I seem to have forgotten to post this.
An effort to make (some) sense out of the "Pacific Rim" setting, with my explanation of how the hell Jaegers work. Long, so posting in two parts.
August 10, 2013. It came out of the sea on one of those grey, drizzly San Francisco days which are either romantic or depressing depending on your turn of mind. The first thing it did was tear apart the Golden Gate Bridge. Things went rapidly downhill from there.
It took nearly five days of almost continuous bombardment to kill it. The fighter jets initially scrambled to fight it barely scratched its hide, and even the pilot who Kamikaze’d his jet at top speed right into its face gave it “barely a shaving cut”, as someone described it at the time. When they moved from regular munitions to fuel-air bombs and bunker busters they finally began to do more than superficial damage, but it refused to return to the sea. It continued to wander around the Bay area, stomping on any man-made structures and anything which moved, even as it began to drip with blue gore: even after it lost its eyes and heavy naval artillery from across the bay began to hammer it, it slowly shambled back and forth across the devastated urban landscape: and even after it fell over on its back and didn’t get up, it twitched for another two days.
Killing it had seriously depleted total in-US stock of munitions: in an era of precision bombing and speedy little wars, huge Cold War (let alone WWII) stockpiles no longer existed. Before the long, slow-motion battle ended, UK and Canadian and even Russian air forces had joined in the fight (it was fortunate that most of the population of the area had fled by the time the Russians arrived, or their use of several brands of extremely nasty Cold-War era nerve gas on the colossus might have been rather worse than merely futile). During its rampage, a twisting, looping, criss-crossing half-mile wide trail of utter devastation had been stamped out down one side of San Francisco Bay and up the other, terminating in the wreckage of Oakland, what would be called the Trespasser having collapsed a bit short of Berkley. Well endowed with both private and public means of transportation, locals managed to flee from the Trespasser’s path fast enough to keep casualties in the tens of thousands, but the economic costs were in the trillions: combined with the global panic set off by the monster attack, brought the US, and most of the world’s economy plunging back into deep depression.
The fact that the blue ichor the Trespasser used for blood was both persistently toxic and highly carcinogenic did not exactly help rebuilding, and some form of breakdown within the Trespasser’s body, after first liberating toxic levels of ammonia gas, led it to leak an equally unpleasant blue-black slime which soon formed a shallow pool extending as much as 400 feet from the body in places. Some 60 square miles of the Bay area had to be declared a Superfund site, although most of San Francisco proper avoided this fate simply due to a lack of success in making the Trespasser bleed at that early stage of its rampage.
The ensuing global panic was heightened by the deep uncertainty as to the origin of the beast. It had not been seen by anyone before it emerged from the sea and began wrecking havoc. Was it from space? (Experts scoffed at the notion something so large could have come down from the sky without someone picking it up on radar.) From another dimension? From hell or a creation of God’s Wrath, as a great many End Times enthusiasts concluded? (Alternately, God’s punishment of the infidel Americans). A hideous mutation caused by man’s dumping of radioactive and other wastes in the oceans (the fact that even the most preemptory examination showed the Intruder to be bizarrely alien and utterly non-terrestrial in its makeup failed to kill this particular narrative)? A hitherto unknown form of life, perhaps emerging from within the Earth’s crust? A US bio-weapon gone berserk – and possibly originally intended as a weapon against North Korea, as suggested by North Korean news? Thorough sonar sweeps of the East Pacific revealed no more giant monsters swimming shoreward. No giant monster delivery ships revealed themselves to telescopes.
The Japanese, of course, called it a Kaiju. Some even blamed it on foreign nuclear testing.
People can only remain afraid so long without regular reinforcement, and giant monster threats are rather harder to fake up than terrorist ones, so by the new year people had begun to relax a bit and begin to wonder if the Intruder had been some sort of unique event, something like a giant meteor impact, arriving once in a million years. Innumerable trucks filled with a mix of lethal goo, dirt and shattered bits of houses had departed for distant disposal sites, and the area of the monster’s body had been cleaned to mere Soviet Industrial Center levels of toxicity; swarms of scientists aided by a small army of workers in biohazard garb and armed with the sort of power saws used to cut up ornamental rock were slowly carving the colossal corpse apart and examining its various strange internal organs (some of which still showed a disturbing tendency towards mobility): little chunks of the non-gooey bits of the body, smuggled out by workers, began to show up on the black market, much to the distress of Health and Safety, which classified all parts of the Trespasser as toxic waste. Godzilla jokes were now once again permissible.
