Came the ugly sound of a large palm making contact with skin, more specifically - the boy’s face. His 5-year old body collapsed onto the ground from the harsh impact, like a rag doll that’s been thrown away. His cheek where he had been strike began to heated up. Tears filled the boy's eyes as hot burning pain radiated from where his father had hit him. The terrible part is, the boy knew he could have done a lot worse.
“Get up. You’re not done yet.”
The general's booming voice sent shivers of fear down the boy’s spine. He forced his shaky legs to stand up once more as he resumed his combat position: one foot forward, one foot back, both fists up, ready to right. He took a deep breath as another battle cry escaped his lips.
His hoarse voice filled the training room as a well trained side kick followed. Though his father didn’t seem at all pleased with the attack. A muscular hand reached out to catch his kick midway. The same hand then launched the boy backwards, sending him off-balance and back onto the ground.
“That was weak, Shouto. Try again!”
This time, the boy didn’t respond. He stayed on the ground, curled up on his side. His body was at it’s absolute limits from the exhaustion of the day-long training.
Again, no response. He could hear his father’s footsteps coming closer, close enough that he could practically smell the leather combat boots the general wore on a daily basis.
“I said… GET UP!”
Pain. Fast, white, blinding pain erupted from his stomach. The boy let out an agonizing scream as the tip of his father’s boot made harsh contact with his stomach. His body folded on itself, it was too much.
“S-STOP! Stop it, please!”
“STOP! STOP IT! STOP! PLEASE!”
Momo’s voice begged.
One of the engineers pulled the switch. The roar of the machine died down as the program was halted. Shouto Todoroki threw off his helmet instantly, rushing over to his co-pilot’s side as he quickly helped Yaomomo out of her helmet. Tears were streaming down the girl's cheek. She was crying, shaking from the events she had just witnessed. Shouto wrapped her in a tight hug, one hand stroking her jet-black hair in a comforting manner.
“It’s ok… you’re ok…” He cooed in a gentle voice.
Momo only continued to cry and shake in his arms.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t… I’m so sorry, Todoroki-kun…” she sobbed.
She didn’t have to explain what she was apologizing for. Shouto knew very well what she had seen. After all, it was his memories that she had witnessed.
That was one of the down sides of these giant robots known as “Jaegers”. While powerful beyond human imagination, they require the brainpower of 2 pilots - each controlling one side of the mech’s body. In order for the pilots to move and fight as one, they are temporarily linked by memories, allowing them to think and feel together during combat.
Unfortunately, compatibility becomes an issue. As expected, those with similar or shared life experiences are more compatible with one another: brothers, sisters, twins, best friends often have high compatibility rates to be co-pilots. While those who carried traumatic experiences often had a hard time finding someone who’s able to drift alongside them.
Congratulations, old man. You spent so much time and energy trying to train the perfect pilot, just to have him be incompatible with everyone else.
Shouto chuckled bitterly about the irony of that. His father was no fool, he had originally trained not one, but two of his children to become mecha pilots. The general's brutal methods of training succeeding in turning both himself, and his eldest brother Touya into Japan’s top team, piloting the fire dragon Jaeger known as “Salamander”. But several successful missions later, Touya disappeared. Leaving without a trace. Having been marked as a defector to the Japanese military, even if his brother was to return someday, he would be serving a death sentence.
In the meantime, Japan’s top young pilot is without a partner. Yaoyorozu Momo was among the most promising of the candidates. Despite having no live combat experience, she graduated with top scores in the pilot exam and was considered one of the greatest successes of Japan’s military academies.
When Shouto first met her, he saw her as a sweet, happy girl - easy to get along with. On the weeks leading up to the compatibility test, she often invited Shouto out for lunch or dinner, asking about his life experiences and making notes. Shouto had been honest about all of it. But then again, it’s one thing to hear it from someone else, experiencing it firsthand from someone’s memories… well, that’s a whole different story.
It’s too bad. He wouldn’t have mind having her as a partner.
After several minutes of silence, Momo managed to collect herself. There was a strict privacy law forbidding pilots from discussing what they see during their drifts (with anyone besides their partner) in order to protect the pilots and the people around them. But nevertheless, Shouto couldn’t help but notice the flash of hatred that crossed her face when General Enji Todoroki stepped into the room.
“What do you want now, ‘sir'.” Shouto practically sneered, adding stress to the ridiculousness of having to formally address his father.
There was a flash of irritation that crossed the general's face, but even he knew better than to lay a hand on his rebellious son out in public eye.
“You’re being transferred to America.” Enji replied, “They have a pilot there with a high compatibility rate with you. Your flight leaves in 3 hours.”
And with that, the general left the room.
“Yes sir.” Shouto muttered with a roll of his eyes.
Some helpful definitions ^-^
Kaijus: Giant alien-like monsters that appeared from the bottom of the pacific ocean around a decade before the beginning of this story. No one knows where they come from or what they are after, all that is known is that they seem to target large coastal cities and bring destruction whenever they appear.
Jaegers: powerful giant mecha robots and the only weapon capable of fighting against Kaijus. They require the brain power of 2 pilots to operate: a single pilot can only control half the mecha’s body. Attempting to pilot both halves alone can lead to severe brain damage. In order for two pilots to fight in sync, their brains are temporality linked when they are connected to the jaeger. This allows them to move and fight together as one. Since their minds are linked, its often for the pilots to catch a glimpse of each other’s memories or thoughts during combat.
Drifting: is when two pilot’s brains are linked and their memories are shared. Pilots often have little control over what they see during their drifts and often reliving their partner’s memories can be a vivid (or even traumatizing) experience. Some have described drifting to be similar to having very vivid dreams.
Compatibility: Pilots that come from similar background (brothers, sisters, childhood friends, best friends etc.) are often more compatible because they already know and have experienced what their partners experienced in their past. Pilots that carry traumatic experiences often end up subjugating their partners to relive those dark memories and causing emotional outbursts during drifts.
Test Drift: Test drifts occur in a designated testing room rather than the cockpit of a jaeger (for safety reasons). Their main purpose is to test if two pilots are able to remain calm while reliving each other’s memories. During the test, both pilot’s vitals are closely monitored for any signs of distress. Things like an abnormal increase in heartbeat or hyperventilation during drifts will end the test immediately and declared a fail. If the both two pilots are able to remain calm while drifting for more than 20 minutes, it is considered a pass.
Pilot Protection law: An international privacy law shared by every country in the world with a Jaeger program. This law prevents pilots from discussing what they see during their drifts with anyone besides the originator of the memories. Just to clarify, this means pilots who get a new partner are forbidden from telling their new partner about their drifts with their former partner. They are ONLY allowed to discuss the memories they see with the person whom those memories belong to.
Sparring: also known as “free-form fighting” or “friendly match” is a form of training to mimic live combat, without actually bringing serious harm to your opponent. Pilots often train with one another this way because it allows them to familiarize themselves with their partner’s fight styles and patterns. They learn to read each other’s movements and predict how their partner will attack next – all of which translates to their ability to fight in sync when they pilot their jaegers. Minor injuries are common during sparring, major injuries are not.]