Paths Not Taken 4

A brief reminder that I started this style of post with the second Epsilon story; it’s a look at the choices NOT taken by you, the audience. The arcs that never were. To see how “Full Scale Invasion” Parts 1-9 might have unfolded, see this prior post. Spoilers follow for the rest of the story, naturally.

ENTER THE GOVERNMENT

10. DELIVERY. Marginal influence? Hard to say with this one. Queeny was due to come in anyway – the third incursion of a large artifact would have involved the government somehow – but the unanimous decision here to have Queeny in possession of Alice’s package meant three things.

CScalingFirst, Queeny arrived before the artifact, instead of after. Not that big a deal. Second, Chris not having the package meant Alijda’s healing would be delayed. But with magic about to get torpedoed, a delay was inevitable anyway. Finally, indirectly, this kept Bonnie from returning to the story. Is that marginal?

I point out that Queeny’s meeting with Bonnie was always going to happen at or near the site of the incursion. (You may recall in vote #7, Bonnie not being able to return to the DEO? The object arriving would have factored in.) Except now, for Queeny to be there early, and to bring Andi back in, it made more sense to NOT have Queeny and Bonnie in a motel room.

So, no Bonnie here – marginal? Maybe. It meant she was keeping informed another way. This part also gave Queeny a spy in the DEO, but that was liable to be the case anyway.

11. THIMBLE. Major influence. If technology had stopped working, Bonnie would have needed the help of the magic users to create a “technology capable field”. If magic had stopped working, the magic users would have needed access to that hidden room in the DEO, so heavily shielded that magic was accessible again.

I threw in “techno-magic fusion” on a whim. Whelp. The fact that it was selected kept Bonnie from returning for quite a while. Also, only three votes for such a pivotal decision, during a time when I was struggling to write, was problematic – see this “Behind the Scenes” post for why, post-vote, I subsequently only put in half the effort on part 12.

Notably, for someone who is a big fan of the anime “Magical Lyrical Nanoha”, I ended up thinking about how to fusion for far too long. When the anime link clicked in my head, Kat having taken an “unnamed item to be identified later” became “Minerva the USB”, and Chris’ new identity as Axiom became inevitable – although such details wouldn’t fully form until Part 13.

12. TPORTING. Marginal influence. Alijda teleporting being unaffected by scale would have had her teleporting being a major piece of rescuing Clyde. Her teleporting with assistance would have had her interfacing in some way with Minerva/Axiom. With the choice of her teleporting being limited, having her along became optional… but she was ultimately chosen anyway. So no big deal.

HIDDEN VOTE DECISIONS

One of the objections to a “vote for plot” story raised at CanCon (a convention I attended last October) was that readers don’t necessarily know what they truly want. Or they may lack necessary context to choose. How things play out from here took that into account.

Alijda_byShirochya

Alijda commissioned from: Shirochya

13. CLYDE. Major influence. This was “Bonnie’s revelation”, which I alluded to as far back as #6… namely Clyde is still alive, on TechWorld, and his use of the portal is what triggered everything. Back then, I’d decided Bonnie knew about it – but did she? She didn’t have to. Hmm. Readers didn’t have this information, so I presented it in the following way:

If the vote was Bonnie hated Clyde, she knew. But she’d had to keep it secret, and was continuing the experiment either to capitalize on his earlier work, or out of a delayed sense of guilt. If the vote was Bonnie loved Clyde, she did NOT know, and was continuing his work to give the man she loved a better legacy. The third option was that someone else loved Clyde.

Maybe I should stop dreaming up these third options?

That choice was always going to be homosexual. I debated Queeny having a brother, Kingy, who was in love with Clyde, but decided that a new character this late in the game was unnecessary. Larry picked up the love interest. Meanwhile, since Bonnie’s love emotion was the runner-up (2-1), I deemed that Bonnie did NOT know Clyde’s fate either. Which retroactively puts a new spin on her scenes, maybe.

See? The runner up vote can be important too.

14. COMPANION. Major influence? Also a tough call. First, wow, this was close: 3-2-2. Also the first time I’ve ever had a 7-vote poll; the 7 votes back in #12 were spread over two weeks (6 then 1, which I’m pretty sure was a repeat, as I’d encouraged people to go back and keep voting). Granted, I kept #14 here open an extra 24 hours too, which changed it from a 3-2-1 vote.

