To look back at “Epsilon 6”, I feel a “Paths Not Taken” post is more appropriate than a “Behind the Scenes” post. This is because the outcome was more heavily influenced by the votes than in some previous Epsilon stories. (Plus most of what happened behind the scenes was simply dealing with the pandemic.)
If you want to avoid spoilers, you’ll need to read the “Smoke With Mirrors” serial first.
One particular spoiler is that the plan was ALWAYS to have an “evil Alijda”. Possibly working with Beam or an evil version of Beam. Let’s look at how that tale unfolded – and how it could have unfolded quite differently.
0a. PLOT CHOICE. With “Mystery” being selected (4-1), the “evil” angle wasn’t going to be overt, so I didn’t even have Alijda in the cast to start. (Giving the option of her first appearance to be “evil”.) Had “Romance” been selected we would have had Alijda & Kat (with possibly a secondary romance between Fate & Beam) where “evil Alijda” is jealous, perhaps posing as her double. Had “Fantasy” been selected I would have focussed initially on the world involved (perhaps with a connection to the Magic Wars of Story 5) and less on the known characters.
0b. CHARACTER CHOICE. Unanimously the vote was for a mix/no preference. Para was the favourite major character (by 3-1), so I needed her. Alice was the favourite station administrator (by 4-1), so I needed her. And it was the “Mystery” decision that brought in Trixie. Moreover, to avoid starting in a dream sequence (I wanted a more action-oriented start), Trixie ended up driving the entire first part, to give her some backstory after the Virga serial ending.
1. WORLD. World “much like ours” (2-1) was where to put Beam. The bunny virus was spur of the moment; it being called ‘Smoke’ was pretty much decided by this point (to match the title) even though there would be no in-story reference for a while. I’d also had an idea of Alice switching minds with Fate, but that would need technology world tech (as a way for them to leave their own house during the pandemic) so I shelved it. The superior magic choice had no real plan.
2. BEAM’S WORST. She caught the virus (2-1). No matter what, Alice was going to the planet, whether as a replacement (as here), a medic (Beam injured) or search party (vanished). This angle had me researching bunnies and viruses a bit more.
3. TRIXIE TALKS. She talked with Beam (2-1). It nixed the idea of bringing in Alijda here, along with something else: Another idea I’d had for ‘Mystery’ was the Epsilon God (Goddess?) who had first recruited Alice. Talking to the computers and looking into the scans would have initiated this angle, but much like with the tech in survey #1, it got no votes at all.
4. VIRAL INVESTIGATING. Only one vote here, for Alijda. Well, it brought her in. It also let me allude to her double (and imply time travel as a red herring), while forcing me to consider Magic World. Once again a rejection of Tech World, which was where I’d thought to pull Clover Enterprises back in more directly.
5. WHO’S HELPING. We got “another former character” (2-1-1) which was always going to be the cameo winner from the Epsilon Summary post (Mason, also by 2-1-1). I’d always been reluctant to bring Mason back, because being a Time Lord, I could NOT post that story to Serial Webfiction (he made it “fanfic”, they accept originals). Hence Alice’s occasional complaints. But a one off seemed like it would be fine. If the “handle it themselves” angle had been the choice, I’d have again hinted at the Epsilon God idea.
6. HEY ALICE! Trixie joins her (2-1-1); I was glad, since it got me fully off the station (Trixie really was more of a main character than the others, so I’d need to call her otherwise). We HAD to get back to the planet here, in fact I had a whole scenario for the people living near Alice. A woman living there had her boyfriend fall victim (thus he became a bunny girl) leaving her to care for him/her. I also decided that the virus origin was blending tech and magic (sort of stayed) and that Clover Enterprises accidentally transmitted it to all the worlds because an evil “Beame” was deliberately infected (wouldn’t happen). And none of that ended up being relevant!
7. DEAD END? Staying together (4-1) led to me researching decontamination procedures (and upping the tech to keep their clothes on). This time I was kind of glad the thing that got no votes (leaving for backup) wasn’t popular, as I wasn’t ready to return to the station yet.
8. COMPANY COMING. They try to get out (2-1-1). Here it was time to revisit the Station (and a different POV), along with Clover Enterprises (since attempts to bring them in through Tech World hadn’t worked). Vortex Limited, incidentally, was named for the Vortex club in “Life is Strange” because I happened to be looking at some of their materials at that time.
This turned out to truly be the halfway point, but it was around here I knew I would need to start collapsing down the threads anyway.
9. RESCUE PLANS. First official tie (1-1), so we sent Beam/Para down AND Fate/Alijda worked on the station. The former was straightforward; the Fate/Alijda angle took in the unused ideas of the Epsilon God and the mind swapping with Alice. The one unused route would have involved infecting someone else (which never happened, the pandemic almost became background after this).
10. WHAT TO DO? Unanimous (2-0) for bringing everyone up. Which ended up being the last time anyone was on that world! (Versus the other paths, one of them being Trixie stepping up to knock everyone else out.) It was at this point that I considered linking “evil Alijdah” (with an H) to Clover Enterprises. Related, “Mirrors” of the title would no longer refer to Alijda’s double, but to the “cloaking technology” that had hidden the lab (and Alice/Trixie) from the Station sensors.
