Outliving The Ruins, 4/? (2015-12-08)

(three)

Of all the elements, water bending is the most common. Which makes living on the Isle of the Lost a frustrating thing.

Being an island, by definition, means that it is surrounded by water–the shores all around it, a river that cuts through it, and rain that falls from above. But the people of the Isle can’t leave the magical barrier, and it is a very small radius indeed.

Their parents had the entire ocean at their control or, barring that, an entire kingdom filled with moisture-retaining plant life. In contrast, trapped on the Isle, they have nothing.

On the rocky beach, Jemma wishes for an endless blue horizon. From the shallow waves, Uri yearns for the briny depths of the sea. And in a jungle made of concrete, Querida dreams of roses as red as blood.

(two)

Lady Tremaine is not a bender, and neither are her two daughters. But her first husband had been one, an earth bender. He had used his skills in his mining business and it had been a satisfactory, if not profitable, marriage.

She learned the second time.

She married a rich man who could provide for her and her daughters; give her emeralds greener than her eyes. As green as her first husband’s eyes had been.

The green eyes which meant power.

No, Lady Tremaine is not a bender, but if she had been…

It would have been easy. A locked door cannot open if the key has been crushed into a useless lump of metal. A shoe made of glass–merely melted and molded sand–cannot fit one foot if it has been resized for another. Gems and gold would have come easily to her fingertips, and she wouldn’t have had to remarry at all.

But Lady Tremaine is not a bender, and neither are her two daughters.

Her eldest and youngest grandchildren, on the other hand, the only boy and the youngest girl–Anthony and Dreda–she sees the way stone trembles under his feet, how metal warps beneath her hands.

And she knows that the Tremaine family will prosper.

(one)

Fire bending is rare. As cliché as it might sound, this is because fire benders are either bright enough to control the flames or get burned by them instead.

And even if she’s no dragon’s daughter, Frederique Facilier is plenty bright, thank you very much.

But she knows she can’t really compete with Mal, even disregarding the whole Avatar thing (hey, secrets are the family trade). Freddi’s fire is smaller, warm instead of hot, and maybe for a voodoo witch doctor that would be fine. But her father’s friends from the other side can’t break through the barrier and reach them–meaning the Faciliers are as magic-less as any lowly minion.

So all Freddi has is her fire bending (and her devastating good looks and sharp wit and excellent fashion sense).

But if she had to tell the truth (though she would never out loud), Freddi is only a candle to Mal’s sun.

~

A/N: Some other bending villain kids on the Isle:

Water benders represent! Jemma Hook and Uri, son of Ursula, I’ve previously introduced in A Tale of Two Kingdoms–a pirate and a sea witch’s son, of course they would be water benders. And then Querida, my “Princess of Hearts,” would almost have to be a blood bender… or at the very least, a plant bender.

Earth bending Tremaines from the horrifying idea that Lady Tremaine would have completely won if she had been a bender. The mice can’t steal the key and free Cinderella if it’s not a key anymore. And it would have been so easy to smash the second glass slipper (if she couldn’t manipulate the glass itself, that is). Dreda Tremaine is also from A Tale of Two Kingdoms as my headcanon Tremaine granddaughter–apparently there are multiple granddaughters in the book, but only Anthony the grandson is named, so I just chose a Dr- name. I’m rather fond of her.

Then Freddi Facilier is from the Wicked World animated short series. Why is she a fire bender? Well… because I needed one and she seemed like a good choice. Also, superficially, her red outfit.

So, basically, we have my Predecessors (The Prequel) gang, my OC Tremaine granddaughter Dreda, and Freddi from the animated shorts which I consider “beta canon” (as opposed to the movie which is “alpha canon”). 😀

A Tale of Two Kingdoms, part 10/11 (2015-08-26)

“Carlos!” They call out, and he’s helpless to stop the smile that spreads across his face. He waves down at them, and perhaps his good cheer is contagious, because Dreda waves as well, even if she doesn’t really know them.

For a second, he forgets. It’s as if the past fifteen months haven’t happened, no kaiju, no jaegers. For a second he’s just a kid again, the youngest member of the Isle’s baddest gang.

