Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Emperex: Chapter 4

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The worst part is being alone.

It’s been six months since I ran away in Emperex. I knew that it was going to be difficult - and it has been, but not for any of the reasons I initially thought.

I’ve killed thirteen kaiju. Well, I don’t know if ‘kill’ is accurate; most of them are robotic, even the ones that seem organic or are patterned after Earth animals. And there have been a few that I don’t think anyone would call “alive”, even if they were fully organic. But none of those thirteen kaiju have done any lasting damage to the seemingly-invincible Emperex; I've had some difficulty in defeating a few of them, but that's only because of their defenses or regeneration. All of them have eventually fallen.

And the KDF has been a constant thorn in my side as well. I've had to destroy... well, more of their drones than I can count, and even then, they just keep sending new ones after me. I've thought about it, but I still have no idea how they can afford to make them so quickly, not to mention the materials, the construction yards, and numerous other logistics problems that should limit their production. They must just have a huge budget.

No, the worst part is the isolation. I’ve spent the majority of my time in Emperex either high in the sky or deep within the ocean, alone with only my thoughts. I have a stack of books that I’ve read and re-read countless times until I could recite them from memory. And I’ve been writing in a journal from time to time. As stupid as it seems, it does help sometimes, but it’s no replacement for a person.

Even when I go into the normal world, I feel isolated. I wear concealing clothing - loose-fitting shorts and pants, and a token hat and sunglasses to hide my face. I avoid talking with people, and if I have to, I keep conversations short. I feel like if someone asked me anything about my personal life, I wouldn't be able to myself from just blurting everything out in front of them. All I do is buy a few supplies, maybe pick up a new book or have a nice dinner, and then I’m back in Emperex, alone for another few weeks.

Needless to say, I’m not exactly in the greatest state mentally.

But even a brief amount of human contact, a brief jaunt in the world I once knew, is better than nothing. Today is one such day. I try to go at least once or twice a month, but never in the same place. I don’t speak most of the languages of the places I’ve been to, but I can generally get by with a bit of English.

I’m in a gas station bathroom right now. I splash a bit of water over my face, and I look up into the dingy mirror. I look like shit. My face is thin and pale, and my hair is matted and unkempt. I’ve lost a bit of weight, but I don’t feel like that’s an accomplishment. It was mostly Emperex that did that for me, and it’s not like I’m purposely trying to starve myself; I still enjoy eating, but I just don’t have much of an appetite anymore.

I grab a wash cloth and some shampoo, and I do my best to clean myself up. But it only goes so far; I still look (and feel) pretty gross.  I really want to take a shower, but my time’s almost up, and I haven’t found a place with one yet. I'll have to make do with a brief freshening-up in a gas station bathroom somewhere in France. At least I have clean clothes on.

Once I'm done, I grab my backpack and step out of the bathroom, feeling a little bit better, I guess. The convenience store is pretty small, with only a few shelves of junk food and a couple of coolers, but it also has a magazine stand. Most of the magazines on said stand are in French, naturally, so I pick up the only one I see in English. The guy at the counter keeps glancing at me, so I don’t flip through the magazine like I usually do; I just go up to the counter.

The man says something to me in French. I took French for most of my junior and high school years, but of course, I’ve forgotten most of it in the intervening years. I just hand the magazine to him and pay for it; I smile and wave at him on the way out. He probably just thought I was another stupid tourist that doesn’t speak a word of any foreign language. That’s not entirely inaccurate, I guess.

I sit down on a nearby bench and look at one of the magazines. The front page is about the current political climate in America. The Democrats are accusing the Republican president of spending too much on the anti-kaiju effort, and not enough for domestic concerns. And the Republicans are claiming that the fight against the kaiju is the most important thing right now, and all other things can wait. I don’t really care. Canadians generally have a decent grasp on the important parts of American politics, but not enough to really care about them.

As for the KDF funding... well, they do their best, but even with a massive budget, they’re still woefully inadequate. I'll be the first to admit that I greatly respect them - after all, they keep fighting me and the kaiju even when they know they can't win - but they just don't have the ability to do much more than annoy. At least they're using those drones now. At the beginning, they were using manned fighter jets, and they must have lost hundreds of those things; I can't imagine that the drones are much cheaper, but at least they don't have to add even more talented people to the casualty list.

