Captain’s Log, Weekly Digest 5

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • The Doomsday Device: Ambassador B’vat returns and awakens an ancient terror with the intent of turning it on the Federation.
  • Arrested!: In a sequence of events that have basically nothing to do with the game except that I wanted to switch ships, Morwen gets caught in a Kafka-esque court martial over nothing.
  • Koolhaas System Patrol: The new crew of the USS Ariel go on a fairly straightforward mission, while Morwen gathers her most trusted officers to found a conspiracy.
  • Betreka Nebula Duty: The Ariel explores a nebula, Morwen sits in a hero’s chair, and the plot thickens.
  • Terran Empire Encounter: The Ariel has an extremely brief brush with the Mirror Universe.
  • City on the Edge of Never: While Morwen’s conspiracy closes in on their quarry, Ambassador B’vat switches tactics to kidnapping and time travel.
  • Past Imperfect: The Ariel chases B’vat into the past, and the identity of the mole is revealed.
  • Temporal Ambassador: The Ariel investigates strange temporal readings in the Azure Nebula, but they turn out to be nothing at all whatsoever. I mean, it’s not like Morwen ended up on some kind of bizarre-yet-awesome adventure in an alternate timeline that ultimately became a paradoxical quest to erase itself from ever having happened, thus ensuring the log doesn’t cover it. That’d be, frankly, far too Star Trek-y a thing for STO to do. (End of the Klingon War arc.)
  • Secrets of Nimbus: Restored to her rightful place in command of the Kestrel, Morwen sets off for Nimbus III to investigate the possibility that thalaron weapons are being traded.
  • The Lost City of Paradise: The crew of the Kestrel meet their contact on Nimbus and get their first taste of the “delights” the planet has in store. Also there’s a Borg tending bar, that’s kind of interesting.

Guest Post: -Truly Superior Beings- (Discorded Whooves)

Sean Dillon has never seen a full episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, but he is a fan of a number of its associated fanworks.

A Psychochronography in Gray

“[NAME WITHHELD] shame on you. Doctor Who is SERIOUS, it has always been serious, and until Steffan Mofit every story tackled important, weighty issues. And I should know, I’m a long time fan, I’ve been watching it since Rory’s second episode.”

-Lance Parkin in conversation about the possibility of the villain of the Christmas special “Last Christmas” being the Demon Magician.

Stop me if you heard this one before…

It was a dark and stormy night. It was the kind of storm one thinks of when they hear the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night…” There was man, or what looked like a man, draped in shadows standing atop a spiral staircase long enough to make a gratuitous monologue, which he so loved to do, with one hand touching a window which was just as tall as the staircase and the other twirling his moustache. He was getting rather bored waiting for his nemesis to arrive, almost bored enough to drop his principles and do the killing blow anyway. Fortunately for us, his enemy once again arrived just in the nick of time. “Ah, Doctor,” the being said with the smug tone spoken by voice actors playing cartoon villains who think they’ve beaten the hero, “I was beginning to think you DIED.” The Doctor said nothing. “Well, NO matter,” the villain continued with a cruel smile on his face, “I’ve WON. I’ve BEATEN you.” The Doctor, looking at the far more interesting ground, remained silent. “Oh, you DON’T believe me? Well then,” pausing for dramatic effect as he walked down the steps of his absurdly large staircase and continued to listen to his favorite sound, “I’ll just HAVE to tell you what I have done to your timeline. Right now,

So, there’s this guy. He’s a real clever guy, a real nice guy. He just wants to help people and all that jazz. He travels around the vast narrative of time and space with a girl(1). She’s not necessarily the smartest girl(2) but she still has fun with her male friend. Now one day, things don’t go right. Everything falls to pieces, and he’s hurt really badly. It’s one of those life-altering circumstances where nothing will ever be the same again. When he returns to his travel machine(3), he’s different; he’s changed. He doesn’t even look the same. And as his lovely companion tries to cope with this change, he both physically and verbally assaults her. He then decides to become a hermit.

Susan is slowly dying alone in an apocalyptic wasteland, Ian and Barbara are selling the rights to your stories to Americans, Dorothea died before she could give birth, Jamie and Zoe’s minds are being regressed by the Time Lords to the inelegance of infants, Sam, John, and Gillian NEVER existed,

Now the question with those last seventy-two words is whether I ended a generic description of Doctor Who with the changeover of the Fifth Doctor to the Sixth or described the backstory of Discorded Whooves, as revealed on March 12th, 2012. Naturally, since this is a blog about magic ponies who sing, we are of course talking about the latter.

