This is going to be different than my other EoT fics. A plot bunny attacked me recently and I had to write a potential summary to nail it down: Pacific Rim AU. Rita has been piloting the near-relic Jaegar Gipsy Danger since the beginning of the Mimic war, surviving through five partners. Her newest partner/co-pilot is William Cage, an arrogant rookie thrown into the war because of simple desperation. He is forced to fight by Rita's side. Changed elements of my original idea to fit EoT's story a little more. Still working out the kinks since I haven't seen Pacific Rim in forever (despite owning it) but I think it's promising.
The idea is more AU than true crossover, leaning heavily towards Edge of Tomorrow with Pacific Rim elements thrown in. Hence it is not in crossover section
This idea wouldn't leave me alone, and I figured it was time to get back into some writing after the holidays! As usual, I have no beta so all mistakes are my own!
She was an anomaly. Rita Vrataski was often called "The Full Metal Bitch" behind her back. Not that she didn't hear the whispers, didn't notice the stares when she walked around the compound. Not that she blamed them for the moniker.
She was a bitch. It was the only way she knew how to be. The only way she knew how to survive. The war with the Mimics had been ongoing for several years by this point. She was one of the first volunteers, joining the UDF when she was twenty-one. Her parents had died in one of the earliest Mimic attacks, in a research facility by the ocean while studying the phenomenon that was the portal by the ocean floor. She was now twenty-eight and she'd outlived all but one of her partners. The only one who'd bowed out of the program, rather than died was Hendricks. The mention of his name still made her flinch.
Today she was finally going to meet her latest co-pilot. She knew nothing about the man, wondered how reliable he would turn out to be. Her third partner, Cruz had been the last willing person to be partnered with her. She was a death omen and even Hendricks had learned to despise her at the end. But she was the greatest asset that the UDF had, having thousands of Mimic deaths under her belt after so many years of service.
The first sight of the man wasn't what she expected. He was good-looking but surely several years too old to be the rookie they'd stated he was. And a major. The first glimpse of his eyes darting nervously darting around the room had her on edge. It was never a good sign when they were nervous to meet her. He looked like he wanted to escape. Despite his fidgeting, Rita was certain she'd seen the man before, perhaps even met him.
She nodded at him as she approached, grunting a greeting that was barely discernible. She didn't expect this one to make it past the trial drift. With each search she'd been through dozens of potential co-pilots before actually settling on one. Her first drift partner, Jamie, had taken so long to find that she'd almost flunked the program. But he'd turned out to be her most loyal and dearest friend. His death only three years ago had nearly torn her apart. Their relationship wasn't only unique as one of the first pairs to pilot a Jaegar, but also because their partnership had lasted so long before his death. Four years, which didn't seem like much. But a Jaegar pilot's lifespan was considerably shortened by the war. She'd survived seven years, only a handful of people lasting as long as she. And most of them had retired from front line combat. But she couldn't, not until she was dead or the war was over.
The man, William Cage, stuck out a hand for her to shake. She almost ignored the gesture, taking it belatedly as he moved to drop his hand. As a result, she seemed to lift his hand towards her rather than shake it, clasping his hand in a way that was much too familiar for her taste. The handshake lasted maybe a few seconds, but her hand clenched at her side from the warmth of his grip.
"Rita Vrataski," she muttered by way of introduction. The man nodded, but lines creased in his forehead in brief confusion.
"William Cage," he offered. "We've met before."
Rita wanted to deny it but she reminded herself his face was familiar. Her brow furrowed as she considered where they could have met. Until it dawned on her with rising amusement that they had met once before. On a bloody television show. William Cage, a Major in the US military was also a propaganda piece. He actively recruited droves of young recruits to the war, promised glory, honor and a place in history. He lied to thousands of people with every smile, every scripted line out of his mouth. She'd loathed the man from the moment she'd met him. He'd been charismatic and charming, and it had taken everything she had to hide her irritation. It was the only interview she'd done. The bureaucrats said she'd come off as unlikeable, as untrustworthy rather than mysterious, as weary rather than accomplished. The entire thing was a bunch of bullshit and she'd been grateful when it ended. She'd promptly forgotten William Cage. Until now.
"Yes," she finally uttered. "I remember."
Cage nodded diplomatically but she could still see the nervous energy that had him shifting from foot to foot. "Yes, well, it was awhile ago." But he'd never forgotten the meeting with Rita.
"Are you here to bring me to my drift partner?" Rita wondered. She really couldn't see her superiors thinking that William Cage anywhere near a Jaegar was a good idea.
Cage shook his head once in the negative, his fingers moving idly at his sides. "No actually. I'm your partner. Or, I might be, if the trial is successful." She could tell that he was hoping just as fervently as she was that it wasn't.
