Things don’t always go as planned during the first draft. Mackaba, the lovable criminal that was supposed to stay out of these chapters, has decided to step up and interfere with what I–the almighty author–had in store. This has lead to a confrontation: Both in the story and with me.
Well, sort of. You know I use music to motivate my writing: it’s all set up ahead of time on iTunes. It’s all in a list, in an order that matches the outline of events that I keep in my brain.
But the new Mackaba event in this chapter is not on the list! What shall I do!? Write without music? I suppose I could. But why do that when I can waste time poking around on the internet instead? It’s justified. So that’s what I did; I drove all the way to the record store to see what the great contemporary artists of the world have to offer.
Ha,ha,ha of course I didn’t do that. I played some pretty amazing video games this year, so let’s head over to YouTube and find the best CLIMACTIC music from all of them!
And if you’re at work right now–all the better! Just play these songs and stare at your computer screen with burning intensity. Type really fast too and your boss will assume you’re getting stuff done since such worthy tunes are playing. You’ll probably get a raise. No need to thank me.
SPOILERS for every The Witcher game. And every Bayonetta game.
Let’s start with the first The Witcher. Thanks go to Matt for letting me borrow it while he was busy changing his twins’ diapers.
What’s funny about this song is that music from the Witcher games uses instruments from earlier time periods: lutes, mandolins, acoustic stuff. So imagine my surprise as that golem in the picture springs to life, accompanied by an electric guitar as it bashes my brains in!
The song isn’t bad, but it’s not quite what I’m looking for. Let’s move on to Witcher 2:
Imagine for a moment that you’ve been searching for someone. In the past they have wronged you, and afterwards–fled. You have endured much to track them down. At the end of your obsessive quest you have found them: They’re sitting at a fountain in the middle of a blood-spattered town square. Strolling through the corpses and carnage, you approach. Time for a beatdown.
But before the battle begins, there is one last courtesy: a civilized conversation. A conversation in which you MUST ask at least fourteen questions about how they got here, how they framed you, and why. I’m not even kidding; in the game I was talking to this guy for like twenty minutes. And this is the first piece of music I’ve heard that specifically tells me in the title that its purpose is INTENDED for use in long-winded dialog. Nice.
Now it’s time for action. This next one is “The Hunt is Coming” from The Witcher 3.
This bad boy plays during a battle where every character from every Witcher game comes to Geralt’s aid. They face a relentless foe. If you see the picture up there you should know he bears a resemblance to a character from another popular fantasy series. Yeah, YOU know the one: the Skull Knight from Berserk! Of course!
These three pieces of music alone were enough to get me through the chapter. But hey–I’ve still got time for some more! It’s research for later.
Bayonetta, you’re up next!
This song is “Blood and Darkness.” In the game Bayonetta and her rival, Jeanne, clash many times. But this, THIS is their final battle. It begins atop a skyscraper. As military grade rockets fire into the sky for no reason, the tower topples over–taking the brawl to the side of an adjacent building. As they stick to the wall with their witchly powers, the missiles continue to rain upon them. After taking turns catching and hurling them at each other, they eventually hop ONTO one of the rockets to continue the battle as it streaks through the city and eventually explodes.
Whoa, that’s almost as thrilling as the battles I come up with!
Next I have a series of songs from Bayonetta 2. They all play in sequence as Bayonetta makes her way through one of the final stages. It begins with a tranquil city from the past:
But what’s this!? Angelic hordes are advancing upon the Umbra stronghold! Their shining warships are emerging from heavenly portals!
The land and skies are thick with battle; can Bayonetta and her magitek armor stand up to the forces that have converged at the tower!?
Yes!! Isn’t that awesome!? The horns! The choir! And now that I’ve hyped you up for Bayonetta and the Witcher–time to forget about video games and READ! OH YEAH!
25 – That Hateful Reflection
On Pladomir’s world the zeppelins gathered beneath the hole in the sky and the blurred outline of the chandelier towering even higher above. Some of the crafts hovered in the blue fog, keeping their distance; others chanced a quick rush past the ones keeping watch. Lightning flashed from ship to ship.
“They’re firing on them!” a person on the ground shouted to the rest of the mob. They stood in the street, breaking glass containers of all shapes, watching the colorless oxygen within disperse.
“See?” A woman with glowing features proclaimed. “They’re trying to keep us from the truth! Shirka’s up there!”
