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Bad Boys Finish Second

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The studio, Lotor thinks, is far less glamorous than he’s used to.  But then again, People is only a magazine, not one of many television juggernauts that had pleaded with him for interviews over the course of his career.

He’d made them chase him.  But this… these journalists had played their cards right.  What better way to drag the Jaeger pilots away from their hard work, fighting transdimensional monsters in their giant robots, than to inform them that they’d made People Magazine’s list of “The Pacific’s Seven Hottest Jaeger Pilots”?  No pilot Lotor knows will be able to pass up the attention. He is, of course, sure that they’ve placed him at the top of the list.

Still, all of this nonsense requires a bit of legwork, and that includes answering boring questions like “What is it like in the day of a Jaeger pilot?” and “What’s your favorite thing to cook?”

“If you have something else you need to be doing, we can return to this later.”

The words pierce through his thoughts, and his attention jolts back towards the present.  His eyes flick over to the interviewer, who is watching him with a slightly raised eyebrow.  The expression on his face is mild, polite, but Lotor spots the hint of a glimmer in his eye.  He’s seen it before; the one that means “I am in charge here and you will recognize that.” Alfor, Iverson, even Allura, are all experts.

“I know that pilots lead demanding lives; if this is too challenging, I can try for simpler questions.”

Not one to tolerate rudeness, then.  Lotor combs through his memory; he’d thought that the interviewer’s name had sounded familiar when he’d heard it.  Ben… Bennett? Martinez, he thinks; he knows the name somehow… isn’t he married to someone at the Shatterdome?

He quickly reconsiders the prospect of giving attitude to someone who knows how to deal with Jaeger pilots.  Not that he’s intimidated , but there’s a certain… reverence on which Lotor can usually capitalize that just won’t be an option here.

Time to reevaluate, then.

Lotor inclines his head slightly in acknowledgement.  “What was that?”

The corner of the interviewer’s mouth curls up slightly.  Lotor awards him a mental point.

“I was wondering if you might have any advice for those who are interested in following in your footsteps.”

Lotor snorts, deciding to refrain from making his first and only piece of advice ‘Don’t.’  “Well, who wouldn’t want to? Nothing too groundbreaking—just expect to be pushed to the limits of your sanity.  The Jaeger Academy is brutal. It needs to be, of course; piloting is brutal, and you can’t have people deciding that they’ll give up in the middle of fighting a Kaiju.”  Lotor shrugs. “If you want the fame and adoration, you’re better off trying to act or sing or something. It’s fantastic, of course, but you have to decide if it’s worth risking your life and absolutely sacrificing your sanity.”

Martinez snorts, and Lotor doesn’t miss the approval on the man’s face.   Definitely more familiar with Jaeger pilots than the average individual.

“You’re absolutely right about that.  Piloting isn’t an easy task, and it’s an incredible achievement to see anyone get that far.  Now, I am curious. You don’t see many Galra in the Jaegers. After the Kaiju devastated Daibazaal, its royal family—yourself excluded—retreated completely from the public eye.  Communications with the island went completely dark—”

Lotor stiffens, eyes flashing, then narrowing.  “Mr. Martinez, if you’re using this little popularity contest as an excuse to dig for information about a topic I have explicitly refused to discuss on multiple occasions—”

“I’m not here to ask about the situation on the island, Lotor,” Martinez says quietly, tone surprisingly calm for such a sensitive topic.  “This section of the article is about you, not your country or your family. All I want to know is why you, yourself, chose to step into the limelight, after the attack, a direct contrast to so many others of your people, and joined the Pacific’s defenses.”

Lotor feels the tension in the muscles of his back begin to unknit, and a strange sensation stirs in his chest.  Not about his country or his family. That’s a new one, and not entirely unwelcome.

His easy mask slips back into place, and he tosses his head of platinum hair dismissively.

“Wouldn’t you want revenge?  I may be a petty son of a bitch, but I have my priorities in order.  If I seek vengeance for tiny slights, of fucking course I’m going to want it for something like this.”  He taps his lips idly with a finger, raising an eyebrow at Martinez. “Are you allowed to put that in your article?”

“I’ll paraphrase,” comes the dry reply.

This time, it’s Lotor’s turn for the corner of his mouth to curve up in a smirk.  “Of course. But yes; they destroyed my home. Wiped out my people. My birthright?  Gone.” Not that he has too many complaints about that one, but that’s none of Martinez’s business.  I’m sure I could find a job somewhere as, oh, a model or an actor or something. I’ve had offers, of course.”  Lotor shoots Martinez a full smirk now, bordering on flirtatious. For an older guy, he’s not unattractive—excellent bone structure under that tan skin—but Lotor isn’t really interested , at least in anything besides tipping the scales a bit.  He leans back as well, stretching just a bit. “Most attractive Jaeger pilot in the Pacific, right?”