But only a second.

“Sir,” one of the technicians says, no doubt originally from the Wall–the primary way to tell technicians apart is by how polite they are–and Carlos looks up, looks away from his friends and Auradon. “Miss Dreda,” he adds, “It’s time to go.”

The jaeger is ready for its pilots.

A wave of numbness washes over him; in his peripheral vision he can see the way Dreda shudders one last time before gearing herself. They both step away from the railing, towards the cockpit entrance.

Dreda’s hand reaches towards him blindly and Carlos catches it in his own. They squeeze each other’s hands; they’re scared, but they’re ready.

“What should we name it?” Carlos asks her, not so much a distraction, but a focusing technique. The jaeger is a frightening future only because it’s an unknown. But they’ve both been a part of building it, and they’re going to be fighting in it. It’s theirs, it’s them, they should get to name it.

Dreda gives a shaky laugh, more exhale than sound. “My cousin Anthony used to call me something before… before.” Carlos vaguely recalls an Anthony Tremaine, a year or two older than himself. He had been… well, not kind–because kindness was not something done on the Isle–but he had been civil towards Carlos when he was just a runty science nerd. He can easily believe that Anthony would have been kind towards a runty, science nerd cousin.

Everyone has lost someone, Carlos is not unique in this. “I think you’ll like it Mr. De Vil,” Dreda says, pointedly using his last name.

“Oh, really?” Carlos asks, looking at her in curiosity.

“Mischief Demon,” she says, with a sly smile, and Carlos can’t help his own huff of amusement.

“That’s a good name.”

“Carlos!” They call out, and the sight of him in person instead of through a mirror, is more efficient than anything else in convincing them that they’re finally free. He smiles and waves down at them and that prompts all of them, even Mal, to smile back up at him.

Well, Ben has been smiling since first catching sight of him, so it would be more appropriate to say his smile grows even wider somehow. Until something pulls Carlos’ attention away, and Ben notices what he’s wearing.

That’s a jaeger pilot suit.

And beside Carlos is a short figure in a matching suit.

No.

Then Carlos and his partner step away from the railing, disappearing from sight.

No.

“No!” Evie shouts, echoing his thoughts, but the din of the docks or distance or whatever has taken Carlos away prevents her from being heard. “We have to get up there now!”

Jay pulls at one of the technicians, “How do we get up there?”

Maybe it’s surprise or fear, but it might be something else, because her eyes glaze over and she obediently says, “The elevator,” she waves toward the freight lift, but it’s already en route upwards and moving far too slowly for their tastes anyway.

“I’ve got this,” Mal says, and with a sharp arm gesture, she’s suddenly several feet above the ground. The technician, startled, moves away, as do others not even at all close. As does Chip.

But Evie and Jay step closer, familiar if not expectant, each with an arm raised up towards her.

As does Ben.

“That’s a good name,” Carlos says to Dreda, and with one last squeeze of their hands, they step towards the cockpit.

Only to be stopped by the technician, feet rooted to the walkway, unmoving; looking behind them, and turning pale.

“Almost as good as Queen Cobra,” Carlos hears from behind him, and he doesn’t know what that statement means but he knows that voice. Knows it so well, even if he hasn’t heard it in over a year.

“Evie,” he says, turning, then “Jay!” he yelps, when an arm curves around his shoulders and bodily pulls him away from the jaeger. Dreda is pulled along with him briefly, before she lets go. Smart, since Carlos is dragged into a bruising group hug. Even Mal joins in, though she extricates herself quickly enough.

She is also quick to get to the point.

“You can’t get in that,” Mal says, and no matter that Carlos had been dreading actually piloting a jaeger, no matter that she probably had a good reason and would explain, Carlos’ hackles rise.

It’s one thing to temporarily feel like that kid he once was, one thing to remember being the runt of the gang, jumping to attention whenever the others say so. But he’s not just Carlos anymore, he’s head of the jaeger program now.

“We have to,” Carlos contradicts, and steps away, towards Dreda, towards the jaeger, towards his duty. What does Mal know about the jaeger, about this new way of life on the Isle? She and Evie and Jay have been gone for over a year.

