A/N- I just wanted to warn everyone ahead of time, this probably isn't like the other Pacific Rim stories. I took a lot of creative license, tweaking parts of the story to fit what I want. I did my best to explain everything, but please let me know if I didn't explain something that I changed in the story. It is definitely a fluffy story, but I hope you still think it's a fun easy read! I love reviews and feedback, so please send the love! (Or the helpful criticisms)
Raleigh Becket glanced around the Hong Kong shatterdome as he made his way to Marshall Stacker Pentecost's office. He didn't have any idea why he'd been transferred there, or why the Marshall had set up office there. Raleigh had been placed in charge of the Tokyo Shatterdome after his copilot and brother, Yancy, died in their Jaeger five years earlier. He couldn't bring himself to pilot anymore, but he'd been unable to leave the Jaeger program entirely, it was ingrained too deeply in him. The Jaeger Academy would do that to a person. 200 people started in a class, but after the grueling 4 year program, only 10-20 of them would get their own jaegers. The rest were placed in support roles in the program. The school trained them in every facet of the program, making them fit to become engineers, navigational support, or even mechanics.
"Becket." Marshall Stacker Pentecost said, rising from his desk as Raleigh entered the office.
"Marshall." Raleigh said respectfully, sitting in the chair across the desk from Stacker as Stacker took his seat. They sat in silence for a beat before Raleigh leaned forward. "What's going on, sir? Why'd you bring me here?"
The Marshall sighed before answering. "Another breech has opened."
"Shit." Raleigh hissed through his teeth. "Where?"
"About 50 miles from here, middle of the pacific." Stacker said. The first breech was opened close to Alaska, and the largest shatterdome was just off the coast. Now the Hong Kong shatterdome had been built seemingly overnight, and it seemed to be almost twice as large as the Alaskan one.
"We are stationing six jaegers here. The best of the best. We need to keep the Kaiju off of land… and we need to find a way to close the breeches… before they open a third." Stacker told Raleigh. His face was drawn and tired. He'd been burning the candle at both ends since the program was granted seemingly unlimited funds to get the Shatterdome off the ground.
"Which six?" Raleigh asked. He knew the amount of time it took to construct a Jaeger, and there were only two under construction right now, and they were months from completion. Besides, the best of the best weren't wet behind the ears graduates of the Academy.
"I've got some ideas, but I wanted your input. We need to decide and get them mobilized." Stacker told him, handing him a stack of files.
Raleigh thumbed through them. With the exception of Crimson Typhoon he only he knew the pilots and Jaegers by name and reputation, but he kept a close eye on all the active Jaegers and had an idea of which ones he'd want beside him in a fight. "Striker Eureka is a give in." He declared, dropping the file back on the desk. Stacker nodded. "Cherno Alpha, Solar Prophet and Crimson Typhoon." He added.
"The same ones I would've chosen." The Marshall told him, silently urging Raleigh to continue.
"You're bringing Coyote Tango over right? Can't let your pride and joy sit this out." Raleigh asked him noticing the file was absent from the stack. Coyote Tango had been refurbished and upgraded and had been given to Audrey Vaughn, the only pilot that had been able to fly solo with no adverse effects. She was wired differently than the average person. Every recruit that came through the Academy hoped to be the next Audrey Vaughn, especially the ones that didn't have a strong connection to their partners. A strong neural handshake in the drift made a stronger Jaeger. Audrey Vaughn cut that piece out of the equation.
"I was going to leave her in Alaska." Stacker admitted. "She can head the assault there."
Raleigh frowned. "You said you wanted the best. Audrey Vaughn and Coyote Tango can rip the head off a Kaiju and not even break a sweat."
The Marshall nodded in agreement. "There's bad blood between her and some of the other teams." He admitted. "I don't think you can get her to work with some of them."
"So?" Raleigh demanded. "This isn't a fucking party. They need to get over it."
"I don't think it's that easy." The Marshall warned him.
"What happened? They haven't even been stationed in the same shatterdome." Raleigh asked. He could understand if they were on a joint mission that went bad, but he knew they hadn't.
"It's… complicated. If we bring these teams here, you're going to have a challenge getting them to work together."
"I will?" Raleigh asked, not aware that he would be heading the team.
"You will." Stacker knew that the 5 teams Raleigh picked were the best, and would be their best shot, but he thought Raleigh was underestimating how deep the problems ran.
"If they're as good as we think they are, they'll figure out a way to make it work."
Stacker sighed. "You're right. Coyote Tango, Solar Prophet, Cherno Alpha, Crimson Typhoon, Striker Eureka… and Gipsy Danger." He said with a small smile tugging at his lips.
Raleigh perked up at the sound of his old Jaeger's name. "Gipsy is coming out retirement?"