She stood on the rim of a large display window; its glass was in pieces on the pavement, glinting in the light from the illuminated advertising signs. A man wheeled a case of oxygen baubles to the shattered window from inside the store.
“C’mon guys, break ’em all,” he shouted out to the mob. “If Pladomir comes back he’ll make you want it again. Get rid of them.”
“Yeah, get rid of them!” a teen cried, taking one of the tubes and tossing it at an ad bearing Pladomir’s smiling face. The crowd took the rest of the clear containers from the display, smashing them against the ground and the buildings of the city. Sirens wailed in the distance, down the long streets of the city.
On Clance’s world a train raced along on a monorail track. Those gathered in the engine’s cab looked out past the windshield: An amusement park was ahead, the parking lot overgrown and the tall roller coaster tracks weathered. Between two of the coaster’s peaks the chandelier tower could be glimpsed.
“It’s all true,” the woman piloted the train said. A microphone carried her words to the many cars and passengers there. “That ‘Shirka’ person was right: I see the old Joy’s Focus park up ahead. There’s definitely something—another place that wasn’t there before. It looks like a building. I can only see part of it, though.”
The man next to her put his hand on her leg. “Like it’s on another world?” he said. “And I can feel that the magic is getting stronger the close we get. This will prove everything I’ve been saying all this time—Clance, how he’s been robbing us of our energy—we finally did it!”
The train rushed forward.
On Cougo’s world the night paled to the brightness of the chandelier. Vehicles on wheels and treads kicked up dust as they rolled over black plains and transitioned to the surface of Arsiling. They aligned into formation with one armored vehicle at the forefront of all others. It had a flat top from which hovering drones were being launched into the sky. A man, inside, watched the monitors and illuminated controls that were all labeled with clear instructions. Hand-written notes were taped all around the cockpit. “The video doesn’t lie,” one stated. “Cougo steals your memory,” another declared. One written in bold ink listed the man’s name along with family and friends. A newer note was posted on top of that one: “Shirka—kill Cougo—all memories return” is what it said.
“There a man on one of the upper levels,” the man uttered into his headset. “When the volley begins you are to avoid that spot; target only the areas I have specified. That man wears the clothing of our leader and the colors of our flag. I don’t know why he’s wearing them—maybe he doesn’t know why either. But we’re going to remember if it kills us.”
On the chandelier balcony Mackaba stood. His shackles fell to pieces and clattered to the square.
“You’re Tecker,” he spat. “You’re the one that told me to stay in Hardpan. You’re the one that told me to guard the city.”
Dark backed away. His face was hidden by the helmet he wore, and the poncho flapped in the breeze.
“And when I saw you again you were wearing that,” Mackaba said, pointing at his head. “You burned down the fuel station. You showed up with Mean.”
On the plains the long tank cannons lifted into position.
“It was me,” Dark said. “But I can’t tell you why I did those things.”
“I know you won’t tell me,” Mackaba said. He brushed flecks of rust from his wrists. “Mean always talked about you at the prison. When she visited me she’d always bore me to death with stories about ‘Dark.’ Boring because she knew nothing about you. She’d say you were mysterious; secretive. Now I know why. You just used the armor that Beebee’s siblings were trapped in. Just like Shirka did.”
“Think what you want; I’m leaving,” Dark said. He lifted into the air. Mackaba flexed out his fingers and a diamond-shaped grid zig-zagged up from the balcony’s edge. They were quick—Dark flinched—in the distance the cannons fired. As impacts rang out from below, the grid wrapped over the balcony to enclose it. With a flourish from Mackaba a blurred film ran along the grid, like a bubble. Dark grumbled and soared up to the film. With his arm shielding his face he stuck it; the curved surface bounced and repelled him: a torrent of liquid spurted out and pushed him back to the ground. The water zipped back up into the bubble, leaving him there.
“I’m not letting you leave this cell,” Mackaba told him. The punctuated cannon-fire sounded again. “Not until I know what your part in this is.”
The balcony rumbled and the shots echoed against the cliffs. “Cocoa, play fetch,” Dark said. One of the police cars leap from its spot, splashing through the wall. The odd water rushed to close the gap.
“Mackaba, please,” Dark pleaded. “Mean could be in trouble.”
“Tell me the truth, then,” Mackaba said. “If you care about her then tell me. But I don’t think you care about her at all.”
