Authors: Andrew Sudomerski & Tyler Trieschock | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

[Continued from Match 315]

All of time and space flashed past Monique’s eyes, yet through the bombardment of hues, she forced her open stare to remain. The helicopter she piloted trembled through the anomaly, rotors squealing from forces beyond comprehension, yet she could not relent. Pushing the vehicle forward, blinding fractal colors gave way to a blue sky.

Suppressing the urge to expel her stomach contents or cradle her aching head, Monique methodically checked her transport systems, wary of the anomaly’s effects. The helicopter was equipped with electromagnetic shielding and thick armor, but such benefits hardly suppressed decades of military training within the woman and a general readiness for the worst. As tension filled moments passed without incident, Monique vented a long held breath of relief.

Entry was a success. Now came retrieval.

Pulling forth a compass shaped device from her belt, the screen flashed a white hue. If within a twenty kilometer range of the transponder, the device would display the approximate range and direction, but a lack of details meant the transceiver, embedded in Zilla’s scales, was too far.

Her mission would not be as swiftly accomplished as their entry to the new world.

“Hey, we’re not dead!” Randy yelled, filling the woman with undesired tension. Shifting her attention to the transport’s interior, Monique looked to her two crew members, each giving her trademark smiles.

At the back, an android with black eyes and an unending grin gave a thumbs up in approval. His smile was a permanent feature, an illusion of constant euphoria in exchange for speech which she wished applied to her other H.E.A.T. team member.

“Compliments to the lovely lady flying today,” Randy said, flexing a suggestive eyebrow, sending Monique recalling.

Randy Hernandez was a longstanding teammate of many traits; stubborn yet loyal, a child at heart, but a man gifted with unbridled talent. And while he could get under her skin like no other, so too did he bring her a sense of comfort.

“If only he was less annoying,” she whispered, keeping a poignant focus on her mission.

Orange light of a rising sun illuminated the lush landscape of neverending trees that sprawled along the horizon. The little manmade structures that had been there were coated in the endless overgrowth, rendering them nigh impossible to identify. The only thing misplaced in these surroundings gleamed behind the chopper, pulsating with light above a black mountain of crystal and basaltic rock.

Hundreds of meters tall, the volcanic pile of rock stolen from her own realities’ Pacific island shined beneath the black anomaly, which pulsated like shifting glass. The obstacle was too vast to see past, so Monique pressed on, hoping for signs of Nick Tatopoulos or his loyal beast beyond her limited view.

“Hey, Monique!” Randy yelled for attention, gaining an irritated look from her  as he sat in the co-pilot seat. “Any signs of Jefe or the Z-Man?”

Only the echo of whipping rotors replied to Randy’s inquiry. With a shrug, he relaxed in his seat.

“Shouldn’t have left Audrey,” Randy commented, shifting the topic. “Yeah, she’s not as well versed in this crazy stuff as us-”

“Is that not reason enough to deny her?” Monique interrupted.

A huff of exasperation marked the start of Randy’s response. “The girl’s been through plenty. She survived that post apocalyptic future we visited, with the Dragmas. Audrey’s as persistent as Nick. She’d… woah.”

Monique caught the sight a second later.

Charred scars cut through the overgrown forest. Husks of trees littered the blackened streaks while a line of crushed bark and leaves led to a distant ocean, surrounded by sandy beaches and grassy hills. The overwhelming green of the tree tops remained vigilant beside the marks of destruction, yet the signs were clear that a battle took place or more aptly, a fiery retreat.

Zilla had come through the anomaly and discovered he was not alone.

Monique pressed the nose of the helicopter forward, reaching the nearby shores in under a minute. From the rapid acceleration, a quick descent followed, allowing Monique to land on yellow hills beside a beach with two worn but recognizable tracks of Zilla.

“So Zilla what, found something on the other side and went a few rounds?” Randy questioned as he exited the craft, sweeping his head side to side as if to find the hidden adversary. “I’m thinkin, maybe Winter’s? Remember, what was it, Rodan? Explains why the Z-Man left no body? Bird brain flew the coop.”

Dropping onto the grass with Jet Jaguar beside her, Monique remained silent, not out of rejection of the idea, she simply possessed no further insight. Zilla arriving with another hostile creature was likely, and the flier could explain the lack of tracks except…

Why the singular path to the water?

Fingers massaged through the yellowing grass atop the soil, prying dried brown flecks from underneath the foliage. The texture as she rubbed her fingers together proved flaky, yet as she brought the substance close, a quick whiff of an iron aroma affirmed its identity.


Snapping upright, Monique pointed to the mechanical assistant created and assigned to them by Goro Ibuki.

“Jet, egh…” the name stung like a deadly poison across the agent’s tongue. “Jet Jaguar, fly and pinpoint our location on this Earth.”

While her French accent hampered most electronic assistants like Alexa, Jet Jaguar showed no sign of misunderstanding the order. A thumbs up marked its approval before the robot lunged into the air, vanishing as it ascended like a rocket into the sun filled sky.

The agent’s gaze shifted to Randy as he pried grass up from the root.

“What are you doing?” she inquired.

“Hey, you notice the grass is healthy on top and burned at the bottom? Explains the ugly color, it’s all dying. Maybe our mystery attacker traveled underground?”

Monique’s brows heightened in surprise at the observation. “I did not.”

A wide smirk formed across Randy’s face. As he arose, his hands clapped confidently together, rustling the foliage glued to his sun-kissed skin.

“Well Watson, ready to search the forest. If Jefe’s here-”

“He’s not,” Monique affirmed with such force Randy’s head whipped like it’d been struck. “The creature would not have abandoned him if he arrived in this world.”

The last words brought forth a sorrow Monique rarely allowed herself to feel. If Nick Tatopoulos was in the other anomaly, then Elsie’s warning of high radiation levels meant one week’s exposure could signify a death sentence. Randy’s souring mood and expression revealed the truth was solidifying.

“Just means Zone Fighter’s gotta win and save Jefe,” Randy countered, his peppier self snapping back. “He’s… he will. So, we got twenty four hours to find the Z-Man. Where do we start?”

“With a question. What monsters does this world possess to make Zilla flee?”

Shiragami’s Lab – 1989

“You’re nothing Goro. Nothing, but a weak fool.” Those were the last words that dripped from the man’s spiteful mouth. And he knew he only had seconds, if even that.

Robotic lenses viewed the carnage that was soon to consume everyone. He knew there was no hope for the others, but his priorities, hard-coded into his programming, were set. Orange light radiated behind him, knowing full well that the subject–Kubal Kunimura–was inevitably going to initiate the transformation, one that held the power to kill Godzilla.

Jet Jaguar ran hundreds of thousands of probabilities and results in nanoseconds. He saw them all; from swooping him under his arms, in which the Mach speeds would certainly kill him by centrifugal force alone. Or even perhaps being knocked out of the sky by the ensuing shockwave and losing his grip. Even being too slow and steady would lead to their untimely demise. Each outcome, each hypothetical path taken, had all led to the same conclusion: Goro Ibuki would die. But he knew he couldn’t let that happen in spite of the odds placed against him. As the heat eviscerated the very room they stood in, and the violent wind torrents shattered the frail windows and walls, Jet Jaguar knew he needed to take action.

A grim realization settled in. Out of all the virtual probabilities, there was a ray of hope. 2% chance of survival. These were the best odds, and he had to make it quick.

The automaton’s chest flashed like a star, signaling his growth. Jet Jaguar’s program executive manipulated the atomic molecules in his metallic framework, expanding and reinforcing them through perfect mathematical calculations. Too big, there wouldn’t be enough time; too small, they would be incinerated. As suddenly as he initiated his signature power, he clocked in at a solid 30-foot height and promptly draped his metallic body over the miniscule human.

Then, they were both engulfed in a rageful, brimming light.

Seething flames washed over Jet Jaguar’s posterior, which took the brunt of the force. His metal exoskeleton peeled off from the severity of the heat, shredding layers of super-protective armor that was enforced to withstand heavy artillery ordnance. Non-vital circuitry fried from the tremendous heat, but he persisted in spite of the many emergency failsafes that flared up in his system. The electrons in his subatomic anatomy vibrated at such intensity from the Colossal Titan’s heatwave, which sweltered throughout his synthetic body. He knew his metal form did little to actually protect Goro, because it was a conduit for heat and electricity. All he was doing was acting as a buffer layer to protect Goro’s body from utmost destruction.

2% chance of survival. That was all he had.

Between the roaring explosion and gusty winds, Jet Jaguar’s auditory functions couldn’t decipher what was what. He had to take it on good faith that they weren’t Goro’s agonizing screams of being burned alive. However, everything had to come to an end, and soon it did. The massive heatwave died down, as did the vicious winds that accompanied them. Aside from the rumblings produced by the aftershock, there was little sound to be heard. All except for the air drag of the Colossal Titan’s oncoming attack.

Jet Jaguar dug his hands beneath the floor boarding and soil, cupping his hands together to carry the human body that laid beneath him. Broken tiles and dirt acted as suppressants for his superheated hands, allowing him to transport Goro to a safe location. Without a moment to spare, the 30-foot Jet Jaguar took to the dark night sky–barely avoiding the meaty red fist that came slamming down where he once was.

Only for a moment did the robotic assistant take a glance behind him. He saw that Kubal’s Titan body was malformed, only sustaining shape from the torso on up. His muscles were stringy, fresh, and pulsating with flames, and his face was nothing short of a bleach-white skull with blaring yellow eyes. Jet saw the Colossal Titan’s glare track them until they were out of each other’s line of sight.

From the destroyed lab that once stood along the coast of lower Lake Ashino, Jet Jaguar flew to the upper part of the large body of water, out of Kubal’s reach. As he landed on the beautiful soil-rich grounds, he firmly planted his feet in the water, which sizzled from the heat trapped in his body. Gently, he laid the mound of dirt to rest–with the burnt body of a beloved friend atop it.

For endless minutes, the robot man rested in the fresh lake water, gradually decreasing his size in the process. His humanoid frame was engulfed by water vapor produced from the boiling freshwater around him. There came a time where it subsided, but it never felt like it was soon enough. Even as he suffered hardware malfunctions, Jet Jaguar pushed himself and took the first few steps to analyze the results for himself.

Goro looked nothing like the tooth-grinned jovial man he once was. Rather, what Jet Jaguar had rescued was a brittle corpse that superficially resembled a friend he held near and dear. Out of his software that survived the onslaught, he ran the medical executive for a thorough scan. His eye beams flickered to life, meticulously inspecting every element of the burnt cadaver. The closer he scrutinized, the better of an assessment he could make. After the examination process, Jet Jaguar came to the final verdict–

Goro coughed

–he was still alive. But deep down, Jet knew that he was not going to wake up. His brain had been fried beyond compare, leaving him in a catatonic state. Nevertheless, despite the odds, Goro Ibuki survived.

Outskirts of Tokyo, Japan – 3 A.T.

After many grueling hours, their fight came to a close. Thrusting his skeletal left hand out, superheated steam ripped through the air like a hot knife through butter. Jagged winds sliced the base of the tri-headed serpent’s middle neck, decapitating it. They had been beaten, bruised, and battered, but in the end, the Colossal Titan emerged victorious. Even so, that last attack sapped him of his mighty Titan’s strength. His muscles were nigh nonexistent, barely held together by strings of sinew. The left arm accelerated in the evaporation process, having converted his Titan biology into pressurized steam to pull off that last stunt. Because of this, he knew there wasn’t much of a choice; he couldn’t complete the task in front of him as desired.

Kubal saw with his Titan eyes the golden dragon, drained of energy and maimed beyond belief, miraculously regaining its footing. It stood with war-torn wings, severed tails, several bleeding punctures in its mighty hide, and two snake-like heads. The creature, acknowledged as Ghidorah, didn’t remain standing for long in proof of its exhaustion. With an earth-shattering thud, the massive dragon collapsed onto the ground. Even with all the power at the dragon’s disposal, it wasn’t enough to dethrone the mighty Titan.

“What a pathetic whelp,” Kubal muttered in agitation, “Couldn’t even force me to use a second body,” he mocked, panting in deep breaths to keep his composure. Minutes passed and the wind blew over the silent battlefield, but even Kubal knew to wait; regenerating was a moot point, but maintaining his skeletal integrity would be key to getting out of here alive. All because the vibrations of the earth acted as a beacon for hungry giants.

The pitter patter of footsteps gradually evolved into rumblings of a stampede. The forestry, or what little there was, rocked and swayed from the large bodies that rummaged through them. When they broke through, they were numerous. Humanoids that stood in vastly different sizes, from no less than three meters up to an impressive fifteen meters, came tumbling out and made a mad dash to the fallen Ghidorah. They swarmed the gargantuan serpent, piece by piece they dug into his open wounds and tore the beautiful scales off his body. Ghidorah shrieked, but could do little to repel the relentless ensemble. Even Kubal knew that the larger ones–some reaching sixty meters–were on their way.

As Ghidorah writhed on the ground, Kubal allowed the last piece of the Colossal Titan’s flesh to evaporate, which was the very nape that he controlled the body from. He held onto the spine and felt the rigid bones deteriorate as the massive skeleton slowly broke down, easing his descent to the land below him. In a slow and steady five minutes as he basked in Ghidorah’s misery, he scanned the horde of Titans, keeping tabs on them.

He found footing on the soft soil under his boots and took off into the wilderness. With all the Titans converging to this spot, he knew he’d have safe travels. While it was true that Titans ate the humans that crossed their path, it was equally true about the kaiju that once held stakes on this planet. And for the collective, the great and mighty kaiju were perceived as the greater predator that had to be slain: For in this world, Man became the usurper of monster-kind. Not that it mattered to Kubal.

