Long time no blog. Let’s blog.
At this point, my previously mentioned personal life problems are still around, but they’re wrapped up in the issue of the latest book in the Floating Point saga just not working the way I want it to. So yesterday, in an effort to dip my toe back in those waters, I took on one of the problems I’m facing… Uniq.
As a character, Uniq is a pretty obvious antagonist. A little TOO obvious, too cackling with mad glee of all the evil things she wants to do. To put it in 80s kid terms, she’s Starscream when she really needs to be Soundwave. Starscream’s a difficult character because while he causes strife within our Bad Guys, he also ultimately has to either betray and dethrone the primary antagonist or has to be effortlessly put down by the primary antagonist, neither of which are what I wanted for Uniq.
So, I went back into chapters 2.1 through 2.3 and revised her dialogue considerably. This closed up a few plot holes, refined her character as a willing participant rather than a manipulator biding her time for a takeover, and sets things up for her ultimate fate without supplanting Nyx as our primary antagonist.
In the interest of transparency and to keep you guys involved in the writing process, I’ll now detail all the changes I made with excerpts from the story.
If you haven’t read 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3, stop here because spoilers are coming.
I mean it. Spoilers. Read the chapters first if you haven’t already; you’ll get the impact I wanted if you’re going in blind, as opposed to folks who already read them.
For folks who already read them, the rest of this blog post is for you.
Are we sitting comfortably?
Okay. Let’s begin.
PROBLEM: Why not just run the backups in prayer mode like a coin farm?
Yep, the first issue with Uniq actually stems from a tangential question, one of how Tartarus works.
You may be asking yourself “Derp? Why would Nyx want to do that?” but that’s because this sets up something later on in the book which is quite important. The only way to make it work is if she can’t simply reactivate all those backups as living, breathing Programs and make them all pray 24/7.
ANSWER: Simple enough — Tartarus isn’t powerful enough to support that many people. It can store their data, but storing a ZIP file is different from running an EXE.
Considering Floating Point lags with three people, a cat, and an old woman… even a beefier server couldn’t run 80% of the population of Athena Online at the same time. Here are the edits needed to make sure that’s clear, and to work on Uniq a little.
(Story Revamp #1: FP2.2. Nyx and Uniq discuss the nature of Tartarus. Expands on the technology and fleshes Uniq out a little, establishing her boundaries and ideals.)
“…all this lovely data, all these identities… memories upon memories, neatly tucked away in Tartarus. …I wonder, why are you going through all that effort? I suppose you could run a null of a coin farm off these ghost images; just activate them all and slave those poor bastards to prayer mode…”
Nyx’s nose wrinkled in distaste. “Absolutely not. First of all, I’d like faith to be a choice rather than a compulsion; that is the nature of my chosen compromise. Second, as powerful as Tartarus may be within the cloud, it’s not powerful enough to run that many simultaneous live Programs. Distributed servers loan themselves well to cold storage, not to massive crowds of living persons. Therefore, archived souls in cold tombs will have to suffice.”
“Actually, I’m relieved to hear that. Coin farms are repulsive. They prey on the weak and helpless to support the lazy and the greedy.”
“Really? This coming from a notorious identity thief…?”
“Oh, I’m greedy, but I’m hardly lazy. And my prey are usually criminals and dirtbags. Usually. But no, I’m not claiming a moral high ground… just making sure you aren’t claiming one while setting yourself up a machine that prints money.”
“I print faith,” Nyx spoke, simply. “That is all I require. My storage cloud is simply a gift for the faithful. Nothing more.”
“Yes, about that. I’m very curious as to where you got this cloud technology,” Uniq spoke, while studying her patron’s reaction to the question. “Given how much you needed me to code myself for our efforts, I don’t think you made it yourself… I’d say someone provided you the packages. May I ask who…?
But Nyx remained passive.
“Let’s just say for some, faith must be compulsory,” she spoke, without a single wrinkle worth note.