Dark flinched. “I don’t? I don’t? You’re the one that tried to drown her! Shot her all up with your fishing harpoons!” The police car returned, smacking into the bubble. Mackaba twisted around, seeing it slide off the surface and fall; Dark rushed at him.
“Did you see her?” Dark shouted, tackling Mackaba from behind and pinning him to the ground. “After you hung her up? The bruises you left on her?” Mackaba pushed up with his arms, struggling. Dark tipped his neck back and then forward again, ramming his helmet into Mackaba’s skull. He collapsed to the pavement. Dark dug his fingers into his shoulders as he clenched his fists. “I’m not going to let you treat my girlfriend like that!”
Mackaba chuckled. A blob of water pulsed out from his back, throwing Dark off.
“So we’re back to this, huh?” Mackaba said. He pulled himself up, wincing as he felt the back of his head. “Back to blaming me for everything.” The grid balloon on his back expanded to encompass his body, filling a space with odd water around him. He turned to see Dark, also standing. He held a gun in his hand.
“Now wait just a minute; where’d you get that?” Mackaba said. The gun was a pistol, with a tiny, needled harpoon set in the barrel. Dark held the sight to his eye, aiming it over where Mackaba was.
“You should know; I got it off you just now,” Dark replied.
Mackaba held up his hands. “Whoa, now how would I even have that?” he said. Dark sniffed.
“It’s the one you used on her, isn’t it?” The balcony trembled as shots pounded against the lower floors of the tower.
“Shirka must have made it,” Mackaba said. Dark inched the barrel to the right for a moment, squeezing the trigger: the miniature harpoon sliced through Mackaba’s barrier, sailing past his head as he ducked and right through the film behind him.
“I told you, it’s not mine!” Mackaba pleaded, opening his eyes.
“But this is what you did to her,” Dark said. He stared at Mackaba through the sights of the gun. “I feel the scar left by the needle every time I hold her hand. I imagine what she went through, thrashing around in that water”—he steadied the pistol, putting both hands on the grip now—“and then I imagine it’s you. I put you in her place, with me holding the gun.”
Mackaba looked to the ground, his wavy hair floating at the sides of his brow.
“She forgave me, you know,” Mackaba said.
“She’s not here,” Dark shot back.
A hum came from outside the cell; zeppelins were drifting out from behind the chandelier tower.
“After all that I did to hurt her,” Mackaba went on. “I tortured her. I held you hostage—“
“And how is this supposed to make me forgive you?” Dark cut in. He kept his eyes away from the zeppelins, focusing on his aim.
“It isn’t, Tecker,” Mackaba said. “I’m looking into a puddle right now. A muddled reflection. Someone who’s done things he regrets.” He tilted his nose up at him. “If she can forgive someone like me, then why do you feel like you need to hide things from her?”
“I need to protect her,” Dark said. The barrel of the gun wobbled.
“What a crock!” Mackaba said. “I saw the look on your face when you took the helmet from me; it wasn’t the ‘oh I’d better protect someone!’ look. It was shame.” He pointed with one of his raised hands. “I know that taste, my reflection. That bitterness in the back of the throat. You hurt her too. I don’t know how, but you did.”
Dark sniffed again. The eyes behind the helmet teared over. His hands eased the gun away from Mackaba’s face.
“I used up too much magic getting here,” Mackaba said. The grid around him unraveled: odd water bled from the holes and then freely burst out. The dome above them disintegrated; droplets fell.
“Go find her. Tell her whatever you want. But if you take that helmet off now then Shirka will just use those memories against her.” He put his hands into his wet pockets. He walked through the shallow puddles, looking out at the broad side of the zeppelin. “If you’re going to tell her, then do it when this is all over.”
Darrow fled behind the large pillar as another explosion boomed in his ear; the inlaid tools rattled, some falling.
“They’re coming for us,” Elder Sain said. “We need to act.”
“I’ll let you out,” Trisk said to Clance. “Then you juice me up.”
“I don’t think that’s smart, girl,” Elder said. A shot of electricity hit the dock outdoors. “I remember how you were; you were intoxicated with the power.”
“Is there really any choice!?” Clance sputtered.
Trisk beckoned Clance to her. “I’ll let you out—then you decide.”
On the dock, Blan was ducking near one of the objects his crew had brought from the ship. Darrow tapped Cougo’s armored knee.