Martinez doesn’t bat an eyelid, continuing to watch him impassively as he waits for him to finish, and Lotor has to give him another mental point, this time for fidelity, at least.

“But not everyone can drift, and when I learned I could—all of the fame, all of the fans, and those monsters that took everything from me?  I have the bonus of getting to tear them limb from limb.”

The memories, of course, resurface.  His mother’s cold expression; his father’s declaration that he had betrayed his family and his country.  Working alongside their sworn enemy of Altea, who had refused to help—

Honestly, pissing off the Emperor and Empress of Daibazaal had been the best part of becoming a pilot, even beyond the groupies and fame and international adoration, but he wasn’t going to tell Martinez that.

“I can understand that.  And you’re right: not a lot of people can drift.  So I suppose we’re very lucky that you decided to make that choice.”

Lotor just smirks slightly, leaning back a little.  “Quite.”

Bennett nods.  “That actually leads into my next question.  About how you drift.”

“I’m listening.”

“There’s a lot of talk about how surprising it is that you have the copilot you do, given the… difference between your personalities.”  Lotor snorts at the tactful way he’s managed to say ‘You seem like you’d try to murder each other if left alone in a room together, let alone in a giant robot while you’re neurologically linked.’  “Our readers are always eager to know what makes their favorite pilots tick. Can you give us some insight into why the two of you work together as partners?”

Lotor paused, musing for several moments.  “It’s not too often I get asked to say nice things about Lance.”

A slight flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye, and he swears Martinez has just stifled laughter.  But he says nothing.

The partnership had surprised Lotor himself, and he’d spent some time trying to puzzle out the answer to that very question.  But most of what he’d determined… he wants to keep to himself.

“Well,” he begins, to all appearances disinterested with the question, “there’s not really a way of quantifying drift compatibility.  Never has been. Only theories. But I suppose it’s because we have similar priorities—we both have a sense of showmanship and a knack for flair, even if his is… well, less tasteful than my own.  And there’s an impulsiveness that the both of us value as well, since sometimes that sort of thing saves your life. But we rarely experience it in the same way, or at the same time, so and we’re able to temper or fuel it as needed.  So, similar? Not particularly.” Lance’s ridiculous antics are a far cry from Lotor’s refinement. “But complementary? Absolutely. And as often as I do want to drop him into the ocean and leave him behind, an equal amount of the time I really, truly, am grateful to pilot Principe Aquarius with him.”

Martinez watches him for a few moments, a thoughtful expression on his face.  “That’s… very touching.”

Lotor shrugs again, still effortless.  “Also, his reaction when I was chosen for your article and he wasn’t has made every irritation I’ve ever suffered completely worth it.”

The thoughtful expression shifts into something more amused.  “I see. So you two have a good relationship, then. A lot of pilots—those who aren’t related, at least—often develop into something… more, in their personal lives.  Is there any possibility that—”

“Stop right there,” Lotor interrupts, an uncomfortable sensation jolting his chest.   Lance?  And Lotor?  God, together?  What sort of—the very thought —do people think that?  God, did Lance think that he was—

But no.  He would have picked up that Lotor had no interest via their neural link.  Surely.

…Right?

“Otherwise,” he continues in a rush, “I’m walking right out of this building and forbidding you from using any of my answers.”

Martinez raises his hands.  “All right! Nothing going on there, then.  It’s just a standard question. The sorts of things our readers enjoy.  We’re going to be asking everyone that—see? Our next interviewer is here, and he’ll be getting the same.”

Lotor turns at Martinez’s nod and spotts a familiar young man with black hair, tall and well-built, being escorted through the studio.

Of course Shiro had been selected, too.  Lotor wonders which place he’d been given.  He might even have the spot below Lotor; goodness knows he’s attractive enough.

“Then can I leave?  Since he’s here, you must want to interview him, correct?”

“Don’t worry about it,” comes the voice from beside Lotor, cheerful and accommodating; Shiro has spotted him and jogged right on over.  “I showed up early. Bennett probably wants to finish with you, first. Is that right, sir?”

Martinez nods.  “I’ll be with you in a bit.  Would you like to take a seat?”

Shiro nods back, and an assistant steps over, beaming brightly.

“Mr. Shirogane!  It’s such an honor to have you here—congratulations on your first place spot!  I know my vote was with you…”

Shiro laughs, a little bashful, but Lotor frowned at the words that just… didn’t make sense.

First place spot?  That isn’t…

“What was that?” he asks Shiro mildly, who stops and turns, expression still amiable as ever.

“Oh, the same thing you’re here for, I think.  I heard on my way in that you got second. Beat out Kinkade—that’s an achievement in and of itself, right?”  Shiro laughs, genial and oblivious. “I’ll see you back at the Shatterdome.”

Lotor watches him go, keeping his expression neutral, almost pleasant, as he turns back to Martinez.

“Excuse me,” he says, voice cool.  “I placed where?