Shaw dies in a bus crash, Lethbridge-Stewart remains a government toady, Yates continues to be a fool who believes in a golden age, Grant, trapped in a loveless marriage, pines for an older man, Sarah Jane Smith is an adrenaline junkie conspiracy theorist,

Discorded Whooves is a Tumblr ask blog about an incarnation of the Doctor who came to Equestria and faced off against Discord. Naturally, he lost and was discorded (a process whereby a pony becomes a cruel twisted reflection of themselves after being confronted with the flaws of their virtue by Discord and being unable to cope with said flaws (or, in Fluttershy’s case, touching her head to make her cruel)). From there, we follow his adventures as he has hanky panky in the TARDIS while drinking and having adventures with Captain Jack Harkness(4), Twilight Sparkle(5), Octavia(6), and more all the while there’s a plot by the Master, multiple serial murders of unicorns, and Discord(7) is still out there.

Harry remains an imbecile, Leela leads the Sevateem into DARKER, more SAVAGE times, Romana, corrupted by the politics of Gallifrey, and deadly Dorothée become my cruel agents, Adric DIED screaming, Nyssa and Tegan never met, Turlough continued to be a slave of the Black Guardian, Perpugilliam B was married to Davie,

The creator of this blog is not a fan of this series. However, since he is not writing this blog entry(8), let us try to make a redemptive reading out of this before we inevitably reveal why the series is terrible. To begin with, let us look at the basic premise of the series: Discord was able to break the Doctor. As mentioned previously in the Return to Harmony entry, Discord is a threat, not only to the cast of FIM, but also to the show itself. As such, it can be read that Discord is discording not just the Doctor, but Doctor Who itself. Thus we are given a show about a cruel and cowardly man who lives alone in his box that pads out the narrative ad infinitum and never changes its premise. Also, it’s a show with a lot of continuity references, and, even worse, Canon, to the point of lock out. And yet, all the elements within this series can be found in Doctor Who. There’s the aforementioned 6th Doctor parallel of his actions in the Twin Dilemma to this Doctor’s interactions with Derpy, the fact that this Doctor is blatantly the 10th incarnation(9) who, on August 29th, 2012, reenacted his most heinous act(10) because The Master wanted him to suffer(11), the shortsighted fannish desire for both continuity(12) and making a lighthearted series dark and edgy that was allowed to thrive in the wilderness era is covered in the blog with the Doctor’s sex addiction and alcoholism, and, of course, the insane amounts of padding.

Evelyn S remains unloved and alone, bisexual Benny dies in the second Dalek War, Compassion frozen in the Time Lord rape camps, Fitz dies at the hands of the Vore, Trix commits suicide shortly afterwards, Charley P dies in an airplane crash, Rose Tyler runs away from home and dies alone on the streets, Martha Jones cares for nothing but the survival of her patients, Donna Noble and

But perhaps the most horrifying aspect of all is that we are not done with the Doctor’s fall. For lurking in the shadows of the blog is a story that can only be found in “missing” adventures, one about a terrible monster: The Doctor fully corrupted into what can be assumed to be something terrible. A Doctor who views himself above the rest of the ponies; a Doctor who murders the innocent; a time lord victorious; a Doctor who dislikes his companion; a Doctor who replaced the void left within him from the corruption with a desire to make others miserable; a doctor of laws, rules, and regulations: the Valeyard.

Amy Pond are unable to be TOUCHED by those who love them, River Song is NEVER born, Clara Oswald is nothing more than an unimportant PUPPET of fate.” The man shaped being, halfway down the stairs, looked at the Doctor, expecting him to be devastated by his name-dropping of important companions, but he wasn’t. The figure resumed his rantings, growing more petulant with every sentence.

But, there is one other aspect to this redemptive reading of Discorded Whooves being Discorded Doctor Who that makes it the perfect antithesis to Doctor Who that uses what was already inside of Doctor Who to do so. But to explain why that is, we must first understand the darkness that is used within the MLP fandom and what kind this series implements. It should be obvious that My Little Pony is an optimistic show where friendship is a force in the universe that can redeem even the most far-gone of villains. But that’s not to say that this is a series lacking in darkness. There is clearly cruelty(13), evil(14), corruption(15), and just plain meanness(16) within the series. It’s that the darkness isn’t the driving force that runs the universe like most realists believe it to be.