Much to Kubal’s surprise, he turned and saw the goliath regain its footing, still swamped by the hundreds of Titans that burdened it. With several weak and exhausted flaps, Ghidorah took to the skies as the Titans fell to earth, while others clung on relentlessly. He knew the dragon wouldn’t last long; and where it disappeared off to was no concern. He had beaten it, and he knew the once mighty rulers were wise not to stand in the path of an immortal.

That was still the fourth one this month alone. I wonder… Kubal’s mind wandered into the realm of possibilities, postulating on the idea. But that quickly turned into a hate-filled scowl. It doesn’t matter. If anyone, or anything, dares stand in my path… He came to a quick resolution.

I’ll kill them, every last one.

Kubal pressed on with his arduous journey back to the remnants of Tokyo, awaiting the next creature foolish enough to challenge him. Or perhaps to put an end to this–once and for all.

The American Midwest – 3 A.T.

Once a thriving metropolis, now nothing short of a city for the damned. Old, decrepit buildings stood aloft, having long since faltered in their luster under collected residue and overgrowth. The neon signs attached to these rusted structures no longer held the attention of bypassers, for there was no light. Moonlit skies rained illuminating beams down on those inside and outside the divide, a calm that brought peace to the haunted city.

Peering from the outermost wall that gave the most optimal view of the ruins below, a man betrothed in silver and blue garments saw nothing but death and decay. An inevitable doom for those that funded such nonsense, without a single sign of life bustling the vacant streets.

“This won’t do…” Hikaru gritted his teeth from beneath his mask. “There’s no sign of any of these walls doing what they’re supposed to.” He grimaced at the thought. These were meant to keep monsters out–Titans out–but yet the resources to maintain upkeep were far more costly than what they were willing to spend. And because of such flawed thinking, millions were either consumed or infected.

“If they don’t get done soon, I’m not sure the one in Japan will be able to function.” The guilt of not being there for those who cried out lingered in his mind, but there were far more pressing matters to deal with. “Then the Colossal Titan…”

A shining example of humanity’s evolution to some, an apocalyptic destroyer to others. But for Hikaru, he felt it brought imbalance in a world of monsters and higher beings. Humans were capable of many things, but should wielding such a mighty power be among them? Was it simply an eventual breakthrough, or could the path deviate for the sake of humanity’s salvation?

“I have to stop them.” It was his only resolve. Turning around, Hikaru Sakimori took one last glance at the broken city. Spreading his arms out, he took to the air.

Tokyo, Japan – A few days later – 3 A.T.

Beyond the gargantuan walls that privy the land, an abandoned Tokyo laid dormant. Aside from the sluggish Titans that tried to break through the fortified structures, not a single human soul dared venture these ruins.

But deep underneath, they were hard at work.

Clanging of metal and hammers rang across the vast expanse that was hidden under the metropolis. Such a place remained out of human sight, but it was a necessary evil. Their grand fight against the Garoga armada sapped them of their sources, lost their greater family in the struggle, and forced them out of Japan. Even then, that proved not to be the worst of it. Once the Wraith went viral, there was little they could do beyond preparing a failsafe–one that was taking an excruciatingly long time to develop, more so than it should’ve.

They had to trust their elder brother would have something figured out.

Not a word was uttered amongst themselves. Quarantined to the ruins of their former home didn’t leave enough room for small-talk after the time sunk into developing this plan. They weren’t engineers like their parents or grandfather, so getting it to work was simply a matter of trial and error.

“Hey sis,” Akira said in what felt like the first words uttered today, “you alive over there?”

The young woman almost didn’t feel like responding, but decided to anyway. “Yeah, I’m alive. What about you?”

“Tired and exhausted.”

“‘Can’t wait for this to be done,’” she said sarcastically, “I’m sure that’s what you’re thinking.” Swiping the sweat from her brow, she continued to fine-tune the metallic hull.

“Not just that, but… Saving people, y’know?” Akira rolled up from under the ship, taking a breather. There was an awkward silence between them, as if it needed to be said. But perhaps a reminder was a good thing.

“Hotaru, do you think he’ll come back?” Akira asked.

“Of course he will. You know Hikaru keeps to his–”

“No, not Hikaru. The Titan.”

Hotaru grimaced when he brought up the destructive Titan that seemingly held an iron fist over this planet. “Not even King Ghidorah was enough to stop him…” he added. “If we had only been ready, maybe we could have done something!”

“Hikaru wouldn’t want us putting our lives on the line! Not after mom and dad died.”

“But as long as we’re down here, what are we doing for the people that need us? We’ve been sitting ducks for the last three years. We can’t just let these people live in subjugation!”

“Akira, we can’t do everything at once. We have our limits, and we need to do what we can to make the most out of it. Otherwise, what will all this be for? We’ve been helping humanity for the last twenty years, all across the world. This will be no different.”

“But if we don’t act soon, we’ll–”

“King Ghidorah wasn’t enough,” Hotaru reiterated, fear and frustration mixed in her voice. “I’m not sure any monster will be enough at this point…” A silence permeated between the two of them, unsure of where to go. The only thing they knew for certain was to do anything, they had to press on, and keep out of sight.

Suddenly, a metal knock rang from above. The Zones halted work, squaring their attention to the metallic screeching of the sliding door, their heavy hearts elating at the sight. In what felt like a long, long time, a familiar figure stood in their midst.

“Yo, hope things have been holding down here,” the voice of their elder brother rang.

“Hikaru!” They both cried out, rushing to embrace their brother in familial love. When they separated, Hotaru was the first to ask, “Any luck?”

Hikaru sighed. “Unfortunately, nothing. None of these sanctioned wall projects have been doing what they’re supposed to. Can’t even find anyone living in them. If this keeps up, the people here won’t have a chance…”

“We’ve been making progress, but unfortunately nothing to show for it yet,” Akira said, “but hopefully sooner than later.”

“And the people in the walls? How are they holding?”

“Not well,” Hotaru reported, “A lot of tension and unrest. The only other detail I could pick up on is that the capital christened a new faction, the Public Order Administration.”

“We have to do something!” the younger Zone cried out.

“That’s what we’re doing,” Hikaru assured coolly, “and we can’t do anything until we’re ready. For now, let’s focus on getting this old girl up and running.” The firstborn brother patted the steel-forged hull of the vessel, showing its resilience. The siblings nodded in approval, gathering their tools and resumed work.

Location: [REDACTED] – Year: [UNSPECIFIED]

Information fed into his protruding antennae, absorbing the radio waves that silently permeated the air. Although most blurred into a mess of wailing static, the few stations that remained he tuned into. Their words were ones he had heard thousands of times already, yet it bore repeating.

“Cases increase exponentially as these man-eating giants make the rounds in over half of the industrial districts in all of Japan. This ongoing pandemic has–” the voice was silenced by a wash of noise, buzzing in Jet Jaguar’s antenna. He switched channels until he found another. “–ome a global crisis, the United Nations has passed a bill for the Wall Construction project. And–wait, is that a light? Cut it, CUT THE–”

Another lost feed.

The world was rampant, chaotic. An outbreak like no other plunged society into unspeakable anarchy, leaving the nations of the world in utter disarray. Jet slowed his flight as he approached his destination, clutching the vial in his hand–something he had acquired from the contaminated waters, poisoned by the strain. As his rusted arms creaked into place, the robot man landed on the ground beside an inconspicuous mountain. In reality, this mountain had been a cover for a hidden base, with a hidden entrance way that–

–had already been busted down.

Jet’s brilliant blue eyes flickered in erratic distress, bolting for the thick, metal doors that had been pried and chewed open. From the deep imprints that led to the entrance, Jet calculated they were three Titans–of the 3- and 4-meter variety. And they were fresh. Slipping between the cracks, Jet Jaguar barreled into the dark interior, slipping down the damaged stairwell until he landed on the metallic floor. Lights blared from the other side–which in turn illuminated the silhouettes of these disgusting giants, magnetically drawn to the brightly lit room.

Leaping high, Jet rotated to the side and delivered a double drop kick to one of the Titans, throwing the ravenous man-eater off its feet. The other two, one of them top-heavy with enlarged forearms, veered their attention to the human-shaped automaton. Slapping the metal floor with large hands, the top-heavy Titan lunged for the robot man, jaws agape and dislocated, tearing at the flesh that covered its mouth. Firmly gripping the heathen’s bare teeth, Jet wrestled with the brute, parting its lower mandible beyond the point of tolerance. With a swift and brutal pull, the lower jaw twisted in a sickening snap, and continued to do so until it was ripped clean from the joints that held it in place–steam rising from the jawless Titan. To put insult to injury, a well-placed front kick hurled the brutish cannibal across the metal grating as Jet prepared to handle the next one.

The lanky, long-necked Titan dove straight in, only for Jet to weave under the giant. Placing his hands against the neck and chest cavity, the electronic robot used the humanoid’s momentum against it, tossing it overhead and letting it splat against the steel-enforced flooring. Without missing a beat, Jet leapt on top of the fallen Titan–stomping in a peculiar part of the neck, forcing an unnatural wheeze from the ghastly human. Blood sputtered from the nape, painting Jet’s usually multi-colored armor blood red. Evaporating steam rose from the humanoid frame, bright blue eyes flaring to life as he turned to see the jawless Titan once again lunge at him.

His gentle blue eyes ignited in a shimmering brilliance that blinded the gagging goliath, choking on its own blood. Steam concealed the regeneration process, gestating a new jaw in place of the old one, which quickly became coated in flesh. Baring its disgusting teeth once more, the Titan lurched forward, tackling the armored human to the cold ground. Bony teeth screeched against the metallic exterior, sinking into artificial skin and leaving a permanent imprint on the arm. But a few well-placed jabs caved into the brute’s nose, forcing it to recoil in agony.

Freed from its nasty vice grip, Jet Jaguar leapt over the gagging Titan, eyes squared on the nape as his primary directive. Propelling himself through his flight-based capabilities, he lunged with fists clenched–and at the moment of impact, drove it directly into the sensitive spot. Without stopping, Jet Jaguar alternated between his balled hands, rupturing the nape in a bloody burst, steam sizzling from the wound. Titan meat clung to the metal fingers as they dissipated into embers, with the rest of its body following suit. That signaled the Titan’s death, but out of the two… Where was the third?

Snapping sharp to the brightly lit room, he saw the last one, a chunky individual with a disgusting grin plastered on its visage, hauling along to the only safe haven for his father-figure. A loud screech echoed in the hollow facility as creaking armor adjusted and metal feet scraped against the steel floor. Anchoring his footing, Jet activated his flight mode and sped directly towards the last Titan. It neared the white room, but turned its gaze to the airborne man that plunged his pointed head into the neck. Had it not adjusted its direction when it did, there was a chance at getting it by the nape; but alas, it was not meant to be.

Hurled off its feet, the Titan and Jet Jaguar slammed against the high wall, the metal man pulling his head out of the gash. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to penetrate to the nape, evident by the sustained wound sewing back together in a matter of moments. In retaliation, the Titan grabbed Jet Jaguar and threw him to the ground, eager to rend and tear the electronic robot apart. In doing so, the vial the machine carried slipped between his fingertips, leaving it to shatter against the cold flooring.

Knowing full well he’d be stressing his metal frame, a star shined along his chest, accelerating his growth up to no more than 5-meters. The instant shift shredded the Titan’s hold, blood and steam spewing from its lost fingertips. The damage from Kubal permanently stunted his maximum performance when enlarged, but for the time being it was enough to get the job done. Flinging the Titan into the air with a swing of his leg, the lardy humanoid crashed onto the unforgiving ground, leaving ample time for the size-shifting robot to pick himself off his feet. With a firm, well-placed stomp into the neck, Jet grinded the Titan’s nape into smithereens, leaving no chance for the cannibal to regenerate.

A vexing, electronic sigh escaped his upturned grin. Another sample would have to be reacquired, though most importantly was the safe keeping of Goro. He turned and–

–the glass casing had shattered, leaving an opening.

Just as he realized this, Jet reduced his size and was about to make a mad sprint. But when all was said and done, it was too late. A shimmering yellow light emanated from where the cadaver was, then came an explosive burst. Jet braced the aftershock, forced to witness the Titanization of a dying friend. Fear became reality when he heard the moanings of the Titan that laid within. Part of him felt hesitant; would he have to be the one to end Goro by his own hands?

Steam fizzled away, leaving Jet to see the Titan for himself. Where was once a burnt cadaver encased in an iron lung, now was a malformed Titan laying on its back. Flesh at last wrapped the entire body, along with a new set of eyes that were dilated and locked onto the robot man. Its wide jaw sporadically opened and closed, with no real apparent rhythm to it. Rib bones jutted out from its sides, and the appendages were shrunken and stubby…

…It couldn’t move.

Jet lowered his guard upon analysis. At the very least, this Titan wouldn’t pose a threat. Although the room had been lost, there were other research areas located in this facility. It was just a matter of resuming studies and seeing if it was at all possible to bring back his old friend…

Wall Sotono – Monzen, Tokyo, Japan – 3 A.T.

Behind the wall, Tokyo continued its meager existence, hanging on by a thread. Construction workers, adorned in uniform, face masks, and yellow hardhats, climbed atop the infrastructure and resumed their treacherous jobs. Those under the Garrison, or the Security Department, despite their name, were closer to glorified laborers than anything else.

Haruma, a bitter and aged veteran of his time, slammed the next slab effortlessly in this weary, ongoing project. Heavy breathing vented through the surgical mask, as did everyone else around him. His eyes turned and saw his coworkers taxing themselves feverishly to get in the night’s work. Some welded the metal rods to the framework, others heaved the needed materials from the makeshift elevators, while the rest worked tirelessly with little compensation.