I flip through the magazine, until I see what I’m looking for: an article on the kaiju attack three days ago.

“’We are worried about the footage showing a general increase in KE-14b’s violent behaviour.’ Dr. Eric Woldor, researcher at the University of Ottawa, said in a public interview yesterday. ‘The force with which it destroyed KE-27 indicates that, assuming the rumours of it being piloted by one Josephina Hernandez is correct, it is deeply disturbed and potentially sociopathic.’

Notably, after destroying KE-27, KE-14b turned on some police officers and almost killed them. But the brave men stood their ground, causing KE-14b to retreat. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

‘It may be destroying kaiju, but it is still a major threat to our world.’ Woldor warned. ‘We are recommending that the Kaiju Defence Force upgrade into a Class 0 threat.’”

I’ve never even heard of this Dr. Woldor guy. He sounds like a hack. And as far as I know, the KDF doesn’t have any sort of kaiju ranking system. They probably just wanted something sensational. I’m shocked. As for being 'deeply disturbed and potentially sociopathic'? ...The jury's still out on that one.

I skim through the rest of the article. It’s just the usual stuff; information on KE-14b, the KDF and warnings about what to do in the event of a kaiju attack. Oddly enough, they only mention my name as the 'rumoured' pilot of KE-14b; I'm pretty sure that everyone and their mother knows that by now, and given how much time and energy they've put into investigating me and my whereabouts, I don't think it's much of a rumour anymore. Whatever. Given the general quality of the magazine, it doesn’t surprise me that they would print something as asinine as this.

I check my watch. I have about 25 minutes left before I'm picked up. I thought I had more time than that. I throw the magazine back into the plastic bag and get up; I need to pick up a few things before I head back up. I look around and see a grocery store. That’ll do. I head into it, and emerge fifteen minutes later with several bags of dried and canned food and bottled water. It should last me until next time I can come back to the surface.

There’s a coffee shop nearby. Excellent. These small European places always make the best coffee. Martin always imported his coffee grounds from the same places as these guys. I walk into the shop and wait at the counter.

The barista asks me something in French.

“Uh... café... uh, noir.” I say. The barista gives me a snooty look, and gives me a cup of steaming black coffee. I take the coffee and sit down on the patio.

The street is paved, but the buildings look old. I always wanted to travel around Europe when I was younger. But I never got the chance; I had to get a full-time job to put myself through school, and I never really had a chance afterwards. I probably could have made it work if I saved enough money, but I’ve never been very good at that. I guess I figured I’d be able to just pay for everything eventually, but... well, that didn’t work out. At least I’m seeing it now, before I’m locked away for good. Or before it’s all destroyed.

I grab the magazine and look through it again. Nothing else really catches my interest. It’s just the normal stuff: political blunders, special interest stories and the like. Business as usual. Even in a world like this, life goes on.

I sip on the coffee. It’s terrible. Maybe I’m just used to Martin’s coffee, but don’t they always say that authentic stuff from Europe is automatically better? I grab a cream and sugar from a tray on the table and pour them in. I look over at the barista, but she’s completely ignoring me. There’s probably some kind of rule against adding cream and sugar to a coffee you specifically ordered, but I could care less. God, I do sound like an ignorant tourist.

I check my watch again. It’s time. I feel the wind whipping up around me. I look up and see a soft blue light shining around me. I grab my bags, leaving the coffee on the table. The cup’s still mostly full, but I don’t think it’s worth bringing with me. The blue light slowly lifts me off the ground. The barista yelps in shock as she notices me ascending into the sky. Her expression is what gets me. Does she think I'm an alien? I'd like to think that I still look relatively human, if a bit unclean.

It doesn't take long for me to see the familiar silhouette of Emperex above me. It takes a couple of minutes for me to reach Emperex, and by then, I’m having a bit of trouble breathing; I’m not too sure how high up I am, but the air’s definitely thinner than on the surface. I look down and see the entirety of the town I was previously in. It’s bigger than I thought. I’ve never had a fear of heights, but it never gets easier seeing this view outside the safety of the cockpit.