And then, on the fifth of February, 2014, another horror emerged from Manila Bay and began wrecking havoc. It would later be known as Hundun, although for some time it would simply be called “The Second.”
This time, the rapidly deployed US forces did not fool around. Partly due to back-channel Chinese communications re their willingness to Take Steps against this monster almost on their doorstep, after luring the monster out of the city with a continuous air assault (in which a number of pilots lost their lives flying close enough to the monster to goad it), a relatively small atomic device was used against Hundun. The fireball slowly dispersed to show a creature horribly torn by the massive impact, smoking, charred black, the outer layer of its hide vaporized, small bluish fires burning here and there on its body…but still more or less in one piece, and slowly crawling forward, much to the horror of the watchers. To their relief, the smoldering abomination soon slowed to a standstill and simply sat, smoking, burning.
Smoking. Burning somewhat more intensely, if patchily. Giving off more smoke.
In spite of rain and drops of sand by fire-fighting planes, the dead monster continued to slowly burn for two weeks. The plume of black smoke, rich in lethal carcinogens mixed with a leavening of toxic heavy metals, would have made an area of over two thousand square miles downwind uninhabitable for decades, considerably worse than the Chernobyl incident of OTL.
Fortunately, the majority of the toxins went out to sea. Unfortunately, the winds were from the Northeast at that time of the year. And the sea was the one to the southwest of Manila.
This time, a scramble took place to make the Pacific Ocean into a Panopticon. Sonar buoys were prepared and dropped off by thousands. Sub-hunter ships were put on permanent patrol. Listening posts were established. Emergency warning systems were established in cities all around the Pacific, and people made familiar with the sound of the new sirens that would indicate something impossibly huge was emerging from the sea to crush a human city underfoot.
The Japanese term “Kaiju” for the monsters became popularized.
Unusually (as it would turn out) for a Kaiju, the third attack (June, 2014) took place in a relatively lightly populated area at the tip of Baja, allowing the US forces to use a 3-megaton device once the local population and tourist had scattered, with the over 100 miles of sea between it and the mainland providing a fair degree of protection from the inevitable Burning Kaiju toxins. More importantly, the sonar network thrown across the Pacific had first detected it in the middle of the Pacific, at some 15,000 feet down (much to the frustration of nuclear planners, the Kaiju would turn out to hug the ocean bottom, remaining at least 2 miles down until forced up by continental shelves): a scramble to get as many deep submersibles in the water as possible followed, in hopes of finally locating the origin of the Kaiju. The still vast area involved and the limited number of machines meant that the exploration would not bear fruit for three months, by which time another attack had taken place.
Schoenfeld would later claim that it was in early September, during the fourth Kaiju attack on Sydney, that he developed the idea for the Jaeger, after watching his son playing with robot and monster toys. This was a lie. He would meet with several world leaders at the Seoul Conference (AKA the “what the fuck do we do about Kaiju” conference) little over two weeks later. One does not construct a well-worked out technical proposal, capable of convincing skeptical world leaders that “giant robots are the answer!” in two weeks, no matter how brilliant a roboticist one is.
Most of his presentations do not exist in the records, anywhere.
It was in October that the Rift was finally located, a crack half a mile wide and seven long in the ocean floor, filled with a seething, glowing energy that initially entirely baffled scientists. The first probes to approach the water-energy interface were violently repelled and destroyed: if Kaiju were coming through, it didn’t seem that a return visit was possible. Efforts rapidly got underway to build a submersible capable of carrying nukes to the rift: and by mid-December, multiple nuclear weapons, some quite large, had been detonated in the Rift. This was to no apparent effect aside from widening the physical crack in the earth. Data analysis indicated that virtually all the energy expended was being reflected back.
Operation Counterprobe was replaced by Operation Whack-the-Mole, but as yet only a few nuclear mines were in place when the Kaiju Black Mother emerged at several hundred miles an hour from the rift: none were right next to her area of emergence, but mass detonation caused a massive enough shock wave that the Kaiju seemed to have been rendered dead or unconscious. Celebratory noises had hardly begun to ring out when its stomach split open and several hundred smaller (if still at least King Kong-sized) horrors spilled out.