Everyone here understood the essentials to the walls’ completion, making the burden all the more pressing. Even in the midst of work, Haruma’s attentive hearing pierced through the ruckus of footsteps and labored breathing, keying in on gossip for his own amusement.

“Just got word from Aizuwakamatsu,” Haruma recognized the muffled voice as Takamaru’s, a more recent addition to the workforce, “Some days ago, the government christened the Public Order Administration, tasked with overseeing the walls,” Takamaru coughed, emphasizing his general distaste.

“G-Great, now we have a bunch of eyes criticizing our work here? We already have the bossman for that, so no thanks,” a murmured voice in stammering Japanese remissed, from one Antoine Kane, a foreigner who was caught in the havoc.

“And they’re all coming from the innermost wall in Fukushima Prefecture,” Takamaru ridiculed at the thought, “So nothing short of glorified security drones, I’m sure.”

“T-to take our food supply, that’s what,” Antoine added, his thick accent filtered through the mask.

“Three years too late if you ask me,” remarked Yamashita, “Could’ve used more men here.”

“Are you kidding me?” Takamaru scoffed, tempted to pull his mask down for clarity, “We barely have anyone here because–” he fumbled on the accuracy of the information before winging it, “–this place is the hotspot for the Wraith strain. Worse yet, no one knows where it came from!”

“Godzilla’s killed, then the world goes to shit,” Antoine added with his limited Japanese. He pulled the cloth from his mouth and inhaled a breath of fresh air. “These things are also stuffy!”

“Better than being turned into those Wraiths down there,” Yamashita noted, pulling out a cigarette from his chest pocket. He gestured an offer, but they declined. Before he could even pull down his mask, a sudden, booming voice pinched the nerves of everyone that was a participant in the conversation.

“What the hell are your lazy asses doing?!” Haruma verbally lambasted them, his volume loud and clear even from under the mask, “Scatter! Get back to work, or you’re really going to get it!” Without a moment’s notice, the jittery Antoine slipped by without a sound, even as his body trembled from overwhelming anxiety.

Yamashita crushed his cigarette in sheer frustration, letting it fizzle out before he could even smoke it. “Hey, asshole, mind your damn business!” Eyes turned to the intense vocalizing, their attentions aroused by the stirring frustration that permeated the air. Haruma kept barking like a rabid dog, only to be met face to face with the far thinner and athletically built Yamashita. The younger man swung a right hook directly for the elder’s jaw, connecting with a solid hit. Haruma returned the favor with a bruising punch of his own, scraping across the agile man’s chest. The two continued to wrestle atop Wall Sotono, riling up the surrounding audience in estranged anticipation.

Their brawl escalated to ruthless savagery, going so far as for Haruma to rip the mask off the thinner man’s face. Enraged, Yamashita struck back with twice the humanistic ferocity, which continued until a gunshot rang from a distance, bringing with it an abrupt silence. Every single set of eyes turned to the source, and felt their hearts sink into their stomachs at the figure that stood before them.

Clad in a black uniform and with short, buzz-cut silver blonde hair, the authoritative figure held a pistol over his head, lowering it to meet the fist-fighting individuals that started this ruckus. Marching forward with his large boots, Kubal placed his gun back in its holster. He knew he wouldn’t need it for this.

“So, who’s the shitstain that started it?” Kubal said with heated breath, intense eyes glaring at the two men before him.

“These slackers weren’t doing their job!” Haruma spat out, snitching on his fellow coworkers, “So I set out to make things straight, until this one decided to be a disobedient little shit!” Yamashita grunted, almost ready to deliver another fist to the face, only for Kubal to throw a monstrous punch of his own, throwing Yamashita back onto the pavement. Before Haruma could relish in the thought, the large boot pressed against the old man’s face, muffling his wailing screams.

“I don’t need you to act on my behalf, all I need from you is to work!” A sharp turn from the rubber soles snapped the man’s nose and twisted the skin with it, causing Haruma to wreak in agony over his bloodied nostrils. Scraping the blood on the concrete wall, the ruthless man made a stride towards the fallen Yamashita, gripping him by the collar.

“And you,” Kubal uttered, hoisting the thin man off his feet. Next thing Yamashita knew, he was hanging over the outer edge of the wall, panicking as it was either face the consequences, or face death. “At any given moment, you could become a Titan. A menace, like you’ve already proven yourself to be.”

Yamashita’s eyes glared at the monster of a man that held the ultimate choice in the palm of his hand. It was then Yamashita noticed the embroidery on Kubal’s sleeve; a head of a unicorn with a long mane plastered in front of a shield. “Wh-when the hell did you become part of the Public Order?”

“That’s none of your damn business!” Kubal screamed, ready to release his fingers…

“WAIT!” came the sudden yell from Takamaru, grabbing Kubal’s attention. “Please, Mr. Kunimura, have mercy!” Takamaru trembled before the dictator that stood before him, but he continued his train of thought, “We need every working hand to get the wall done! Just, please sir!”

A stone cold face remained unwavering, refusing to budge at the emotionally driven words pouring from the laborer. However, he seemed to relent in his merciless spree, hurling Yamashita back onto the safety of the hard stone wall. Takamaru and Antoine gathered to get him back to his feet.

“Then get back to it.” Those were Kubal’s orders, and they knew they had to abide. “And put on your mask,” he scoffed, adding insult to injury. As medical officers arrived to attend to the wounded, the work force underwent the arduous task before them once again, a dull routine that felt like it would never end. However, Takamaru observed Kubal closely, tracking what he was seeing. Off in the distance was a large armored Humvee, towing behind it an extension draped in tightly bound tarp. It seemed to have his interest, and to confirm Takamaru’s suspicions, Kubal made an order to the entrance guards. “Open the gate!”

Before he knew it, Kubal was gone–taking an exit way that was out of his range of sight. Nevertheless, it always felt like Kubal had eyes on them; every last one of them. But he had to get this nagging feeling off his mind, and the only way to do that was to slave away at this thankless job until the day he died.


In a matter of a few risky drops, Kubal landed on a series of external extensions that made traversing the height of Wall Sotono that much easier. But even if he slipped, it wasn’t much concern for him. Landing on his feet against the gravely asphalt, Kubal met with the vehicle at the opened entryway, which came to a gradual halt.

The glass window slid down, meeting face with an individual from the Public Order Administration. “Kunimura sir, we have what you asked for. Please, get in.”

“I’ll ride in the back,” Kubal said, waving him off and heading to the tarp.

“I wouldn’t recommend that, it’s a–”

“I don’t care about your recommendations!” Kubal barked, hopping onto the extension. “Now drive!” Without missing an order, the truck resumed its long destination. Lifting the polyester layering, Kubal slid under until he came face to face with a large, almost balding head that he knew all too well.

“There’s my little Titan.” Kubal’s sharp demeanor shifted instantly to a soft, cooing voice that excited the Titan. Her eyes, large and bulgy, narrowed with intense focus. Dripping from her maw were a series of ecstatic chirps and gnashing teeth, the scrawny, useless limbs flailing compulsively.

“Daddy’s got you, don’t you worry,” Kubal continued, comforting his little Titan. “We’re moving out of that dangerous hospital and into a new, safe place, just for us. Now you won’t have to be afraid of any more monsters, daddy will take care of the rest.” As the Humvee trekked for the journey ahead, Kubal and the Titan Nariko talked for hours on end, losing all track of time.

Monzen, Tokyo, Japan – 3 A.T.

Tired eyes drooped, yet refused to shut. Darkness surrounded him in the alleyway, but his vision adjusted. The makeshift sleeping bag was a temporary confinement, though not one he was content in sleeping in. Not tonight, at least. Yamashita clutched his chest, feeling the cracked ribs he had only just received earlier in the day. There was little doubt that Haruma was faring any better, still in recovery from a broken nose and fractures along his cranium and dentures.

He slipped from the comforts of the dull brown bedding and sat up. The starry sky loomed overhead, crystal clear with a waxing crescent orbiting the globe. But that wasn’t the only light source; near the vacant dirt roads, a firepit remained ablaze for the homeless to seek refuge in the cold of the night. They huddled together next to the burning barrel, keeping warm in these turbulent times.

Lucky you, at least you’re not working on the wall, Yamashita thought, envying their position. Truly, the daunting task was nothing more than a thorn in his side; but without it, those hideous man-eaters would get through, and innocents would perish by their grubby hands. Being part of the Garrison should’ve meant something, but every time he’s thrown to the ground by the cruel reality around him. An exchange of risky, back-breaking work only for a life of misery and suffering. For order and peace, he winced, clenching his teeth as he repeated the Garrison motto. What a joke.

Pulling into his dirty shirt, he withdrew a lighter and a cigarette. With an effortless flick of his thumb, a fire sparked to life, using it to burn the tip of rolled tobacco. A huff siphoned the heat through the cylindrical paper and cured leaves, coalescing into smoky vapors in his mouth. He kept it stewed for a few seconds before releasing it in exhalation, departing from his lips as a smoky trail. Such a rush felt gratifying as he took another swig, the reddened tip eating away at the cigarette. Then, release, with smoke disappearing in the dim sky.

Releasing another huff, he sighed. He sleepily limped closer to the light, tuning into the needless chatter of the unemployed, if only to take his mind off the building anxieties of what tomorrow had to offer. Sleep wasn’t an option, so this would have to make do. Suddenly, one of the vagrants erupted in uproarious laughter, which was followed by the jovial cheers that ensued. Such sounds were an irritant, but knew he had to deal with it nonetheless.

In the streets of Monzen, there was little to do beyond being out of people’s sights. And while Yamashita had a job to his name, staying on the streets fared better over living and paying taxes to the central government. As he needlessly eavesdropped on the conversing beggars until an unusual figure came by, one that Yamashita wasn’t all too familiar with.

He looked like a true and tried Japanese man, early to mid-30s, with fine clothing and a full head of tufted hair that made him stand out from the crowd. Was he a citizen from the Nakano or Okuno walls? It was hard to tell, but Yamashita knew this one was different. Something felt off, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

Then, the mystery man leaned over to the gaggle and began to speak. “I need your attention, please, this is urgent.”

“And you do you think yer speakin’ to?” one of the hobos said in a drunken slur, downing the rest of his beverage without a care in the world.

“The walls are dead, and the people living here are only being used as slaves for a pointless endeavor,” said the man, stressing the urgency of the matter.

What? Yamashita kept his mouth closed, but his ears and attention span expanded significantly.

“How do you know?” another individual asked, peeved by the accusation.

“I’ve been around the world. China, India, Germany, the Americas. Virtually all of them yielded the same result; desolate walls with nothing living in them. Or worse yet, Titans living in them.” The derelict people raised their collective eyebrows in disbelief, even Yamashita was taken aback. You mean we’ve been at all this for… Nothing? Yamashita clenched his teeth at the idea, knowing that years of effort would prove to be utterly fruitless.

“I am Hikaru Sakimori, first son of Yoichiro Sakimori.” He paused, seeing if the name registered with any of them. From their dumbfounded confusion, it didn’t click. He sighed. “Also known as Zone Fighter, and we are here to save humanity from within the walls.” He boldly announced, hoping for some kind of response.

“…Who?” The only response that came from the crowd, while the rest murmured among them. “Isn’t he Godzilla’s friend, or was that Jet something-or-rather?” another suggested, struggling to recount. “Is this guy serious? Doesn’t look like much to me.” Had the situation not been so dire, Hikaru would’ve clutched his face in utter defeat.

“Please, do not take the matter lightly. My siblings and I will be taking everyone in the walls to safety. Please meet us near Wall Sotono within the next week, and spread the word.” With a fervent bow, the man named Hikaru trudged along to his next destination. But that was when Yamashita had enough sitting idly by.

“Hey,” Yamashita called out, catching Hikaru’s attention. “What’s this stunt you’re trying to pull here? You do realize once the Public Order gets word of this, your made-up operation blows up in your face, right?”

“Of course, that’s a risk we realize,” Hikaru said, “But my little brother is very hopeful. If word spreads, then that’ll give ample time for the people to get ready.”

“Hmph, too much hope I’d say,” Yamashita remarked. “Even if things do tip in your favor, how are you getting Monzen out of the government’s watch?”

“When my family and I arrived, we were onboard our mothership, which sustained significant damage after the Garoga invasion,” Hikaru said plain and straightforward. “We’ve been gathering the materials needed, and we’ll have it fine-tuned in less than a week.”

“And where will we go?”

“Where there aren’t Titans. That’s all I can guarantee.” Hearing those words, doubt flooded the cynic’s mind. Though before he could rebuttal Hikaru’s statement, Yamashita heard a familiar voice call out his name. When he turned, he saw Takamaru rushing towards them, eventually stopping to regain his breath.

“Takamaru? What brings you here?” Yamashita inquired. “Your ass should be asleep.”

“Could say the same about you,” Takamaru retorted in kind. “You’ve been seeing these weirdos going around Monzen?”

“Yeah, talking to one right now,” he said, nudging towards Hikaru.

“Greetings, pleasure to meet you,” Hikaru kindly greeted with a subtle nod. Takamaru responded with a bowing gesture of his own.

“I already heard about the whole spaceship thing in passing, but…” Takamaru held his tongue, trying to conjure the right words. “The Sakimoris? Like, from the Sakimori Toy Research Institute?”

“That was my father’s facility, yes.” It seemed like they hadn’t been completely forgotten with time. “I’m surprised you know about that, of all things.”

“My father used to work at the institute before it was closed down. Does Haru Ishige ring a bell?”

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know him. I rarely visited during my father’s work hours.”

“Ahh, I see,” Takamaru rubbed the back of his head with a nervous chuckle. “But if you’re serious about getting us out…” Yamashita and Hikaru stared with tense eyes, awaiting the young man’s response. “Thank you!” Takamaru cried out in joy, “Thank you! Please, finish as soon as you can! I don’t think I can…” His words trailed off…

“‘…Take it here anymore,’ right?” Sakimori completed it on his behalf.

