The day Newt gets sent home with a letter addressed to her parents stating that she would benefit from dressing more appropriately for her gender, she pulls the few skirts and dresses she does own from her closet, takes them to the backyard and burns them. She cuts her hair short—a little uneven, but she doesn't really care because the whole point of it is the message—and goes to school the next day in a button-up and a tie.
Her parents don't mind, so her school can't actually do anything about it. Her teachers eventually stop bothering her about it, but that's only really the start of the problem.
The guys at school tell her that she's only interested in the robot and monster movies for the hot actors, like the directors think about anything other than the male gaze. She gets accused of just pretending to know things she has a comprehensive knowledge of, is made to feel unwelcome when she points this fact out to them.
When she says that she wants to be a scientist, she's laughed at. She doesn't let that bother her. After her collection of manga and monster movies, science is her second love. She knows the value of proof and if proof is what they want, well.
The proof is in the fact that she leaves her peers in her dust at school. The environment, the petty squabbling, none of that is for her so she pushes ahead. She becomes the second youngest person to ever have been admitted into MIT, and starts collecting doctorates the way she collects 1/16 scale models of monsters from her favourite movies. Degrees in biology, engineering, physics, biotechnology, if it catches her interest, she'll learn it, she'll understand everything she possibly can, and add it to her growing knowledge.
People and social interaction, on the other hand, remain things that she just does not understand. Newt keeps her meds a secret because that's just going to open a whole new of crap she has no interest in dealing with. She starts teaching at twenty, when she thinks she's already learned all she needs to know about the kind of expectations and stereotypes made of child prodigies, of women in her field, of anyone with more than one doctorate under their belt while most of their age group are only just graduating. She's determined to shatter all the expectations people have, and by teaching people who are a few years older than her, she ends up learning a few things herself.
People expect her to be boring. She's not. She's anything but boring and yeah, maybe some of the manga references go over her students' heads but that's okay. At least it proves that she, at the front of the classroom with five piercings in each ear, her short hair gelled up, wearing thrift shop clothes she'd found in the guys' section, defies expectation. That's the kind of thing that makes her as happy as finding a rerun of Godzilla on late night cable, or having an article published in Nature.
She's a rockstar in the lab. She takes risks—calculated risks, based on the information she's gathered so far—and they pay off. She has several places offering her research positions and this is what she wants: being valued for what she can do, not who she is or who she isn't.
Then, when the major 7.1 earthquake that hits San Francisco turns out to be the first ever Kaiju attack, and they finally manage to bring it down, Newt wants nothing more than to take a closer look at it. The radiation lingering from the final strike that had brought it down makes that impossible. There's no point, they tell her. It was a one-time thing and it's over now. They ignore her questions of but what if it's not just a one-time thing, and remind her that she has more important research to be focusing on, that they don't need a monster fanatic wasting everyone's time and resources. She bites her tongue, doesn't ask if she would have been told the same thing if she was a man, and gets back to her work.
It's difficult to be smug about being right when six months later, she's watching Manila get torn apart by the second Kaiju attack. They take it down with another nuclear strike and Newt starts joining protests because the damage these monsters do is bad enough. They don't need nuclear power helping with the destruction and the sooner they stop nuking these monsters, the sooner Newt can get her hands on an uncontaminated specimen.
It takes a few more attacks and a lot more protests that turn into riots until the PPDC is formed and the Jaeger Program is started.
It's a Kaiju called Rusher that gets Newt into the PPDC research division. The first ever Kaiju that dies in good enough condition to be studied. Newt spends months finding ways to preserve and study its organs. She gives presentations all over the world with what she finds and as soon as she gets some down time, she does some research and finds a good tattoo parlour to have Rusher memorialised on her right forearm. The tattoo artist raises an eyebrow at her, asking if she really wants such a big tattoo for her first time and if anything, his tone and expression only serve to make Newt more determined to go through with it.
The tattoo artist suggests a gray wash but Newt is bright and yeah, maybe a little in-your-face, so she doesn't see why her tattoo has to be any different. She forks over the extra cash and grits her teeth through the pain and refuses to let any of it show. In the end, it's nowhere near as bad as she's been led to believe and if anything, she likes the way it feels, likes the pain that comes with the permanence of having something inked onto her skin. She gets out, already thinking of the next tattoo she can get.
It turns into an addiction. She gets the forearm tattoo turned into a sleeve, with another Kaiju tattooed on her shoulder—Kaiceph this time—and it goes from there. She gets Reckoner on her other shoulder, and gets that turned into a sleeve too, with Yamarashi on her forearm. In three years, she's covered herself in tattoos going down her chest and across her back. She has Clawhook sitting at the base of her neck, his arms tattooed to look like they're resting over her shoulders and… well, Newt's never really had a problem with liking herself, but when she sees all of her tattoos in the mirror, she can't help but like herself even more.
