Chapter 2:

Surface//Lies

KAIJU//HACKER


As Lucy awoke, she felt a metal ring around both of her wrists, handcuffs. She was waking up from unconsciousness, not from an attack. Something, or someone, had knocked her out during the span of time she had missed. She was sitting upright in a stiff chair, something you'd find at a low-end diner, maybe. Her eyes opened; she was in some kind of train. The interior was spartan and clean, there weren't even benches for passengers on the walls. She could see out of thick, hazy windows to a barren, well-lit tunnel. Was she underground? The chair she was tied to was in the center of the train car, not even tied to the floor. 

She could nudge the chair around by moving her body, but it wouldn't do any good. Lucy looked across the car towards a fortified door with no window; above it was a small, black security camera staring her down. Footsteps faintly emanated from the other train cars, slowly approaching her from the fortified door.

The door slid open, revealing a familiar face entering from the car in front. It was Gabriel. He had a faint but distinctly smug grin on his face as he walked into Lucy's car to meet her. Around his arms was now a dark navy jacket, something you'd maybe see a military officer wear; Lucy had no idea what it was. Gabriel's face was distinctly devoid of bruises or injuries, and Lucy knew that she had punched him.

"I see you're awake again, Miss Turner." Gabriel stood with his hands halfway in the pockets of his pale tan slacks. 

"Where did you take me?!" Lucy shouted at her supposed abductor.

Gabriel turned towards the nearest window. "We haven't gotten there yet."

"Hell if I care!" Lucy replied. "What are you trying to do with me?!"

"I'm not doing anything to you without your permission." Gabriel turned towards her with a cold stare. Lucy was startled for a moment before trying to regain her composure.

"What does that mean?" Lucy was now more curious than anything else. Did something happen without her memory?

"I'm saying that you already agreed to go along with our plans." Gabriel replied, his grin from earlier reappearing. "When I explained everything to you, we came to an agreement. Sadly, it seems like you missed all of that."

"You manipulated me, knowing that I wouldn't remember it?!" Lucy was infuriated once again. 

"If you want to put it that way, yes." Gabriel feigned disappointment for a moment before snapping back to his superior posture.

Lucy pondered for a few seconds. What could Gabriel have told her that persuaded her to let herself get kidnapped? Was he simply lying now? Could Gabriel even be trusted?

"Fine then." Lucy said. "I'll hear you out. What do you want me to do?"

"I'm glad you've come to your senses." Gabriel put his hand up to the security camera as Lucy heard a click resound from the cuffs at her hands. The manacles fell to the ground as the rope tying her to the chair loosened. Lucy worked her way out of the rope and stood up in front of Gabriel. "I'll ask you to come this way." He said. 

The door behind Gabriel opened once again as he led Lucy into next car. Standing in two opposing lines across the cart were a dozen soldiers armed with automatic rifles, each of them holding on to a cord hanging from the ceiling. Gabriel stepped into a position near the middle of the car and grabbed onto one of the cords after being handed a combination cover hat that he placed loosely onto his head. Lucy stood in front of him and grabbed onto another one of the cords. 

"You're familiar with the term 'kaiju', correct?" Gabriel asked.

"Yeah, of course." Lucy replied. "They're those big monsters from those movies, right?"

"The term kaiju roughly translates to 'strange creature' from Japanese." Gabriel continued. "The first notable kaiju movie released after World War II, which ended with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These monsters are heavily tied to the cultural impact that the two atomic bombs had on the Japanese public and have captured the heart of many a watcher. The movies are even popular in the US."

"Why are you lecturing me about movies?"

"Because New York wasn't destroyed by an atomic bomb."

Lucy was stunned, but somehow not surprised. Her mind raced as she tried to piece together the bigger picture. Was her home devastated by a creature like the one she took down today? Was this not just an isolated freak incident?

"The attack on New York was mostly covered up by the government. Very few people actually witnessed the event and survived." Gabriel turned to look into Lucy's eyes. "You were one of them."

Lucy scoured the pages of her memory back to the day when the city was destroyed. She remembered nothing. That was when the attacks started.