“Yeah.” Takamaru took a moment to collect himself with sniffles and deep breathing, regaining his composure. “I just… Do you think you can get past Supervisor Kubal? He’s a dangerous man.”

The man leaned in carefully, attentively listening to what Takamaru had to say. “Tell me all you know, and we can adjust the plan accordingly.”

“No one knows a lot about him…” the young man kept his mind focused on every past experience with the cruel and stern supervisor that checked in on them.

“He’s a giant asshole with a lot of bite, and I know that from personal experience,” Yamashita interjected, rubbing his bruised chest. “Other than that, I don’t know jack shit–and I’d rather not find out.”

Takamaru tapped his fingers, stimulating his mind on every strange case he ever noticed… “Maybe… What was in the cargo?”

“What was that?” Hikaru stated.

“There was a Humvee that passed through earlier today with a trailer attached to it. I just wonder what was in it…”

“Don’t know, don’t care. If it keeps that asshat away from us for a while, I’ll gladly take it.”

“Let’s not worry about it too much, but thank you. Please, spread the word.” Hikaru waved the two men off as he continued his trek, seeking out others with the ear to listen to their plea.

“Oh yeah, Takamaru,” Yamashita said, “What brings you here anyway?”

“Oh! Right, Yamashita…”

“Just call me Ken.”

“A-All right, Ken…. Did you want to crash at my place?”

Yamashita was taken aback by the offer, almost stunned. “Any reason? I think you saving my ass is enough for me.”

“Every off-day I have, I see you in this filthy alley. Maybe just… Passing the kindness forward, you know?”

A smirk cracked on Yamashita’s usually stoic face. “Sure, I’ll bite. Be a nice change of pace, maybe even a place to lay low until that weirdo’s plan is able to be put into effect.”

“Are you serious about that?” Takamaru asked sincerely.

“Well of course. Paradise sounds like a footstep away, better than rotting in this hell.” The two men walked along the dirt road, the dimming light of the flames dying the farther they moved along. After a temporary silence in the air, Takamaru let his thoughts spill.

“Ken, do you think it’s absurd to believe Supervisor Kubal is the Colossal Titan?”

Such a strange thought once again took Yamashita by surprise. “Kinda. I don’t know, what makes you believe that?”

“Well, Kubal and the Colossal have never been around at the same time, for starters. Plus, it isn’t hard to notice when the Colossal Titan is fighting a monster… It’s consistently appeared in proximity to this area, especially in the last month or so.”

“So? I’m not surprised Kubal isn’t here, he’s part of the government now. Or something like that, I don’t know how he passed any kind of legislation or psychological examination. Even if your crackpot conspiracy is true, there’s no way that kind of information would leak. All we know is that the Colossal Titan has been fighting monsters since it killed Godzilla.”

Takamaru slowed his pace, caught up in the realm of thoughts and imagination. “That doesn’t make sense, though. The Public Order Administration hasn’t been around for that long, yet it’s only now that the Titan and Kubal have been showing up here more and more frequently.”

“Take it easy, man. Let’s just–” a sudden hacking forced Yamashita to cough his lungs out, puking bile from his mouth.

“Yamashita!” Takamaru cried out.

“S-shit, don’t worry about it. Heh, maybe another smoke will clear it up,” Yamashita smirked, trying to ease the sudden spike in tension. He cleared his throat, trying to dismiss the mess he made of himself. “Look, you make a lot of dots connect, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’re right. Let’s hope your assumptions don’t come to pass and we can get out of this hellhole safely, okay?”

Reluctantly, Takamaru nodded. “If only we knew what was in that tarp…” The young man grimaced, but had to take his friend’s word for it. Maybe he was overthinking this, stressing himself more than he needed to.

Let’s just hope all this ends soon… Those were the last words Yamashita recalled before drifting into autopilot, following Takamaru to his residential area, where he could get some proper sleep and healing in the days to come.

Location: [REDACTED] – Year: [UNSPECIFIED]

A needle plunged into thick flesh, drawing fluids from the greatest viral source within the Wraith Titan, the humanoid’s nape. Goro’s Titan form shifted, jaws snapping open and shut, yet the being remained relatively still, his frail appendages unable to shift his immense mass toward his creation. As the vile filled to completion, metallic fingers gently withdrew the syringe and gave a repetitive pat atop the Titan’s forehead.

Jet Jaguar hoped the humanity within its creator turned monster appreciated the gesture.

With pleasantries complete, Jet Jaguar left the Wraith Titan to perform its daily duties, beginning its trek across the mile-long stretch of launch bay interior.

Created to house planned mechanical marvels of the Japanese Self-Defense Force, the underground facility would prove a perfect hideaway from the Wraith Titan plague for the foreseeable future. Possessing a nuclear reactor to power the station, freshly reinforced steel walls after the previous incursion, and an abundance of electronics to tinker with, Jet Jaguar possessed everything it needed for the dual missions it would not cease to complete.

Goro Ibuki would be cured.

Justice would be enacted for all the crimes of Kubal Kunimura.

Concluding its trek under the endless white lights of the launch bay ceiling, Jet Jaguar entered the sole interior room of its make-shift laboratory. Originally a human maintenance workshop for the facilities crew, the enclosure now gleamed and hummed as medical marvels performed their respective duties. But for today’s procedures, Jet Jaguar passed all machinery by, uncaring of their newly created data. Another avenue of research was needed and it could only be unlocked through the late mind of a man gone mad in his effort to protect the one he cared for most of all. Storing his newly siphoned Wraith Virus extract, Jet Jaguar proceeded to snatch a hardcover book off a nearby workbench. Metallic fingers gently opened the cover, meticulously caressing the first line of text with a metal index finger.

Human Biology by: G. Shiragami

Reading for a factual understanding of human anatomy on a cellular level was not Jet Jaguar’s intention through the intricate deciphering of the text as he began to scan through the work. The Wraith Titan virus, at its core, was rather simple in nature. Transmission occurred due to a virus, specifically a common influenza strain modified for maximum contagiousness diffusion. While the virus was harmless to most of the human population by itself, the Wraith package attached to the viral pathogen housed Shiragmi’s true creation and was what transformed the world nearly devoid of humanity.

Dr. Shiragami’s serum modified the human anatomy on a cellular level, bestowing Kubal Kunimura regenerative properties and a body seemingly unable to accept death. Traits Jet Jaguar held no doubt the late doctor wished to bestow upon his daughter after her near death experience in Saradia. A noble effort, and one the robot initially supported to end suffering on a global scale, merely to bestow an age of death, led by titanic forms of destruction.

How the Wraith Titans or Kubal’s Colossal Form came to be from the reaction puzzled the logic-driven processors of Jet Jaguar, even after years of research and its initial involvement. Shiragami’s breakthrough came after examining its own schematics, but a world’s spanning trove of knowledge in physics and science failed to explain the mutation’s connection. Whether it be coincidence or a core necessity of the reaction, Shiragami’s cells transformed without an initial catalyst. A puzzle piece remained to be located and with its discovery, the Wraith Plague could be reversed.

A world ending wrong could be set right.

Processors replayed a conversation locked in the past, but as vivid as the present for Jet Jaguar. “The first obstacle is the subject itself and how rare their genetic makeup is, even in a world with nearly five billion people,” Shiragami explained in memory, drawing Jet Jaguar internal drives back to reasoning for deciphering a basic anatomy book for developing youths.

Dr. Shiragami’s abilities were neither norm-breaking nor exceptional when compared to the greater scientific community. Barbaric and crude better defined the late man in his application of science. What did separate his methods was an insight to a part of the human being undefined by normal scientific methods of examination. Be-it madness or genius, Dr. Shiragami’s Wraith Strain could only be replicated by imitating the mindset of the fallen man.

And in the pursuit of madness, Jet Jaguar proceeded his analysis.

Monzen, Tokyo, Japan – One Week Later – 3 A.T.

Darkness overfell the grand sky, the sun blocked by the enormity of Wall Sotono. As the purple glow faded into a bluish-black, the dim stars and the brightly lit moon loomed overhead. At the base of the wall, countless people were clustered along the gate, holding torches and lanterns to light the way. Those none the wiser would have merely guessed it to be some vague festival of sorts, but without the games, performers, and loud cheering that normally would have been a part of such an event.

Alas, that wasn’t the case. Tension filled the streets, with building anxiety and heavy, panted breath. They stood against the outermost gate, awaiting for the opportune time, shuffling through each other impatiently.

On the other side of the wall, the vanguards of the gate had already been rendered unconscious. Two figures, one on each side, activated the inner mechanisms that controlled the massive iron-clad doors that sealed Monzen from the outside world. A heavy collapse indicated the internal gears were turning, the steel frame slowly rising into the wall. The sudden and abrupt stop signaled it was safe to travel through, with the herd of people funneling out of the opened gate.

As soon as the mass exodus spilled through, Zone Angel and Zone Junior took flight, acting as visual beacons for the people to follow–and to act as the forefront for any sneaky Titans afoot. The younger siblings kept careful tabs of their path and any threat that lay about, ensuring the success of their venture. They had to trust their brother that they had the rear and hope for the best.

Amidst the clutter, Hikaru defended from behind, adorned in his silver jumpsuit and helmet he had once been recognized for. He signaled the refugees to keep moving forward, moving along with the stragglers as they pushed out of the boundaries of Wall Sotono. Patter of a few thousand feet walked upon the broken and disheveled asphalt, swelling anxiety ruminating the air around them.

They can handle it, but… Hikaru had his concerns. Not that he doubted his siblings’ ability to subdue a Titan, but the persisting question was how could they be stopped? In the wake of the pandemic that plunged the world into hell, the weakness of the cannibalistic giants were virtually unknown–some even say they were truly immortal. From the few accounts accessible, contradictory reports indicated they could be killed, but the how varied from one source to another. The results were ultimately inconclusive, and without a thorough investigation to study the matter further, the truth would never be known to the public eye.

Not that there would be many eyes to know anyway.

I just hope a Titan doesn’t appear. Let this go smoothly, his thoughts concluded. His vision was beyond the range of a normal human, so it wouldn’t be difficult in the slightest to spot an oncoming Titan or unruly intruders and intercept them. While it was said that the Titans went dormant after sundown, it was better to remain vigilant and keep his guard up in case of any abnormals. But even that wasn’t the biggest worry compared to the crowd of uneasy people, shuffling between each other trying to keep pace. But out of the entire lot, his supersight took notice of a sudden jolt from one individual…

Yamashita began to purposefully slow down. Forcing himself through the crowd would prove to be too much and not worth the time getting there first. Worse yet was when he coughed through his mask, so it was probably for the better to keep distance from the others. Deep down, he hoped Takamaru would be the first to enter–the first to be safe, to enter paradise. Unfortunately, the opposite became apparent when he saw him also slowing down to meet with him.

“Hey!” Takamaru waved, decelerating to keep pace with Yamashita. “Thought you’d be farther ahead, you okay?”

“Never better,” Yamashita remarked sarcastically, “Don’t need to rush, or at least I hope not.”

Takamaru scrambled in his pocket for notes he compiled, recollecting the information they pertained. “I’ve been thinking about the whole Colossal Titan thing, and I wonder… If Kubal is the Titan, why isn’t he mindless like the rest?”

“See, that’s the thing,” Yamashita interjected, “It doesn’t make sense. Kubal’s just a selfish ass. Maybe the Colossal is like a Titan god or an interdimensional alien.”

“Hmm,” the young man pondered, trying to connect the dots together, but to no success. “Well, maybe let’s not worry about it too much, we can get through this and figure it out…” Takamaru’s wistful thoughts were cut short, noticing Yamashita becoming paler. “Ken?” Almost soon after, he began hacking up his lungs.

“This isn’t some kind of…” Takamaru stopped, eyes widening at the sight before him. Yamashita’s skin grew pale, his hands shaking violently. “Dude, are you okay–?” Unloading a berserk scream, Yamashita’s eyes rolled in the back of his head, forcing Takamaru to take a couple of paces back. “KEN!”

“GET! AWAY!” Lost in a blood curdling scream, Yamashita began to radiate an electrical light. Shocked and stunned in disbelief, Takamaru could only watch in horror at the grueling transformation that was proceeding. A voice cried out to him, but it didn’t register. Next thing he knew, the man by the name of Hikaru Sakimori rushed in and swooped him off his feet, carrying him to safety.

Only hearing the thundering boom, the people began to panic. A wave of fear washed over the anxiety-driven crowd, forcing themselves through the masses. Those too slow fell under the wrath of the fear-inducing stampede, others taking refuge in the vacant alleyways of the desolate metropolis. Eyes stared in horror at the monstrosity that formed out of thin air, the brilliant light shimmering for all to see.

From the steam cloud, the humanoid figure stood nearly 13-meters tall, nearly at eye-level with the surrounding structures, its narrow head and permanently upturned jaw aligned with external denticulations that displayed its horrendous visage. As the hideous fiend stood idly, its eyes glared at the frightened souls that fled before its presence. Drool loosely ran down its jaws, focusing its sights on the fleeing mass ahead…

Landing perfectly on his feet, Zone Fighter placed the shaken man on his feet. “Are you okay?”

Takamaru sniffled, both in fright and shock, “No,” he replied earnestly, “but I can move.”

“Please, then try to get out of here.”

“But Yamashita, he…”

“I don’t know what I can do about it, but I’ll do what I can!” Hikaru cemented with a firm nod, allowing the trembling Takamaru to flee to the underground chamber. He turned to face the Titan, who had begun to take its first steps. Spreading his arms out in a ‘Y’ shape, Zone Fighter propelled himself to fly, tackling the large humanoid in the sternum. Surprisingly, the foul human proved to be rather lightweight, hurling the 13-meter Titan off its feet and onto its back.

