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Eve

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The Wei brothers still hold the honor of being the only Rangers in the program who've ever hit a hundred percent neural interface strength (2021, Hidoi), and they didn't say a single word to each other for three days after, either trying to remember which of them was which or maybe just basking in the sensation of having lost track altogether. They averaged ninety-seven on bad days and regularly bumped up against ninety-nine on their routine drops, which made things easy for LOCCENT. When one fell out of alignment, it was simple for the other two to pull him back.

Tendo asked, once, how they did it so easily and they'd taken a long time to answer, their process inside the drift so quick and instinctive that it barely registers as a blip on the monitors before everything's smoothed out again.

Jin'd finally replied that one brother, an anchor, would immediately detach, move out of the headspace to avoid the torrent of memories while another would dive in alongside and latch onto whichever triplet decided to chase the RABIT, remaining connected to the 'outside'. The anchor would pull them both back though his connection with the conduit.

It's one of the very few perfectly logical, explainable ideas Tendo has ever heard regarding drifting (it ended up going into a handbook on three-person drifts, though there hadn't been much need for that kind of thing after Closing Day except maybe a blurb for history textbooks). The vast majority of stories around piloting are folklore and the rest a mess of 'well, it just feels more like this, you'd understand if you were a pilot'.

The triplets are, in many ways, both very good and shockingly bad at making Tendo's life easy.

Great because they were professional and skilled Rangers, who only complained occasionally about how awful Conn-Pods are. Crimson Typhoon's circuitry in her main body had gone mostly undamaged-- the cockpit had to be scrapped (Otachi aimed straight for it) and a new cradle installed on her shoulders, but once its secondary hand was replaced, all technicals up and running normally on unmanned tests, the Jaeger was supposed to be good to go.

Bad because after the PPDC recovers Crimson Typhoon from Victoria Harbor, repairs her and finds a new set of three drift-compatible candidates, the pilots are only able to twitch the Jaeger's fingers before she shuts down. The crew checks every inch of her for the next week, then gives Tendo the all-clear on hardware.

After multiple attempts, Tendo forwards her programming to Caitlin Lightcap, the one person after the triplets themselves who knew the Tri-sun Horizon OS's code well enough to debug it. She'd sent it back almost completely unchanged after rudimentary tweaks to pilot-specific status indicators, her accompanying e-mail curt but tinged with nostalgia.

There's nothing wrong with this code, Tendo. I've changed a few things to make it more compatible with the figures you sent me, but even before that it should have been running fine for any three drift-compatible pilots. Cheung and I never tailored it specifically for the boys. Are you sure it isn't a hardware problem?

The remaining Hong Kong staff, after the first failed drifts, suggest that perhaps Crimson Typhoon doesn't want new pilots; half the crew had quit after Raleigh and Mako closed the Breach, most of them having stuck around for the sake of their team rather than any measly pay from the defunded government program. Crimson Typhoon could have checked out entirely, herself.

Tendo scoffs.

Jaegers, despite what some pilots and crews seem to believe, are not sentient enough to reject pilots (he knows the Wei brothers would have agreed), and that's all there is to it. He calls in Hermann Gottlieb to look over the code and the doctor gives it his own stamp of approval, even noting how the brutal, precise efficiency of Cheung's hand melds perfectly with Lightcap's elegant layering into a beautiful piece of software.

Weeks later, after every attempt to reassign Crimson Typhoon fails, when even the new Marshal can only look at her and shake his head in disbelief (he gives Tendo a helpless smile; damn Rangers getting sentimental over Jaegers), Tendo finally calls it quits.

It's October after C-Day and he's in LOCCENT at the asscrack of dawn, zoning out while he regards the last intact mech's shoulder crest through the control room's massive glass panel. She's due to be curated in China's first Jaeger Museum, quietly waiting in the Shatterdome until the building's completed. Tendo sees a monitor in the corner boot up in his peripheral vision (the mainframe has automated backup protocols) but it's the hum from Crimson Typhoon's hangar bay that drives him to his feet.

It's her Conn-Pod. They hadn't bothered detaching it after her last test run, and it's glowing a calm yellow, her signal for 'operational', but a far cry from her nighttime beacons. When Tendo draws closer, picking his way along the catwalk, the sound of crackling electricity and long-unused hydraulics creeping back to life fills the hangar.

"Now you're working? You couldn't do that when pilots were in there?" He feels stupid, but no one's around to see or hear so he leans on the rail and waves. "Hey!"

Crimson Typhoon's Conn-Pod moves. Not much, really. Nothing more than an almost coincidental dip, like the socket joints in her neck have loosened slightly. It happens once in a while to all Jaegers, but the timing sends a chill shivering up the back of Tendo's spine the same moment he feels his gut twist.

"I miss them too," he says, dragging a hand down over his eyes. "Did you see that video the Wei boys had me post? I ran it through Translate. Awful."

He palms the cross on the end of his rosary, thumb flicking at a bead, rolling it between his fingers and then moving onto the next. "We're not gonna forget them, you know. Cherno and Striker too. You guys'll be in the history books for as long as we remember the Kaiju War. You like that?"

Crimson Typhoon's systems quiet, fade to a lower-frequency whir the way it does when the crew puts her on standby for tests after a deployment.

"Yeah," Tendo laughs. He can still smell the incense Typhoon's crew had burnt for weeks after the double event, scent having taken up permanent residence in the walls and upholstery along with an ever-present whiff of metal and grease and ozone. "I get the hint, we're not gonna stick more pilots in you. Rest easy, old girl."

Crimson Typhoon's Conn-Pod goes dark.

A week before she's due to be shipped to the museum, LOCCENT officers attempt to boot her up one last time to wipe her drives but Crimson Typhoon's systems remain unresponsive.

When asked, Tendo answers-- not untruthfully-- that he has no idea how that could have happened.