Emperex's hand gently pushes me and my stuff towards its mask, which slides open to reveal the familiar cockpit. My lungs are on fire I stumble inside, dropping the bags on the floor as I gasp for air. The cockpit takes a few minutes to pressurize after the mask closes, but that's evidently enough time for me to catch my breath. The feeling gradually returns to my body, but my head's still swimming. I feel like passing out for a few hours, but I can’t afford to; I’ve gotta get out of here before the KDF shows up.

I dig through one of the bags and pull out a bottle of water. It's warm and kind of bitter, but it washes the taste of that coffee out of my mouth as I chug the entire thing in one breath. I didn't have time to grab any lunch while I was down there, so I make do by grabbing a granola bar and shoving it into my face as I jump into the piloting chair. Alright, Emperex, it's time. Lay it on me.

“Activate connection process.” I say. I feel the familiar sensation of needles piercing my skin, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore - I've long since become used to the pain, though it still feels very strange. My body goes limp again as the needles pump me full of alien drugs, and I feel my mind being ripped out of my weak fleshy body and transferred to the much larger metal carapace around me.

The radar pops up, showing three KDF drones heading toward me from the northwest. There's at least a couple KDF branches around here, but these ones are probably from the United Kingdom. Okay, let's do this. The thrusters on Emperex's legs and back take a few seconds to warm up before I'm propelled toward them, traveling at least Mach 1 or maybe even faster.

I close the gap between us in about half a minute. The drones take a few seconds to react to me; I'd like to think that they're well aware of how fast I am, but then again, their general competence tends to fluctuate between every encounter. I take that time to prepare an EM Cocktail, set to 10% potency. That should be enough to take them down without harming anything else. I don’t want a repeat of what happened with KE-19.

One of the drones flies straight up, firing its payload from a few hundred feet above me. I point my right hand at the missile, and my fingers glow with a soft red light; I fire a thin blue beam at the missile, which stops in mid-flight. With a flick of my wrist, the missile is thrown to the side, exploding harmlessly in midair. Yet another one of Emperex's varied arsenal: what I like to call 'tractor beams', after the old sci-fi standard ship weapons. Not that I would be hurt by the missiles, even if I let one actually hit me, but I've got to keep myself amused somehow.

While I’m gloating, another drone’s missile hits me in the back. I’m not hurt, but the explosion disrupts the thrusters on my back; I fall a few thousand feet, but I manage to right myself well before hitting the ground. Huh, that hasn’t happened before. Must have just been a lucky shot. Either that, or they're making up for their lack of competence by upgrading their weapons with some sort of... disruption blasts? Maybe they have little EMP warheads in them that mimic my EM Cocktails. Either way, I might have to be a bit more careful.

I fly back up, barely dodging the last drone’s missile. I miss with a tractor beam, but fortunately, it explodes before hitting the ground. I’ve run into that problem before. Some of the guys piloting these drones seem a bit too eager to shoot me down, even if I’m near a densely-populated area. I wouldn't be surprised if they've scored a few civilian casualties, either with reckless use of their missiles or from burning debris falling on houses or whatever. They probably blame those on me, even though you'd think they'd be smart enough to try and lead me or a kaiju out of a population zone before trying to attack.

The EM Cocktail is ready. I close the distance between me and the drones, and then throw it; I avert my eyes as the brilliant orange light takes out the drones. The radar shows that one of the drones survived. I guess I didn’t make it quite powerful enough. Wait, no, they were all destroyed; that one drone is on the edge of my radar, and it's quickly followed by three more. Reinforcements.

The base must be pretty close, then. I get the feeling that they’ll just keep sending these drones after me until I've depleted their whole stock. Not that I mind destroying them or anything, but I don't think it'd be fair to them to leave them totally unprepared for an actual kaiju attack. More reinforcements appear in the east. No, make that reinforcement. Just one? Really?


No, that's not a simple drone. The radar dot is bigger than the drones, and it looks like it's moving a lot faster than the others. Is it...? An arbitrary number, this one reaching into the tens of billions, pops up on my HUD. That's the biggest one I've seen yet. That's...

It’s a kaiju.

But that’s impossible. It’s barely been a week since I destroyed KE-27. They've stuck to the schedule thus far, so why would they just suddenly change it? This isn't making any damn sense.

Major threat detected. Amplifiers at 14% and charging...