The Guardians have remained in the vicinity of the Rift ever since, growing to roughly whale size and reproducing asexually to the point where they now number in the thousands: exactly what they live on down there and what sustains them remains matters of speculation. They are not full-sized, full-powered Kaiju, but delivering working military hardware is to 15,000 feet below the Ocean’s surface is problematic enough that they don’t need to be. Their purpose is to detect any encroaching man-made objects with their highly sensitive sonar and then destroy them a good distance from any emerging Kaiju. It doesn’t matter how many die in nuclear explosions: they can be replaced, and some are always kept in reserve.
Nuking Kaiju proper underwater has never been easy. Kaiju in a hurry swim at over 200 miles per hour (and they’re usually in a hurry: cities to smash, people to squash) and delivering a nuclear bomb over 10,000 feet deep to a target that fast is hardly an easy problem. Even in shallower water it is tough, and although water may transmit shock waves better than air, it also soaks up enough of the energy of a nuclear explosion that the bomb needs to be right on target to do its job. A 200 knots plus Kaiju-chaser nuclear sub meant to intercept them on the continental shelf (using supercavitation principles) was in the works by the 2020s, but was hit by the general budget-cutting required to finance the Pacific wall system. Work on superfast undersea attack boats and torpedoes continues, slowly.
In case an effective weapon can ever be designed to penetrate the Rift, a Jaeger or comparably tough fighting machine would have to be built capable of remaining fully mobile while sealed against over 1500 atmospheres of pressure to actually deliver it to the site. Three such were built by the time Jaeger funding was cut: no way to penetrate the Rift had been found at the time.
One would be destroyed in a last-ditch fight in shallow water. The other two would save the world.
A Jaeger, seen from a distance, does not appear to be moving very fast: a steady, almost ambling walk. This is an illusion: a Jaeger stands some 50 times taller that a human being. Walking speed is usual near 100 miles an hour. A Jaeger can run at close to 500 miles an hour.
The “drift”, or the Neural Link, was developed as a means to allow pilots to control the Jaegers as effectively as their own bodies: a slow, clumsy Jaeger would mean vastly lowered combat effectiveness. The peculiar mental feedback that caused intense pain, headaches and eventually strokes, cerebral edemas, and other potentially fatal injuries. It remains somewhat unclear how joining a second human brain to the mix was chosen as a possible solution. It _is_ clear that Professor Akagi was a mad scientist, if perhaps, like Papa Schimmelhorn, on a subconscious level, since he apparently failed to realize that his enhanced networking system was essentially a form of mechanical telepathy. (When the first two pilots to share memories reported their experience, Akagi initially believed them to be hallucinating).
For pilots to “drift” together, to essentially become a unified mind for the Jaeger body, required not just compatibility but a level of mutual comfort: to be able to live in each other’s minds with a degree of ease. Very often close couples, when given a close look at each other’s minds, ceased to be close couples: who could stand “rubbing their naked brains together”, as one pilot referred to it, was often unpredictable.
The notion of “drifting” with Kaiju brains arose early on, among those that who felt the Rift was a product of intelligence rather than some weird natural phenomenon and the Kaiju at least a product of such intelligence. Attempts to “drift” with animals usually led to random sensory noise and severe headaches, so there was not much belief that this would be a useful approach, but the quest for a Kaiju brain started early on. It would take a while to get ahold of one: Kaiju skulls were so thick that decomposition had set in by the time the plates of armor were slowly cut through, and a great deal of Kaiju would have to be cut through, sorted, and analyzed before anyone figured out that there was a second brain in the lower torso helping to control the outlying bits of the body, leading to many ill-considered analogies involving dinosaurs.
A Jaeger’s punch will typically exceed1000 miles an hour, and may reach as high as 1200 miles an hour. A Jaeger’s fists thunder even when they do not hit their target.
