What ensues during the following months is the strangest rivalry the Isle has ever seen. It’s also the most argumentative courtship Chip has ever witnessed which, considering what his childhood was like, is certainly saying something. The different views probably explain the confusion.
Carlos asks for cars, Ben gives him cars. And boats. And computers. And planes, because why not.
Carlos asks for better tools, Ben provides those. As well as access to factories and Auradon technicians who don’t mind working alongside islanders or under a teenager.
Carlos asks for pilots, and Ben volunteers himself… until drift compatibility is explained to him.
“You can’t just jump in a jaeger with a random person and hope for the best, Auradon,” Carlos says, refusing to even learn Ben’s name, much less use it, “The pilots have to be compatible in order to share the controls. Otherwise you’ll end up with the disaster that would have been Gaston the Fourth.”
Ben grimaces at the mention, and not just because of the stories his mother has told him about her youth.
Carlos seems to think of him as a challenge and a resource, for some reason prickly at Ben’s generosity but willing enough to answer his questions. The rest of the Isle look at him with a collective bemusement, cautious but grateful, and a little entertained by his interactions with their jaeger program head.
But the Gaston twins? It’s not like Ben has announced his parentage–the islanders just seem to take his identity as Auradon at face value–but those two seem to somehow know, as if expecting him to transform into a monster at any second.
Or maybe it’s jealousy. They were supposed to have been jaeger pilots instead of Harry and Jace, it would have been their opportunity to be heroes as they seemed to think of themselves. For Ben to arrive and successfully aid the program without being a pilot himself, well. Just imagine how pissed they would be if they knew who he actually was.
With all the material he’s getting from Auradon, building a two-person jaeger out of the remains of the Jolly Roger is no longer a problem. In fact, they have enough for another two double jaegers, which Carlos sets his technician teams to work on. Auradon gave him actual engineers who follow his directions; that guy is so strange.
The problem now isn’t the lack of jaeger parts, or a lack of technicians, it’s a lack of jaeger pilots.
No matter how willing Auradon seems to be, it’s not just a matter of stuffing two random volunteers into the cockpit. If it were just that, there wouldn’t be a problem–sure the Isle is made up of villains and evildoers and their despicable descendants, but there have been a lot of islanders willing to risk their lives to save their friends and family.
Really, they were lucky that Harry and Jace were drift compatible, that the Hell Jalopy has a stable pair of pilots.
They need drift compatible pilots, and there aren’t any more on the Isle. Even including the engineers, Chip, and Auradon himself.
Carlos thinks this will be the sticking point. It’s one thing to give materials, one thing to have people build the jaegers, but piloting is dangerous. Has already proven deadly. Auradon may be willing to volunteer himself, but there’s no way he can get others to do it.
He’s just one guy, not the personification of a kingdom. Carlos knows what it’s like now to be seen as more than himself, as a means to an end instead of just a boy, the head of the jaeger program instead of Carlos De Vil. He shouldn’t expect so much from the other boy, no matter what he calls him.
Ben knows that being a good king isn’t about power. It’s not about absolute rule backed by strength and fear. It’s respect. It’s asking his people to do something, and having them agree because they believe in it too.
The engineers working on the Isle now? They were the ones working on the Wall, despite knowing how futile it was against the kaiju. They were the ones who saw the Jolly Roger fight back. They know, more than Ben does, just how important the jaeger program really is.
There’s no difficulty in getting people with faith in something to help contribute to that cause.
But pilots are another matter.
“They have to be teenagers,” Harry admits, because Carlos won’t.
“Have to?” Chip asks–like Ben, he’s been helping out with the jaeger program as much as he can, and has become fond of the islanders that are part of it.
“Carlos tried to change the programming,” Jace says, “There are at least a few parents who would rather be pilots than watch their kids do it,” though on the Isle, that number isn’t very high.
“It’s the compatibility–adults have a stronger sense of self than most teenagers,” Harry explains with a shrug.
Teenaged volunteers for jaeger pilots… this particular request is going to be harder than Ben thought.
Auradon leaves the Isle. He says it’s to find jaeger pilots, but Carlos knows it’s an impossible mission. At best, Carlos expects him to come back having tried and failed, a sheepish smile on his lips, with a few more planes and technicians as a consolation prize.
At worst? Well… no, no need to even consider that. He’ll come back, he has to. He’s left Chip behind, there’s no way Auradon won’t come back.
Carlos spends the next few weeks a little snappish and irritable, combing over every little move the technicians make until Harry and Jace bodily remove him from the jaeger docks.
“You’re making them nervous,” Jace scolds.
“Of course they’re going to make more mistakes when you’re breathing down their necks,” Harry adds, shaking Carlos by the collar of his jacket. She hasn’t done that in ages, and not because of his growth spurt.
“They have your blueprints, they know what they’re doing, just let them build in peace.” Jace finishes, before handing Carlos a sandwich. The food on the Isle has gotten better too, yet another thing Auradon keeps giving him. Them. The Isle, that is.
“What’s wrong with you?” Harry asks, when it appears that not even food can make his bad mood go away.
“I’m thinking about Jemma,” Carlos deflects, though now that he says it, he really is, “I wonder if… had I known to split the control of the Jolly Roger…”
“It’s not your fault,” Jace reassures quickly.
“Yeah, I know,” sometimes Carlos does, anyway, “But what I meant was. Who she would have been drift compatible with. Maybe I would’ve–”
“Except we need you to build the jaegers, not pilot it,” Harry interrupts.
To which Carlos scowls, but agrees, “Yes, that. But I wonder if… maybe she would have been drift compatible with Uri.”
Harry and Jace share a worried, knowing glance.
“I wonder what happened to them,” Carlos continues; there is only one particular set of ‘them’ that could refer to.
Time moves differently on this side of the tear. They know it’s been over a year, they have watched their friend change and grow and lose so much. Whenever they can, whenever they feel safe enough, they crowd around Evie’s tiny mirror and watch him.
They know that months have passed. But to them, it only feels like days. A few weeks at most, really.
They need to get back. Somehow. They need to get back to Carlos. To tell him what they’ve seen, to tell him what’s coming.
To tell him how to stop the kaiju for good.
A/N: It’s a bit messy, but I figured better to post this and edit it later than have it languish on my laptop.
EDIT: NOW WITH TITLE, “A TALE OF TWO KINGDOMS”