The drones are still heading toward me, so either they haven't picked up the kaiju yet, or they consider me the greater threat. Or maybe they're ignoring it on purpose. I suppose it could be some sort of KDF prototype weapon that they're testing out against me, but... I don't know, that doesn't seem quite right. If I'm right about these arbitrary numbers being some sort of power level, there's no way that anything human-made has that kind of energy.

I fly toward the kaiju, leaving the drones in the dust. They're not important right now. Then again, they might have those missiles too, and they could potentially be a distraction at a vital point. I can always chuck an EM Cocktail at them if they prove to be too annoying, but even still, it would be nice if we were able to work together to take out a bigger threat.

Out of nowhere, something flies right by me. I try and grab it with a tractor beam, but I’m not quite fast enough. Whatever that was, it was moving a lot faster than me. I see another one, but this one is on target; I dodge to the side, catching it with a tractor beam before it explodes. It's a cylindrical tube, around the same size and shape as one of my own missiles but a bit longer. Missiles?  The kaiju do have access to ranged attacks, but I've never seen them use any sort of live ammo, they use lasers or just throw debris at me. This is making less and less sense.

Several more missiles fly by me, and I manage to dodge them all. Looking behind me, I see some of the missiles turning around and coming back at me. My head and torso flip around, and I switch my right arm to gun mode and fire. That’s one of Emperex’s quirks; the pieces of its body are held together by tractor beams as well, so I can fire in one direction while moving in another. It’s proven handy a couple of times, even if it does seem less efficient than just using mechanical joints.

Emperex lacks any sort of targeting reticules on the HUD, but it does have some sort of aim assisting software that automatically corrects my movements. I take out all of the missiles with my sidearm, using only around 15 bullets to do so. But while I'm focused on those, a black streak flies right past me, pelting me in the chest with something. My armour integrity drops a few points, but it didn't hit anything critical.

But that black thing, that must've been the kaiju. I didn't get a good look at it, but it looked like it was around the same size as Emperex. It's flying toward those drones right now, probably to eliminate them before they do anything... or maybe it's headed to the KDF base, or a city, or something. I stop in midair and flip my body back to its natural position. It's fast, but I'm faster.

Three of the drones vanish from my radar. I easily catch up to it while it's taking out the fourth, though I don't get there in time to save it. But the kaiju's just floating there, seemingly waiting for me. Yeah, it's about my size, maybe a little bit bigger, and it's humanoid too. It actually does kinda look like Emperex, but its armour is blockier and really angular, compared to Emperex’s more organic look. It's a bit of a stupid comparison, but it almost reminds me of some sort of giant samurai mecha, presumably ripped right out of an anime.

Wait, there was another name. Yeah, Emperex was one name, but the other was...

"Renzokuzer". That's it. That creepy guy said something about a show called Demon King Renzokuzer or something, and that's where I got the name Emperex from. It certainly looks demonic enough; the visor over its mouth is sculpted to look like jagged teeth, it has multiple crests on its helmet that all superficially resemble devil horns, and it has a primarily gray and black colour scheme. But... it's way too similar to Emperex, even down to the blue tractor beams serving as its joints.

I'd bet that this thing was built by the same person or thing that built Emperex, whoever or whatever that is. The bulky armour and colours threw me off a bit first, but it looks like they use the same body underneath. But is it really a kaiju? Maybe it's actually an ally, and someone else is piloting it. Hey Emperex, is there any way we can talk to him?

Renzokuzer reaches over to a sheath on its waist, and pulls some sort of tube thing from it. A concentrated beam of green energy emerges from the tube thing. What is that? A laser sword? Yeah, it's a laser sword. That's just wonderful. I don't particularly want to see what that would do to me, so I'd better stay out of its reach - Emperex's weapons are mostly long-range anyways, though I might have to get close to ensure a hit from the Star Buster.

The kaiju charges at me, swinging its sword all over the place. It's no samurai, that's for sure. I still have my gun barrels out, so I fire a few rounds into it, but it doesn't even slow down. Scratch that, then. I flip the thrusters into reverse and fall a few thousand feet, taking the kaiju by surprise; while it turns around and continues its charge downward, I prepare an EM Cocktail at 30% potency in my left arm. I don't think it'll do all that much, considering Emperex seems largely immune to it, but it's worth a shot.

Amplifiers at 23% and rising.

