Drift Compatible

Chapter 4

Ralph had been training every day. Happy, Toby, and Walter had been putting him through the paces, building his strength and stamina. He was getting good at reading people when practicing fighting, anticipating their possible next moves.

Paige noticed her son was becoming more toned and eating more meat and protein than usual, but she chalked it up to him going through another growth spurt. When she asked about how he spent his time off from school, Ralph would simply tell her he was with Scorpion, talking to them about the next breach. Walter was working on a new single pilot Jaeger, and it would be a bit smaller but would have AI to take on the extra Nero-load. Paige was happy to see her son finally finding people like him and having friends, even if they weren't his own age.

Then came the day for tryouts for Walter's copilot. Paige had helped pick the candidates, often staying up late to go over personality profiles to see if they would at least get along since Walter was, well, Walter. It was difficult, but she had managed to make a decent sized list. When she turned it into Marshal Gallo, he was impressed and informed her that there had been a few volunteers as well. He had already gone over their profiles and approved of them so she didn't have to do anything more.

Page accepted the order and went down to the combat area and stood among Team Scorpion. Ralph was already on the front line. She assumed that he just wanted to see all the action.

She watched, trying not to bite her nails as Walter put down every opponent she had picked in less than 6 or 7 moves. She sighed in defeat, feeling like a failure.

"Where did you get these guys?" Happy asked over her shoulder at Paige, clearly unimpressed with what she saw.

"They had the best personality compatibility out of the available candidates," Paige defended.

"Yeah, but obviously not a physical one. It's okay, Paige, you'll do better next time," Toby tried to reassure her. But it did little to improve her mood.

Then when Marshal called Ralph's name, it snapped Paige out of the lull she was in of trying to rethink possible candidates.

"Wait!" she called out as she fought her way to the mat and looked at the Marshal like he had gone mad.

"Mom," Ralph spoke cautiously as he tried to pull her back to the sidelines.

"Yes, Officer Dineen?" Gallo replied.

"My son is still a minor. I did not sign off on this, nor will I do so. I wasn't even informed of this."

"Ralph volunteered and signed a J36. I approved it personally. It won't hurt to just see what he's capable of. This is only a tryout after all."

Gallo's attempts to reassure Paige were well intended, but it took the combined efforts of Ralph, Toby, and Happy to pull Paige off of the mat. She gave both her son and Walter death glares, promising Walter he would regret it if he hurt her son. She stood just outside the mat, her arms crossed and watched as the match began.

Walter attacked first, an easy block. He was going easy on Ralph. But then Ralph surprised Walter with a much more aggressive counter attack that had Paige's eyes practically pop out of her head in surprise. Where had her son learned such a thing? Then it dawned on her, and she turned to the team, all of whom avoided her gaze.

"You've been training him," Paige hissed to them.

"He wanted to learn. He needed to know self-defense," Happy replied bluntly.

"Bullshit. This isn't self-defense; this is combat, Jaeger training combat. There's a big difference. How could you guys go behind my back like this?" Paige asked, hurt by the betrayal.

She turned her attention back to the match and watched as Ralph was actually giving Walter a run for his money. It was 3-3 tie, and she could tell Ralph was giving his all, even improvising and evading better than all the other opponents. The match lasted longer than it had taken Walter to take down all the other contestants put together. Paige couldn't believe her own eyes. Behind her the team was beaming with pride that their young protégé was doing so well.

"That's all you got?" Ralph taunted Walter.

Then Walter surprised Ralph with a move that none of them had ever seen before, winning the match which brought on the largest applause. But Paige was still pissed at the whole situation. She didn't even wait for the end of the tryouts before hauling Ralph off to their room.

"What the hell were you thinking, Ralph? You can't do this!" Paige shouted as she held firmly onto his shoulders.

"Mom, I want to! I want to be a pilot, and I want to copilot with Walter. You saw how I was the only one who was able to stand up to him."

"That aside, you are still a minor. You should have told me. I can't believe you would keep this from me," Paige ranted. "Not just you, the whole team went behind my back. You all betrayed me. We are supposed to be a team. You can't leave me out on this. We are talking about your life. Every time a pilot steps into a Jaeger, they have a high chance of not stepping off, and I can't lose you. You are all I have," Paige continued as tears fell from her eyes and she reached out and held her son as hard as she could. "I can't lose you," she repeated in a whisper before there was a tentative knock on the door.