"If her pilot is." Stacker told him.
"I don't have a copilot." Raleigh told him, the idea of getting back inside Gipsy making his stomach churn.
"We'll get you one."
"What if I say no?" Raleigh challenged.
"Becket, you are the best. I need you to lead this team. If we don't figure out a way to close those breeches, it's game over." Stacker told him. He looked Raleigh straight in the eye and asked him, "Would you rather die here, or in a Jaeger?"
Raleigh watched Striker Eureka being lowered into the shatterdome while Herc and Chuck Hansen, Striker's father/son team of pilots, walked into the large main room of the shatterdome, talking amongst themselves. "That just leaves Coyote Tango." Raleigh told Stacker.
"There was a Cat III off the shore of Anchorage this morning. She was delayed." The Marshall told him, motioning to a news report showing highlights of the fight, the interview with Audrey Vaughn, or more appropriately, an interview with her Ops officer. Audrey walked silently beside him, her pretty face set in a determined expression, as he tried to answer questions, her eyes avoiding direct contact with the reporters. The reporters fired off questions, demanding to know why Coyote Tango was being transferred from Alaska. Finally Audrey stopped in her tracks and grabbed a microphone out of her face. "I'm sorry. I have to go. The others are going to take care of the Kaiju. You will be fine." She announced, her face pleading with the camera. The screen changed to a pleasant news anchor at a desk moving on to the next news event of the day and Raleigh looked at Stacker.
"Not a big talker?" He asked.
"Something like that." The Marshall answered with a small, humorless chuckle. He'd known Audrey since she'd entered the Academy, and he knew she'd always been dedicated to the program and was able to pinpoint her focus, blocking out any and all distractions when she was in the zone. "We'll meet after she gets here."
A couple hours later, Coyote Tango was lowered into the shatterdome and Audrey Vaughn walked in from her helicopter, flanked by members of her crew. Raleigh stood back while the Marshall greeted her and her crew, observing. Audrey stood about 5'7" with an athletic build. Her long straight brown hair was loose from the bun that she had worn in her uniform on the news report and fell past her shoulders. She wore the same determined expression she'd had on television as she listened to Stacker.
After nodding at Stacker, she set off in Raleigh's direction and her face broke into a wide smile. He cocked an eyebrow, confused at the sudden turn around in her mood. Sasha and Aleksis Kaidonovsky, the Cherno Alpha pilots, strode past him and met her with brief hug and he suddenly understood. Audrey and the Kaidonovsky'a more than likely went through the academy together, plus they had run missions together and Raleigh guessed this wasn't a team she had bad blood with. They walked with her towards the hallway Raleigh had been lingering in, stopping to greet him.
"This is Audrey Vaughn." Sasha said bluntly, not one for small talk.
"Raleigh Becket." He said, shaking her hand.
"I know." She admitted with a small smile. "You're kind of a big deal in Alaska." She turned to Sasha and Aleksis. "Is everyone else here?" She asked. The Russians nodded.
"Do they know I'm here?"
"Not yet." Aleksis told her. "We thought we'd make it a surprise." He said with a boyish grin.
"Great, it'll just be one big reunion." Audrey said. Her voice dripped with sarcasm, but her eyes resembled that of a caged animal, with a predator looming overhead.
Sasha began speaking Russian to Audrey, and Raleigh couldn't keep up. He'd chosen to study Chinese in the Academy. Audrey had chosen Russian clearly. Raleigh tried to pull out any words he'd picked up over the course of his career, but the only words he recognized were a string of swear words Audrey spoke in response to whatever Sasha said. Sasha answered her and Audrey nodded. She glanced quickly at Raleigh, before giving an almost imperceptible shake of her head, indicating they shouldn't continue their conversation.
"I heard their bringing Gipsy out of retirement." Audrey said to Raleigh.
"And me with it." He said with a smile and a nod.
She laughed quickly looking at Sasha and Aleksis. "Chuck is going to shit a brick." She said, making them both break into half smiles. Her smile seemed forced, probably due to Raleigh's presence.
"I will show you your room." Sasha said in English, pointing towards the bulkhead door leading to Audrey's small room. Raleigh walked towards his own, next door to Audrey's.
"We gotta meet up in an hour." He told them. "Kind of a welcome to Hong Kong thing." He said with a cockeyed grin.
"More like welcome to the end of the world." Audrey muttered under her breath. Raleigh grinned at her and she gave him a begrudging smile, rolling her eyes.
An hour later the pilots of the six Jaegers sat around a large meeting table. Chuck and Herc Hansen from the Australian shatterdome, Aleksis and Sasha Kaidonovsky from Russia, Anthony Pisano and Ricardo Reiz from Peru, Audrey Vaughn from Alaska, Cheung, Hu, and Jin Wei Tang from Tokyo and Raleigh Becket.