The bronze 'wings' slide out of my shoulderblades, and my right arm reconfigures itself for the Star Buster. I throw the charged EM Cocktail upward, blinding both of us as the brilliant orange-yellow light releases a powerful electromagnetic burst. Emperex's HUD still shows Renzokuzer hot on my tail, though. That's fine, I didn't expect it to work; it was mostly a distraction to charge up my main weapon.


Renzokuzer flies right through the smoke and light of the EM Cocktail, only to be caught off guard by three beams of white energy fired from my left arm. The force of the Star Buster pushes it upward, but I can't tell if it's actually taking any damage; based on how sturdy Emperex is, I wouldn’t be surprised if it shrugged that off too. I move my arm a little bit, trying to hit a weaker part of its body, but it manages to roll to the side. The Star Buster runs out of energy before I can readjust my aim. I don’t see any massive holes in Renzokuzer’s chest. I hope I at least damaged it a bit.

Some flaps on Renzokuzer’s shoulder pads flip up, launching more missiles at me. I grab a few of them with my tractor beams and throw them back, but they explode harmlessly between us. I suppose I could try grabbing Renzokuzer with the tractor beams, but I really don’t want it any closer to me than it already is. I might just have to kill enough time until my Star Buster's charged up again, and hope that I can get in close and blast through whatever defenses it has.

Renzokuzer dives at me again. It really wants to run me through with that sword. If someone’s piloting it, they’re very single-minded; maybe I can use that to my advantage. I can’t damage it right now, so I’ll have to out-think it... somehow. I dodge Renzokuzer again. It stops in midair, changes direction and continues its charge. I fire my tractor beams at it, slowing it down but hardly stopping it. The strangely-shaped horns on its head start to glow, and I feel something hit me; must be more of those lasers. That's hardly fair, he gets lasers while I have to rely on live ammo? Then again, he doesn't seem to have a Star Buster. I disengage the tractor beams and rapidly ascend. Renzokuzer flies right underneath me, barely missing with its sword again.
 Let’s see, out-smarting it... Well, it seems focused on using that sword, so maybe I should try to disarm it. As it turns around for another charge, I try firing my tractor beams directly at its sword. The first beam hits the blade, fizzling out with a loud electrical crack. Renzokuzer stops momentarily; I guess it’s stunned by the feedback or something. I launch another tractor beam, this time connecting with its lower right arm. I fire my other beam at the same spot, and with some effort, I manage to yank its arm off.

I pull the arm toward me, but Renzokuzer reacts faster than I expected; it grabs the sword from the arm and charges at me. Before I can move out of the way, it runs its sword through my stomach. I feel the feedback in my real body. It’s not quite pain, just a tingling sensation in my lower torso.

Renzokuzer backs up a bit. Before it can stab me again, I fly straight upwards as fast as I can, clearing ten thousand feet in the blink of an eye. That’s the first major injury I’ve taken in Emperex. I feel around the wound. Yeah, the sword went all the way through. I can still move my legs and everything, but I’m not sure how I’m going to repair it. Maybe Emperex’s auto-repair can handle it. I really hope so.

Amplifiers at 12% and rising.

That won’t be enough to damage it. I need to end this right now. I see Renzokuzer below me, charging at me yet again. It wants me dead. Without thinking, I charge right at it, like some sort of game of giant chicken. I don’t have any plans, but maybe I can surprise it. We collide in midair, stunning each other for a moment. It reacts first, swiping at me; its sword takes a chunk out of my shoulder. My arm doesn’t immediately fall off, so I guess it’s still working. I fly right at it, grabbing its head. It thrusts its sword upward, striking me near my heart, but I shrug off the blow. It’s hurting me. I don’t like that.

I rip off its head and throw it away. I fly up a bit and dive right at it; my talons strike its neck, sinking in with a satisfying sound. It tries to cut my leg off, but I retract my leg before its flailing does any more damage. I fly around to its back, and I launch myself at it with my right arm spinning like a drill; I finally manage to pierce its armour. The Star Buster still doesn’t have enough juice to do any real damage.

Renzokuzer tries to escape, but it’s no longer able to move as fast. I easily catch up with it. I restrain it with tractor beams. It struggles against me, but I’m not letting go this time. I fly toward it while pulling it toward me; it tries to break the connection again, but it’s too damaged. It grips its sword tightly, but I redirect my tractor beams and pull off its other arm. I throw the arm to the side and keep the sword.