Rita had nothing against Cage personally. But he wasn't a soldier, had gotten his rank by pandering rather than actual achievement. He was a liability. But she understood why her superiors would be desperate enough to consider him. She'd lost five partners, four in the past three years. She was a pariah. Though the loss had been through no fault of her own. She'd fought as best as she could, tried to save the men that had stood beside her in their Jaegar. And she'd lost them all the same. Worse yet, she survived when she'd wished to die beside them. She'd only learned to disconnect from the shared drift after experiencing her first two partners deaths. They would haunt her for the rest of her life.
"Yes," she finally agreed, seeing no other choice. "We'll see." She gestured for him to proceed her.
She entered the room with apprehension. Her Jaegar, Gipsy Danger, was already set up and simply waiting for them to enter it. She gave General Brigham a perfunctory nod, barely hiding her dislike of the man. Master Sergeant Farell received a small smile and she noted with affection that his neatly trimmed mustache twitched as he hid his smile. Dr. Carter grasped her shoulder and shook it lightly in encouragement. He knew how much these searches took out of her, how much anguish she hid every time they found someone new for her to partner with. But no matter how much she hated herself for it, her body thrummed in anticipation. She was determined to end the war or die trying. And she needed a drift partner to do that with.
She suited up quickly, watching with wry amusement as Cage struggled to get himself into the jacket that coordinated Gipsy's left side controls. Dr. Carter stepped forward to help, rolling his eyes in her direction at Cage's clumsy attempts. It looked like he didn't think Cage would be a match either.
Rita calmed her mind, closing her eyes to focus herself as Gipsy was brought online. She could hear Cage's harsh breathing beside her.
"Slow your breathing," she advised. "Empty your thoughts. It will help."
She glanced over as Cage's breathing slowed. His eyes were closed and his brow furrowed as he concentrated. She worried that he would lose control during the drift. It was always the nervous ones that lost control. And yet she'd learned how to bring them back with minimal trouble. It had taken more than a dozen accidents and near-misses for her to gain complete control over the drift. Cage would be only one more face among dozens in her search for a partner.
Dr. Carter counted down to them, Gipsy powering up with a low hum. She'd been repaired and upgraded more than half a dozen times in the years since her first mission. It was a miracle she was still running, and competing with the dozens of other Jaegars that fought against the Mimics. But Dr. Carter loved her as much, if not more than, Rita did. He made sure she always got the best upgrades first. Rita sighed in contentment as the humming of Gipsy vibrated in her bones. She felt a jolt of cold flow through her mind as they started the drift, and Cage's thoughts invaded her own.
It was the moment she hated and feared more than anything. The drift was a very private place, a river of thoughts and memories flowing between the two of them and threatening to consume them both. Everything Rita was, every memory she had, every death she'd experienced was Cage's to see, to feel and analyze. She figured it was one of the many reasons she had such a hard time dealing with the search for a partner. It felt too personal. And yet this time it was different. Often it was her memories that threatened to drown them, her potential partner's lives relatively unscathed next to hers. And yet she found herself pulled from her painful past and thrown into Cage's.
He was thinking of the first time they met. She was beautiful to him, if cold and reserved. He was curious about the woman who'd killed so many Mimics and lost a partner in turn. It had only been one partner then, only Jamie to mourn, though she'd lost Matthew only a few short months later. It was disconcerting to see their meeting through both perspectives. She'd barely remembered the man, and yet her memories were relived with acute detail. She felt the hum of awareness he'd felt when her hand had shaken his. She'd felt her own derision for the man she saw as nothing more than General Brigham's pawn. She'd yearned to touch her own face, to stroke her cheek to see if it was as soft as it looked. She yearned for freedom from General Brigham and the indiscretions of her past, the chance to start anew. The chance to be simply herself and not that face of the war. The guilt and yearning flowed through her in equal measure. And Rita only belatedly realized that despite the similarity to her own desires, the feelings were not her own. Her only indiscretion had been surviving, when others had not. She lost herself in an insignificant thread then, a foray into Cage's past to search for the mistakes that seemed to have cost him so much. He felt chained to duty, to the job of recruiting thousands to their deaths. Jaegars were a last resort. So many women and men were sent before them, to clear a path as cannon fodder. So many died before Rita every stepped on the battlefield. And Cage felt the weight of their deaths, so heavy Rita started to lose herself to the guilt and pain.
It was Cage that pulled her back, tugged her from the memory that would allow her access to his deepest shame. She struggled against his hold, desperate to see why his pain was so similar to her own, how a man who had everything could be so broken. Just like her.
She didn't get the chance, as Cage righted the connection between them, stabilizing it with determination. She felt the horror dawn on him when he belatedly realized what he'd done. He'd secured the drift, connecting them successfully to Gispy and to each other.