Kaiju harvesting became an industry of sorts by the second year of the war, as companies formed to take advantage of government contracts for corpse-disposal, and people looked to find some way to make extra money from the extremely onerous work. Of course, scientists initially got first dibs, but most labs were not really equipped to preserve a toxic liver-equivalent the size of two railway cars, so the bulk of the carcasses had to be disposed of. So, enter industry. As it turned out, Kaiju could be _mined_: their bodies were rich in heavy metals, and with some modifications, industries which worked with high-toxicity metals could process the slabs into which Kaiju were slowly sliced into a financial bonanza. A variety of chemicals found their uses in industry. Bones and armor could be used in architecture once the toxins had been baked off in warehouse hot rooms, although it was usually fairly demented architects who would actually use them. (in one case, a pair of Jaeger pilots adopted a massive and jagged-ended leg bone as a weapon to jab and club other Kaiju, although it was eventually broken over the head of a Kaiju with a particularly thick skull).
Of course, there was also the Black Market. Even in well-organized nations there was always a flow of little bits and pieces that didn’t go to a recognized Kaiju-recycling industry: in some corruption-rich nations such as China, Indonesia, and various Latin American states, there was a positive flood of Kaiju body parts being sold to black market overlords at prices well exceeding per ton anything that could be obtained from legitimate corporations. Kaiju flesh and bone was sold as medicine, a formula for immortality, as a sexual aid (of course), a secret poison (more reasonably), a miracle fertilizer (for men as well as crops). Kaiju “skin parasites” were sold as pets (given a sufficiently ammoniated atmosphere, they could survive for as long as two years) Some buyers had wilder ideas, such as the various groups that attempted (unsuccessfully – as far as it is known) to clone a Kaiju from its tissues, or those who planned elaborate attacks on the Kaiju through the use of sympathetic magic.
It is unknown how many people died or suffered permanent damage consuming Kaiju tissue that had not been properly detoxified. In the later years of the war, as funding was cut all around to afford the building of the defensive wall system, a number of companies involved in Kaiju disposal went out of business, and some dead Kaiju, for lack of either corporate or government disposal, were left to rot and the black market. How many amateur Kaiju harvesters died for lack of adequate precautions is another unknown.
(Kaiju “skin parasites” or “mites” remain a mystery. They could hardly feed off Kaiju, having no ability to cut all the way through their thick hides, and in spite of requiring the ammonia which normally oozes from the Kaiju’s hide, are chemically and biochemically quite dissimilar to the Kaiju, which all share a close biological basis. Some have theorized that they are from another universe entirely, and somehow latch on to Kaiju and perhaps other travelers as they pass through the pan-dimensional space of the Rift.)
An average Jaeger weighs over 70 thousand tons. When it hurls itself into battle against a Kaiju, the kinetic energy is in the trillions of joules.
A Jaeger, given 2014 technology, is a technological impossibility.
The first to show that mental contact with a Kaiju brain was in fact possible was Professor Akagi himself in 2018: unfortunately, he also filled his brain with bubbles of blood in the process. Later experimenters found that as in piloting Jaegers, distributing the mental “load” between two operators led to better results, although for some time “better” often meant insanity or brain damage rather than outright death, along with sensory and memory data so bizarre as to be quite impossible to make head or tail of.
Not till 2022 were breakthroughs made that allowed a degree of “translation” of the neural feed, and some coherent impressions – of a mind both vast and multiple, of cold and endless ruthlessness, of incomprehensibly vast spaces that were yet at the same time filled with something which lived and pulsed, of forces and pulls and drives monstrous and yet rational in a way that could not be described. Scientists were still going mad, but at least no longer screamingly so.
The fact that someTHINGS on the other side of the Rift might have similar success in interpreting the thoughts of small, mammalian minds was only vaguely suspected until the Kaiju attack of June ’23, where the Kaiju went straight for the main Drift Research center 15 miles inland, totally ignoring all sorts of tempting opportunities for mass destruction along the way. Afterwards, the new research center was constructed 10,000 feet up the slopes of the Tibetan plateau and nearly a thousand miles from the sea.
During the fleeting few years in which the Jaegers appeared to be winning the Kaiju war, Kaiju-Jaeger combats took on an almost ritualized format. The Jaeger would be brought to the combat zone by the giant nuclear-powered ekranoplans which were the only craft capable of transporting their incredible mass at reasonable speeds. They would wait in water over 100 feet deep, miles out from land and civilian populations – it slowed down the Jaegar, but was as least as obstructive to the Kaiju. The Ocean would soak up any spilled toxins – bad for the local beaches and the local fishing industry, but better than splattering it over inhabited soil. The Kaiju would emerge, its location pinpointed by automatic sonar buoys second by second. And the Jaeger would beat it to death.
