I now get why everyone wants to pair up people from other fandoms into jaegers.
Because imagine Sam Wilson piloting his jaeger painfully back alone after losing Riley.
And he’s counseling other veterans, and he’s not going back, but – Captain America needs his help. Is there any better reason to get back in the game?
It turns out he and Steve are drift compatible, and their jaeger is adapted so Steve can use both arms while Sam uses both wings. And instead of a sword, they have a shield, rocket propelled and capable of flying itself back to them.
Natasha brings nothing to the drift. She’s piloted with Clint, once, in an emergency, and afterward he brought her into SHIELD. Even he felt distant from her mind, because there are things she never wants anyone to know. Posting her secrets to the world, at the end of the movie, is more intimate even than drifting with a stranger, because she is so good at holding things back.
Bucky has to pilot from the right, because his arm doesn’t sync quite right with a jaeger. (Maybe in a sequel, Steve and Bucky will have to drift together, to pilot a very old style of jaeger. And they were compatible in the last war, but neither of them knows if they’ll still be able to fight together. And Bucky is in the worst danger of chasing the rabbit, because even he doesn’t know what his memories hold, and Steve tries not to secretly hope that after seeing Steve’s memories, Bucky will come back for real.)
Oh, no, I just realized – I bet Fury and Pierce used to pilot together. That’s why it never even occurs to Fury to suspect him. But Fury loses his eye and gets out of piloting, and it’s been a long time since they drifted together. And so it’s a betrayal of the highest order – and even more frightening because Fury knows how similar they really were.
Tony and Rhodey pilot together, but part of Tony’s new tech is a jaeger that can be piloted solo, keyed so that only he or Rhodey can use it. When things get rough, though, Iron Patriot is the jaeger that War Machine and Iron Man pilot together, and they’ve defeated some of the worst kaiju as a team, with Pepper calling the shots back at base. When, in IM3, Tony gets rid of his arc reactor, he’s also giving up the possibility of ever piloting alone again.
No one has ever drifted with Bruce. The Hulk is practically a jaeger on its own, after all. But everyone knows that’s not exactly why.
Presumably Thor and Loki used to fight together, and now neither of them can pilot a jaeger, because they aren’t compatible with any humans on this world. As much as everyone in Asgard loves him, Thor still knows that he looks like one half of a whole without Loki.
Jane is one of the top researchers around the kaiju threat. She and Darcy are drift compatible, but they prefer to be back at base, calculating and directing. When Thor takes Jane with him to Asgard, no one there can quite believe that she understands the kaiju at least as well as they do, even though she’s just a human. Thor hovers behind her, smiling proudly, as she argues the mathematics of kaiju invasion with Asgard’s best.
But I just keep coming back to Sam Wilson, his partner – one of his wings – torn from him, coming back to pilot an old-fashioned jaeger with single-pilot wings and single-pilot arms, because Captain America needs his help.