“Carlos.”

They might not have been around, they might not understand. But Auradon was, and he knows.

“Carlos,” Auradon repeats, then steps forward to stand beside Mal, “You don’t.”

Ben lets the friends reunite, stays back so he doesn’t intrude. He thinks it’s rather sweet, really, though he knows better than to say so. He averts his eyes, in part to give the gang some privacy, but also to look about.

The Isle is empty, the Hell Jalopy and the Rebel Watcher missing, the third jaeger prepped, Carlos and a young girl in pilot suits. He can read the signs: it’s either a triple event, or the kaiju have escalated to class fives and the first two jaegers are being overwhelmed.

The technician, who had paled so quickly upon spotting a group of flying teenagers–the image of a young Maleficent at the forefront–meets Ben’s eyes. Even if Ben weren’t the kind of person to remember people’s faces and names, it’s obvious that this technician is one of the engineers from the Wall, with the way he seems to be drawing comfort from seeing his king alive and unharmed, if a little messy from a dip in the waters around the Isle.

Ben silently and clumsily asks a question about the situation in the hand signs the jaeger program use around the docks when construction is too loud for speaking.

Two class fours, one class five.

So it’s both a triple event and a class escalation.

His attention snaps back to the gang when their conversation turns sour.

“We have to,” Carlos says, backing away and towards the jaeger. Towards danger.

Mal has told Ben what lies on the other side of the tears, the world of the kaiju and their masters. The whole point behind the kaiju. If the masters get a hold of Carlos…

“Carlos,” Ben doesn’t even want to consider that possibility. “Carlos. You don’t,” he steps forward, closer, “You don’t have to. Because we’ll go instead.”

~

A/N: Ugh, okay fine. This has to be two separate parts because I need to get out of this double POV scene thing that’s going on and also this is a decent enough length already. Hopefully I will have the actual final part up later today.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms, part 9/11 (2015-08-24)

There’s something almost electrifying in the air, and it has nothing to do with cauldron’s inert energy. Ben stares, letting his eyes adjust: purple-haired Mal, blue-haired Evie, and Jay whose biceps probably are the size of his head. Carlos’ friends.

None of them move, a sense of astonishment on all sides making them pause and take it in. Mal, Evie, and Jay reveling in the fact of finally being home, Ben in the success of having completed his quest.

Then Evie hisses sharply, a gloved hand rising to her temple, “Carlos,” she breathes, as if in pain. “He needs us now.”

“Time to go,” Mal says brusquely, stepping towards the shore.

Ben–unaware of what exactly is going on, but reacting to both Mal’s order and the thought of Carlos needing help–follows her, Chip trailing behind him.

“Lagan! Derelict!” Jay calls out, and the eels sway in the water almost playfully at their names, before disappearing.

They come back, moments later, with a rickety but water-worthy dinghy. The girls climb in first, Jay keeping it steady before he climbs in as well. Ben and Chip join them, though not without a mild complaint from the latter, “There was a boat this entire time?”

Some force, whether magic or eels, begins pushing the dinghy through the water, back towards the inhabited part of the Isle.

“None of us can swim,” Jay says with a casual shrug, almost challenging someone to say anything about it, before his face twists and he adds, “Well–”

“Uri could,” Evie sighs, hand still against her temple, “He was teaching Jemma before the… before.”

Before the ritual. Before the kaiju. Before his death.

“What happened?” Ben asks, before realizing how that might be misconstrued, “I mean, it’s been over a year since you disappeared. Where were you?”

The other three teenagers look at each other, a silent conversation passing between them through facial expressions alone.

Mal is the one to look him in the eye and answer.

The pilot suits are strangely comfortable, Carlos thinks. Not that they’re designed to be uncomfortable, just that he would have expected the weight of the armored plates and sensors to be heavier. If anything, he feels free.

There are no crossbones on his suit.

“We have a match,” the drift analyst says solemnly. But everything about this situation would instill solemnity, so Carlos doesn’t take offense.

Some of the techs, the ones not up in the control room, the ones on the ground prepping the third jaeger–Carlos’ soon to be jaeger–hiss and murmur to each other. Relieved, but uncertain.

