Paige sighed as she carried four cups of coffee to her desk, two mugs in each hand with two bagels stacked on each set and an apple held carefully between her teeth. Her phone was buzzing and she knew her son was calling her, which only hurried her steps to her station. She managed to put her things down without spilling and quickly answered the phone.
"Mom, there's a new team coming in from California today; have you met them yet?" he asked excitedly.
"No, not yet," Paige replied with an amused smile. "Why are you so interested in the team from California? You've never shown this much interest in any other team."
"I have to get to school, Mom. I'll see you after," Ralph grumbled instead of responding to her question.
Paige sighed yet again as her son abruptly ended their phone conversation and sat down at her desk. Then she pulled her headset on and began to watch the monitors while eating her apple in silence until she felt a tap on her shoulder.
"They're here," her supervisor said as he nodded toward the elevators where Marshal Gallo stood waiting for her.
"Oh," she replied quickly as she jumped up and grabbed the dossiers before walking up to the Marshal. The team was arriving early apparently.
"Marshal," Paige greeted.
"Officer Dineen," he returned cordially with a nod as he pushed the button on the elevator.
They waited silently until the elevator doors opened, and Marshal Gallo gestured for her to enter first.
When the doors, closed Paige chanced a glance at the Marshal who was watching the elevator numbers light up. She cleared her throat to get his attention.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Paige requested respectfully.
"Permission granted," Gallo replied.
"Sir, why did you request me for this team? There are other J-Tech Technicians who have done this for much longer than I have-" she began before Gallo cut her off.
"Officer, I haven't been here long, but I can spot talent from a thousand miles away. You are one of the best at what you do, and you're also a people-person. I have seen Rangers stay in the drift twice as long and complete their missions because you're there to guide them. This team that is coming in needs you more than you or they realize," he explained.
Paige smiled at the praise but her doubts were far from being chased away.
They stepped off the elevator and walked towards the helicopter landing. Paige clutched the dossiers to her chest to keep them from flying away. It was sunny but windy, and she squinted her eyes in the early morning light as she caught sight of a helicopter coming in for a landing. She took a deep breath and imagined how excited Ralph would probably be if he was there with her. The thought put a gentle smile on her face as she watched the helicopter land and everyone disembark. The first was a dark haired gentleman who turned around to help a larger man get out, the latter of whom barely setting his feet on the ground before vomiting into a bag off to the side. Then a small Korean woman exited with a third gentleman wearing a porkpie hat also appearing close behind her. The group waited for their unsteady companion to regain his composure before going any further.
Paige observed the four curiously, if not also a bit warily, as they finally seemed to regroup and began heading towards her and the Marshal.
"Thank you for coming," Gallo greeted them before turning to Paige. "Officer Dineen, this is Dr. Walter O'Brien, Ranger Happy Quinn, her drift partner Dr. Toby Curtis, and Dr. Sylvester Dodd. They make up Team Scorpion."
"It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Paige Dineen, and I'll be your Jaeger Technician Chief," Paige introduced herself as she offered her hand to shake all of theirs.
The team nodded and each gave her a quick glance but otherwise didn't say anything in return.
Paige looked to the Marshal for help at the sudden awkwardness.
"Let's get inside," Gallo suggested as he turned and led the way with Paige flanking him.
Walter and the rest of the team followed them inside the LOCCENT.
"She's cute," Happy teased in a whisper to Walter, apparently noticing he hadn't taken his eyes off her since he had shaken her hand.
He tore his gaze away from Paige's back to give Happy an unimpressed look.
"I didn't see a wedding ring either," Toby chimed in.
"Guys, knock it off," Walter warned in a low tone so Paige or Marshal Gallo wouldn't hear.
Once in the elevator, Gallo gestured for Paige to hand out the dossiers.
"Your Jaeger 'Scorpion' will be arriving shortly in Dock B5. I already have a team of technicians at the ready to do whatever repairs and upgrades needed," Marshal Gallo announced before turning his attention to Walter. "I understand you're looking to be a Pilot again."
Walter took a deep breath. "I'm seriously considering it. If I can find a way to pilot a Jaeger solo without killing myself…" he answered, his words laced with something that sounded vaguely like resentment and latent hostility.