Of course, that's about the time that she gets picked up by one of the Rangers in training. He's a nice guy, and listens to her talking about the discoveries she's made and if he sometimes interrupts her mid-sentence to pull her into a kiss, that's okay because hey, kissing. Kissing is kind of new, and kind of fun, and that's how they end up in his bed with her legs around his waist and his lips on her neck as he unbuttons her shirt.
That's when he sees her tattoos and he recoils. It's not even a small flinch; he steps back in disgust, his face scrunched up in revolt. He calls her a freak, he claims that she's cheering for the monsters, not them, and he kicks her out without even giving her time to button her shirt back up or grab her jacket. She buttons her shirt back up hastily outside of his room, pushing her glasses up her nose and trying to ignore the way the passing Rangers are muttering, trying to ignore the way her hands are shaking.
She hides away in her lab, where she doesn't have to deal with people, where the only thing she has to deal with are the Kaiju specimens she's studying. At least they're interesting and even if she hasn't figured out all of their secrets yet, they still make a hell of a lot more sense than people do. She busies herself with her work until the embarrassment has faded away into anger instead. Until she decides that fuck you, if people are going to treat her like she's a freak, she's going to make sure she gives them a good reason for it.
The next day, she meets Dr. Hermann Gottlieb. He takes one look at the tattoos on her arms and raises an eyebrow. She hates him immediately. As it turns out, it's pretty easy to make him hate her too. They have different labs so they mostly stay out of each other's way, but they still find ways to butt heads and argue over their approaches to science. Dr. Gottlieb is a well-known name in the PPDC, and the name refers to both Hermann and his father. Newt starts referring to Hermann by his first name, initially just to differentiate, and then because it pisses him off. They only really have to work together for a few months before Newt's moved away to another Shatterdome because it's easier to move her and her lab than it is to move the newest Kaiju specimen. In that time, Newt's pretty sure she's made the closest thing to an arch-nemesis that people have in their day-to-day lives. She spends the flight to her new base in Hong Kong retroactively thinking up come-backs to the snappy remarks Hermann had muttered to her and she swears that next time they meet, she's going to come up with them sooner.
It occurs to her, as she's setting everything up in her new lab—which is at least three times bigger than her old one—that Hermann had always called her Dr. Geiszler, never once trying to call her Miss. He'd treated her like any other colleague, and the only problems between them had been due to their difference of opinion, and absolutely nothing else. Now that she's a few timezones and several thousand miles away from him, she can admit that at least that counts for something.
She doesn't see him again through all the budget cuts. She works with his father once, who is so intimidating that she talks twice as fast as she usually does, to the point that he makes her switch to German just so he has a better chance of understanding her. It's not until the Jaeger Program is actually shut down and Marshall Pentecost moves everything to the Hong Kong Shatterdome that Newt sees Hermann again.
He's the only other member of the research division left except for her, and they're meant to be sharing Newt's lab. She graciously moves her things to one side of the room helps him move his work in. They get into a screaming match over where Hermann is going to set up his chalkboards, and then another over Newt's big tanks of Kaiju organs. It probably shouldn't feel this good to have him back.
It's ridiculously difficult to share space with Hermann, because the way they work is completely different. Hermann prefers silence, and constantly complains about the way Newt insists on playing her music loudly. They keep getting in each other's way, to the point that they end up taping a line down the centre of the lab so they know which side to stay on. They come up with a timetable for when Newt's allowed to play her music and when Hermann needs his silence. They learn to share space and even if they squabble about it all the time, they manage to make it work.
Hermann isn't as bad as Newt had first thought, and gradually moves from arch-nemesis status to reluctant colleague. As the Kaiju attacks get more frequent and Newt and Hermann are under more pressure to come up with a solution that will stop the attacks once and for all, Newt starts taking her meds more often, to the point where she's actually taking them as often as she's meant to. She hides the bottles in her pocket and tries to be as subtle about them but Hermann notices anyway. His only indication of this is when he returns to the lab one afternoon with a bottle of water he's taken from the cafeteria and sets it on one of her desks with less clutter covering it.
"Here. Easier than dry-swallowing."
"Uh." Newt clears her throat, where it still faintly hurts from when she'd tried to force a tablet down. "Thanks."
So yeah, maybe he isn't that bad. He might disapprove of what she does sometimes, but he doesn't outright judge her for it. He doesn't call her a freak. He knows that she's doing what she can to help in her own way.
And when she goes out to oversee the transport of the newest specimens from the Kaiju that attacked Sydney, while Hermann's in the middle of working out an equation on his chalkboards, he gets to the end of the board he's currently scribbling on, then comes down from his ladder and goes out with her.
It's cold outside, and raining, and he's got his own work to do, but he's out here with her anyway, yelling instructions to the men transporting the large trolleys with the specimen containers on them, because Newt's too excited to think about anything but how cool this is.
So yeah. Maybe he's not so bad at all.