[personal profile] secrecysock posting in [community profile] fringe_exchange
Title: "Cortexiphan Alpha was the name of the Jaeger once"
Author: Anonymous
Recipient: sprocket
Notes: Pacific Rim AU, canon levels of background Peter/Olivia, mentions of unethical science no worse than in the show/movie


"She's so...tall now," Olivia says, as though Etta's height is the thing she most minds in this situation.

Peter laughs. "She's been that tall for a while," which only makes Olivia feel worse about it. She settles back into the loving arm around her shoulders, her head tilting back against the hard metal wall of the battlestation – a comfort of familiarity if not the physical. Olivia’s never spent much time outside of the Spartan comforts of bases anyway.

She knows how tall Etta is. Another number Olivia could not forget if she wanted to. Her achievements are just as familiar: Olivia has probably bored control room teams on three continents with updates on her clever daughter's test scores, her minor victories. (Or perhaps not bored, she’s certainly heard enough about Stacker’s adopted kid that at they, at the very least, are even.)

It’s still really not the same as being told that her highest Drift compatibility on this base is the daughter whose adulthood still seems a slightly shocking miracle every time Olivia manages to come back from her secondment (exile, Peter says, mock-tragic, every time, and Olivia feels that way herself, especially since Etta started to change by leaps and bounds every time she left for a night) to another base when they need another ranger.

Etta's scores in the simulator seemed safe, somehow. Like the math tests that Etta – or these days, more likely Peter, Etta having turned into a teenager all of a sudden – would proudly tell her about over the commlink at the odd intervals of calm she'd manage to snatch in strange bases.

Walter thinks that this is: "A perfect opportunity to examine your unique ability to create Drift chemistry in a still growing mind!" which only makes Olivia want to reject the plan even more firmly.

Olivia doesn't know if the ability comes from somewhere inside herself or from all the things in those first early years of desperate experimentation with Drift technology that spun her mind around and spat it out whole enough to let her do her job. She doesn’t think about it too much, her conviction that the job is still important enough to deserve her fullest concentration (her mind, whispers an unsettling voice in her lowest moments) still overriding everything.

It might be better if the news hadn't been delivered in the creepiest, and therefore Walter's most favorite, of the labs. Walter looks far too pleased for a man framed by unsettlingly bubbling tubes full of alien body parts, even if Peter's grinning knowingly at her from behind some radiography equipment and Astrid's shoulders are shaking with suppressed laughter where she's scrubbing up in the sink. It’s not unlike any of Walter’s other enthusiasms, and Olivia has learned some degree of patience with his foibles. This seems a step too far, though in comparison, a simple drop with Etta – no testing involved – looks like practically nothing.

Peter doesn’t argue, lets Olivia think her way through the problem. He reads from a tablet in one hand while she goes over tomorrow’s schedule, but his attention wavers back to her at intervals to update her on gossip from her time away. She didn't need to know that about the new members of the science team. It's still pretty damn funny.


They eat dinner without discussing tomorrow. Walter has a lot to say, as usual, but he's been distracted from his earlier enthusiasm for genetic Drift compatibility by a particularly sticky and glowing mess of Kaiju parts he's trying to wangle access to, or at least better photographs of. Etta seems readable: a familiar mix of nerves and excitement, not enough of either one to ruin her performance tomorrow. It's possible Olivia has been away too much to be able to read her well anymore: she files that thought firmly away as unnecessary worries, and refuses to think about it further.

Peter teases her for the frown on her forehead when Etta dashes off after dinner to go meet up with the other set of rangers who are home at the moment. A new, young set, Olivia doesn't know them well, but she supposes they are who Etta must have been working with for all these months. “We’re too old for pre-test parties,” Peter says, bumping Olivia’s hip as they wash up in the tiny galley kitchen. “Besides, I missed you too much to share you when you’re only just back.”

“I missed you too,” Olivia says, and with one thing and another, they end up needing to move into another room where they won’t scandalize Walter or, more likely and even worse, draw his loud and cheerful encouragement.


In the Jaeger the next morning, Etta isn't watching anything except the correct placement of her gear, checking the joints of her suit, her range of motion. Her movements are smooth: practiced, but not experienced. When Etta puts her helmet on, Olivia can almost see herself, the way she has in the minds of all her Drift partners: from the outside, a set of moves more than the blurred face behind angled glass.

It's a disquieting thought, one that makes her think about gently deflecting Walter's – grandfatherly, he insists – desire to test the similarity until it breaks into shards of understanding in his hands, but one that passes away smoothly with the slide into the Drift.

Olivia feels Etta's awareness of her Walter-thoughts, and a corresponding flash of amusement that feels pleasantly like Peter, as they step into the ocean. For this part, the synchronicity of motion is simple, or at least Olivia has always found it so, with anyone she's been tested with. She pushes her mind into the mechanics anyway, skimming her thoughts over and away from the blue waves of Etta's memories. The sense of purpose, of the bone-deep rightness of their mission remains, so familiar it takes a few steps for Olivia to realize that the shape of the thought is almost entirely unlike the way she would conceive it and that it must be spreading across the bond. She doesn't look at Etta, there's no need in the Drift, the thought is as good as the deed and Etta’s acknowledgement comes across as they fall deeper into synch, she-they smiling as Cortexiphan Beta wades out into the glittering waves toward a possible new crisis.
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