"Are you saying that a kaiju destroyed New York City eight years ago?" Lucy asked.

"You figured it out" Gabriel seemingly mocked her, "I'm not surprised." He continued his explanation from before. "We've decided to call that creatures 'kaiju'. We have no idea where they come from or what they really are, but they seem to be tied to the DC Projectors."

"You mentioned them before" Lucy asked, "what is a DC Projector?"

"Data Conversion Projector" Gabriel explained; "it's a device that can record, save, and rewrite the physical world as digital memory. They seem to be some kind of advanced computer, but we haven't figured out how to use them to their full potential quite yet."

"So the kaiju are created by the DC Projectors?"

"Not exactly. It seems like they were copied by the projectors and saved so that they can be redeployed." Gabriel looked out to the window once more. "Most of our research has been conducted on the one that we cracked about 2 years ago, the one that you connected with."

"Wait, that means you must have been the ones to deploy it."

"Correct." Gabriel explained. "We knew that it was impossible to take control of the one that had just attacked. We were hoping that you could bring back the projector in one piece for us to study but it's a little too late for that."

"So you basically disabled the firewall on the one that you found so that I could take control of it? That sounds risky."

"It was a risk." Gabriel turned back to Lucy. The lens on his glasses that Lucy had noticed before was much more distinct now. It has a red glow and a strange, moving circular pattern etched into it. That pattern seemed familiar. "We knew that there was no other way, though."

"Your glasses" Lucy began to question Gabriel, "do they work the same as my phone does? Can you hack into a kaiju?"

"Not exactly" Gabriel replied, "but I can do something similar. Many of the survivors that experienced the effects of the DC Projector eight years ago gained some kind of strange connection with the projectors. That connection manifests in unique ways. I can use the kaijufinder systems to analyze the attack patterns and mechanical processes of a kaiju. That advantage is why I was given a position with DEED, the Department of Extraterrestrial and Extradimensional Defense."

"Slow down, so you didn't make the projectors?"

"Nope. The first one we found was the one that destroyed New York. The second one crashed somewhere off the coast of Japan and was shipped to the US for further study. Part of our inspiration for the name of the kaiju is from the reports that helped us discover them in the first place." Gabriel continued to look out the window. "You should be able to see our destination from here now."

Lucy looked to her side to see a sea of lights amidst an ocean of concrete buildings, all of which contained in a massive, underground cavern. The ceiling was so high above that it seemed to be a pitch black abyss.

"This is the New York military base, the new home of DEED." Gabriel stepped to the side as Lucy pressed herself against the window to get a better look outside. "I doubt this will be the last time you see it." The train descended in silence towards the facility and came to a stop at a small station. "This subway is the only way in or out of the underground base, it departs from here every hour."

"What do you want me to do here?" Lucy turned back towards Gabriel.

"The higher-ups wanted me to explain a few things about the operation that are better understood when observed firsthand." Gabriel now turned towards the door as the train came to a halt. Two of the soldiers stepped to the outside of the train as the door opened.

"I can take the girl from here." Gabriel looked to one of the soldiers. The man nodded in response.

Gabriel and Lucy stepped out into the military base. It was illuminated by streetlights and open windows. Lucy noted that the temperature dropped significantly as the train doors opened. There were various people dressed in military uniform, as well as a few wearing lab coats, waiting around the station and boarding the subway. Gabriel led Lucy deeper into the heart of the base, passing by streets and streets of buildings.

The two approached a building in the center of the cavern that towered over the rest. It had glass windows and a black, glossy finish. It stretched up into the dark abyss and vanished from sight.

"What's this?" Lucy asked.

"Headquarters." Gabriel replied. "This is where most of our research on the kaiju happens. The other buildings are auxiliary labs, storage, or housing."

"Whoa." Lucy stared mesmerized upwards towards the top of the spire.

"We're going to the 2nd floor." Gabriel opened the door and allowed Lucy to step inside. "The elevator is just ahead." Gabriel stepped in behind Lucy, walked up to the elevators, and pressed the top button on the panel beside them. The doors opened in less than a second. Lucy and Gabriel stepped in, the doors closed, and a second later they were open again, the surroundings completely shuffled. 