I’m hit in the back by another missile. I didn’t even notice those drones on the radar. Fortunately, my thrusters don’t give out this time. They’re definitely aiming for my back, though. I turn around and grab an incoming missile with a tractor beam. I whip it around, back at Renzokuzer. It dodges the missile itself, though the explosion knocks it around a bit.

Renzokuzer’s the bigger threat right now. I charge at it and stab it in the chest with its own sword. I wiggle the sword around, opening another large hole in its body. It’s missing both arms, its head and a large part of its chest, but it’s still able to fly away from me. That says something about its durability. I prepare an EM Cocktail with my other hand. 50% should do nicely, plus it’ll take out the drones.

Speaking of drones, three more are coming in from the west. I take back what I said before – I’m going to destroy all of those damn drones. One of them tries to kamikaze into me, but I slash it with my new sword. Yes, I think I’ll keep this sword. Having a melee weapon like this should prove to be handy. The drone explodes, sending shrapnel into my wounds. I feel more feedback on my real body.

The Cocktail is ready. I jam it in Renzokuzer’s neck and push it toward the incoming drones. It flees from me, right into the path of the drones. I fly away as quickly as I can, as the orange light of the explosion falls behind the horizon. I can’t feel its effects, but I would wager that neither the drones nor Renzokuzer are in any condition to fight anymore.

I land somewhere in a mountain range. The Alps, I would assume. I’m wary of heading back underwater right away – I have the feeling that Emperex wouldn’t react well to getting salt water in its wounds. I’ll have to go back up for the time being. I took heavy damage in that fight. I got a cool sword out of it, but I don’t think it was worth the cost. How am I going to repair the damage, anyways? I don’t think any mechanic on Earth can patch up Emperex, especially with my budget. I can still fight and everything, but I feel a bit sluggish. That could make a huge difference against another kaiju like Renzokuzer.

I head upwards, back into the stratosphere. My radar’s not showing anything, so I should be safe for the time being. I disconnect from Emperex, and return to my body in its cockpit. Fortunately, Renzokuzer didn’t hit the cockpit at all, so it’s still pressurized.

My body feels bruised all over. I get up off of the connection chair, but I can barely stand up. I usually feel sore after a battle, but I’m never in this much pain. I crack open another bottle of water, but I end up spilling most of it all over myself. It feels like I just got out of a car accident. But I didn’t feel any pain while I was piloting Emperex – it’s only now, that I’ve disconnected, that it hurts so much. I guess whatever drugs Emperex is giving me numbed the pain a bit. I get back on the connection chair, but I can’t bring myself to reconnect. It would just hurt even more.

I choke down some water. Now I’m wishing I had bought some painkillers of some sort while I was out. Is it because Emperex got injured? Do we share some sort of psychic bond that makes me feel its pain or something? I wouldn’t put it past whoever built it to put something like that in, just to make sure the pilot has a reason not to wreck an ultra-expensive machine. I look at my shoulder, around where I got hit, but I can’t see any blood or bruising. I feel around my stomach and heart, but I don’t feel any wounds there either; those spots just hurt a bit more than the rest of my body.

I walk over to the chair, and lie back down on it. Despite being in pain, I manage to fall asleep for a little while. I don’t dream. I haven’t dreamed since I first connected with Emperex. I really hope that’s not some sort of warning that I’m going insane. Or that I’ve already gone insane.

I wake up a bit later, and the pain has mostly gone away. Now, I mostly just feel a dull ache all over, like I pushed myself too hard at the gym. I choke down some water, but my stomach wants something a bit more solid. I rummage through the bags, and pull out a can of tuna. It’ll have to do. Once I’m done with the tuna, I grab the magazine I picked up earlier. I skim through it again, and to my utter amazement, it’s exactly the same as before. But I can't help but wonder about what that article said. Am I really getting more violent?
Against kaiju like KE-27 and Renzokuzer, I'm almost forced to be that brutal. At least I didn't lose control of myself this time; I was 'in the zone' near the end there, but I didn't utterly snap and start trying to rip him in half. Then again, I was... I was going to go and destroy all those drones in the KDF base... No, I wouldn’t have done that. I was angry while fighting Renzokuzer, but I would’ve calmed down before actually going through with it. I think.