All Jaeger pilots were extensively trained in boxing and other martial skills that involved inflicting massive damage to an opponent without close grappling. (Wrestling moves are not recommended against an opponent whose impossibly hard teeth, claws, spines, etc. could easily slice into the toughest metal-ceramics) Enormous kinetic impacts, the whole weight of the Jaeger behind them, would damage internal organs, break internal struts, and eventually kill without splattering goo all over the place.
One of the ongoing costs of the Jaeger program was that the Jaegers fists would usually be so battered at the end of a fight as to require replacement: sometimes entire forearms would be damaged and would require extensive repair or replacement from levels of force often exceeding the structural strength of the Jaeger’s materials.
Some Jaegers were equipped with huge staves (no giggling in the audience!) with hooks to keep their distance in combat and catch the limbs or tails of the Kaiju. Others were equipped with huge drills or saw blades: there were times when cutting the Kaiju (especially Kaiju with tentacles) overrode the need to avoid contamination. Although Kaiju’s internal organization, as revealed by scientists dissecting the enormous corpses (well, perhaps mining would be a better word) was almost as fantastically variable as their external form – pounding the same body area in two Kaiju might cause crippling damage or just make them mad – they had their weaknesses: joints. Eyes. Connecting tendons. Being crippled for life was an occupational hazard the trainers of Jaeger pilots simply accepted, as long as they could make their charges into skilled killers that would attack with utter intent to smash and maim.
The Plasma cannon with which each Jaeger was armed was insufficient to kill a Kaiju, but it could be used to good use against such sensitive spots as eyes, nostrils and the interior of mouths, and was also useful to cauterize the enemy’s wounds – having the Kaiju bleed out was not a desirable outcome. (Plasma would not catch a Kaiju on fire: only the extreme heat of a nuclear fireball would cause the breakdown of their peculiar silicon-based bodies).
After the Kaiju was killed, it would be towed to a “retaining area” far from populated areas where it would be free to secrete toxins to its heart’s content.
It helped that Kaiju (at first, anyway) fought, in the words of a pilot, “with all the skill of a somewhat slow first-grader.”
Overconfidence set in. There had been efforts, once there were over a dozen Jaegers in operation, to move more than one Jaeger into position if at all possible, so to get at least a two on one advantage. But as pilot technique improved along with Jaeger technological sophistication, by 2020, more than one Jaeger per Kaiju became seen as unnecessary. Indeed, Jaeger pilots, briefly the rock stars of their era, had begun to resent the notion that they would need help.
And then came along Knifehead.
The conventional military was generally ticked off at being upstaged by giant robots operating on “classified” principles and operated by an entirely new international military force separate from the usual chain of command. It wasn’t quite as bad as being upstaged by magical girls, but it was getting there. Finding a way to kill a Kaiju without toxically contaminating an area the size of one of the smaller European countries became something of a military obsession, hampered by budget costs in the face of the enormous costs of Jaegers.
(Jaegers were _expensive_. The R&D and construction of the first Jaeger, although proceeding with what many later found improbable speed, still cost about nearly 1/3 of the total US annual military budget: although costs dropped for later Jaegers, none cost less than tens of billions to build and billions in annual maintenance: the last Jaeger ever built, the Australian Striker Eureka, cost one eight of the entire Australian federal budget two years running and with the general failure of the Jaeger project, was widely accused of being a vanity project of the current Prime Minister).
The most successful innovation proved to be in the field of magnetic rail guns, whose hypervelocity shells could actually make holes in the armor of a Kaiju: however, given their size, this was about as effective as using birdshot against an Elephant, and simply got you an angry (angrier) Kaiju. The struggle to build a rail gun big and powerful enough to kill went on for several years, much to the frustration of supporters of the approach (if giant robots could be built so quickly, why not giant-ass rail guns) but the technological challenges in building a weapon on such a scale that would not simply rip itself apart under the stresses involved was a formidable one. Jaeger supporters, on the other hand, pointed out that the rail gun boosters were developing a lovely method for splattering Kaiju Blue (the popular shorthand for Kaiju toxins) for miles.
The “orbital bombardment” “rods from god” approach also attracted some interest, but technical challenges and expenses were such that the project was still without an effective product when the war came to an end.