"Well until you figure that out, we can start tryouts to see if you can be compatible with anyone here." Gallo replied.
Walter set his jaw and huffed through his nose. "Okay," he muttered.
Five Years Earlier
Walter and his sister Megan walked toward their Jaeger the Bean Neigh, a Scottish folklore term for a death fairy.
"Ready for a showdown, Walt?" Megan asked as she stood on the right side of the Jaeger.
She flexed and fisted her hands a few times, her excitement making her nerves bounce a little more than she thought they should. They were, after all, relatively new pilots, barely graduated from the academy when they were pulled into their first few fights. Walter really should have been the dominant pilot, but he was still too green even though every test had shown that he was one of the more powerful pilots the academy had ever seen. But because of his unique and brilliant nature, he couldn't drift normally. It was only because Megan was his sister that he was able to drift with her at all.
"Absolutely. It's only a category one; should be a piece of cake," Walter answered with a smug grin as he was hooked up to the Jaeger.
"A large category one. Keep your head on, little brother," Megan warned teasingly.
Walter smiled back before he relaxed and took a calming breath, clearing his mind as he waited for Megan to initiate the neural handshake that in turn commenced the neural bridge. Memories of their shared childhood flew from one to the other; their father farming, their mother making Haggis and making both of them gag, playing tag around the small farm house in the country side.
The bridge was established and both Megan and Walter opened their eyes and grinned. Out of their peripheral vision, they watched the floor dropping away, allowing their footholds to move and therefore move the rest of the Jaeger.
"Marshal Gallo on deck," Leon, their J-Tech announced as he gave the comm over to the Marshal to give Megan and Walter their instructions.
"Team Galloway is engaging the Kaiju, codenamed Pillager. Your mission is to maintain the perimeter," Gallo instructed.
"Yes sir," Megan answered and mentally prodded her brother to agree.
"Yes sir," Walter answered a moment later then turned off the comm. "You know the Galloway is ill-equipped. She's had issues with her missile system and she leaks oil like a sieve."
"We have our orders and we should follow them," Megan affirmed, not liking the situation any more than her brother did.
They watched as the Kaiju lifted its large cleaver-like head from the water as they turned their large beacon light on for Galloway's benefit. With one swift ramming of its head, it cut off Galloway's right arm.
"We need to go help them," Walter insisted as his breathing got harder.
Megan turned the comm back on. "Sir, Galloway lost an arm, permission to intervene," Megan requested.
"Permission denied. Galloway still has fight in her, Ranger," Gallo answered firmly.
Walter shifted his weight in his stance anxiously as he watched Pillager pick up the severed arm and whip Galloway with it, knocking the legs out from under her.
"Permission to intervene!" Megan cried out again, voicing Walter's demands screaming in her own head.
"Keep the perimeter!" Gallo repeated. "You have hundreds of thousands of people on shore to protect. That's an order Ranger."
"Fuck this, permission my ass," Megan hissed as she hit the comm off and mentally prodded her brother to start moving with her.
"Bean Neigh, you're being ordered to stop and maintain the perimeter," Leon reminded them, but the bite was out of his tone since he inwardly agreed with what the O'Brien's were doing.
The Killian's, the pilots of the Galloway, were like family to both himself and the O'Brien's.
Megan and Walter ignored the order as they practically ran to the Galloway's side. Three strides away, Pillager muscled Galloway down and crushed their core under a clawed foot, instantly killing them and rendering Galloway completely destroyed.
'Light the bastard up,' Megan nudged Walter as he raised his weaponed arm and fired missile after missile at the Kaiju, who in turn used its massive clawed paws and swiped at them, the tips of which caught the armor and exposed the core.
"Get out of there!" Leon pleaded over the comm.
"No," Megan and Walter both answered as Megan's arm transformed into a giant hammer and did an upswing at the Kaiju's head. It made contact and hit the jaw, breaking it but doing little else besides pissing it off even more.
They deployed body flares to distract it as Megan changed her arm's hand into a talon, and Walter and Megan moved both arms together and sunk in their metal claws into Pillager's head, crushing it's skull and killing it.
Megan and Walter watched with satisfaction as the life drained from the monster's eyes before the entire body became limp.
