As a stellar roboticist, Athena made many invaluable contributions to the Jaeger project. Other scientists were busy with the man-machine interface, to the point that it became an almost spiritual endeavor. Athena had no interest in this, and felt as if it were cheating to integrate the nervous system directly into the mech. She was of an older school, one that much preferred the feel of buttons, pedals, and joysticks. There was a certain empathy to be found with machines built with your own two hands, and when you literally became
the machine, all of that value was lost.
In university Athena had been at the forefront of powered armor research. At the time, there were only rudimentary prototypes, with much work remaining to be done particularly in the field of active balancing in the heat of combat. All of that changed with the Jaeger program, however. The global gloves were off, and all the money they ever needed was pouring in. When they were finished balancing a series of 80 meter tall mechs, it was no struggle for Athena to get 4 meter tall powered armor to stand stable in any situation.
Thus was born Athena’s pet project, the Kaempfer series. Instead of a cockpit, the suits open from the back, allowing the “pilot” to climb into a person-shaped alcove. When the suit closes, it becomes an extension of themselves. There is no neural interface, however; it’s pure motion amplification, and instead of force feedback, the suits have HUDs, and instead of thought-driven weaponry, there is an array of controls at each limb. The suits are highly customizable. Athena designed a core skeleton with a multitude of attach points for armor plating, each running power for any equipment the user might desire, as long as they could provide it.
Her own prototypes were workable shortly after Brawler Yukon was completed, and were rapidly adopted by the PPDC for use in Jaeger construction and maintenance. As more Kaempfers were completed, they found homes all across the world, prized for their versatility, though they were expensive in their own right. Tokyo Shatterdome, as one of the most well-stocked domes on the Rim, has several, all in pristine condition and ready for modification thanks to Athena being on site.
Lucent Djinn, Athena’s personal model. According to her, it’s the fastest and most silent Kaempfer on the planet, though she uses it to tinker on Jaegers vastly more than she takes it into combat. Focused mainly on melee.
Powered armor in “factory” configuration.
Powered armor was not Athena’s only diversion. While the Drift was still in its early phases, much work was done on Jaegers piloted through traditional means. This proved implausible in the short term, as reaction times were too slow, prone to getting the pilot killed and the machine destroyed. The Drift was a shortcut, according to Athena, a cheat that turned the Jaeger into a slave and robbed it of its identity. Her philosophical views on piloting were irrelevant to her superiors, of course, and did little to save the world at the time. The unit that was farthest along in traditional development was given to her to do as she pleased once the Drift was chosen as the future of the Jaeger program. Its systems were far too integrated to be refitted with a Drift cockpit, and it served to silence her for a time. Years later, she has made some progress on it, arguing that its performance with a single pilot outmatches a single-pilot Drift Jaeger. Until it can stand on even keel with a dual-pilot Drift, however, it will remain as a curiosity, little more than a pet rock to keep one of their best minds from straying too far.