“Interesting. Well, suit yourself. I suppose it doesn’t matter who you got it from, or what became of him…”
(Story Revamp #2: FP2.2. While talking to Prayer-tan, Dex confirms that Nyx indeed stole cloud technology from him. This closes a plot hole regarding how Tartarus became a cloud server, and ties into the book #1 bonus chapter.)
DEX: You wanted to stop her because I wanted to stop her. She stole my technology, MY precious cloud technology, to expand her graveyard prison. Her vision for us all would keep Netwerk from being what it needs to be.
PROBLEM: Uniq is too much of a cackling supervillain, doomed to backstab Nyx in a sudden but unevitable betrayal.
Okay, let’s get to the crux of the matter. This is where I dig in and define Uniq a bit better by changing her stated motivations and her explanations for her actions.
I’ve always planned for her to have a secret side, one which casts shades of grey on her character. I just needed to start showing it earlier, toning down her mad revelry. I also need to have her openly reject Dex and his ways, which changes her motivations later on.
Oddly enough the first draft of this next scene was close to what I’m editing it to be today, where Uniq proclaims that she’s turned her back on Dex’s ways and is embracing a higher calling.
(Story Revamp #3: FP2.1. Tracer confronts Uniq while chasing Sample 777.)
“Let me make an offer: walk away right now. No harm, no foul. I’m not quite as vengeful as I once was,” Tracer honestly said. More or less. “This is the critical juncture, Uniq. Walk away before this goes too far, and you become my next enemy—”
“Because you need an enemy, don’t you?” Uniq interrupted. “You’re a true child of Netwerk, kid. Can’t blame you; that’s Dex’s influence on your soul, filtered through generations of poisoned culture.”
“You supported Dex, didn’t you?”
“Can you blame me? He offered me more power than I’d ever had before. It’s a nasty Netwerk out there, and a girl’s got to take it before someone takes it from her,” Uniq reasoned. “But you pulled the scales from my eyes when you nuked his server. And now… I’m making a change. I’m going to show you what Netwerk can be with a true patron at the helm. One I’ll stand side by side with, in a new position of power. I’m not walking away from that. But as I’m more merciful lately… how about I make you the same offer you made me? Turn around, walk away…?”
(Story Revamp #4: FP2.3. Uniq explains her motivations for ruining Spark’s reputation. Before, she was doing it for revenge in Dex’s name; now she’s doing it to support Nyx.)
“…go ahead and trash this puppet; the damage is done. Your pro gaming career is ruined. The true children of Netwerk love to drink deep of fear and loathing, don’t they? For all his flaws Dex taught me that lesson well, showed me how to turn that chaos to my advantage. Your name is now ruined, Spark. A fair punishment for getting in our way.”
I held the fist back, for a moment. I wasn’t angry enough to let this opportunity to know our enemies slip away.
“Why does Nyx hate me enough to have you do this?” I asked.
“Hmm? Nyx? Actually, she loves you,” Artoz/Uniq said. “She loves all children of Netwerk. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Nyx is too compassionate to really fight you head on. No, I did this of my own free will. I know you and your brother are actively working against us, so why not actively work against you in turn? Why not ruin your life? After all, tweak a few bits here and there… and anybody can be painted as a fake gamer girl.”
And without further word, I destroyed the proxy.
Damn but it felt good to do that.
So, what did we learn?
Uniq was no faceless minion. She was taking action in Nyx’s name, without Nyx’s permission. That meant a wedge between them that can be jammed in deeper and deeper, if we found the right opportunity.
Ultimately, these changes may seem minor. But trust me, they are anything but minor… they’re setting things up for the future and fixing issues in the past. Writing digitally means I have the freedom and flexibility to make corrections like these on the fly, long before the book sees print.
Speaking of print… it’s coming, don’t worry. I’m still bogged down in all sorts of personal life chaos but it is something I’m going to be dealing with, and hopefully soon. Thanks for your patience.