"You are here, because you are the best of the best." Marshall Stacker Pentecost began, stopping when Chuck Hansen scoffed, muttering under his breath. "Something wrong Hansen?" Stacker asked. Herc gave his son a 'drop it' look, but Chuck ignored him.
"Becket hasn't piloted a Jaeger in five years, and doesn't even have a copilot, not to mention his Jaeger hasn't seen a fight since he dropped." Chuck began, eliciting a dirty look from much of the table. "And Vaughn…" he began immediately catching her furious gaze. "Well, she doesn't exactly play well with others." He finished.
Raleigh opened his mouth to begin his harsh rebuttal, but was cut off by Audrey's calm even tone.
"If you're as good as you think you are, it shouldn't matter if I play well with you or not. And the only reason you're bitching about Raleigh is because you're afraid that once he gets back in the fight he'll get all your glory, and you'll be second fiddle." She finished with a hint of a vicious smile playing at her lips, staring at Chuck, daring him to come up with a rebuke.
"IF you two are finished." Stacker barked, shooting daggers at the table. Chuck muttered something that resembled an apology to the Marshall, and Audrey looked back down at the leather bound notebook in front of her, detailing the Hong Kong Shatterdome project. She was slowly rotating her chair 180 degrees back and forth, tapping her lips absentmindedly with the end of her pen.
Stacker continued detailing the purpose of the new dome, and the mission. He told them of a new tracking system. The dome was so close to the new breech that they could pinpoint exactly when a Kaiju left the breech and where they were. It would take less than five minutes to sound the alarm and mobilize the Jaegers.
"So, we still don't know how to close the breeches?" Anthony Pisano asked. Audrey stopped moving her chair and sat up, either paying attention to the question or to Pisano.
"Not yet, the scientists are working around the clock to figure it out, we will be…" Stacker said, pausing to find the correct word.
"experimenting?" Raleigh offered.
Stacker nodded, continuing, "Some theories will be tested by the Jaegers. Until then, train. Keep in top form until you get an alarm. No different than the day to day at the other domes. Your first session is with Becket after dinner." Stacker looked from person to person getting a nod of understanding from each of them. "Becket, we're going to start copilot tryouts day after tomorrow." Raleigh nodded, surprised that he was nervous about the possibility of getting back into Gipsy, especially with a stranger. "Dismissed." Penecost told them.
Everyone stood to leave, and Audrey hung back watching everyone leave. She stiffened as people walked past her. "Sorry." Anthony Pisano muttered as he brushed by her, looking at her impassively.
"Excuse me." Ricardo said with a wolfish grin, bumping her shoulder with his. She ignored them, focusing her gaze at the wall in front of her. Chuck hit her other shoulder with his own, knocking her slightly off balance. It was clear to Raleigh they were posturing, making sure Audrey knew they were the big dicks in the room.
Herc approached Audrey swiftly, wrapping her in a bear hug. She put her arms around him, hugging him back. "How ya been?" He asked her with a smile.
"Better than fine from what I hear. Kicking Kaiju ass all up and down the coast?" Herc prodded.
"Something like that." She admitted with a smile. "Aren't you getting a little old for this shit?" She teased.
"Never!" he insisted, puffing his chest out cartoonishly, eliciting the first laugh from Audrey Raleigh had heard.
Chuck poked his head back in the room, looking at his father. "They're doing a check on Striker, you coming?"
"Yeah." Herc called over his shoulder. He kissed the top of Audrey's head and said goodbye, before leaving.
This interaction left Raleigh even more confused than when Stacker first told him that Audrey had issues with some of the other teams. Clearly Chuck had some sort of problem, but Raleigh suspected it had more to do with her possibly upstaging him and Pisano and Ruiz seemed to just be following his lead. If Herc was so close with her, Raleigh didn't think there was any way there could be a rift so huge she couldn't work with them.
Raleigh wanted to hit his head against the wall after an hour of working with the group of Rangers he'd help assemble. Chuck didn't want to work with Vaughn. The Russians didn't want to work with the Peruvians or the Australians. Vaughn didn't seem to particularly want to work with anyone. The Wei Tang triplets had left the group completely, training on their own in the corner while Raleigh tried once again to start a strategy session.
He moved the model of Striker Eureka on the tabletop map in front of a figure of a Kaiju, and put the Coyote Tango figure on the other side of the model Kaiju, the Cherno Alpha model back in a defensive position. "What would you two do?" Raliegh questioned.
Chuck launched into a one man soliloquy conveniently forgetting to utilize the Coyote Tango asset. Herc sighed at his son.
"Boy, you're going to have to learn to use all the allies you've got." Herc insisted. Herc altered his son's plan to include Coyote Tango, and Raleigh thought he might be getting a breakthrough.
"And you?" Raleigh asked Audrey.
Audrey shrugged her shoulders. "I can't say what I would do. I do what feels right at the time." She said.
"Jesus Christ." Raleigh muttered under his breath. If he was honest with himself, it was the same thing he did in a fight, but he had the sense to fake a plan during these tactical practices. "That's enough for tonight." Raleigh finally said. The groups broke away from the table as if it was on fire, going their separate ways. "Vaughn." Raleigh called to Audrey's retreating back. She stopped, letting everyone else leave the room before she turned around to face him.
"Yeah?" She asked him impatiently.
"You've got to cut that shit out." Raleigh told her, his patience, and his tact gone.
"Don't play dumb. You're a part of this team so you need to act like it." Raleigh told her.
She raised her eyebrows at him. "And what about the rest of them?"
"Chuck is a glory hound, we both know that. He'll come around, Herc will make sure of that, especially if you do." Raleigh told her. She rolled her eyes and Raleigh's last bit of self-control snapped. "You're a Ranger damnit! Whatever petty bullshit you have with Hansen, you need to put it behind you. I don't give a damn if you two fucked and it ended badly, or if he talked shit about you at the Academy. Grow up, get over it, and do your job."
Audrey smiled sardonically. "You don't have any idea what you're talking about." She spit before turning on her heel.
"Then tell me!" Raleigh shouted at her.
"Don't worry about it. I'll do my job, sir." She said before stepping threw the bulkhead door and throwing it closed behind her.
Raleigh stopped at Marshall Pentecost's office. The Marshall looked up from the computer screen and motioned Raleigh in.
"What is going on with Vaughn and Hansen?" Raleigh asked him, not taking a seat. He didn't want to take up too much of the Marshall's time, but he had to know.
"I warned you…" Stacker began, before Raleigh spoke again.
"I didn't care what happened before because I didn't think it would affect me. But now I can't train them until I know what is going on." Raleigh explained.
"I can't tell you what happened, I'm not even sure what happened." Stacker told him. "Just know that it's bad, and it's not going to go away. We don't need to send six Jaegers after a Kaiju, I'd advise you to figure out a way to keep them apart."
Raleigh shook his head. This secretiveness was piquing his curiosity, and frustrating him to no end.
"If you think you have to know, I'd start with Herc." Stacker offered. "He's about the only one that can talk some sense into that boy, and he's been in his head."
Raleigh nodded, making a mental note to talk to Herc at breakfast.
Raleigh woke to the sound of a scream, and jolted upright. The time on the clock read 0233. He got his bearings and realized he was hearing Audrey in the next room. Nightmares were nothing special in the Ranger world. They'd all had close calls, but they were disturbing none the less. Raleigh pulled on a pair of grey sweatpants and walked the short distance to Audrey's door. He paused when he heard her faintly say "Chuck" followed shortly by "No." He banged on the door and pushed it open. Audrey was sitting up, have awoken by Raleigh's knock. She looked at him in confusion.
"You were having a nightmare." He explained, not stepping past the doorway.
Her eyes raked quickly over his bare chest, still not speaking.
"You… yelled." He explained further.
"Sorry." She said softly, looking embarrassed. She got out of bed, wearing a black tank top and a pair of shorts. She grabbed a pair of sweatpants identical to Raleigh's off a chair and a couple things from a drawer, before stepping behind a wall to change. He stood where he was, trying to figure out what she was doing. She stepped past him, closing the door behind her.
"What are you doing?" He asked her, trailing behind her.
"I can't go back to sleep right now." She said over her shoulder. "I'm gonna go to the workout room for a while. Sorry for waking you up." She said honestly.
Raleigh paused in the hallway scratching his head, before grabbing a shirt out of his room and following her. He was up now too and he might as well get a workout in too. Audrey had gotten on a treadmill and Raleigh took the one next to hers. They ran in silence, until Raleigh finally spoke. "What's going on with you and Hansen?"
"Nothing." Audrey said, focusing her attention on the wall in front of her.
"It's not nothing." Raleigh insisted.
Audrey stopped her treadmill and turned to look at him. "Please, let this go." She pleaded with him. The first open sign of weakness she'd shown him. He stopped and looked back at her. There were so many emotions running across her face; fear, anger, disgust, guilt. He couldn't keep up.
"Alright." He said to her. It wasn't a lie exactly. He'd leave her alone about it, but he wanted to know what the big secret was.
"Thank you." She said, almost whispering, before turning the treadmill back on, and they ran side by side in comfortable silence.
A/N Please please review and let me know what you think! I have a majority of the story written, and I'm tweaking each chapter before I post, so it's not too late to change or add anything! I plan on posting every week.