Yamashita, I’m sorry, Hikaru contemplated. There’s a good man in you, but I must protect the people! As he stopped in midair, the Titan lunged its hands toward the airborne warrior, hoping to snag him from the sky. But this proved fruitless, the meteor man swerving out of harm’s way. With a sharp battle gesture, a thin blue laser fired off from the antennae atop his helmet, shredding the face of the giant apart like torn paper.

Takamaru, I’m unsure if I can do anything for your friend, but I hope an answer can be found! Darting from the sky to the ground, Zone Fighter swooped between the opening of the Titan’s legs, planting his feet in the broken road. Another flurry of Meteor Proton Beams eviscerated the giant’s knee joints, crippling the monstrous beast, though experience taught him this was only for the time being.

Akira… Hotaru… His thoughts led to his siblings. Surely, they would have already started guiding them into the chamber. “Keep going!” Hikaru shouted at the bystanders, “I’ll keep the Titan occupied!” Without a hitch, the frightened people did as he said. In times like these, he had to wonder what life would have been like had he lost his brother and sister during the Garoga War; the ability to shoulder all the burden would’ve been… Overbearing, to say the least. He cast the morbid thought aside, focusing on the matter at hand. The Titan’s legs were reforming, as was its face, though it seemed it’d take a while. This one seemed to be on the slower end of the regenerative spectrum…

A violent humming caught his auditory senses, the grinding of rubber making it evident it was of vehicular origin. But the sound it emitted was far too close for comfort, reflexively jumping out of the way. In the nick of time, Zone Fighter saw the armored jeep barrel through empty space, without a shadow of a doubt that the outlander was hostile.

The door swung open with terrifying ferocity, the individual in question stepping out of the jeep, whipping out his pistol and aiming it at the silver-clad man. From what Hikaru keenly noticed, it seemed this man was alone, with no guards around him. But what permeated the air more than the steaming Titan nearby was this man’s seething rage, almost insurmountable.

A loud pop echoed from the barrel as a bullet flew directly into Hikaru’s shoulder. Despite the attire, the bulletproof layer deflected the caliber round into a wall, though the immediate recoil was rather unexpected for the alien hero. Such a drastic measure spurred Zone Fighter into action, taking great care to avoid unnecessary damage from the ensuing bullet barrage that followed. Leaping into the air, Hikaru kicked off the broad side of a wall and soared at the angry man at high speeds. The tackle brought the man down as Hikaru ripped the handheld automatic from his hand, tossing it aside well out of reach.

“What the hell are you thinking!” the man shouted out from the top of his lungs, wrestling with the alien that kept him pinned, “You’re leaving the gate wide open for Titans to attack! You’ll be responsible for the deaths of millions!”

“That’s a lie, and you know it!” Hikaru spat back with righteous fury. “You’re letting these people live in slavery, in fear! What do you have to gain from this? The people need freedom, free from these walls that imprison them!”

“Quit it with your childish spiel,” Kubal retorted, “You’re only sending them to their deaths, and nothing to show for it! Freedom is a dangerous tool, unless you hold the power to influence them. And that influence is fear, the only way to control the minds of many. Don’t you understand? If they live in a prison, then they know there will always be safety and security.”

So this must be him. Hikaru’s discernment of human speech could tell these were only half-truths. The man’s words rang hollow, but he could see his eyes set ablaze by a hardened passion–something that keeps him moving forward, no matter the cost.

“What is it that you fight for, Kubal?” Upon hearing his name, Kubal winced at this stranger uttering his name in defiance, a blasphemy against his personal being. “Why fight for something that strips the very component of being human? Humans aren’t perfect, they can be destructive. But it’s about learning from the experience of mistakes that counts! Enslavement solves nothing, but striving for absolute perfection isn’t the answer either. It’s about making your own choices and learning how to live with them!”

Kubal grimaced, irritated at this moral tangent. “So what!” Kubal bursted aloud, his face scowling at the masked hero, “Let people be and leave them to their devices? The only thing that matters is power; everything is just a means to an end to accomplish that. So don’t give the courtesy!” Prying his right arm free from the restraints, Kubal delivered a strong hook into Zone Fighter’s cheek. Though the alien held superhuman capabilities and resistances, Hikaru definitely felt the force behind that punch–more so than any Garoga he had encountered.

A burning wish deep within Hikaru was that his words would get through Kubal’s thick skull, that he could undo the hardening around his heart. But he couldn’t, or at least felt like it was a herculean task set before him. Zone Fighter gripped the free arm and forced it down, applying pressure to it. Neurons signaled Kubal that this outsider threatened to break his arm if he didn’t comply, but there was enough restraint that prevented the bone from being snapped.

“This wall project, it won’t do humanity any good! Please, let me take these people and find them someplace safe, otherwise–” Before he could complete this thought, Kubal began to scream. A violent, bloody warcry that no human should mutter; an unsettling sight to the only witness to it. Questions stirred in Zone Fighter’s mind, what was the point? But the shifting of gravel made a poignant reminder of the Titan nearby, seemingly driven by the wild call, beckoning it.

With a tense sigh, Hikaru released his grip and bounced back, putting distance between himself, Kubal, and the Titan. “Then I just have to use everything at my disposal to stop you,” Kubal snarled with a sharp breath, his brow furrowed in a monstrous glare. Kubal opened his mouth and clenched his teeth upon his tongue, bleeding profusely from the self-inflicted injury. The 13-meter Titan tore its mouth wide open, almost eager to swallow Kubal whole. However, sparkling electricity danced around the man, engulfed in a radiant light. Heat and fire expanded from the core, frying the lunging Titan in the process. Saliva dried up, stripping the monstrosity of its flesh. The husk of the wild man was tossed into a nearby structure, which caved in on the cannibal.

Panic settled in Hikaru, realizing he had only moments before he was caught in the blaze of Kubal’s wrath. Though the only option available to him came back through muscle memory. Kneeling on one knee, he brought his hands out. “Zone!” His hands clenched, leaving his two prominent fingers out. “Double!” Then, in one last move, he brought his fingers to the base of his antenna, channeling all of his Proton power into it. “FIGHT!”

A shining azureus star consumed the cosmic warrior, allowing himself to evolve into his truest state of being. What had once been flesh shifted into armored skin, his eyes expanding into large, yellow eyes that could see beyond human comprehension. His height expanded exponentially, growing from man-sized to 100-meters in what felt like an instant. The radiant transformation died down as Zone Fighter achieved his giant state, who immediately conjured a rectangular wall outlined in red to protect himself from the ensuing heat from his opponent.

Likewise, the manifestation of Kubal was already underway. Muscle sinew and bone materialized out of thin air, dispersing a surge of heat and wind in the transformation process. Wrapped in a blanket of muscles and cartilage, the shining light rocketed skyward, allowing the rest of the enormous body to take shape. A sporadic burst of air flowed through the shifter, crashing against the Meteor Zone Barrier, fracturing it. Another concussive boom shattered the transparent barrier, blowing Zone Fighter off his feet, crashing into the diminutive structures nearby.

Covering his eyes from the blinding light, the silver warrior could only gaze upon the monstrosity that stood before him. The radiant light faded from the colossal giant, the humanoid draped in tremendous amounts of steam that hid its elusive form. Yet from the thick smoke resided the gleaming eyes of terrifying power, baring its boxy incisors that lined its wide mouth. As Zone Fighter struggled to rise to his two feet, he looked up.

The Colossal Titan, towering over him at 150 meters–dwarfing the Peacelandian giant.

Zone Fighter struck a battle stance, raising his hands to the air. He dared not speak nor shout his trademark battle chants; this wasn’t a matter of dealing with a mindless drone like the Terror-Beasts of the past, or the native monsters that had once claimed this planet. But, much to Hikaru’s horror, a human, one who’s soul burned with a deep-seated hatred against the world around him. A task that would take everything in his power to extinguish.

The alien hero clapped his hands together, discharging a freezing white mist from his fingertips. Going for the torso or head would’ve been too predictable of a maneuver, nor did the tremendous height difference help matters. Rather, Zone Fighter kept the spray down low, aiming for the feet of the red muscled giant. It was rather simple, really; paralyze the ruthless warrior, and then keep the pressure going. That was the hope he clung to.

Alas, the Meteor Freezer was quickly made inert when the lateral leg muscles began to swell like a cancerous tumor, followed by tremendous heat being pushed down the cnemis, blanketing the feet and dispersing the wave of hot air around it. The harsh winds dispelled the freezing weapon, kicking up an unintentional windstorm in the process. Seeing the futility in his efforts, Zone Fighter leapt back and strategized on the fly. He couldn’t afford to hold back.

Raising his hands to the air, Zone Fighter summoned a pair of missile-braced gauntlets, covering his wrists in two layers of silver and blue barrel cannons and cube-like protrusions. The Meteor Double Anti-Missile Might was the last gift instilled by his father, a surgical procedure using the reverse engineered technology of Super Jikiro to combat against the Garoga Empire. Outstretching both hands, Zone Fighter unloaded a barrage of missiles against the gargantuan Titan, the initial wave shredding and stumbling the Titan with ease. Puncture wounds ripped wide open, gushing steam and heated blood pouring from the holes.

A fierce flash from the Titan’s eyes initiated a wild burst of steam from the torso region, dispersing the missiles’ trajectories and scattering them amok. The moment the extraterrestrial warrior ceased fire was the instant the Colossal Titan stopped its steam, propelled to take a tremendous step forward. Then another, and another, with its long legs and enormous height to close the distance rather easily. Meaty fingers ignited in a bright light, the exuded heat searing the air around it. Then, in a swing unusually fast for its size, the Colossal Titan arced its arm with a trail of flames following behind it.

With a firm kick from his Bayonet Boots, Zone Fighter spun high in the air, narrowly avoiding the searing flames that passed beneath him. Switching from jumping to aerial buoyancy, holding out in a ‘Y’ shape. Circling around in loop-the-loops, Zone Fighter built up momentum, keeping out of arm’s reach of the Colossal Titan. An aggravated grunt escaped the Titan’s maw, who began to accumulate heat into its left arm, the glow becoming like that of the sun. Meaty feet buried themselves into the rubble, anchoring the giant firmly in place.

Upon the final loop, Zone Fighter accelerated his speed exponentially with a tremendously bright trail, activating his Meteor Jet ability. Thrusting his whole body forward, the alien hero held his fist firmly out, prepared to shred through the Colossal Titan like a bullet through mere flesh. All of his strength, the power of shove mountains, in this swift and decisive blow!

Though had the Titan been any slower, Zone Fighter’s wishes certainly would’ve borne fruit.

Using pressurized steam to speed up movement, the shining palm intercepted at the last possible moment–unleashing a churning heatwave unlike any other. The astronomical blowback was the equivalent to a powerful explosive, scattering and ripping nearby structures from their foundations. The nigh-unstoppable acceleration of the alien was held in place by the fearsome gales of apocalyptic proportions from the Titan. Zone Fighter noted the rapid consumption of muscle tissue of Kubal’s monstrous form, nearly thinning out into a frail, anorexic state in a matter of moments. But like he was to fare any better; the sudden surge of heat and fire was certainly taking its toll, and he could only maintain the Meteor Jet for so long. So much so, he thought he felt his fist melting into itself. Much to Fighter’s dismay, he felt his strength give out, forcing him to give way to the merciless winds of the red giant. Steam and heat vented from the alien’s body, who’s colossal body rolled through the scattered debris–or whatever was leftover from the aftershock.

The Peacelandian agent struggled to rise to his feet, his fist trembling in spastic anxiety. His nerves were shot, and it would be a moment before his alien biology processed the insurmountable pain dutifully. Stiffening the fingers of his other hand, the freezer spray coated the burning arm as a needed coolant for a faster recovery. Large yellow eyes shot at the massive figure that approached him, eyes glaring at the crippled hero. With a shrunken, almost skeletal left arm, the Colossal Titan clenched its right fist, prepared to drive it into the spot where Zone Fighter stood. Jumping out of the way, the meaty fist only struck the ruined pavement beneath the warrior’s feet, the Titan uttering a disgruntled growl.

Glowing irises tracked the heroic alien, who ran to the upstanding Wall Sotono. Carefully adjusting his Bayonet Boots, Zone Fighter began to sprint along the side of the wall, hoping to find some kind of advantage in this pressing matter. Much to his relief, it seemed fortunate favored the brave, rocketing off with a firm, yet delicate kick off the structure. Using this newfound forward momentum, Zone Fighter opted the use of his feet, performing a roundhouse kick against the Titan. The instant the strike connected with the giant’s chest, caving in the muscles and rib bones and knocking the Colossal Titan off its feet.

Crashing on its back, an eruption of heated blood splashed from the fallen Titan, and parted debris resounded across the battlefield. This gave the silver hero ample time to plant his feet within the torso of the burning nephilim, exposed to the furnace-like innards. But Zone Fighter would quickly extinguish these flames; using his good hand, the Meteor Freezer coated the fallen giant in frost, starting with the head and trailing down to where his own feet were. Cold steam rose from the Colossal Titan, its once vibrant muscles reduced to a pale blue from the deep freeze. When he noticed the Titan ceased movement, he could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

That was, until he felt the temperature drastically rise.

Scanning around, Zone Fighter took note of the immense glow of the exposed muscles, radiating the same light it had during their spectacular showcase of power. Not wanting to be in the middle of another of these destructive outbursts, the meteor man took flight and escaped moments before a sea of hot vapors overtook the supersized giant. To Zone Fighter’s horror and dismay, the maimed Titan began to rise, with the frozen portions melting away, liquifying under the immense heat.