The second floor was full of various sorts of computers, some more advanced than anything Lucy had ever seen. In one corner of the room there was a large double-door, which Gabriel led her through. Inside the second room was a large table that projected a yellow-orange image into the space above it. Was this a hologram? 

Lucy ran up and shoved her hand onto the image, which seemed to just be a giant cube. When she did so, the shape expanded around her arm. When she pulled her arm away the cube shrank down once more, but the overlay on her arm remained. Looking at her wrist, numerous panels and labels seemed to pop up from it, creating a framework of incomprehensible data. 

"I see you've already discovered the DCP Mini. One of our newer inventions." Gabriel walked up to the table and fidgeted with a panel at its side. The notation surrounding Lucy's arm then vanished.

"DCP? Is this one of the projectors?" Lucy asked.

"Somewhat" Gabriel replied, "we managed to reverse-engineer the DC Projector and create something that can modify reality within this small room. It's really quite impressive if you'd like a demonstration."

"What sort of demonstration?"

"I'll show you." Gabriel touched the panel again. 

Lucy felt a strange sensation on her left arm. She looked down and pulled her arm up to see large button attached to it. This wasn't like the panels from earlier, it looked real. She reached her other hand to touch it; it felt real. She applied a gentle amount of pressure and the button seemed to spring slightly up and down. Whenever she touched the button, it felt as though she was making contact with her own skin.

"Whoa." Lucy said as she analyzed the button in various ways. "Is this real?"

"Theoretically it is." Gabriel answered. "The DC Projector modifies physical reality on an atomic level, so there is actually a button attached to your arm."

"That's insane." Lucy looked over towards Gabriel for a moment before reaching back to her arm and pushing down the button. She began to feel a tingling across her arm as it quickly changed color to a sterile white, first starting from the button. The discoloration spread in a blocky pattern, like pixels. Once it engulfed her hand, she realized that she couldn't move her fingers, or any of her arm of that matter. Before she knew it, she was stuck in place, even her eyes refused to move.

"That is a what we call the lockdown function. It can hold an individual in suspended animation for a near-indefinite amount of time." Gabriel walked over in front of Lucy so she could see him. "In effect, you're a statue right now. The only organs in your body that are functioning right now are the ones required to sustain your brain and senses of sight and hearing, and even those can be turned off. The rest have been fully converted into a carbon-based substance similar to diamond."

Though Lucy couldn't move or speak, her brain was still fully functional. She was starting to get frustrated that Gabriel didn't tell her this would happen when she pressed the button.

"We theorize that applying this technology on a massive scale could completely avert any form of destructive crisis, since we could simply revert the inorganic matter back to its original state by resetting the projector." Gabriel gave Lucy a smug grin, he well knew how she felt right now. "At the moment, however, we can't test it on that scale without good reason." He stepped back over to the panel and touched it again. Lucy instantly felt a wave of heat and was released from her stasis.

Lucy resisted the urge to lash out at Gabriel, knowing that he had the upper-hand in this particular situation. She looked around the room to see another door and several windows to a room outside. "Are we being watched in here?" She asked.

"We're always being watched." Gabriel replied. "The higher-ups don't trust me anymore than they trust you; probably less, actually."

"So what did you really want to show me here?"

"Ah, that's right." Gabriel touched the panel a few times before an image of the creature that Lucy had taken control of appeared on the table. "This is the kaiju that you were able to 'hack into'. As soon as you took full control of it, the kaiju transformed." Lucy watched as the image on the table mechanically morphed into a humanoid figure. The new form looked like a suit of armor with giant cylindrical gauntlets. "We had no idea that this would happen, and the phenomenon seems to be exclusive to you."

"Why is that important?"

"Because normally the training process for a kaiju tamer involved intensive training to handle the creature's form, but you were able to change that form to suit your needs." Gabriel touched the panel again and the hologram divided into hundreds of individual parts. "We were able to work out a schematic of this new form after about 7 hours in the lab, it defies everything we know about the kaiju."

"Wait" Lucy added, "it's been seven hours since the attack?"