Usually Walter would be booming with congratulations to himself for once again being the hero and saving the day, but Megan prodded him that they should try to pick up Galloway's remains.
They dropped the lifeless Kaiju into the water and walked over to where parts of Galloway were sticking up from the water. They found the crushed core and head, still attached, eye piece shattered and flooded, the Killians' bodies still in their suits and mostly intact. They cradled the remains and walked back to shore.
The whole way back Walter felt a distinct pain in his extremities. He did a self-check and could tell it wasn't coming from him. The Jaeger doesn't feel pain, which meant that Megan must have been the one in pain. It was as if she had run several marathons before she got into the Jaeger.
"You okay, Megan?" Walter asked out loud.
"I'm fine. Let's just get them back to shore," she answered through gritted teeth.
The Killian's had become like a second set of parents to her, and she was already starting to mourn their loss.
Once they were back in the hanger and the neural bridge had been disintegrated, Walter noticed the pain fade instantly but that Megan still seemed to be struggling. She was crying. He assumed it was because they had lost the Killian's, and so he picked her up and carried her to her room to help her regain her composure. They would be having a funeral in a few days.
Megan was crying for many reasons. She had felt this pain before. She didn't know what it was, and it was scaring her. Today had been the worst she had experienced, and Walter had felt it in the drift. There was no way he wouldn't bring it up later.
A week later, Walter stood next to his sister, clutching her hand and wondering if she could even feel it as she sat on the doctor's examination table.
Dr. Leibendorf entered the room with a grim face, and the siblings immediately braced themselves for the worst. "I'm sorry, Ms. O'Brien, but it appears you have MS," he informed them as he held up pictures from her MRI and pointed to all of the lesions on her brain.
"But none of this was here two years ago when I got an MRI to become a Jaeger Pilot," Megan argued as she looked at them disbelievingly.
"That's because they weren't there two years ago. I suspect the mental and physiological toll from the neural bridge may have been a large factor in the progression of the disease."
"If," Walter began, having difficulty in finding his voice. "If she had never set foot in a Jaeger, would this still have happened?"
"It's hard to say. We can speculate, but what we should be doing is finding a way to make your daily life as manageable and enjoyable as possible," Dr. Leibendorf replied as he addressed Megan, his warm bedside manner appeasing her but not satisfying Walter in the least.
"I want to see all the test results," Walter demanded.
The doctor looked at Megan who nodded her permission before the he handed Walter her file. Walter spent the next few minutes memorizing every page, each one more damning than the next. He handed it back, his anger barely contained in his frame as his brain raced and his consciousness stabbing his heart with guilt.
"We should go," Walter murmured to his sister, taking her hand again and trying to give it a comforting squeeze.
"For now, I think you should start using a cane. If it gets any worse, you may have to use crutches. I have a few medications we can try," the doctor offered.
"Of course, I'll try anything at least once," Megan answered, trying to keep her composure despite feeling numb beyond words.
Hours later, Megan sat on her bed, motionless as she looked at her hands, the crackly feeling moving over the nerve endings like they had been doing for a while now. Tears welled in her eyes as her vision blurred.
Walter came in and she jolted a little at the sound of the door opening.
"I knocked," he stated quietly as he watched his sister wipe away tears that had threatened to fall only moments before.
"Sorry. I didn't hear you," she whispered as she tried to smile for him.
"I did this to you," Walter admitted in a self-depreciating tone as he sat next to her on the bed.
"No you didn't," Megan argued.
"Yes I did," he repeated more firmly. "I was the one who wanted to be a pilot. I was the one that talked you into going to the academy. I was the one who pushed for all of this to happen, and now..." Water's voice trailed off.
"Hey," Megan cut in as she wrapped her arms around him. "You, didn't do this to me. It's my own body betraying me, and it would have happened eventually no matter what," she tried to reason.
"I'll never set foot in a Jaeger again," Walter promised as he hugged his sister back.
"No, don't say that. You are the best pilot this world has ever seen. You just need to find someone else to drift with, that's all. Don't let me stop you from saving the world," Megan encouraged.
Walter considered her for a moment before dropping his shoulders in defeat. "Okay," he muttered.
Author's notes- Greatest thanks to Alaburn for betaing this for me.
This was a prompt from Tumblr that quickly took over my life.