The two locked eyes, knowing full well this fight was far from over. Adjusting themselves for combat, they continued on, and wouldn’t stop until the other had fallen.

The chamber doors to the underground facility were finally beginning to close, the panicking people sprawling in droves as the last of them rushed in. Concerns and anxiety were high in the Zone siblings, distinctly noticing the sudden surge of fear-stricken civilians. But their ears were quick to pick up the source. “Titan! It’s a Titan!” they screamed collectively, with the cries of others drowned out by the ensuing chaos and heavy breathing. But that was a conclusion they had already come to, especially once the Colossal Titan made its sudden appearance.

Refugees huddled together within the cramped space provided. Although the underground bunker was graciously spacious, that did little compared to the many bodies occupying every square-inch provided. Eventual tremors shook the subterranean base with the intense fighting going on topside, spiking in irrational panic. Among them, Takamaru struggled to keep pace with the shifting crowd, feeling squished between the filthy humans around him.

Then, in the dimly lit darkness, a bright light showed itself. The rear door of the evacuation vessel lowered, and the moment it touched ground was when the masses poured into the grandiose starship. The Zones and a handful of willing volunteers tried to corral the civvies into organized groups, and despite great difficulty, the rustle and bustle eventually settled down.

Within the clean interior, Hotaru and Akira passed through the narrow aisles to get to the cockpit. As they did, everyone remained seated–but the odd one out was Takamaru, who grew sick to his stomach. Questions buzzed in his mind, concerns of the now Titanized Yamashita increased evermore, and the fear of the unknown became all the more haunting. But he knew causing a ruckus would do no one any favors; he had simply hoped everyone got aboard safely.

Suddenly, a ping from the intercom caught everyone’s attention.

“Hello. This is Zone Angel speaking, and welcome to Paradise Express,” she started, trying to maintain a jovial mood amidst the chaos, “Please be seated and have your needs taken care of, we will be taking flight in less than five minutes.” Murmurs spread as the comm-link ceased, though Takamaru drowned them out. That was until a familiar voice rang in his ears.

“Takamaru? I-is that you?” The familiar Canadian stutter broke the man out of his trance, seeing Antoine a row ahead of him.

“Thank god, glad you could make it,” the Japanese youth sighed with relief.

“I’d be actually insane if I stuck around!” Antoine chuckled. But he grew concerned when he saw Takamaru drop into a sour gloom. “You all right?”

“Yeah… But…” Antoine held an ear out, allowing Takamaru the chance to speak. “Yamashita, he’s… He didn’t make it.” Hearing those words made the Canadian’s heart sink.

“Was it a Titan?”

“He became one. He tried to eat me. But Zone Fighter saved me.”

“Oh… Well, I’m sorry to hear that. N-not the Zone Fighter part, th-the–” Takamaru cut him off with an assuring nod, understanding the message. They sat in an awkward silence, tuning into the whirling drones of the engine starting up. In a few minutes, they would be out of this hell and taken to paradise. But is the cost, even for the loss of a single human life, enough to justify the means? Others would feel differently, but for Takamaru, it was an area of uncertainty.

As they remained fasted in their seats, the colossal spacecraft began to move.

The buckle situated around the alien’s waist went from the vibrant blue it started as to a bright yellow, indicating that time was awasting.

Ruins burned with the intensity of steam and fire. Rolling out of the way, Zone Fighter evaded another focused blast of wind from the Colossal Titan. The right arm of the giant was already thinning out from the strain, although the opposite arm had already regained its constitution. Seeing this, Zone Fighter stiffened his hands and held them out, generating and consolidating the Proton power into golden surges of electricity. Arrows of light shot forth from the fingertips, spiraling directly towards the crimson nephilim, effortlessly shredding through its pelvic region. A burst of steam and blood spilled from the newly formed gashes, leaving the Titan in anguished pain.

Zone Fighter followed up by converting his electrical prowess into carmine energy, bringing his hands together. Channeling his Proton power, the alien warrior spread his hands out, unleashing a wide sickle-like projectile at the gargantuan destroyer. But before the crescent could make contact, a wild bust of steam emitted from the Titan’s torso, immense pressure diffusing the energy weapon and rendering it inert. The ensuing explosion covered the Colossal Titan in dust, though the glowing left arm became more and more apparent by the second.

Prepared for the worst, the humanoid alien sprinted into action, once again avoiding a column of superheated gale that eviscerated the rubble he once stood on. Yet even despite his best efforts, Zone Fighter found himself masked under the obstruction of dust and debris from the residual aftershock, screaming as the heat consumed him.

“Tch, what a fool if he thinks he can defeat me.” Though it cost him his Titan’s arms, Kubal felt content. He knew there was fight left in this pest, but so long as he could stop their little escape plan from following through, then all the better. However, he felt a rumbling under his Titan’s feet, turning to face the source of the vibrations.

“No… No…” Kubal’s eyes widened, realizing what was transpiring. Near the outskirts of the lost metropolis, a massive hangar opened from the streets, no doubt the base of operations for these Zone aliens. He grimaced, realizing the Colossal Titan would be insufficient in intercepting the escape vessel. A loud blast of rocket fuel emanated from the open chamber, with the sleek Peacelandian vessel sailing through the skies. Kubal gritted his teeth in frustration; even in his compromised state, he felt compelled to pursue. Heat generated along its posterior, speeding up its momentum, losing more of the Titan’s body in the process.

Pulling its loose arm back, the Colossal Titan swung its floppy, useless limb at the airborne ship. But before the moment of contact, one last push from the alien vessel forced it beyond the Titan’s reach, soaring until it passed the horizon. Steam vented between the Colossal Titan’s teeth, seething in irritated rage. His body swelled with exorbitant heat, and…

The thunderous booms of shredded air caught the colossus’ attention, no doubt the missiles from the silver alien. Superheated steam channeled throughout the Titan’s entire posterior, erupting in a volcanic flash of fire and wind. Just as he did, the powerful gales dispersed the bevy of missiles that aimed to rip and tear him into pieces, once again scattering them all across the ruins of what had once been Tokyo. Kubal felt his organic puppet diminish exponentially, but it was a far better alternative to being torn apart by the enemy. The giant craned its head, keeping tabs on what his foe would do next.

The Colossal’s eyes saw the meteor man sprinting across the wreckage, although it wasn’t at the Titan specifically. Rather, Zone Fighter focused his attention on the diffused missiles, reaching his hands out. The explosive rods within proximity of the gauntlets began to shudder, being magnetically drawn to the blue ports of the bracelet. Before Kubal could even register this unusual action, another barrage of missiles shot out of the cannons once more, targeted directly at the Titan’s face.

Then, in an instant, Kubal’s vision went dark with a loud boom.

Gone was the head of the Colossal Titan, leaving only the lower jaw in its place. Steam bustled from the mangled head, trying in vain to reconstitute. But the sudden loss of the Titan’s greater functions, the exerted steam ceased to be, only able to remain standing due to the will of the human within the nape. In time, he would return more ferocious than ever; but the hero of Peaceland refused to let it be so. With a firm, decisive kick off, Zone Fighter leapt into flight and hovered over the frail, lanky monstrosity that only resembled the Colossal Titan. Clapping his hands together, another spray of the Meteor Freezer jettisoned from his fingertips, coating the anorexic giant in permafrost.

Unlike before, there weren’t enough fibers to counteract the freezing agent, slowing the Titan’s movements under the immense cold. No matter how much he expended, the wave of ice only consumed more of the body, rendering the heat inert. Even from within the nape, Kubal felt a chill eat away at him, realizing this body was done for. As he tried to force the back of the neck to split open, it dawned on him that he had been sealed shut under a thick blanket of ice. He cursed under his breath, and before he could do anything–


The booming words uttered by the alien for the first time since the fight began alarmed his senses. In the split second that followed, Kubal felt the world around him shatter… His brain clenched as it re-experienced the trauma of the bottle smashing against his head, sweating in anxiety-inducing dread. His gut swirled under the influence of gravitational forces, the nape around him breaking apart until he could see his surroundings. Much like the millions of pieces befallen to the might of the extraterrestrial, Kubal felt himself aimlessly flying through the air, with nothing to hold onto… Only the flash of his daughter came to mind.

Never forget.

For Zone Fighter, the moment of the Meteor Proton Beam connected was nothing short of satisfying. The explosive power washed in a blue flash over the stiffened giant, fracturing it in a monochromatic display before being reduced to millions of pieces. A colossal blast rang from the epicenter, sending a wave of frozen chunks of muscle flying amok. But out of the cluster of scattered mass, Zone Fighter’s supersight zoomed in on one oddity out of literal millions. The figure of Kubal was sent hurtling through the air, with nothing to stop his fall. Moving in with speed unprecedented for his size, silver hands reached out and caught the descending human with utmost precision, careful not to crush him under his massive fingers.

Around them, the frozen and burning chunks broke apart, the scattered cells reflecting like that of snow and ember. Such a serene sight would’ve granted peace, but was offset by the deserted metropolis that laid around them. And in Zone Fighter’s clutches was the source of the pandemic, the one that brought imbalance to this world–the one who made it cruel.

And justice had to be served.

Location: [REDACTED] – Year: [UNSPECIFIED]

Sparks washed over Jet Jaguar’s metallic face as the machine welded the last monstrous beam of titanium plating, concluding an achievement of engineering exactly one week in the making. Taking a few steps back to behold the engineering marvel with its optical sensors, a bare skeleton of the UX-01-92’s right wing gleamed under the white, sterile lights of the launch bay interior. Much work still needed to be accomplished for the gunship, but the sliver of progress gave Jet Jaguar the first glimpse at the arsenal it would create to combat Kubal’s Colossal Titan over the coming decades, and a taste of success after a week of inconclusive scientific research.

One week of meticulous scouring of the late doctor’s writings bestowed no clarity on Dr. Shiragami’s mind, so a change in strategy was in order. Computations and theories could be processed, accessed and reworked on the fly, but for the sake of efficiency, Jet Jaguar needed its body’s utilization at maximum capacity. Working on the arsenal would suffice, for now.

Shifting focus to its metallic fingers, sensors scanned gradual degradation from constant, intense physical labor.

Upgrades or repairs could not be maintained if the arsenal was to be modernized. When the time came for replacing failing body parts, Jet Jaguar acknowledged that a downgrade would be necessary. Perhaps if the engineer attached to the UX-01-92 project, Kazuma Aoki, was still alive, he would approve the allocation of resources to precious creation. The love and attention to detail on the azure blueprints, along with the nickname Garuda demonstrated the late creator’s care. Unfortunately, death granted no leeway.

A logical fallacy stopped all cognitive processing within the machine, warning the last assumption was not entirely accurate. Religious text flooded the robot’s processors in response to the query.

If human religion indeed existed as it was scribed, the engineer could be in a variety of places depending on which of the dozens of human books of worship proved true. Aoki’s current location could be in a luxurious afterlife, a demonic realm, reincarnated on a distant world, stuck on Earth in a ghostly form, or thousands of other plausible options.

Modifying the assumption to accommodate the numerous possible afterlifes and other religious endpoints, Jet Jaguar noted that death granted no leeway unless the existence of an afterlife or soul was indeed true. If such unmeasurable sources of energy within humans did exist, the engineer’s chances of witnessing his final creation was greater than zero; however, Kazuma Aoki’s abilities would depend on whatever form was created by the soul’s transformation after death…

The last data log replayed endlessly; Jet Jaguar’s mechanical mind feeling an unparalleled tidal wave of enlightenment crash against its artificial psyche. Dr. Shiragami’s secret revealed itself to Jet Jaguar’s calculations, unveiling the final variable which eluded all logical understanding, and yet fit perfectly to the madness unleashed by the late doctor.

The Soul.

Religious literature flowed through the robot’s mind once more, but the need for insight narrowed Jet Jaguar’s search criteria from the major religions most renowned literature. In a sea of superstition and belief, facts related to one’s inner self were the true treasure it sought. Scouring the trove of human knowledge it possessed, the machine focused on synonyms of the human soul, hoping to find something to measure the intangible but ever present force within all life. The Polynesian term for the spiritual power that could exist in all things, or Mana, would suffice as the name for Shiragami’s mysterious variable.

Measurement of Mana was now the next step and to unlock that door, memory would have to be the key.

The Japanese Self-Defense Force Hanger shifted in a nanosecond to the interior of a familial workshop. Machines of a retro-futuristic design littered the room Jet Jaguar called home for decades, while two men chatted side by side in a conversation lost to memory for most humans, but for the robot, was merely another recorded moment in a vast archive that spanned to his creation.

Goro Ibuki smiled his renowned toothless grin, handing Dr. Shiragami a CD, locked within a glass case.

“Diagnostic data for Jet Jaguar before and after that fateful day, as you requested old friend,” Goro asserted, blissfully unaware of the repercussions to befall everyone by the good-natured act.

“Thank you, I…” Shiragami paused, eyeing the drive in his hands as if inspecting the authenticity. “I think this will benefit my research greatly. Your help-”

Jet Jaguar’s inventor waved the doctor off, pointing to the machine who stood idly, watching the conversation play out, helpless to change the course of time. “He’s the miracle, one I still can’t come to reason on the whys, just happy he’s around. He’ll outlive us both!” Goro ended with a laugh.

“Perhaps,” Dr. Shiragami questioned, growing his own devious smile just as Jet Jaguar ended the memory, returning itself to the spartan walls of the facility.

The fateful day Goro described surely referenced the moment Jet Jaguar became self aware. His inventor never could understand what part the machine changed in his programming to gain its size changing abilities and free-thought, but perhaps his creator was limited by an engineering background, looking for a change when in fact, the answer was something being added.