“Hey, can’t you just make them forget Shirka?” he asked. “Then she won’t get any power from them.”
Cougo ducked near the pillar. “Who? Everyone!? On every world!?”
“Isn’t that what you do?” Trisk asked. Clance was kneeling, eying her as she ran her finger across the visor of this helmet. There was a small hiss as a gash opened upon it.
“They use the avatars to extend their influence,” Elder said. “But they’ve only tried to use one each.”
“Could it work?” Clance asked. “The one on my world is still there; Shirka isn’t using them is she?”
“She smashed the one we took to her world,” Clance said, his voice carrying through the open space in his helmet. “But as far as I know the one on mine is intact.”
“As is mine,” Pladomir stated. On the dock, Blan leapt and fell prone to the ground. Something streaked from the dock, leaving a trail of brown gas. A crack echoed from outside the walls.
“But how can I get everyone!?” Cougo said. “I can’t steal memories unless they’re thinking about them!”
“I’ll help you,” Pladomir said. His pale complexion deepened in tone. “We were both able to use an avatar in Zonzabee’s tests. I’ll force everyone to think of Shirka—then you take that thought away.”
“This—this could work!” Cougo said. “But where will I put them?”
“It will have to be me,” Elder said. “You—Trisk, your name was? Let out Pladomir, Cougo, Slaberdashia, saving me for last.” Slaberdashia peered down at him. “Slab, I need you to separate my consciousness. Cougo, you will then put the memory of Shirka inside me as instinct. That way it will stay there, even if something happens to you.”
Cougo frowned. “She’ll come for me as soon as she realizes what’s happened,” he groaned.
“We’ll have to do this a fast as we can,” Elder went on. “Once Pladomir does his part every single person on your planets will be giving her full power.”
Mean found herself in a large room. The ceiling was slanted at a sharp incline. A window was there, tilted to face the large, red sun in the black sky. The light shone through to the thick carpeting on the floor. It was there that Mean saw herself standing over Dark’s body, laughing—Pinada’s rapier clutched in her hand.
Super-quick first draft notes:
Scenes from Pladomir’s, Clance’s, and Cougo’s worlds:
I meant to describe these complex civilizations earlier, but, you know, my story is such a roller coaster of amazement that I couldn’t find time.
I wanted some quick characters to show up here, so I pulled some ideas from shows I’ve been watching. And one show I’ve been watching is Gravity Falls. It pretty much follows the formula of X-Files, only the characters are little kids on vacation in Oregon. The other major difference is that these characters develop over time and mysteries actually get solved.
So for Clance’s world I thought it would be fun to put a conspiracy theorist character in. I already hinted that the people on Clance’s world don’t know about all his powers or where he comes from, so it would make sense that a conspiracy guy is after him. I should have him be all like “Clance’s really a bio-engineered alien! AND he lives on a massive pane of glass! IN SPACE!”
Then there’d be a Scully-like character acting all skeptical, even though the huge portal to Arsiling is right in front of her. Also a guy in the shadows smoking cigars muttering “He knows too much.”
For the inhabitants of Cougo’s world I was thinking about the film Memento. I was talking about it with my brother the other day. I haven’t seen the whole thing, but it’s about a guy that loses his short-term memories every fifteen minutes. So in order to remember important things he has to write them down or tattoo them onto his body. That’s why I made the guy in the tank like that. I figured he’d have to do the same thing: he’d need to keep a record of basic facts like family members in order to battle Cougo and his memory wipes.
The confrontation between Mackaba and Dark:
As I said earlier I wasn’t expecting this, but I think it works! I mean, why WOULDN’T Dark get mad at Mackaba? Especially since he hasn’t seen him in person since the whole incident with the harpoons occurred. In Dark’s mind Mackaba is still the same person from the first book that overreacted and attacked them for petty reasons.
Reading it again I see it’s quite sloppy, but the idea is there: that’s what matters. I have plenty of time to think on this for the next draft.
The explosions punctuating the dialog were pretty sweet, though.
The siblings come up with a plan to defeat Shirka:
Zounds! Is this the part where the misfits finally learn to work together? I’m sure their idea will work! With your powers combined you will win! And then a valuable lesson will be explained by Cougo as he learns the power of friendship and the meaning of family. Roll credits.
Mean reaches the summit of the tower:
It’s go time.