In 2018, the first full-scale railgun was built and put in place to defend rebuilt San Francisco (Oakland was a lost cause, but San Fran was both too valuable and too lightly contaminated to be abandoned, although it would be another couple decades before it reached its pre-Kaiju population): the trouble was that no Kaiju were polite enough to wander in front of it. The first _mobile_ rail gun was put aboard a specially designed nuclear carrier and set to cruise along the Pacific coasts in 2019. It managed arrive late for two fights.
It wasn’t until 2020, with the emergence of a new and more lethal version of Kaiju, that railguns became a New Hope. The first success was in Osaka in 2021, when a Kaiju which had destroyed the first Jaeger to reach the area was driven out to sea when a giant railgun drove a projectile the size of a truck into its chest. This failed to kill it, but weakened it enough that when it reemerged further south, the second Jaeger to fight it was able to finish it off relatively quickly. Railguns still had disadvantages: their driving mechanisms lacked the power of Jaegers, making them difficult to aim against opponents capable of moving at hundreds of miles an hour, and Kaiju internal organs were usually sufficiently redundant that a “one-shot” kill was unlikely save with a head shot (and Kaiju skulls were usually so insanely thick that glancing shots were often ineffectual). Mobile railguns atop carriers soon proved ineffective: the smart new generation of Jaegers would simply swim underneath and destroy them from below if they ventured into deep water.
Still, it was the best new option, and with the new Kaiju producing even more and even more lethal toxins when nuked, a little Kaiju Blue splatter seemed tolerable, especially since methods for chemically neutralizing it had been developed by this point. By the end of 2020, with Jaegers being destroyed faster than they could be built, the governing bodies of the Pacific Rim alliance were faced with the choice of investing hundreds of billions in expanding Jaeger production – an infrastructure buildup that would take several years to bear fruit – or invest, again, hundreds of billions on a new static-defense system based on massive physical barriers and emplaced railguns.
Perhaps a deciding factor was the truly international nature of the Pacific Defense Corps and the still secret details of the “linking system” that gave the Jaegers speed and strength beyond that which should be mechanically possible (kept secret to prevent Jaegers from becoming weapons of war between human nations, supposedly). The new plan would keep all details of the defense system under the control of national governments – although the UN-administered Global Kaiju Fund would still be on hand to help out with the expenses.
Some pointed out that although not quite as costly as Jaegers, railguns were not cheap either, and since they were not as mobile as Jaegers (a device capable of carrying around both a railgun and its nuclear power plant and brace itself against the forces involved would be, well, a Jaeger: Aircraft carriers had proven ultimately too fragile) rather a lot of them would be needed to guard tens of thousands of miles of coast: the cost, indeed, would greatly exceed the already economically crippling price of the Jaeger program.
The solution, as plan boosters explained, was where the “Wall of Life” came in. The wall was not a simple wall, which Kaiju _might_ given time dig their way through: instead, it would be a series of linked walls that would guide attacking Kaiju into long “killing corridors” where railguns would be ideally positioned to wipe them out. Many sophisticated Superseller (the successor to Powerpoint) presentations showed how the system would be both idiot-proof and Kaiju-proof.
First of all, the Wall ended up costing rather a lot more than initially estimated, into the trillions, further damaging the economies of the Pacific Rim nations; it did prove rather profitable for the many corporations involved in the construction (ironically, much of the minimum-wage labor force involved in building the Wall would come from people put out of work by the economic effects of the Wall). Public grumbling was only narrowly assuaged by government promises of future security.
In the event, the notion that a Kaiju would simply ignore the path of least resistance and dig its way through multiple barriers in under an hour like a rabbit burrowing through sandy soil in the most direct path to the nearest city hadn’t occurred to anyone. (It was noted at the time it had chosen an attack route as far as possible from any railgun batteries: if not the Kaiju themselves, the alien minds that drove them on were smart enough to know a trap when they saw one).
Ironically, Sydney, Australia was still saved from devastation by railguns: Jaeger Striker Eureka was one of the few Jaegers to be equipped before the end of the Jaeger program with new, compact railguns, which did most of the work in killing the beast. (Albeit splattering everything from the Kaiju back to the wall with Kaiju blue).
And then, of course, Hong Kong was attacked by a Kaiju that could fly. (Something that led a number of scientists who had thought they were finally getting a bit of a handle on how Kaiju worked to tear out their hair in frustration).
The resulting panic could probably be described as epic.