You got them?"
He nodded, eyes gleaming. "Hydra Corinthian and Mammoth Apostle were both determined to still have working computer cores, and their Rangers are still alive and willing to help us. They're on their way to the Sydney Shatterdome to be rebuilt and rehabilitated." His smile widened. "Even better… Tacit Ronin's core is still working. And though their Rangers are deceased, we think we might be able to find new Rangers for them."
"Three new Jaegers…" Caitlin laughed in delight. "We're going to have our hands full here soon, aren't we?"
"As if they aren't already," Tendo replied. "But it will be worth it."
"I should say!" the young anthropologist gushed. "Hey, do you think I could stay on long-term if I get my grant extended? This is the stuff of the thesis of my dreams…"
Aleksis just shook his head with a chuckle before returning his attention to the castle. Not that he disapproved of this project – on the contrary, it felt gratifying to know that the PPDC had finally recognized the Jaegers as living and sentient, and would do all in their power to restore any that still functioned. And Cherno would be delighted to have more of his kind close by. Perhaps they wouldn't be granted the miracle of Eden and Nova being restored… but one could always hope. They had seen stranger miracles come to pass.
But that was all in the hands of others. He and Sasha had their own Jaeger, their own son, to look after and care for. And they intended to make the most of every moment.
"Done!" Cherno threw his hands in the air. "All finished!"
"It's beautiful, little one." Sasha pulled a tablet out of her bag and took a picture. "You did well."
"Let's build another!" he begged. "Maybe not a castle this time… what about a city? Or a Shatterdome? Then Papa or Uncle Ilya can play kaiju and try to destroy it, and I can protect it!"
Aleksis chortled. "Cherno, haven't you had enough of fighting kaiju in your life?"
"But this time it will be for fun! And no one will get hurt if I don't win this fight."
Aleksis laughed again, but softly, without a trace of mockery. Trust Cherno to be so dedicated to his original function that even his play would revolve around it. But with any luck, he would learn that his entire life didn't have to revolve around the kaiju and the war. He had time to simply be a child, to live his life as his own and not as a soldier.
Besides, it has been a year since the closing of the second Breach, and there had been no reports of a third. He wouldn't assume a third Breach would never come… but perhaps they could gain a few more years' respite.
None of them noticed that Newt had gone curiously quiet, his eyes drifting out of focus as he gazed out to sea…
Compared to the first two Breaches, this fissure was little more than a crack – a door incompletely closed, or a wall beginning to crumble from neglect or abuse. To the human eye it was a canyon, but to a kaiju, it allowed just enough room to squeeze through the gap. And had the PPDC's underwater sensor network still been functioning in this area, where the first Breach had been closed by Gipsy's detonation almost two years ago, they might have detected a Category 3 kaiju doing just that.
With a screech of mingled frustration and triumph, the titanic beast Striker might have recognized as Mutavore forced its way through, ponderous shoulders rubbing against the raw, molten stuff of time and space. The instant it burst free of the fissure, another beast took its place, clawing its way through even as the crack began to melt closed again. A third form, larger than the first two, wriggled free and half-swam, half-staggered away just before the mini-Breach sealed itself shut.
Mutavore sat back on his haunches, raising his arched muzzle high as if scenting the water. Multiple sets of eyes in his lower jaw blinked and twitched from side to side to take in the sea floor around him. Said eyes didn't burn with animal rage like his two predecessors, however… instead, they gleamed with unexpected intelligence.
A low rumble caught Mutavore's attention, and he turned to regard the second kaiju that had accompanied him into this world. Otachi crawled forward on her wing-knuckles, nostrils flaring as she, too, sniffed the water for anything suspicious. No scent of metal or leaking chemicals or exhaust-heated water to indicate a Jaeger had passed this way… but then, a kaiju could never be too careful.
Otachi lowered her head and nudged Mutavore's side, growling softly. He gave a low purr in response and lowered his head to touch muzzles with her. Then he dipped his head lower, sniffing at her side and belly. Like the first Otachi before her, she came into this world pregnant… but unlike her predecessors, her abdomen swelled with a subtle but obvious bulge, the pregnancy much further along than it had been with the others.
Finally, satisfied that she had come through the Breach unharmed, Mutavore let a tendriled tongue slide out of his jaws and licked the side of her head. She growled and butted him, as if telling him off for being overprotective, but he just snorted and kept licking.
A hiss interrupted his ministrations, and he and Otachi turned to face the titanic beast that had come into the world just behind them. Slattern's clone slunk forward, trailing a writhing mass of tentacles in her wake, eyes narrowed as she regarded the two of them. Mutavore slunk back a few paces, ducking his head and lowering his eyes submissively, but Otachi held her ground, lashing her tail and hissing defiance in return.
Slattern snarled, and Mutavore trembled, expecting to see his mate torn apart right in front of him. But the larger kaiju settled for cuffing first Otachi, then Mutavore over the head before turning to stalk off. She paused, turned to hiss imperiously at them, and then continued walking, obviously expecting them to follow.