11. USE THE INTEL. Unanimous (2-0) for interrogation, and this third consecutive time of only two readers is when I started to just let the story lapse in favour of looking at “Time Untied”. Of note, since Trixie didn’t get to knock people out, she did the questioning, and I also made a note that her gun (from #1) should return. I also used Mikoto to kind of close off Vortex Ltd, with the hope of pulling Alijdah and Clover back in for the final few entries… tracing the message would have done that immediately.
12. HOW TO CLOVER. Unanimous (2-0) again, so waiting a month didn’t increase readership. It did have me do a complete reread and make a number of notes about the plot/characters to this point. Also meant we’re still going the long way (“another way”) to Clover. Rejected were our last kick at Tech World, and alluding to Alijda’s double in “getting info from Jake another way” (he’d ‘recognize’ her).
13. GOING, GOING… Alijda with Alice (2-1) meant Trixie would retroactively have been doing things on the Station, so that she could come through at the climax. It also meant using Para’s math-bunny DNA-style-coding for a pandemic cure; my initial idea had been possibly using a bacteria, or a Beam backup (“evil Beam” was now off the table). But this makes more sense for Clover contacting Epsilon (which had been the plan since the start) since they’d know Epsilon had Para. Incidentally, Alijda solo would have replaced her with the “evil” version.
14. CLOVER PLANS. We got Alijda posing as herself (2-1-1, which registers as 2-2-1 since there was a miscast vote so I voted for the original intent). And FINALLY saw “Evil Alijdah” who was perhaps less a mystery at this point owing to there being little buildup for her… the main mystery now having been where the original message to Epsilon came from. (The pandemic mysteries were kind of concluded.) This is also when I toyed with the idea of Alijdah having been infected (yes), and whether I needed anything more on the Epsilon God angle (no).
15. FACEOFF. Unanimous (3-0) for faking out Alijdah, and a return to more frequent posts. The “capturing” option would have led to a space battle. THIS is actually when I decided that the Alijda/Alijdah split would be related to Mason (from earlier), versus some adjacent world. Which meant Alijdah couldn’t teleport, alluded to during the battle that ended in this vote. I’d considered Alijdah accidentally shooting herself (instead of teleport, she had a limited time travel jump) but nixed it.
16. APPROACH ABILITY. Stealthier approach (2-1-1) was the winner. I finally had to design the Clover Station at this point, but only in part since Alijda was confined. As I said then, this was basically the middle ground option (between a face off and them stealthily stealing Beam’s research). Trixie’s research pays off, and I decided I also wanted Trixie and Alijda to talk about names next time. (Alijda is still tagged on this site as ‘Alison’ and the similar names may be a problem for readers. Is it?)
17. VILLAINOUS CHOICE. The entire “Epsilon” trilogy of Clover Enterprises, a multi-year run, only had one voter in this final poll. For the longest time. (I think it was for not backing down?) Anyway, extended time, we ended up with concessions (2-1). More middle of the road, with different shooting options for Trixie. By this point all the pieces were in place.
18z. HOW HERE? Two people initially voted on the “April Fool” entry, saying they were already a reader or found the post for multiple reasons. It got 8 total views, two on Apr 1st, four on Apr 2nd, and once on the 3rd and 4th. (Most regular posts only get 10-12 views.) Another multiple reason vote came with 3 more views in early May.
18a. S6 CHARACTER PREF. Alijda & Beam each get a vote. I gotta say, I’m surprised… I figured Alijda was old news while Beam’s constant flirting with girls was getting tiresome. (Meanwhile Trixie was fresh and Para had won the former Epsilon vote.) Guess I don’t know as much as I think? (Trixie did get a later vote.) Feel free to clear up the mystery with a comment, and this poll is still open.
18b. PLOT? Future interest in Clover & Beam. Those votes make sense based on the first two character choices. Not much more to say. This one’s still open too.
So there you have it. The story of “evil Alijdah”, planned from the start, who didn’t turn up until Part 14 (after a mysterious hint in part 5) and was somehow involved with Clover Enterprises. Also “evil Beame” who never was, minor Epsilon God and mind swapping ideas that were in the background, and a pandemic that became mostly background too.
Only you can tell me how well it fits together.
I hope it was enjoyable either way.
I suppose the other item to address is the “Epsilon” image above; I always create one during the second half. I had it roughed out after part 17, but never had time for drawing until the school’s April Break (formerly March Break). It was done over the course of a single day, Tuesday April 13th, so that I could include it with my “Tuesday Serial” entry, rather than the generic “vote” I’d been using previously.
I did get a full page link from their site with it, so that was nice.
Creating it also let me explore transparency, in terms of the hazard triangle background showing through (actually a copy was slapped in the foreground and made see-through). I managed more drawing that week for personified math, things I’d wanted to get to since 2019. Not sure when I’ll post the parodies on my other blog.
This officially concludes “Smoke With Mirrors”. The 2021 Site Options Poll is still up (in that summary post), and at present it’s a tie between Rose’s Origin and Parodies. If you feel strongly, initial votes have expired so you can vote again for your favourite.
Something will run later this month.
So was this story behind the story everything you thought? Were you pleased with the results? Was your choice selected often, or not? Either way, I hope to see you on the site again. As always, thanks for reading.