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“Wonder what our assignment will be?” Scott said idly as he and his brother walked to the jaeger academy's headmaster’s office. It was the day before graduation, which at this point was a mere formality, and both Hansens knew that the number of available jaegers was increasingly dwindling.

“Dunno,” Herc said, refusing to speculate. They’d done well, he knew, and he wanted to get back to having a more permanent post.

Scott shot him an annoyed look at his refusal to take the bait, but Herc shrugged it off. He'd long ago learned that such speculation invariably led to disappointment.

It didn’t take them long to get to their destination. Herc knocked on the door and waited for the command of, “Enter,” before leading the way inside.

Headmaster Smith was a dark-skinned man in his late fifties who presented himself as though he was ex-military. Not a single inch of his PPDC dress uniform was out of place, and even the stacks of paper on his desk were neat. As per protocol, Herc and Scott saluted the headmaster, who returned the salute and gestured for them to sit down in the chairs that were positioned in front of his desk.

“First of all, congratulations,” Headmaster Smith said. “You’ve completed the Jaeger Academy. You are now Rangers and will be assigned to the Sydney Shatterdome. Unfortunately, the jaeger that has been selected for you will not be ready for three months. Australia is very proud of you, and wants you to be available until that time. This means that you will be on call; if a jaeger pilot is out sick or on vacation, you will be expected to fill in.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Scott began, “isn’t the point of Drift compatibility that you are best suited to one person?”

The headmaster grimaced. “Whenever possible, you will be paired with each other.” His tone was final, and Scott bit back the reply he was going to make.

“Anything else?” Herc asked, sensing there was more.

“You have additional training to complete while you are waiting. This additional training will be completed at the Sydney Shatterdome, under the direction of Mr. Jordan Richards. This is mandatory.” Headmaster Smith paused, then added, “This is for Herc. Your son will be allowed to live with you in the Sydney Shatterdome, and his education will continue via a highly regarded, internationally accredited online school, which will be paid for by the PPDC as part of your benefits.”

Startled, for they’d both expected that Herc’s in-laws would have to keep guardianship of Chuck, Scott and Herc looked at each other before Herc turned to the headmaster. “That’s very generous, sir.”

“We want you to be happy, not worrying about your family,” Headmaster Smith said simply. “And considering you borrowed a helicopter without prior authorization to go after your son, the PPDC would prefer that you didn’t repeat that particular stunt.”

Scott, who’d been a mechanic before Scissure hit, looked at Herc, grinning. As he’d expected, his brother didn’t look like he would ever regret his actions.

“Understood, sir,” Herc said crisply. “What happens if we get called for duty?”

“Discuss the particulars of those arrangements with the Shatterdome marshal when you arrive. Deputy Marshal Carrodus is aware of your situation,” the headmaster said. “You will have one hour post-graduation to pack and say any goodbyes you’d like, then you will need to meet your transport in front of the Academy’s entrance for the trip back to Sydney.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You will find complete details of your orders in your email by the time you get back to quarters. Immediately after this, you are to report to Classroom C3A for your first official interview as Rangers, after which you will be free the rest of the day and may head into town if you like, as long as you’re back by 2300 hours. The final class run and workout will be at 0500, with breakfast and graduation to follow. Any questions or comments?”

Hearing the dismissal in Headmaster Smith’s tone, Herc and Scott looked at each other. Scott turned and looked at the headmaster. “A few weeks ago, we had those two swordmasters. A few people asked some really stupid questions. They’re not here now. Was that training demonstration an evaluation?”

Headmaster Smith grinned. “Yes. Connor MacLeod and Jordan 'Richie' Richards were brought in specifically to see how the cadets reacted to an unusual situation. You two did well, so that’s why you are receiving additional training.”

“All for asking the right questions?” Herc asked, surprised.

“‘The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge,’” the headmaster quoted, smiling. “Thomas Berger said that. If we wanted Rangers who only asked where the kaiju was, not what its size or weight or how far out it was, we would’ve drafted armies.” He let that sink in a moment. “Any other questions?”

“No, sir,” both men said at the same time.

Headmaster Smith nodded in satisfaction. “Rangers, dismissed.”

Scott waited until they were well clear of the headmaster’s office before whooping in joy. “We made it, Herc! And they’re letting us take care of our boy, too!”

Herc grinned. “Yes. You think Chuck’ll like living in a Shatterdome?”

Scott shot his brother a wry look. “Well, he’s not liking being on a farm in Murray Downs, judging by his email.”

Herc conceded that point with a nod and wry smile. “Let’s hope for the best.”