Otachi dug her claws into the sea floor, raking out great furrows and hissing her frustration. Mutavore gave her a quick bump with his muzzle to urge her along, and she snarled angrily at him, but in the end she relented. Side by side they trailed after the larger kaiju, leaving their old world behind… and striking out for the new.
Yes, I'm a horrible, horrible author for leaving this story on such a terrible sequel hook. Especially after I've left multiple reviews on Amazon ripping on authors for doing the same thing. But in my defense, at least I finished this story before teasing a sequel, rather than leaving it entirely unfinished and expecting readers to wait for the next story to see anything resolved. Imagine the outcry if I'd ended Domovoi right after Gipsy and Cherno's misadventures in Hong Kong… or even worse, right in the middle of one of the fight scenes.
Anyhow, moving on…
Ever since I watched Pacific Rim in the summer of 2013, I knew I was going to be writing a fanfic for it. The question was what… but seeing as I love not only giant robots, but the idea of sentient giant robots (which explains my love of the Transformers franchise), I knew I wanted to give the Jaegers some sort of personality in the process. And while my first idea involved a pair of OC Rangers with psychic powers that bordered on Mary Sue territory, in the end I abandoned that particular idea… except for the name of their Jaeger, Mustang Omega, which would carry on into Domovoi.
My absolute favorite characters from the movie ended up being Sasha and Aleksis Kaidonovsky – something about a husband/wife team that are so closely linked and so obviously badass captivated me. So when I revamped my plot bunny in order to fit it to an established set of characters, they were the obvious choices as the central characters. The fact that I'm a sucker for Russian mythology didn't hurt either, and even factored into the title of the fic and the names of some of the Kaiju.
I incorporated quite a few references and shout-outs in this fic. Below is a list of most of them, though I may have forgotten about a few between the time of writing and now:
The salvage ship in the Prologue, the Weak Anthropic Principle, is named after the Scavengers' ship in the Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye comics from IDW. Said ship also makes an appearance in Chapter 26.
I have no idea what Sasha's maiden name is, so I assigned her one at random in Chapter 2. If there's any significance behind the name I gave her – Pevtsov – I no longer remember it. Most likely I just Googled "Russian surnames" and picked one that sounded good…
The Russian Kaiju are named after figures from Russian mythology – Baba Yaga (the child-eating witch), Bannick (spirit of the bathhouse), Katschei (Katschei the Deathless), and Gorynych (the Slavic Dragon). Kali and Wendigo are named after a Hindu goddess and a Native American cannibalistic monster respectively.
I did not make up the name of Newt's old band – according to source material it really is Black Velvet Rabbits. Of the bands mentioned in Chapter 7, the only fictional one is Titanus, which is named after one of the mecha in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Their song "Red Star Rising" is named after one of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels (though the US printing of the novel was retitled Dragonseye).
The name of the ship that aids the Shatterdome, Ao Kuong, comes from the Dragon King of the East Sea in Chinese mythology, though it's traditionally spelled Ao Guang. I just happened to stumble across the spelling more commonly used in video games, heh…
Lance, Lexi, and Bailey Rossi's surname was taken from David Rossi from the TV crime procedural Criminal Minds.
Ilya is named after the protagonist of Mercedes Lackey's Russian-flavored fantasy novel Firebird.
Minor character and Shatterdome technician Hideaki is named after Hideaki Anno, creator of the giant mecha anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The rejected Ranger that Aleksis fistfights in Chapter 10, Ian Tennant, intentionally shares a surname with David Tennant, the actor who portrayed the Tenth Doctor.
Rain Morris was named after the love interest in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (I am so not apologizing for naming a human character after a horse…).
The rejected Rangers in Chapter 30 borrow names from characters in two different giant mecha series – Deckerd from Brave Police J-Decker, Lennox from the live-action Transformers films.
All other names were simply picked because "they sounded good" and are not intentional references to anything else.
This fic has been three years in the making, and while it's quite satisfying to see it come to a conclusion, I'm also sorry to say goodbye to these characters. I feel like I've gotten to know them quite well, and have enjoyed crafting my own fan-sequel to the film. Knowing that the upcoming official sequel, Pacific Rim: Maelstrom, will probably completely negate everything I've written here is a bit of a shame, but hey, that's the beauty of writing an Alternate Universe, right?
That said… I am by no means finished playing in this universe, as you might have guessed from the end of the epilogue. A closed door doesn't necessarily stay closed, after all, and just as the Jaegers have been evolving, so have their foes…
Thank you, Basslineraver, for beta-reading this fic, and for providing feedback and suggestions that have greatly improved it. I couldn't have done this without you.
Thank you, Guillermo Del Toro and Travis Beacham, for giving us such an exciting giant-monster romp, and filling it with memorable characters instead of cardboard cutouts. Best of luck in all your endeavors.
And thank you readers, for your continued support and your readership. Stay tuned for the sequel to this fic, Doppelganger (title subject to change).
Until all are one!