Pulling its own diagnostic data comprising visual, audio, and every other measurable metric before and after its clash with Megalon, the machine methodically chipped away duplicate information. From the vast troves in its catalog, only a faint, jumbled noise remained, one which seemed to both exude traits of a high and low frequency. Detecting a portion of the frequency on a visible spectrum, optical sensors readjusted to receive the noise, opening Jet Jaguar’s eyes to a world naturally unseeable to the human eye.

An endless golden aura hung in the air; a fog of Mana that, while persistent, shifted between transparency and invisibility, mimicking the static-like quality the robot detected. Relocating his attention to its own Mana pulsating body, the aura which radiated off Jet Jaguar did so in a rhythmic pattern, similar in repetition to musical constructs of humanity.

Registering the emission of its theoretical soul, Jet Jaguar’s focus shifted to his creator, the only comparable source of life within the facility’s empty shell. As the machine closed in, causing the writhing mass that was once his creator to snarl with aggression, the deformed monstrosities’ pain proved clear on the visual spectrum.

Goro’s Mana pulsed within its body in a warped, erratic pattern. For brief moments, golden waves mimicked the wavelengths of Jet Jaguar’s aura before reverting to another, chaotic pattern. Unlike the robot’s free flowing aura, the body that contained his inventor shed no energy; instead, it soaked up the thin veil of atmospheric mana like a sponge. Ravenous teeth chomped at denser specs just above the Titan’s maw, clarifying seemingly random behavior for the Wraith Titan’s ravenous attention to deviate toward the robot as it approached, writhing with abundant aggression toward the source of untapped potential. Watching Goro’s struggle intensify made clear the horror inflicted upon humanity.

Dr. Shiragami’s serum modified the human soul without any approval of the infected, twisting its victim into the monstrous forms spread across the continents, each bent on consuming anything that lived to placate their need of Mana. The attacks explained the ravenous Wraith Titan behavior and the subsequent eradication of humanity, while also shedding light on the seemingly erratic aggression toward lifeforms of the smallest variety to those which rivaled skyscrapers.

Perhaps the serum’s volatility lay in its attempt to force the frequency of one soul upon another? If the soul represented the inner representation of one’s self, with Mana comprising the energy signature of said life force, then maybe manipulation of the soul could alter not just the body, but the mind of the victim, disfiguring the last vestige of humanity within the host. Jet Jaguar pondered its current theory before deciding to modify his antenna to detect the wavelength of Mana on an audible format. Maybe it would prove a method of communication between itself and whatever remained of his dear friend?

As the machine modified its receivers to pick up on Goro’s unique signature, an inaudible series of seemingly human screams tore through its mechanical sensors. Static boomed forth between the wailing sorrow on display, bringing even the machine a sense of unease and a clarity it hadn’t considered due to the gravity of such a revelation.

Whatever remained of Goro, his dear creator and friend, was in horrendous internal anguish.

Taking a step back from the now jiggling runt of a Titan, Jet Jaguar modified its audible array to analyze its own emissions. As the machine attuned to the sound of his own soul, long dormant speakers began to exude a rhythmic poem, seemingly deprived of words that begged to be sung.

Such peace bestowed a great weight upon the robot’s shoulders, removing all doubt to the extent at which his friend had been corrupted. Even if a cure was possible with years or decades or research, would the nightmarish torment Goro Ibuki suffered in that time be worth the cost?

The answer was regrettably simple. Robotic eyes gazed at the Wraith Titan, its body uncharacteristically mellow as it soaked in the music. Even as Jet Jaguar approached, Goro’s Titan remained still, wide eyes laser focused on its creation.

A soft pat of affection graced the Wraith’s temple, drawing a simple grunt before metal sliced into flesh and Goro’s titanic eyes closed forever in solace. The body fell limp, starting with a temporary release of the soaked essence in a wave of light. Steam billowed from the fresh corpse, cells decaying at stupendous speeds. In a matter of moments, Goro was gone from this world. At the very most, Jet Jaguar hoped he had freed his cherish friend from eternal torment.

The lens around his right eye cracked.

A deep sorrow lamented his soul, rooted in the loss of one he held so dear. But he knew time was short; his body was already falling apart, and he needed to make the most of it. Then, when the time was right, justice would be enacted for all the lives lost. Until then, he had to keep moving forward.

Kubal squirmed in the hand of the silver giant, grunting in irritated rage. He felt the immense pressure surrounding his body; at any moment, he could be popped like a grape. Much to his dismay, he was under the mercy of the meteor man–and the final verdict had yet to be decided.

“Kubal, what do you have to say for yourself?” rang the thunderous warning of Zone Fighter, his gigantic proportions amplifying his voice exponentially. “The people that have been evacuated would have died due to the poor conditions of the Wall Project. One of them was Titanized on the way, which shows the poor thought process of such an idea.”

“And you will lead many more to die with the gate open!” Kubal spat in bitter fury.

The giant sighed. “I know.” With his free hand, Zone Fighter walked up to the wall and leaned over, gently sliding the gate down until it was closed shut. “There, happy?” Kubal only responded with a disgusted snort.

“Humanity deserves to live, to have a chance at life. And this…” he pointed to the walls next to them, “Isn’t the way. Let humanity be free. Allow my siblings and I to take them, and we can work this out.”

Kubal remained silent, contemplating on his boiling thoughts. “No… That cannot happen, not so long as I live!” he firmly demanded. Disbelief overcame the silver hero, who only saw a man stuck in his own delusions. But he had to try, something had to give.

“Why? We can figure this out together. We can find a cure for the Titans, there has to be something we can do!” When he heard that, Kubal’s head perked up. “Reconsider, or else…” Hearing those dour words sparked something inside the human, and he began to chuckle at the idea.

“What makes you think I care about people? They are just a means to an end, a means which you stole from me. I need them here because they might have the solution to my dilemma.” When Kubal spoke those words, Zone Fighter could feel his body tension shift–subtly in body language informing the giant that the feared supervisor of the walls was finally spilling the beans. “I could care less if they get eaten by Titans. If any single living thing in these walls can be just like me, then that will make the search that much easier.”

“‘Just like you,’” Zone Fighter echoed the words, coming to a haunting realization. “Are you… Farming people as livestock?”

“If that’s what it takes,” Kubal stated plainly.

“That’s inhumane!” the star giant shouted, vibrations rushing over the spec of a man. “How could you be so cruel to your own people!”

Kubal smirked. “It isn’t hard at all to emotionally distance yourself from Titans.” The alien visibly flinched at such an absurd statement, but decided to keep his words to himself. “I do not proclaim to be the most knowledgeable, but here’s what I do know. Every ‘Wraith Titan’ and myself are part of the first generation of post-Titan humans. The virus has already made its rounds all across the globe, and humans have either succumbed to its effects or possess a natural resistance to it.”


“Meaning that your desire for an infallible cure is probably futile. Every living human on this planet has become a carrier to the Wraith. And those traits will be passed down to the next generation, and the next, and the next… Don’t you get it? The virus has become part of the human genome now, and will be ingrained for future generations to come. The people you stole from me are just Titans waiting to happen!”

The realization was too mortifying to grasp or comprehend. Let alone difficult to take at face value. “Why? What use do you have for Titans if there is no cure to be found?” A stark silence befell the Titanized human, almost contemplative. With a heavy sigh, he let it loose.

“To save my daughter. I tried to save her, but she didn’t become like me.” Kubal’s mind recalled the instant as clear as day; standing over his dying child, holding the beacon in his hands. The last sample from Shiragami, to which he shattered with a loud snap.

Zone Fighter’s stoic eyes widened in horrified thought. The dots began to connect; the Titan outbreak began in Tokyo, then made its way all across the world… “No…”

“If there is a chance that any Titan like me exists, then I must seize that chance. If billions more have to be sacrificed for my daughter’s well being, then that is a burden I will bear. So long as the population is sustained within these walls, I can save her!”

“NO! Mutilating people into Titans, is that what she wants? How would she live if she knew the monstrous actions you took to get there?”

A grim shadow outlined his eyes, but he nodded in assurance to himself that this was the right path, growing confident in his assessment. “Because she’s stronger than me,” he admitted, his sharp eyes piercing the silver giant. They burned with a righteous passion, a reflection of his soul. “Because she will grow to be strong! That I know without a doubt.”

“No Kubal,” Zone Fighter shook his head in utter disgust, “I’m sorry. I know she means the world to you. I have siblings that mean the world to me; but the cost will be far too great. There must be another way!”

“Then tell me something, alien,” Kubal scoffed bitterly, “What would you be without your cherished family?” The nagging feeling crept up from the back of Zone Fighter’s mind, almost seeing another version of himself. Broken, lost, without a cause. He had lost his parental figures in the Garoga War, losing his precious brother and sister would be beyond devastating. But even in this brokenness, a light would carry him onward. That light was his hope.

“Even in the depths of despair, I can only push onward. So long as people call for help, I will be there.” That was his only response.

“Tch, I knew you wouldn’t understand. But it doesn’t matter. I will control everything under my thrall if it means I get what I want. If the Public Order turns against me, or if there is a revolt from lowlife scumbags, then they will know the consequences of my wrath!” Kubal boasted confidently.

“You’re wrong, it does matter,” the Peacelandian giant interjected, “Because if you so much as bite your tongue or your cheeks, I will resort to terminating you. This isn’t my wish, but I will do what I must if it’s to protect the people I care for. For humanity.”

“Then we’ll–” Kubal cut short, his face becoming pale. His breathing became sudden and erratic. Zone Fighter could feel the sudden spike in tension; from what he could feel, his heart pulsating, throbbing in the man’s chest. The immediate conclusion he came to was a heart attack!

“Kubal!” The silver giant cried out, helplessly watching as the man succumbed to the fatal infarction. It was a surreal sight to behold; the man who proclaimed dominion over this world falling victim to a biological defect like the humans he despised so much. And there wasn’t a thing Zone Fighter could do about it with all the power at his disposal. In a matter of seconds, the tyrant of the walls fell limp, his breathing coming to a crawl. The giant softened his grip, allowing the body to slide down in the cradle of his large palm.

On this night, Kubal died in his hand.

Aboard the Paradise Express – Pacific Ocean – 3 A.T.

It had been several hours since their departure. Those who were privileged to see from the rear windows were the last to see Zone Fighter confronting the Colossal Titan before they vanished under the dark horizon. There was no looking back now, only an uncertain future free from the shackles of slavery and surveillance.

Steady the spacecraft kept its aerial momentum, sailing the starry night skies until it passed the threshold that divided the hemispheres. Over the horizon, the sun came into view, shining its brilliance upon the tired, exhausted, and the sick. As the refugees minded their own businesses, the pilots at the helm kicked back and let the Paradise Express operate on autopilot.

“I don’t know why, this feels strange,” Akira wondered, staring off into empty space. “We got what we wanted, right?”

“I mean, yeah, I’m not seeing the problem with it,” Hotaru replied, albeit befuddled to her brother’s strange mood. “Maybe we lost one or two on the way, unfortunately. That could be what’s on your mind.”

“Titans? Yeah, kinda.” The younger man pondered, almost as if that wasn’t the answer to quench his mind. “But I feel anxious not seeing Hikaru here… With us, carrying these people to a better place.”

“Don’t… Don’t worry about it. He’s holding back the biggest threat we could’ve had right now. Remember what he told us back in the bunker?”

Akira begrudgingly nodded, recollecting the words said by their brother. “‘Whatever happens, protect these people, until they can fend for themselves.’”

“So we just protect them until then, right?” Hotaru concluded confidently. Akira wasn’t sure, but at the end of the day, he had to honor his brother’s words; not just for the people that need it, but to uphold Hikaru in his memories.

“Yeah,” Akira sighed, releasing a deep breath, “Thanks for that.” For a time, they rested, getting some much needed shut eye after the hectic events of recent memory. But this proved to be short lived as a thunderous boom resounded from within the vessel.

“Akira! Take the controls!” Hotaru sharply ordered, rushing outside to investigate. The younger Zone did not hesitate and took over, steering the refurbished spacecraft and keeping it steady.

Takamaru and Antoine got accompanied with one another, talking hours into sunrise about other subjects to get their mind off the trauma of recent events. But even after shared laughs and common talk, a residual feeling of incompleteness remained in Takamaru.

“What’s up? You seem out of it,” Antoine asked with worry-filled eyes.

“It’s Kubal, it’s the Colossal Titan, it’s…” Takamaru paused, reflecting on the matter. “I don’t know, I feel like there’s a connection there between the two. I just can’t put the pieces together.”

Antoine pondered, letting his mind wander to see if he could help his fellow friend. “Nope. Can’t think of anything.”

“Maybe…” Takamaru let his mind drop into freefall, going with the flow, “What if only specific humans can become those kind of Titans? The non-Wraith ones.”

“So you’re telling me that Kubal has some magic superpower that only he has? No thanks, not giving him that much credit.”

“But think about it, if Titans are able to manifest out of thin air, wouldn’t there need to be some kind of catalyst for it?” Takamaru inquired, trying to convey his outlandish thoughts.

“But then, what’s the trigger?” Antoine simply asked. Such a simple question stumped Takamaru, forcing him to conjure wild theories and ideas, but to no avail.

“I don’t know. Maybe–” Then, he started coughing.

“Yeesh, y-you all right man?” Antoine stuttered, “That sounded like a nasty cold.”

“I’m not fully sure, maybe I should quarantine myself to be safe.” The youth rose to his feet, scooting across the aisles to find someone of expertise, or at least a place to be alone. The Canadian kept his eyes on his acquaintance, concerned for his well being. Unfortunately for Antoine, his worries turned out to be spot-on; the lopsided Takamaru fell over and collapsed, violently twitching as he slammed to the ground. Frightened people gathered around, morbidly curious as to the cause of the sudden seizure. But those that were next to him began to scream something Antoine didn’t want to hear.