"It's been 27, actually." Gabriel looked back towards Lucy. "You spent 26 and a half of them recovering from your mental strain unconscious."

"I slept for over 26 hours?"

"Yes."

"Okay then." 

"Anyway, we need to test something using the DCP Mini for a moment, please step into this room." Gabriel gestured towards the second door as it slid open. The room inside was barren and empty. Lucy and Gabriel stepped inside.

"Why do we need to be in here?" Lucy asked.

"Because we're worried about potential damage to the facility." Hovering in front of Gabriel was a large yellow panel with numerous buttons, dials, boxes, and switches. "We're interested in evaluating your ability to maneuver in the kaiju's modified form, so we programmed a downscaled version to test with." Gabriel touched one of the buttons on the panel in front of him.

Instantly, Lucy felt a massive weight push her into the ground. She looked down to her body to see the same form that she had inhabited during the battle earlier. "You can undo this, right?" Lucy tried to speak but the words wouldn't form.

"Don't worry, we can undo it." Gabriel said. Lucy saw a red glint in his glasses, which he had pushed up to see through. "My power allows me to detect your neural processes, I know exactly what you're thinking."

"Get the hell out of my brain then!"

"Sorry, no can do." Gabriel once again looked over to his panel. "Could you try walking around for me?"

Lucy took a step. She hadn't noticed it earlier, but she felt way heavier while she was controlling the kaiju. She was easily able to move and act, but it took a lot more energy to do so. Lucy held her arms out in front of her and observed them. She had large plates across her knuckles and short claws at her fingertips. The gauntlets she noted earlier seemed to have a purpose, but Lucy couldn't tell what it was. She had no sense of heat, nor touch or smell of any sort. This body was certainly alien, something she couldn't understand, but it also felt distinctly natural to her.

"Interesting." Gabriel noted. "Do you feel any strange sensation anywhere on your body?"

"I don't feel anything."

"Yeah, I know. I can read your mind, remember. This is all protocol." Gabriel acted as though he had forgotten. "I'm just going to have the program team add a vocal system somewhere so that I don't have to see your every thought."

"Can you put me back to normal?"

"We're done with the testing, so yes." Gabriel flipped a switch on the panel and Lucy felt that same surge of heat from earlier. Lucy felt her mind start to fade as she looked down and saw her body return to normal.

-cut-

Lucy awoke in bed, back in her apartment. She checked on her phone to see the date and time: 10:00 AM, June 4th. She had lost an entire day. Lucy got up, did her hair, and put on her clothes. She wore the same as she did yesterday, except for her coat. Instead, Lucy donned her usual hoodie, one that was half blue, half black and had pins that she'd won at various arcades stuck to the kangaroo pocket. It wasn't even a moment after she had prepared that her phone rang. The caller ID flashed onto the screen: Gabriel Holt. 

Lucy immediately picked up the phone and started running to the door. "I'll do it! I'll take control of the kaiju!"

"Looks like you're one step ahead of me for once." Gabriel replied from over the phone. "Once you get to the roof, you might want to look up." Gabriel hung up.

Lucy left her apartment and ran up the stairs to the roof. She was surprised to see a distinct absence of monsters terrorizing the city skyline. After a moment, she remembered what Gabriel had said and looked up towards the sky. Far above was a massive creature, something akin to a bird with giant metal wings. Inside of each wing was what seemed to be a massive fan. A thick cloud of thunder surrounded the skyward beast, shrouding its body.

"I'm supposed to take that thing down?!" Lucy shouted towards the city's heart. "I can hardly see it as is."

"We've already figured out a way to keep it closer to the ground, you just have to take it down." Gabriel leaned up against the guardrail on the rooftop's edge.

"Ok, I can do this!" Lucy pulled out her phone and opened the kaijufinder app. Suddenly, the massive creature that Lucy controlled during the first attack appeared from within a spherical yellow grid as it envelops the city. Lucy locked her device onto the creature and pressed the circular button once again.

-cut-

"I need you to live."

A voice echoed in the abyss of Lucy's mind. There was no form here, only a voice not her own.

"I don't care if the past is destroyed, I can't let her lose everything."