Paige looked through the peep hole to see Walter as well as the rest of the team standing off to the side, all looking extremely guilty. She opened the door, ready to rip Walter a new one when he held his hands up in surrender.

"I know we did the wrong thing in not telling you," Walter began.

"Yeah, no kidding," Paige seethed.

"But Ralph is obviously very gifted, and he volunteered. I even tried to dissuade him, but he found that J36 and had it signed and on Marshal's desk before we could try to talk him out of it."

"If you were so against it, you could have refused to spar with him when his name was called," Paige pointed out. "But instead you were all too happy to do so. And who is responsible for teaching him those fighting techniques in the first place?" she demanded as she looked at the rest of the group.

Happy, Toby, and Walter all raised their hands.

"You are all despicable, for going behind my back and betraying me like this, and with my son no less. I will quit and get my son and I back state side as soon as possible if it means keeping him safe," Paige announced before she slammed the door.

Walter banged on the door, imploring her to change her mind into talking about the situation. Ralph went into his room and locked his door, refusing to talk to his mother.

Paige waited until they had all left before she ventured out with her letter of resignation in hand. She marched determinedly to Marshal Gallo's office and knocked quickly but firmly. When she entered his office she practically slammed the letter down on his desk.

"This is my letter of resignation. As of right now, my son and I are going home, back to the United States."

"No, you're not," Gallo countered. "I refuse your resignation. You and your son are not going anywhere."

"Then at least let me quit Team Scorpion. They betrayed me and trained my son behind my back. I can't trust them, I refuse to work with them. Court Marshal me if you want; give me a dishonorable discharge. I will do everything in my power to get myself and my son off of this base," she contested.

"You should thank them. Ralph is one of the best fighters I have seen. Even at his young age, he is gifted. We need him, now more than ever."

"I am not giving up my son to you. He is mine. I gave birth to him, I raised him, I have full parental rights and control. Fuck your J36 form, because the L14 overrules it, and yes, I have signed it and already sent it to headquarters," Paige informed him.

Usually she would never speak to an authority figure like this, but this was her only son and she would be damned if she didn't fight to keep him out of harm's way.

Gallo could tell this was a delicate situation. He was dealing with not just an enraged officer, but a mother protecting her son. He had to calm the whole situation down and fast.

"Paige," Gallo started in a calm, soothing voice. "I know you love your son and want to protect him at all costs, but we are at a point where we need everything we can get. Right now my engineers and builders are building a Jaeger of both Mr. O'Brien and your son's design. We had to spend a fortune just to get the materials. It will be the greatest and safest Jaeger ever. It has more reinforcements than this shatter dome. It has artificial intelligence that even my most highly advanced computers can't match. You should be proud of what your son has done. With this Jaeger and others that we will build after it, we will win this war. I have a plan that with your son's help, will hopefully end it. It will not only save the world but bring world peace with it. Now do you really want to jeopardize that?" Gallo questioned.

Paige narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms at him. How dare he guilt trip her?

Just then there was a frantic knock on the door before Gallo's secretary came in and said that there had been another breach, just minutes ago, but it went straight for Australia. She then turned on the TV in Gallo's office, showing a news report of helicopters tracking the giant beast through the water as it swam toward Sydney.

"What category is that?" Paige asked as she looked at the screen.

"The largest category four to date," Gallo's secretary answered.

"How is that a category four? That should be a category five; it's huge!" Paige argued as they watched it continue to move through the water at incredible speed.

The helicopters couldn't keep up. They had to send jets with cameras mounted on the bottom to keep up with it. Within half an hour it had reached Sydney and broke through the wall, much of the beautiful city destroyed as the local Jaeger teams took it down with great difficulty.

"Officer Dineen, the world needs your son, or else this will happen all around the world. Please, reconsider. Have faith in your son, have faith in your team, don't go," Gallo pleaded softly as he stood next to her while they watched the broadcast.

Paige took a deep breath, willing her eyes not to shed tears as she turned around and took back her letter of resignation. "Swear to me, that no harm will come to my son or heaven help all of you," Paige warned before taking her leave.

"Team meeting!" Paige yelled as she and Ralph knocked on the doors to Team Scorpion's personal residences.

They all opened up and looked at her in awe.

"If we are going to save the world we are doing it together. No more secrets, no more lies, nothing but honesty, got it?" Paige demanded.

"Yeah," they all answered collectively.