“Who is it?” he asks, when nothing else seems to be forthcoming.

“Dreda Tremaine,” the analyst states, so carefully, so hesitantly, that Carlos knows something is up even before the other techs burst into loud denials.

“Quiet,” the head of the jaeger program demands forcefully, “Who is Dreda Tremaine?” Carlos asks, concerned.

She’s one of the ground crew, mostly works on the fourth jaeger. She’s fairly skilled with wire work and but especially talented with firmware.

She’s twelve.

“Why do we even have her scan?” Carlos asks, honestly baffled; the head of the jaeger program asks, a little irritated.

“Everyone who joins the jaeger program gets tested. We… we weren’t sure how long the kaiju would keep coming,” the analyst explains haltingly. For all they knew, the jaeger program would last years longer. They weren’t expecting someone so young to be needed so soon.

“Where is she?” he asks, resigned, both parts of himself in unison.

Around him voices speak up and protest, She’d be over by the fourth jaeger now. You can’t seriously consider it. She’s too young.

“I’m here,” a small thin voice says, and the crowd of technicians part for her. She’s a short girl, dressed in an overly large shapeless technician’s coveralls, grease on her cheeks and her upturned nose. She’s shaking, and her hands are fisted into her pockets, shoulders hunched up to her ears, but she still walks forward and says, “I’m Dreda Tremaine.”

The past is the past; nothing can change that. Mal talks about the ritual, about the world of the kaiju, but only in the bare minimum. The past should be remembered, yes, should be learned from, but there is a time for reminiscing and that is not now. What they need to talk about is what they’re going to do next.

They know how to stop the kaiju for good. They need the jaegers, they need Carlos.

They need to stop Carlos from getting into the jaeger.

Once back onto solid ground, it’s Ben who leads the way. The Isle has changed over year they’ve been gone and while the jaegers are easily spotted from a distance, Ben is the one who knows how best to get to where they need to go.

The streets and alleys are deserted, as if the people had simply vanished mid-activity. Or as if a warning siren had gone off, alerting people to go to the safe zones. Even as they run, Ben can see that the Hell Jalopy and the Rebel Watcher are gone, only their nameless comrades remaining.

But Ben has also been on the Isle for months now, and there’s something else he notices. He can recognize the difference between a prepped jaeger and a jaeger in sleep mode. One of the nameless jaegers have been powered up.

There isn’t a pilot suit Dreda’s size, but they modify the smallest they do have to fit her. She changed with no complaint, but Carlos can see they way her tied up hair is swaying, an echo of her bodies’ trembling.

She’s only twelve.

“Hey, Dreda,” Carlos says, and even though he’s not one for comforting people he tries his best, and lays a hand on her shoulder, “I’m Carlos.”

She looks at him almost incredulously, “I know who you are,” she says, and her voice is still soft and thin but at least its not panicked.

“I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry,” because he is, he really really is, “These jaegers are supposed to protect the people of the Isle, and I’m sorry that just because we’re drift compatible you aren’t one of those people.”

It’s one thing to volunteer yourself for the jaeger, it’s another to drag someone else down with you, Carlos thinks to himself, but still there are no crossbones on his back.

“I… I’m scared,” Dreda admits, but she looks Carlos in the eye as she does so, and that gives him the courage to say back:

“I’m scared, too.” Maybe this is what makes them drift compatible, a willingness to do something terrifying because it needs to be done and they’re the only ones who can.

Their moment is cut short when shouts ring out; the ground crew heralding someone’s arrival. Carlos and Dreda look down from their spot up in the catwalks, just outside the jaeger cockpit entrance.

Five figures, not in the jaeger technicians’ jumpsuits.

Carlos recognizes the tops of those heads.

“No way,” Dreda breathes beside him, saying what he’s thinking.

It’s impossible for them to have heard her from so high up, but the group looks up, one by one. Carlos knows those faces, too.

Auradon actually did it.

A/N: ARGH! Okay, okay, what?! Why is this not done yet?! OMG. Okay. NEXT PART, FOR SURE.