Rita reacted without thought, testing the connection with eager abandon. Cage's tormented past was brushed to the side, to be analyzed later. She flexed her mental muscles, holding onto the drift as if her life depended on it. Her body moved of it's own accord, and the Gipsy's right side complied accordingly. The crew had backed out of the hangar, giving them space to test their abilities. She felt adrenaline coursing through her veins, and a fair dose of confusion. She'd never found a drift partner on the first try, and without any preliminary combat practice. She poked at Cage's mind. He seemed to be frozen in shock. He was firmly grounded in their connection but he seemed to be having trouble believing it. She prodded him mentally, trying to push him towards reacting. Gipsy had taken a step forward, her right arm coming up in a defensive stance, but Cage was controlling Gipsy's left side and it remained immobile.
"Cage?" she finally voiced her frustration with his inactivity. She looked towards him, noticing that his face was pale. She wanted to wave her hand in front of his face, but she was stuck in the jacket, just as he was. "Cage!"
Finally he looked towards her, blinking way his dazed expression as he focused on her. "Yes?'
Rita waved Gipsy's right arm, knowing Cage felt the movement, the slight ping of feedback as their thoughts slid together. "Can you move?"
Cage frowned, concentrating on making the huge Jaegar move. Rita wanted to laugh as he remained still. "You need to move as well. You move, Gipsy moves." she stated as if it were obvious.
Cage flushed but he took a small step, his leg straining against the weight of the jacket. She frowned as he began to move gingerly, Rita reacting in counterpart without thought. They reached a balance quickly, moving together without difficulty, beyond Cage's obvious struggle with the jacket. They were anchored into Gipsy via a heavy frame that they called a jacket. It was cumbersome, but was able to be disconnected from the Jaegar if they ever needed to leave her behind. It was outfitted with a machine gun on one arm, and a missile cannon on the other. Spare clips were strapped to their legs, an explosive device strapped to their chest if they were ever ripped from the Gipsy. A quick death that was sure to take at least their attacking Mimic with them. Jamie had gone that way, detonating the explosive a second too late as the Mimic teared into his chest. All in an attempt to distance her from the explosion and spare her his fate, at the expense of her feeling his last moments of terror, the pain that threatened to consume her, and the maddening void when he was gone. It was the void that had threatened her sanity for so long. To be so close to someone, to have that person become an extension of herself, and to have it ripped from her in seconds. The Gipsy had been under repair for four months after that, Rita barely able to make it to base before collapsing.
Rita concentrated on Cage the entire run of their trial, watching him for both mental and physical strain. She was once again doubting his choice as her partner. Despite their relatively easy transition into drifting, Cage seemed ill equipped physically to handle the demands of piloting a Jaegar. In an hour of simply walking around the hangar and moving their arms around, his face was flushed and he was breathing heavily. She worried that in combat, he wouldn't be able to follow through on the simplest maneuvers and attacks without overexerting himself.
She called it quits when his gasping breaths were all she could hear, drowning out even the communication between Dr. Carter and herself over their headsets.
Rita tried to be encouraging, to feel optimistic for Cage's sake, but the nature of drifting meant he could feel her doubt despite her greatest efforts to hide it. To have a successful partnership, they needed to trust each other and their actions implicitly and react accordingly.
Cage was helped out of his jacket by Dr. Carter, the flush on his face deepening due to his embarrassment at his own inadequacy. Rita shrugged out of her own jacket easily but waited for Cage. Farell waited for her with raised eyebrows. After every trial drift, even the successful ones, Rita was known to be the first to leave, requiring space to process what she'd learned. And yet she felt sympathetic towards Cage. He shouldn't be here, that much she'd managed to glimpse from his memories. General Brigham had something on Cage, though those thoughts had been buried deep enough that Rita wouldn't see them without digging. And Cage would have sensed her in his darkest memories and shoved her out before she'd discovered anything.
Her thoughts were interrupted by General Brigham's booming voice. "Congratulations, Vrataski! A winner on the first go." He seemed oblivious to Cage's heaving chest, or purposely ignored it as his smiled widened alarmingly. "I couldn't have hoped for a better outcome." He clapped his hands together, rubbing them together gleefully as he ordered his men to desist their search for more potential driftmates for Rita.
Rita wanted to protest his easy dismissal of Cage's issues, and yet with a glance at Cage's imploring eyes, she kept her mouth firmly shut. Cage looked astounded and slightly desperate at her inaction, and she wondered at it herself. Cage was not an ideal candidate, yet whatever Brigham had on him wouldn't simply go away if she rejected him. He would take his pound of flesh one way or another, perhaps throwing Cage on the frontlines. This way at least, with hours of rigorous training, he had a hope of survival.
In Sgt. Farell's own words, "Battle is the great redeemer." Cage would find either redemption or death in the war against the Mimics. She was already certain which fate would be his, though his redemption might come after his death. The guilt threatened to overwhelm her for a moment, but she wouldn't back down. Cage had been volunteered, whether willingly or not wasn't her concern. He was a match. It was her job to make sure he was ready to fight. Her hope, deeply buried, that he might survive.
So...Good? Bad? Meh? Please let me know if it's worth continuing. It's an idea I'm considering turning into an multi-chapter fic.