"Now, let's get to our base and see how we are going to do it," Paige dictated before leading the way.

"Yes Ma'am," Toby replied with raised eyebrows as they followed her.

Once in the room, Paige had them show her everything they had. All the schematics, all the math and science, mechanics, and prototypes.

Ralph also showed her his graduation certificate. He had taken an exit test from high school as well as the university he was attending and had graduated both with high honors. Walter had helped him study for the exams and was proud that even at Ralph's early age, he had accomplished so much.

"So instead of going to school, you simply graduated and spent your time on all of this," Paige concluded after looking at the certificates, making sure they were legit and not counterfeit.

"Yup," Ralph confirmed.

"Ralph, I wanted to throw you a graduation party and make you a cake and make you wear those little cone hats and..." Paige complained.

"I don't need it, Mom, this is more important," Ralph stated simply.

"Well when this is over, you are having a party. I'm sure there is someone that can dress up like a clown or something, make balloon animals," Paige added, but was surprised when she looked up that everyone was looking at her in horror.

"I'm not eight. That would be horrible, Mom," Ralph deadpanned.

"Fine," Paige conceded. "So show me more about this prototype..."

The next day, Paige was looking through Walter's physical file when she came across something that disturbed her. Walter had piloted with a Mark Collins, another genius, but one with a psych analysis that would tell anyone to steer clear. He had had the same marks most super intelligent serial killers had. How could Walter let someone like that into his head? They had only fought one fight together, but Walter had gone out of alignment and both of them had gone down the rabbit hole, both of them nearly dying. Thank goodness it had been a multi Jaeger fight.

Afterwards, Collins had been institutionalized for insanity. Walter had sustained some mental damage but was able to recover and had not fought again since. It was even noted that no one would even volunteer to try out to copilot with him because of what had happened with Collins. Since then, Walter had simply gone into the science and technology departments.

Paige took Walter outside as the team did their work and research to talk to him.

"Yes?" Walter asked once they were outside.

Paige took out Walter's physical file and had the part where it mentioned Mark Collins and the catastrophe that followed. "Before I let my son even get into a simulator with you, you need to explain this," Paige put to him.

Walter physically deflated and clenched his jaw as he read it over. Paige watched as he seemed to relive it and was getting uncomfortable.

"What...what exactly do you want me to explain?" Walter asked as he snapped the file shut and handed it back to her.

"Ideally, everything. Mark Collins was never in the Jaeger program, had no fighting experience what so ever, but you found a way to circumvent the system and got him in underneath everyone's noses, something you seem to be good at," Paige clarified, a sting to her words that wasn't lost on Walter.

Walter took a deep breath. "Mark Collins was a theoretical physicist. He and I would spend hours and hours going over theories and mathematics, and we clicked. We were both geniuses and Mark wondered about the piloting science. I snuck him in a few times and we hijacked the simulator, and for eleven hours straight we fought. We achieved the highest kill record," Walter began, a small smirk on his face.

"When we came out, we of course had a lot of explaining to do. I begged to have him be my copilot since it was obvious we were drift compatible. But then there was a breach, and at the last minute we were put into a Jaeger. In the neurohandshake, I got to really see into Mark's head. That was when I learned that he didn't want to fight Kaijus; he wanted to go through the portal into the other side. He believed they were the future and would happily hand over mankind to learn more about them, from them, if possible. I disengaged first and realized too late that..." Walter faltered, the smirk gone from his face, instead a deep sadness took over his features as he looked at the ground, unable to look up and into Paige's eyes.

"We went down the rabbit hole and when we were brought in, a psych analysis was done on both of us. I told them everything I saw and felt from Collins and made sure he was put away. He was a danger to everyone around him," Walter explained.

"Your file said that you suffered damage from that incident," Paige said. "Drifting is a two way street. I don't want whatever this psycho put into your head to get into my son's head."

"I swear to you, it won't. I went through therapy, and I have repaired all the damage done by him. Your son is in no danger," Walter implored, this time looking directly into Paige's eyes.

"Okay, but if Ralph so much as has a single nightmare after the simulator, or shows any signs of disturbance, you will have hell to pay," Paige told him warningly.

However, she was satisfied with Walter's explanation, and her faith was beginning to be restored.

Author's notes- I'm so sorry this has taken FOREVER to update but here is another chapter, betaed and all thanks to the lovely and ever so talented Alaburn.

Thank you so much for reading.