Lucy's voice responded to the abyss. "But what about me? Why do I have to live on with this loss?"

The voice replied as it faded away. "Because someone has to go on living."

-cut-

Lucy felt her mind enter a new body. The body reformed itself to the way she now knew well, the same way as last time. Lucy looked up to see the sky filled with the same dark clouds as before she had taken control of the kaiju. The creature above stirred and began a swift descent towards her. Lucy tried to dodge out of the way, only to be hit by the full force of the massive kaiju. 

The creature was like a mechanical bird, though its body was imbued with a constant electrical current that arced off of everything nearby, burning the city to the ground. Its wings were still raised high into the sky as its claws dug deep into Lucy's armored skin. Lucy was pinned to the ground by the massive creature as it used its beak and fangs to dig into her chest.

"Don't let it destroy your core." Gabriel's voice popped into her head.

"Why?" Lucy asked, though she still couldn't speak. "What are you talking about?"

"If your core is destroyed, your brain will go down with it. That's the only way it can kill you."

Lucy grabbed the creature's head and one of its legs and attempted to shove it off of her. She managed to break free of the creature's grip and stood back up against a nearby building as the kaiju flew back into the air.

"Gabriel, I have a plan." 

"I don't like it." Gabriel's voice replied. Lucy had forgotten that he could read her mind.

"I need you to use the lockdown function on the city block to my right."

"We've never tested that on a massive scale, are you sure you're willing to suffer the consequences if this goes wrong?"

"Everyone is going to die if either this goes wrong, or we choose to not go through with it." Lucy was dead set in her plan. She knew it was going to work.

"Alright then, you'll have to hold out for 10 seconds." Gabriel said. A panel with a countdown timer appeared in Lucy's peripheral vision.

The kaiju flew up into the air and began to swing back down towards Lucy. 8 seconds.

Lucy braced herself and prepared to run. 7 seconds.

The bird bared its talons as it quickly descended. 6 seconds.

Lucy dashed towards the targeted city block. 5 seconds.

The kaiju realigned itself towards her. 4 seconds.

Lucy made a U-turn back towards the kaiju and made a jump towards it. 3 seconds. Reaching her hands into the sky, she grabbed the bird's tail and dragged it towards the ground. 2 seconds. She began her swing and twisted her angle towards the intended area. 1 second. Making a full overhead swing, she slammed the kaiju into the ground as the impact flung tiny white particles into the sky. 0 seconds. The creature lay on the ground, defeated.

Lucy climbed up to stand atop the massive beast. Its body alone was at least twice her size. She dug her claws into the creature's abdomen and tore its chest apart, revealing a familiar glowing device. Lucy grabbed the core and tore it out of the kaiju's chest, snapping twelve cables that linked to its body. The monster stopped moving as the core's glow began to dim. Lucy's perception faded shortly after.

-cut-

"Have you figured out why she has control over the kaiju's form?" An older man wearing regal military attire sat at the head of a long table with Gabriel seated on the opposite end. There was nobody else in the room.

"Not yet, but she still shows promise as an asset." Gabriel replied.

"I hope you're willing to take responsibility for the next stunt you two pull."

"I assure you, commander, I intend on cleaning up the mess like I always do." Gabriel stood up and began walking towards the exit of the room.

"That's the problem" the commander added, "I don't want a mess in the first place. I want answers."

Gabriel turned back towards the commander. "And you know I have those answers, correct?" The commander nodded, Gabriel continued. "I'll tell you what you want once you've kept up your end of the bargain." He took another step towards the door.

"Hold on." The commander said. "You expect me to just take insubordination like that lying down?"

"I wouldn't call it insubordination, commander. Remember that you can't lay a finger on me unless you want your New New York destroyed like last time." Gabriel's sinister smile returned. "We wouldn't want that, would we?"

"I hope you know that you're more of a danger than any of the kaiju we've fought so far!" The commander's face twisted in anger. "If I had my way with it you'd be dead in a ditch somewhere!"

"That's why I'm the one in control here, isn't it, commander?"

-cut-

✰Azunya
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swagmc
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