Story3

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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3.17: Firing Line

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART SEVENTEEN: FIRING LINE

“What’s your suggestion?” Michaela asked.

Kat gestured at Bonnie. “As she said, a firewall. Literally. To push back the invasion. Does anyone have magical experience controlling fire?”

Michaela shook her head. “We tend to steer clear of the elemental magic. I might be able to craft an illusion of fire?”

“That won’t convince them,” Kat sighed. “It’s fine, I can do it. I just hope it doesn’t get me fired, pun not entirely unintended.”

“How can you make a real fire which is not only big enough, but created fast enough so that the invaders don’t have time to stop you?” Bonnie challenged.

“Erm. With help,” Kat said. “Like, if Andi can run fast and drop some matches…”

The thunderclap in the air made everyone turn their heads. A second dimensional rip was appearing, roughly 100 yards away from the first one. “Oh, that can’t be good,” Para sighed.

Kat wasn’t sure if the bunny mathematician was referring to the tear itself, or the red dragon that flew through as it opened.

On the bright side, either the dragon was small, or a larger one had been reduced in size by the transition – the winged animal wasn’t much larger than the size of a house. On the down side, the dragon didn’t look happy.

It seemed even less pleased when one of the invaders let out a shriek and fired a projectile weapon at it. The dragon responded by breathing fire, setting a wide band of the grassy field by the train station alight.

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3.16: Perchance to Dream

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART SIXTEEN: Perchance to Dream

Kat watched as Alijda and Chris – or rather, Axiom – flew through the dimensional rift on what appeared to be a throw rug. He didn’t question it. Partly because he didn’t know the specifics behind the current magic-technology blend, but more because he didn’t have the time to think about it.

Four masked men (women?) had emerged from the rip between Earths, carrying some sort of ray guns.

For a moment, the arrivals seemed disoriented. Possibly an effect of being shrunk down, Kat reasoned, given the difference in scale between TechWorld, and the world they were on now. Either way, that moment gave Tom the time he needed to act. He sat up from the ground and took aim with his walkman.

“Click,” the young man with the bright red hair intoned, pressing the eject button.

Instead of spitting out a cassette, when the walkman popped open, a pulse of energy shot out. It travelled the 50 metres necessary to strike the first of the masked men. In the process of reaching for his head, the guy seemed to freeze in place.

Tom slapped the walkman closed and took aim again. He managed to get off two more paralysis spells before the last of the individuals realized what was happening, ducking behind one of his companions, out of Tom’s line of sight.

“How many shots do you have with that?” Kat asked, on the ground next to him.

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3.15: Rescue Strangers

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART FIFTEEN: RESCUE STRANGERS

Some people were good at waiting. Alijda really didn’t understand those people. After all, it was during the waiting that the demons would creep in, telling you that you were worthless and alone, making you second guess all of your decisions. In this case, the key decision burning at Alijda was the one that had her accompanying Chris on the mission to retrieve Clyde. Why had she insisted on that?

Alijda burst into tears about 36 hours after telling Kat and Para that she was going, bar none, so that any consequences would all be on her. Alijda’s sobs attracted the attention of Chris herself, who was sitting on the other side of the room. After a good couple of minutes of crying, the brunette drew in a long breath, and strode up to the Magic User.

“I’m sorry,” Alijda sniffled. “This was a bad idea.”

Chris dropped the magazine that she’d been busy ignoring. “What was?”

“Having me here.”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because I’m a damn DOLL!” Alijda said, rage surging up through the sadness. “It takes forever to cross a room, I can’t handle doors, I’m bathing in a sink and drinking from a thimble – what use am I going to be on your rescue mission?? If I were a character in my own fiction stories, I bet a majority of readers wouldn’t even want me to be the one doing this. You better go find Para instead.”

Chris half smiled. “Bit late for that,” she noted. “The tech glasses were fitted for someone of your size. Besides, didn’t you insist to me that you’d be the best person to deal with a technological world?”

“I have an exaggerated sense of my own importance,” Alijda concluded. She pulled the glasses off her face, wiping tears from her cheeks. The spectacles had been fitted with a microchip and imbued with magic, to allow the wearer to take readings of things like the dimensional tear.

“Para can re-fit these. She’s great at that square-cubed stuff. Here.” Alijda tossed the glasses onto the floor, then turned away. “Go find her, I’ll be hiding in a cabinet somewhere until this is all over.”

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3.14: Bad Plan

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART FOURTEEN: BAD PLAN

Para wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. She wasn’t upset by that though, as the only person in the room with access to the entire story was Chris – the member of the Magic User’s Club who had interfaced with the USB drive taken out of the Department of Extra-Dimensional Objects.

Granted, Kat and Queeny seemed to know at least part of the story as well. Para wondered whether Tom, also sitting at the conference table, was as confused as she was. At the least, she knew that Larry, the DEO agent and most recent arrival, was completely in the dark.

“What do you MEAN the truth about what happened to Clyde?” Larry sputtered. “He died, because of our premature use of portal technology. We shouldn’t have been so arrogant as to try and generate our own method to traverse dimensions without proper testing.”

“Oh, drop the front!” Queeny shouted. Fortunately, the head of government hadn’t shouted it into her megaphone. “We know Clyde’s really alive.”

Larry gripped the door frame. “How DARE you! Bonnie has been doing her best this past year, there’s no way Clyde is pulling the strings!”

“That’s NOT what we mean,” Queeny declared. “If you keep playing dumb…” She waggled her finger.

“Queeny, isn’t it possible he truly doesn’t know?” Para ventured. “I mean, I don’t really know what this is about Clyde, and I’ve been in the room longer than Larry.”

“You mean Bonnie could have been keeping the truth a secret?” Kat mused.

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3.13: Transformation

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART THIRTEEN: Transformation

It’s strange, the common bonds that can bring people together. Kat was reminded of that fact after their retreat to City Hall. With the shrinking Alijda having been brought to a convenient break room with Para, Kat had set his goal as having both Queeny and the Magic User’s Club on board with helping him to save his companion… his friend.

“We can argue later about who was in the wrong here,” Kat began. “Right now, our focus HAS to be on keeping that woman from shrinking away to nothing!”

“Wrong!” Queeny shouted into her megaphone, making Kat smack his hand against his ear. “You’re not even from this world. You can’t waltz in and tell us, the local government, what our priorities should be!”

“She’s right!” Chris asserted. “Society has to have rules. We can’t break them without considering the consequences!”

“Are you two willing to let someone die because you delayed?” Kat protested.

“Magic and technology seem to be going haywire,” Chris noted. “Unless we know more about what’s happening, we could make your friend’s problem worse.”

“Exactly!” Queeny agreed. “Maybe this mystery spell I have will go wrong, and make that woman grow to be the size of that thimble, destroying this whole building. We don’t know!”

Chris eyed Queeny. “You know, for being a government person, you’re making more sense than usual.”

Queeny lowered her megaphone. “And you seem a lot more practical to me than I’d expect of someone who believes in magical abilities.”

“Awesome lesson, individuals aren’t necessarily the same thing as their collectives, blah blah, can we leave yet?” Tom asked, stifling a yawn.

Kat saw the opening. Despite having some reservations, he decided to take it. READ MORE