Like last time, this actually WASN’T a poll on the characters, even though it seemed that way. It was a poll on the plot. Namely the scenario Axiom would find on TechWorld. Had Kat been chosen, there would have been a hardware issue to deal with; swapping chips or something to free Clyde and/or blow out the portal. Had Para been chosen, there would have been a design issue; modifying portal plans or something. Instead, it was Alijda, so we got a dimensional portal that kept her at Clyde’s size, and drones that she could hack.

Except she didn’t hack. So… still a major influence? Maybe not?

15. ESCAPE. Major influence. The “worst” option was chosen!

Okay, good and bad is relative, but I think the best end would have been Alijda figuring out how to shrink Axiom (which she ultimately alluded to in part #17). Think about it – having all the characters the same size would have made the density shield more manageable, and they would then all be the same size upon returning. Next best was the distraction idea, with hacking the drones.

Instead, their fate was put into the hands of the guy who’d been held prisoner, now possibly suffering from post traumatic stress, or Stockholm syndrome, or who knows what. It also meant they were no longer masters of their own fate. Now, I was fine with this, and I suppose there’s something to be said for the people of that world solving their own problems instead of Alijda – but is Clyde really the best plan if you think a bit harder about it? Am I out of line here?

Anyway, Clyde was originally going to do some sort of massive self-destruct. When I started writing, it became taking control of the sleep ray instead. I’d needed a non-lethal way to knock Mook out, and saw a way to repurpose that tech on a bigger scale. In the end, this choice may have helped Alijda rethink whether she should have become involved? I don’t think she was happy with how it turned out. Were the readers?

POOR ALICE

16. OBSERVING. Marginal influence. More sadness!

Obviously saying “do you want a sad end?” isn’t valid, as most people will say “no”. But Kat’s closing remark in #16 about Alice and trouble, plus the “Alice has been good” in the choice was meant to be a big red flag, particularly after the last decision. To be clear, I’m not against the choice that was made, but I WAS trying to alert readers as to what Alice “helping” would entail – the end should not have been a complete surprise.

AN_AliceV_byCZ

Alice commissioned from: Cherry Zong

Had Alice been good, she might have been a little frayed at the edges mentally (like me) and needed a vacation. Had she only looked, she would have been given a partner to work with on the Station. As it is, yup, she is FIRED. If and when Epsilon ever resumes, someone else will be running things, and that’s on your heads (okay, and mine, for putting the choice out there).

Alice leaving with Alijda wasn’t planned, but I wanted SOME happy feels in the end, which is also why the part ran a bit longer than usual. Some other things that weren’t planned in there were Kat’s callback to Tara with Bonnie (although Bonnie doing something with techno-magic was intended), and the dragon itself.

Yeah, I figured if Alice was going out, she was going to do it with style, plus the dragon allowed for a call back to MagicWorld. I’m not sure how Kat and the rest would have generated the fire otherwise. Fireworks, or blowing something up, maybe? Also, prior to the dragon, I was pondering Alice’s interference as saving one of them from a possible death by laser.

17. CHARACTER. I’ve done one of these each story. After Story1, it was Alijda unanimously, 4-0. Story2 was Chartreuse unanimously, 2-0. (Those polls are still open by the way.) A couple things surprised me this time, as of the time this is posted (six votes registered).

First, the strong showing by Kat, a MALE character, with thanks to Kayla for telling me that he was relatable. Early on, I worried he was coming across as objectifying women more than being a flirt, so I tried to redirect him a bit (you notice he didn’t hit on Chris). Second, the props for Alice along with Alijda; maybe that was due to Alice getting her own part this time? Who knows. I’ll keep that last poll open for a while yet.

*

This website will now be returning to “Time & Tied” for another 44 episodes/weeks, meaning about ten months. In brief, it’s a time travel story about a war in the future, which has spilled into the past, and is affecting one teenage girl in particular. But like “Epsilon”, you can start reading with the next post, no prior knowledge of the serial needed!

I hope you stick around for it; Chartreuse, the most popular character from the second “Epsilon” story, features more prominently this time. (That said, her appearance in “Epsilon” is AFTER the coming parts of T&T, so hold off on “Story2” if you want to avoid minor spoilers. At the time, I hadn’t been sure I’d put up T&T at all.)

I do hope you enjoyed reading this look behind the scenes! As always, thanks for voting/reading, and feel free to comment below about that which was unexpected, or anything else that jumps out at you. Have a great day!

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