Raleigh’s never told anyone, but he’s pretty sure he died in his escape pod after nuking the Breach. He doesn’t even remember activating his own pod; the last thing he can fully recall is hitting the self destruct switch, and then...nothing.
Actually, that’s not quite true. He’d hit the switch, and part of his brain had whispered well, that’s it then-at least Mako got out and he felt calm, so calm about the fact that he was going to die with the Jaeger that had once saved his life. Then - and this is the part that keeps him from telling anyone else what happened down there, because Raleigh was sure he’d be pegged as 100% bonafide crazypants - Yancy started yelling at him.
He was still in the drivesuit he’d died in, for Christ’s sake, clear as day, right next to him in the Conn-Pod - and he was pissed. What the fuck are you doing?! he screamed through his helmet, grabbing Raleigh by the arm and shoving him towards the control arm that would load him into the remaining escape pod. Get up, you son of a bitch! This ain’t a suicide run!
“I can’t, Yance,” he’d said, or maybe just thought it because his lungs were burning from lack of oxygen, and everything was blurring together into a gray fuzz as he curled up on the deck and waited to lose consciousness.
Like hell you can’t, Yancy replied, and shook his head. His sad smile cut through the haze in Raleigh’s vision. Jesus, I’ve still gotta do everything for you, don’t I?
Then everything went black. Then everything went white, and that’s when Raleigh thinks he died.
“Due to the loss of communications with Gipsy Danger after entering the Breach, we lack exact times for the events subsequent to the ejection of Ranger Mori’s escape pod. The following is a statement by Ranger Becket, based on his recollection of what he experienced and documented to the best of his abilities:
‘Approximately one minute after launching Ranger Mori’s escape pod, I released myself from my safety harness in order to access the manual switch to trigger the self-destruct sequence. Upon starting the sequence, I returned to my safety harness, while monitoring the shutdown of Gipsy Danger’s noncritical systems to ensure the pilot ejection protocol remained active. I then buckled myself back into my harness and activated the ejection process.’
“Ranger Becket’s escape pod emerged from the Breach approximately two minutes after Ranger Mori’s pod had already surfaced. We do not have an exact time of launch because Ranger Becket’s pod did not transmit the standard pilot vitals and retrieval signal as was expected. At this time, J-Tech Specialist Choi is unsure whether this was due to loss of communications caused by the Breach, or mechanical failure on the part of the escape pod. A full report containing the root cause will be provided upon investigation.”
- Excerpt from Operation Pitfall official combat report
The Drift hangover he and Mako shared had been fierce, worse than Raleigh ever remembered it being with Yancy. There was a solid day and a half where they literally forgot they were two separate people, which got confusing for the doctors real fast. After the third time Raleigh was asked a question that Mako answered from a completely different room, they finally figured out what was going on and put them next to each other. It took about a week and a half of time together back at the Shatterdome before they felt close to normal again, quietly adjusting to being back in their own heads.
For a while, he couldn’t recall anything after diving into the Breach. It came back in bits and pieces; the flashes he caught of Mako’s memories pulled his own forward until he had almost a whole picture. Not all of it, though - the doctors said that the effort of piloting solo, combined with oxygen deprivation, likely meant he’d fried whatever brain cells had contained those last couple of minutes between flipping the switch and finding himself on the surface.
Then he found a forgotten photograph of Yancy in his drivesuit while going through his bag.
When Mako got back to his room - her room? Raleigh didn’t know anymore - he was staring at the picture in his hands, silent and unmoving, and she climbed onto the bed with him and held him until he finally turned around and asked if she wanted to go for a run with him. As though he hadn’t just been catatonic for the better part of a day.
He didn’t tell her what he’d remembered, and if she knew, she let it be.
Patient is a 27 year old male presenting with mild symptoms of PTSD. His chief complaint is memory gaps, wherein he cannot recall several key events that occurred during his last mission as a Jaeger pilot. It is important to note that while he willingly participates in our sessions, he did make it clear that he is only attending because he had been directed to do so by PPDC support and medical staff as a matter of protocol.
[edited for length]
In our final session, I asked him to describe for me what happened during his “missing moments”. His account matched the statement included in his patient file, but he did not appear confident in the retelling. I then asked if he could make up a fictional account of what happened, and he declined. It is my belief that he either has not been able to regain those memories, or that he has regained some recollection of the events but does not consider his memories to be factual.
Despite his preoccupation with death and the feeling that he has “cheated fate”, patient does not appear to exhibit signs of suicidal thoughts or ideation. While I strongly recommend that he continue with talk therapy sessions, I do not believe he is a danger to himself or others, and crisis intervention steps need not be taken.
“I need to talk about it,” Mako said to him as he was folding sweaters. It was how most of their conversations went anymore, starting in the middle, with no context.
“Why?” he asked, without looking up. “I can’t really give you any kind of outside perspective.”
“That’s the thing,” she responded, and her caution caught him off guard. “There is something I don’t understand.”
“I wouldn’t understand it any better than you would,” he countered.
She continued as though he hadn’t replied. “I heard him, Raleigh.”
Raleigh froze mid-fold, one sleeve still hanging off the edge of the bed. “I don’t - what?”