“IT’S A TITAN, MOVE!” Panicked cries echoed the lanes, crumbling over each other just to live. In the next few seconds, a flash of light and eruption of steam flooded the narrow space, choking those who were inhaling the sporadic vapor clouds. The entire ship was knocked off its axis, throwing every individual off their balance. When Hotaru arrived at the first door, she was initially overwhelmed by the flood of fear-stricken people trying to get out of the way.

“What’s going on?” she firmly inquired, awaiting an instant response.

“There’s a Titan onboard!” That was all she needed to know. Rushing through the crowd, she did her best to slip by, eventually coming across the steam that indicated a Titan’s presence. When she barged through, what she found was horrific. Even in the short span of time, the melted steel and scattered body parts painted the interiors with blood. When she identified the Titan, she saw it had a victim in its mouth–a Canadian man, half chewed and dead from fright.

“No… No…” Despair turned to rage as she readied her battle stance, ready to take on the Titan. But before she could, more eruptions made themselves known. Her eyes widened in fear, realizing what was happening. By a cruel twist of fate, these people had begun undergoing Titanization. The ensuing explosions ruptured the hull of the mighty spacecraft, humans and Titans being sucked out by the air pressure and mercilessly tossed into the roaring ocean. The turbine engines that kept the vessel afloat became compromised, decelerating and losing aerial buoyancy.

In the cockpit, Akira tried his damnedest to keep it afloat, but knew that he couldn’t. Setting it to autopilot for a last ditch effort, Akira rushed to join his sister in the hell that awaited them both. Soon, the Paradise Express came tumbling into the ocean with a tremendous splash, sinking beneath the waves…

A somber feeling washed over the humanoid figure, unsure of how to feel about it. What was the root cause of Kubal’s death? It was a troubling question that lingered in the mind of Hikaru. The symptoms carried very similar characteristics to a heart attack, and that had been his initial conclusion. But rewinding the moment in his memory, was that really the case? His vision was impeccable in his giant form, able to see almost 242 kilometers away without fault; focusing said vision into the human body allowed him to peer between the skin cells and pigments, analyzing every structure of the human body. Although he did not possess true X-Ray vision, this was the closest facsimile he had to it.

When his hyper fixated eyes located the heart, there was not a clot to be found within it. Perhaps because the subject had already passed, the clot had already been broken apart? No, that can’t be possible, his death was the result of heart failure, Hikaru contemplated, quickly trying to assess the situation. It was then that the vile words of the spiteful human rang in his mind.

“I will control everything under my thrall if it means I get what I want.”

Hearing those words repeat in an endless loop made him realize something. One disturbing realization after another with this individual. Could it be… That the ‘heart attack’ was self-induced? In his mind, he concocted theories aplenty; but in the end, he narrowed it down to what seemed like the most feasible. An influx of cortisol perpetuated by excessive mental stimulation, forcing his mind and heart to overexert themselves with stress. Even if he was wrong in his assessment, it was at least a basis to operate on.

But he knew it wasn’t the most perfect conclusion; rather, it spiraled into a series of other questions he had to ask. Out of all of them, one left the most prominent in his mind. If that’s the case, then what would be the need to kill h… Zone Fighter took a glance at the rolled up eyes of the dead human.

They were staring right back at him.

Static electricity surged throughout his hand, and it clicked that he was about to initiate a transformation! In a near instantaneous reaction, Zone Fighter curled his palm into a clenched fist–crunching the body in a visceral and sickening pop, blood oozing between his silvery fingertips. Hikaru felt sick to his stomach; while it was no bluff that he’d execute any global menace, there was something unsettling about enacting this on a human being. It felt immoral, but at the same time, what immediate choice did he have?

Unfortunately, with the guilty feeling of disgust, heat began to exude from within his fist. Light brimmed from the shadows of his large hand, scorching with immense heat as it expanded from the source. All of this concentrated power terrified the Peacelandian hero; more yet, he couldn’t feel the pain sensory in his hand anymore. His eyes fooled him into thinking his grip had loosened; when in reality, they were beginning to char away, which only became more evident when a sudden shockwave ruptured the rest of his remaining hand.

Kubal’s ragged form became a shining beacon, surrounded by torrential hellfire and tornado-like winds. New bones and muscle began to materialize, wrapping Kubal in a blanket of membranes that encased his body within the nape. The Titan’s head and bust came into form, its eyes glaring at the star-destined hero. In that moment, Zone Fighter began to scream in unsettling pain and agony. It felt as if a fiery-hot poker stabbed into his radial artery and only pushed in deeper into his forearm. The manifesting spine shredded the giant of light’s arm in two, only to be parasitically wrapped under layers of muscle fibers and raw tendons. The more of the Colossal Titan that came to be, the more of its body merged with Zone Fighter’s own, akin to a sickening, living hand puppet.

Even when overwhelmed in excruciating and nerve-wracking torment, Zone Fighter mustered the strength to channel his Proton power into his opposite arm. Electrical sparks focused into his fingertips, prepared to fire off an energized cutter to lob off his arm. But before he could, a massive meaty hand grappled the arm and effortlessly snapped it like a twig. A traumatic scream resounded from the cosmic warrior, as a sudden powerful pull ripped the arm clean out of its socket, spraying crimson ichor.

Light faded as the completely manifested upper torso of the Colossal Titan shoved the stumbling alien down onto his back, crashing against the ground with a hard thud. Zone Fighter struggled and wheezed under the burning might of the nephilim, who focused his palms and slammed them against the meteor man’s head. Alternating between them, the Colossal Titan mercilessly pounded the visage of the once graceful hero, leaving nothing more than a contorted look nigh unrecognizable to what it once was.

Concussive shockwaves battered the ruined city, swaying buildings falling under their weight.

The belt around the giant’s waist faded, transitioning from yellow to red, then to nothing as the life essence drained from his mangled body. With one last blow for good measure, the Colossal Titan finally ceased its onslaught. Its hands dropped to its sides, facing down at the maimed hero from the stars. During this silence, Kubal’s body began to reconstitute; for it had been broken and fractured into many painful pieces. Had it not been for the graces of his Titanized abilities, death certainly would have granted him the chance to experience mortality.

As bones cracked back into place and nerves and muscles reconnected, a burst of steam ruptured from the nape, freeing Kubal from his enclosure. Leaning his Titan’s torso to the ground, the man tore from his fleshy constraints and set foot on shattered pavement, making a stride to the guard rooms in Wall Sotono to contact the Public Order. But shifting gravel caught the man’s attention, witnessing the Titan from earlier emerge from the grave. Its flesh had only just completed wrapping around its body mass, though it was clearly incomplete. Its eyes had just reformed, and had very little hair beyond the miniscule strands.

The 13-meter Titan glanced at Kubal, eager to consume him as it had tried to earlier. But then out of both of their peripherals, the body of Zone Fighter flashed in a bright light, vanishing instantly. This drew the Titan’s attention, and what it saw stunned it; compared to the contained essence of the human before it, this new signature was running wild, emanating nearby. Craving to consume the greater force of mana, the Titan sprinted for the other source–giving Kubal ample time to rush to the steel gate.

When it got there, it found not the body of the giant, but the body of a man–whose essence was sprawling out of his mangled corpse. Without a second thought, the carnivorous humanoid snatched the brutalized cadaver and placed the corpse between its teeth, chowing down on it. As the remnants of Hikaru Sakimori was left to fall into the monster’s gullet, the brute instinctually realized that this wasn’t the one. A failed attempt acted on pure impulse. Its soul screamed in agonizing pain, with a tear falling from its face. Whether it remembered the man it consumed or not was not something it knew, but a harrowing feeling of regret overwhelmed the Titan.

The bustling light had faded, and hope died with it.

“Flee?” Randy snapped, flummoxed by such a statement. “Tactical retreat on the worst of days. The Z-Man can take on anything.”

Before Monique could break down her friend’s baseless defense, the echo of metallic feet dropping beside them forced her attention to Jet Jaguar. Ascending to an upright position in halted, single movements, the machine outstretched his hands and began to shift his fingers. Five different hand gestures repeated twice, spelling their location out in American Sign Language.

“Japan.” Monique said aloud, drawing a simple nod from Jet Jaguar.

“Perfect,” Randy exclaimed. “So we talk to the locals and-”

Mechanical digits began to sign once more. Jet Jaguar gifted Monique a far larger set of letters, bringing their current situation in line with expectations.

“No humanity.”

“You sure,” Randy inquired, only to be shot down by another affirmative sway of the robot’s head.

“Where are we exactly?” Monique asked.

Digits flexed forth a response, repeating twice in rapid succession.

“189 kilometers south of Tokyo.”

Such a location brought a new level of difficulty to the mission. While her affection for the creature wavered from time to time, Monique could not undervalue its impressive abilities, including its unparalleled speed whether swimming or burrowing. With a week to freely traverse the planet, the creature could easily reside on the farthest reaches of any continent, and while Jet Jaguar could scan far reaches of the globe, how much was possible within their limited timespan.

Not enough, Monique decided and shifted to a new plan of action. “If Tokyo exists, it gives us options to locate or attract the creature. Let us go, unless you both have another-”

Jet Jaguar’s head snapped right, halting Monique’s orders. Black eyes focused on the treeline a hundred meters away and following the machine’s gaze, the French member noticed a detail she wished she’d spotted minutes prior.

The wall of thick, thirty meter tall trees wasn’t solid in the slightest, but spotted with dozens openings below their tops. Wide tunnels were carved beneath the upper branches, gifting enough room for a convoy to drive through, or as the agent felt growing quakes rattling her body, an army to hide or maneuver under.

Monique’s mad instinctual dash was instantaneous, as was her lunge into the back of the helicopter’s open bay. Her impact echoed against the metal, but the rough landing barely slowed her down as a quick pivot propelled her into the pilot’s chair. Fingers raced, prepping systems which roared rotors to life and just as the start commenced, the transport’s roar was drowned out by a nearing, stampeding horde.

Jet Jaguar hadn’t retreated like her and Randy, who still was thirty feet out from the helicopter; instead, the mechanical machine had taken position halfway between the forest and its team, shifting its size to a titanic thirty meters. The robot was a gargantuan force to trespass against, yet as the treeline began to visibly shake, a pale masse flowed forth like water.

Of all the types of monsters or animals Monique expected to burst forth, oversized humans never crossed her mind, yet by the hundreds they charged. Naked, fleshy bodies swaying side to side, uncaring if one of their horde fell or was overtaken. The machine reared back at the sight, seemingly shocked at the running wave of fifteen meter humanoids until its right hand flexed and swung forward, dropping the first wave with a devastating chop. Swinging his arm back to strike the second proved too slow as the humanoids lunged, engulfing Jet Jaguar and submerging it under a writhing pile of naked bodies.

The horde continued to pile upon the machine and then, the following waves crashed head first over the masse, clawing forth toward the helicopter. Monique felt locked in place, unable to shift her gaze from the approaching swarm of death desiring humanity until Randy screamed, “Vamos!”

Monique pulled the joystick hard. Rotors squealed from a lack of preparedness, yet the transport, whether ready or not pushed off the ground, listing over the beach as the swarm overtook the yellow, grassy hills.

Sand kicked up over smiling faces, but the dozens of humanoids continued in their relentless pursuit, kicking up salt water until their bodies fell beneath the waves. Just as she felt relief beginning to form, an abnormal woman, her long black hair flowing as she ran on all fours, jettisoned off its fellow kind and sprung toward the chopper, mouth agape as if to swallow the transport hole. Shifting direction to ascend, Monique pulled back merely for the top of the creature’s head to careen into the chopper’s right side.

Armor snapped. Forces launched the chopper into a spiral. Desperate, Monique pulled against the rotation, fighting momentum for some semblance of control. As the water neared, the agent screamed, yanking with all the strength she could muster. Racing toward collision against calm waters of the pacific, Monique’s mind thought back to her last aerial failure.

Disarming the pilot should’ve been second nature, even with the ascent of the helicopter at the time. But an oversight let a gun slip by, a round was fired, and while she escaped unscathed, Dr. Nick Tatopoulos’s fate was set. She was the protector of H.E.A.T., that one meant to ensure everyone came home safe, and toward that goal, she had failed, leading to her team’s current predicament.

Such an oversight could never happen again.

Metal groaned as it bent, contorting and forcing the twirling mechanical beast to halt its uncontrolled spin as it skimmed cresting waves. Cold liquid splashed across Monique’s legs before she fought the chopper to ascend and while sluggishly, the bruised transport obliged. The helicopter ascended and pressed forward, a minor hobble the only noticeable leftover injury of the near fatal crash. A chorus of laughter from a man who more than likely thought he’d die, deafened the whirling blades, drawing Monique’s attention to the back.

“Zombies,” Randy managed to say between his bombastic cackling. “Giant, naked Zombies. Oh, World War Z, eat your heart out. Or… brains, I guess.”

Stumbling to the co-pilot seat, the man continued to chuckle to himself.

“So, Jet Jaguar. He’s… He’s, ugh-”

“Fine,” Monique interrupted and then knocked on her left arm as if it were a door. “Metal skin. Besides, he can grow or fly, no? Many avenues of escape.”

The man’s laugh came to an end. A wide smile taking shape which Monique welcomed with one of her own.

“Good, cause Jet Jaguar is a terrible name. The man’s due for an upgrade.” Pointing to the blue ocean, the man raised a single eyebrow. “So, ugh, where precisely are we tactically retreating too?”

Doubt attempted to take hold over Monique merely to be brushed aside. There was no further room for worry, only action.


Winner: Colossal Titan

K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles