King Robert Baratheon had finally found a use for his numerous bastards. The success of the Stark children as Jaeger pilots inspired him to claim some of his bastards in an attempt to contribute to the cause. The Kaiju attacks were getting worse, Westeros needed all the help it could get.
Thirteen year old Arya Stark had been training with Jon and Robb when Ned introduced Gendry, with instructions to figure out his skill level and show him the ropes.
"Try to take down Arya," Jon had told Gendry. "So we can gauge your skill level."
"I can't fight a little girl, let alone a proper Lady," Gendry had said in disgust, not understanding the smiles Robb and Jon gave him.
Two minutes into the first round, he was flat on his back looking up at Arya. The second round only took one minute. Gendry never made the mistake of underestimating her again.
Old Mormont himself had been the one to assign Gendry and Arya as co-pilots days after Arya's sixteenth birthday.
"Based on your fighting alone you're compatible," he had told them. "But I don't have a Jaeger for you yet and Sam hasn't gotten the simulator working. In the mean time, continue training together."
And they did, day in and day out, watching and waiting. Gendry was hard on Arya, always quick to tell her when she was wrong, when she needed to work harder. They pushed each other, always expecting the best of the other. Within the Jaeger program, they were equals. Arya might have been born a Lady and Gendry a bastard, but none of it mattered now that the Kaiju attacks were increasing.
Robb and Ned Stark were killed by the first category four Kaiju ever seen when Arya was eighteen. When Gendry caught Arya pinning a picture of the Kaiju, someone had named Meathead to her wall, he had lightly suggested maybe she should take some time off, leave the program. Arya had only scoffed. From that point on they redoubled their efforts; putting all their free time into learning various forms of fighting.
Arya was nineteen, when she knocked on Gendry's door after a particularly bad training day, one that had left both of them bruised and angry. She threw the box of condoms on the bed, giving his surprised expression an eye roll.
"Just sex," she explained. "For the release."
Her brief fling with Ned Dayne had shown her that she didn't have the time or inclination for a relationship and she knew Gendry didn't either. She was particularly proud of this solution; guilt free, strings free sex with her future co-pilot. Love was a commodity Jaeger pilots weren't allowed, not when Westeros hung in the balance.
"If this was any other time in the history of Westeros," he said, as he moved to pick up the box of condoms. "They would castrate me for this."
Arya was twenty-two when she thought they were finally going to get their chance, running to Gendry's room to tell him that a new Jaeger had been built and was being sent to King's Landing. They would finally get to fight, get to enter the Drift.
What she hadn't expected was Gendry's silence. No excitement, not even a smile.
"What's wrong with you, stupid?" She asked, reaching out to punch him in the arm. "We've been waiting for this all our lives!"
"Arya," he began, giving her a pained look as he ran his hand through his hair, leaving it sticking up at weird angles.
"I've asked to be partnered with Edric."
She knew her mouth was hanging open in shock, but couldn't seem to get it to close or make any sound.
"I talked to Mormont this morning," he continued. "I just don't think we're compatible."
"Bullshit," Arya said, stepping forward to punch him. His hand flew up to block on instinct. "Yeah, you're right. We're not compatible at all."
Her sarcasm caused him to roll his eyes.
"Why?" Arya asked, she could tell from the set of his jaw, his tense stance, that he meant it. When Gendry made up his mind, there was no unmaking it. She felt like she had been punched in the gut. He had been her partner for so long, how could he leave her now when they were finally going to get their chance.
"Edric needs a partner." He was lying, she could always tell from the way he shifted on his feet, refused to look her in the eye. Anger boiled within her, after all their training and practice. After everything they had been through together, she couldn't believe he was turning his back on her.
The following day Old Mormont called her into his office; Jon and Sansa were with him.
"We've found you a new co-pilot," Jon said, nodding his head toward Sansa.
"You're joking," Arya laughed. Sansa had only joined the Jaeger program two years before. Old Mormont had begged her to join, thinking her being a Stark meant she would be a natural. But Sansa had spent her formative years playing the proper young Lady Stark. She cared only for her hair, make-up and boys, not fighting. She had been training for two years and still couldn't beat the most novice members of the program.
The argument that followed left Arya shaking. Sansa insisting she was ready, Jon insisting they were Drift compatible. Old Mormont insisting he had two empty Jaegers in need of co-pilots. Arya had tried to be patient, tried to reason with them, but no one would listen.
The second battle for King's Landing was one of the worst in the history of the Kaiju attacks. As Arya lay in the crumpled wreckage that used to be Matador Fury, the Jaeger she shared with Sansa, she knew they should have listened to her. Their mistake was clear now and only half of King's Landing had paid the price.
Her headpiece was crackling, she could hear Gendry and Edric issuing orders, then she heard Ygritte's screams, heard Jon's shout of pain.
Arya closed her eyes, wishing she couldn't hear anything. Sansa was dead and she didn't care if the world died with her.