Mako finished folding the sweater in front of him, tossing it to the side and placing a gentle hand on each side of his face to guide him towards her concerned gaze. “You were gone. I could not feel you there, in your pod-” Raleigh began to tremble- “and I held you, and begged you to come back, and...you did. And that is when I heard Yancy. He said you weren’t allowed to die yet.”
He slipped away from her touch and crumpled to a sitting position on the bed. “I was unconscious. It was a dream, Mako. Or a hallucination. That’s all.”
She chose not to push any further, only sat down on the floor in front of him, hugging his legs while her head rested against the outside of his thigh. “I don’t think you’re crazy,” she said, answering the question he didn’t dare ask.
“Well, we both know you’re lying about that,” he joked, and his voice only broke a little as she smiled up at him.
“All tests were successful; Retrieval signal, pilot vitals and pod location were broadcast upon pod deployment as expected.
Our debugging efforts did turn up a section of legacy code, which included a command to suppress all pod transmissions if pilot vital signs could not be found after launch. We were able to reproduce this behavior using a dummy. The original intent of this feature was to prevent rescue efforts from being wasted on pods containing deceased pilots; However, J-Tech was able to determine that from 2016 to 2018, the feature was never used. This part of the program was thought to have been removed as a redundancy in version 126.96.36.199 of the Mark III OS, but Gipsy Danger either did not receive the patch containing this update, or it was reinstated during refurbishment. I do not believe this code was responsible for the transmission failure, as Ranger Becket was recovered alive.
It is my professional opinion that the pod did not suffer a mechanical failure as was originally thought, but that interference from the Breach - whether an intentional jamming signal, or an unintentional consequence of collapse - prevented LOCCENT from receiving the expected transmissions.”
- Conclusion of J-Tech Specialist Tendo Choi’s root cause report, concerning the failure of Ranger Becket’s escape pod.
They talked about it without talking about it. Raleigh let himself think about the Breach, let his mind loop through his memories without fighting it, just allowed his terror and anger and awe to wash over him until they no longer had the power to bring him to his knees. He had a hundred imagined conversations with Yancy, making sure to thank him for being his brother every time. Mako’s gentle presence, whether in his head or just in the same room, made it all bearable.
“It was real,” she told him as they were falling asleep in his room.
“It seemed real to me at the time,” he mumbled sleepily.
“Then it is real to me, too,” she whispered to him, “and if two people think so, it must be real, right?”
He fell asleep with her pressed against his back, her face tucked in the small of his neck, and instead of having nightmares about Anchorage or Knifehead he dreamed about introducing Mako to his brother. I already know who she is, Yancy said, punching him in the shoulder. You kids have fun.
They woke up to pounding on the door. Raleigh rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, and stumbled to the peephole to find out how angry he needed to be. “It’s 4 in the morning,” Mako moaned, burying her face in the pillow as Raleigh opened the door, just a crack.
Tendo’s eyes were wide and his face was pale. “I know. Just...Raleigh, you have to come hear this.”
They followed him down the hall towards his office, still in their pajamas. Tendo rambled on the way, speaking at Geizler-esque speeds. “So for a few hours after the Breach collapsed, we were still receiving fragments of transmissions from Gipsy Danger. Most of them were degraded to the point that it was just noise, just static bursts. We had the communications guys try to clean them up a little, to see if there was anything we should include in the reports.” He opened the door to his office, where a mug still lay on its side on the desk, coffee still dripping into a puddle on the floor.
Mako set the mug upright with a small noise of dismay, and Raleigh grabbed a box of tissues to try and mop up some of the mess, but Tendo motioned them away with an irate gesture. “Don’t worry about that right now! I was finishing cataloguing everything, all our recordings, all this shit has to be on a truck in two hours, and I swear I’ve listened to this a hundred times-” He pulled up an audio program on his monitor, moved the slider to the beginning to play the track in full, turned the volume all the way up. “Listen.”
The urgency in his voice shocked both of them into absolute silence as a loud hiss filled the air, accentuated with some loud pops and crackles. The seconds stretched until it felt like time had stopped.
“-ain’t a suicide run!”
Mako’s hand clamped over her mouth, which had gone wide in a startled gasp. All the air left Raleigh’s lungs with a whoosh. “-do everything for you-” It wasn’t clear, it was full of white noise, but the voice was unmistakably Yancy’s.
The burning feeling was back in his chest, and Raleigh realized he was on his knees on the floor, right in the middle of the coffee puddle. He looked up at Tendo, gaping.
“You heard it, right? It sounded like him?” Tendo’s voice was fierce and frightened. “Please tell me I’m not losing my mind.”
“No. No, you’re not losing your mind.” Raleigh started laughing, felt tears well in his eyes and spill onto his cheeks as he laughed. “He did it. The bastard saved my life.”
There are popular stories among technicians about Jaegers moving without pilots, their mechanical limbs mirroring sleep movements, or twitching slightly. We know that when two pilots have Drifted, their connection remains after the equipment has been turned off - much weaker, but it remains nonetheless.
Who is to say that we do not leave a piece of ourselves behind, an impression upon someone with whom we have shared such an intense experience? Who is to say that the machines we have created don’t hold some memory of the pilots who give it life?
I believe that the stories of haunted Jaegers, and the latent connection between those who have Drifted, are the closest thing we have to scientific proof of the human soul.
- Dr. Caitlin Lightcap