I almost killed those policemen. But that was just a momentary lapse. It would’ve been enough... No, I need to stop worrying about that. It happened, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. But I can make sure that I won’t lose control again. I can’t afford to, especially if Emperex’s injuries mean I’m not at full strength. I need to stay calm and collected next time.

But there are still so many lingering questions. Why did that kaiju show up so soon? I’ve been around for long enough. I would think that whatever schedule these kaiju are on would’ve been altered before this. And it wasn’t really even a kaiju, either; it was definitely a robot of similar construction to Emperex.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it, and I’ve decided that Emperex is definitely different than the kaiju. I don’t know if it was specifically built to fight the kaiju or if they built it and it got out of their hands, but there hasn’t been a kaiju yet who even remotely resembles Emperex. The only exception appeared today, and even then, I’m almost sure that it's not just a superficial resemblance. Maybe the kaiju somehow built Renzokuzer to intentionally mimic me, so that they could gauge my abilities against a similar opponent? Or maybe whoever built Renzokuzer intended it to kill the kaiju too, but they got ahold of it and corrupted it or something? I just don't know, but I suppose it's too late to really worry about that now.

And the KDF’s new tactics worry me as well. They saw me take some damage back there, so they know I’m not invincible. If they’re serious about me being a worse threat than the kaiju, they’re only going to try harder to destroy me from now on. I don’t think I can qualify them as mere nuisances anymore.

I throw the magazine to the side. I grab one of my suitcases and dig through my collection of books. A few weeks ago, I stopped by a book store and picked up some classic literature – Journey to the West, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the like. I never was big on classical fiction, but now that I have a lot of spare time, I figure that I should at least learn a bit of culture. Maybe it’ll help me get rid of my writer’s block.

I decide on The Complete Works of Shakespeare. I’ve read this thing front-to-back several times already, but, well, I don’t really have anything else to do. I’ve limited myself to a few hours on the surface between kaiju attacks, and I already used those up. I guess there’s nothing really stopping me from spending more time down there, except for my own fear of getting caught.
No man is an island. They only separate themselves from people by choice.  That’s not from Shakespeare, though. Kinda ruins the symbolism a bit. I flip through The Complete Works and end up on a page from Macbeth. Ehh... better. I guess one could compare Emperex to being like a king, and I’m slowly being corrupted by the power it’s giving me. And Renzokuzer is my Macduff, my foil. And the witches are whoever built them, or whatever is behind the kaiju, or both.

I think I’m stretching too much. Maybe it’s more like The Tempest: I’ve been exiled from humanity because of the pagan power of Emperex, and the kaiju are some kind of combination of Alonso and Antonio. No, that doesn’t really work either. Shakespeare’s works are pretty archetypal, so I guess you could twist any situation into relating to one of his plays. Maybe that’s why people like them so much. I wasn’t a huge fan of English Lit in school, but I can at least respect the guy for enduring for so long.

I flip through the Complete Works for a few hours, before getting bored with it. Okay, how about The Silmarillion? The kaiju have stolen the metaphorical light from the world, and I’m one of Fëanor’s sons: I’ve dedicated myself to destroying them, but I’ve gone so far in killing them that I’m no longer worthy to hold the light. That’s still not a perfect fit, though. I’m just trying to justify my actions by comparing them with fictional characters. Maybe that’s the symbolism. I can’t relate to normal people anymore, so I try and escape into the world of make-believe.

I shut the book and throw it to the side. I’m stuck up here, isolated from the world until another threat appears. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could re-enter normal society; even if they didn’t catch me, I’d spend every waking moment paranoid that they would. Or I wouldn’t be paranoid enough, and they would catch me regardless. I don’ feel particularly mentally scarred by this whole ordeal, but it’s never that bad while you’re doing it; it’s when you look back on all the horrible things you’ve done that you go crazy.

I don’t think surrendering is an option anymore. In my quest to protect the world, I’ve destroyed so much. If I do surrender, they’ll probably just destroy me instead of trying to capture me. I’m stuck killing kaiju until they all die, or until my body – either of them – finally gives out. I feel cold. I put on a sweater and climb back into the connection chair. I nod off again, back into the world of dreamless sleep. It’s only a matter of time. Eventually, one of us won’t be able to fight anymore. I’m almost looking forward to that day. At least I would get to dream again.

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