“Grant M is dying alone in an alleyway, accepting that he did not take M+Ms, Twilight Sparkle is a friendless shut in who lives in a library, Dash disintegrates into ASH after demolishing Cloudsdale, Rarity sold out and abandoned her friends, Apple J breaks her sister’s heart by telling her the truth, PDP is standing alone in front of a massive graveyard, looking at the stone faces of her friends, fiendish Fluttershy is spiteful to the animals,

However, some fans(17) seem to think that in order to like something geared towards children, one has to make it more “adult”, “serious”, and “realistic”. They do this by increasing the darkness.(18)

The Cutie Mark Crusaders gave up on their attempts at figuring out what their cutie marks will be, DT and SS remain miserable bullies who can’t stand being with one another for the rest of their lives, Peter P is, and always has been, an uncool, hopeless dweeb who has people die around him in order to make him sad,

There are three ways in which this is done. The first of which occurs when a character and/or plot device from the source material itself is the source of darkness that corrupts the story. This method is generally done by exploring an element of a character that could be viewed through a darker lens, using fridge logic upon the series, and/or forcing darkness upon a character that doesn’t fit with said character. An example from a MLP fan work comes from “The Monster we Made” whereby the darkness comes from Twilight Sparkle wanting dominion over magic and, as such, kills all her friends, Princess Cadence, and Princess Celestia and begins a tyrannical reign over Equestria via the phantom menace of Princess Luna becoming Nightmare Moon once again. The second of which occurs when an outside element is thrust upon the series, which makes the narrative darker. This can be achieved via a crossover with a darker series or the creation of an original character and/or plot device. An example from the Brony community would be from “MLP Project” in which an original character creates an artifact of doom that influences those within its power to do its bidding(19). The third way in which this is done is by making the show itself evil. This is done by perverting the ethos of a series and/or revealing that said ethos is not the true ethos. An example of this usage of darkness comes from “The Conversion Bureau” which does this by being terrible(20). This method is generally done by terrible works that have no idea/hate how the world of the fiction that inspires them works.

“I think we’re through together.

Huh? No! What?

I think, with all that’s happened, maybe it’s best if we step back, reevaluate who we are. I’m going to be busy with the Blonde Phantom Detective Agency, and you’re going to be busy being Spider-Man, and our relationship… with what Emma did– I don’t think we can trust anything. Not for a while. Okay?

Noddy is NOTHING more than a fictional character,

No. Not okay.

Huh?

I’ve got good instincts. And I do trust you. I’ve got a special sense that warns me of bad things and it didn’t like you walking away. So if we can’t trust in what we had, let’s trust in something new. I proclaim this our first date.

That works for me.”

-A conversation between Sophia Sanduval and Peter Parker prior to their first date.

Naturally, Discorded Whooves implements all three forms of darkness. The first format should be obvious given the title of the series. The second is implemented via the usage of the Doctor Who “mythos” with elements such as the Valeyard being a serial killer who cuts off unicorn horns, The Master creating Torchwood to take down the Doctor, Daleks exterminating ponies, and The Doctor being a vile monster who beats women(21), lies to those he loves for the sake of not being alone(22), and isn’t any fun whatsoever(23).

sexist Steven is still a jerk who talks in jokes, Paul was still a creep,

As for the third… we begin on May 22nd, 2013. Oh relax, Amy, it’s the equivalent of a pit-stop, if even that, he remarks. The Doctor is explaining to Jack(24) about the nature of the universe and how they got to the land of magic ponies. He mentions that they traveled to a parallel universe and died on the trip there. This is your idea of a “pit-stop”, she slyly says. Shortly after explaining this for Jack, the TARDIS is unable to land where they want to go, the cloister bell is ringing, the Doctor is panicking, and a sense that the cast is going to die. This is impossible, it’s completely breaking the laws of reality, he says fearfully. So after the crisis is resolved, the Doctor falls unconscious and we get a flashback. It’s sometime around the Power of Three, an adventure with Amy and Rory involving Zygons and wedding proposals to kings has just ended. On the way home, there’s a beeping red light on the TARDIS console. Something is pulling them. DOCTOR IT HURTS, she screams. Something is pulling them outside of reality. HELP US, he begs. And as they fall, we learn the truth. I can’t, i can’t, he cries. A truth that has been hinted at for so very long, a truth far more terrible than what the author has in mind for what broke the Doctor. there’s nothing i can do, i’m sorry, he sobs. For on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, we learn that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic killed Amy and Rory. i’m sorry, they die.

the government exiles Bob and Andrew for exposing all of their secrets, Russell is murdered for being gay,

I could just end it here. Nothing I can type is going to top the condemning statement of Amy and Rory are killed by My Little Pony. I mean, why would the entirety of the My Little Pony multiverse, regardless of the events conspiring around the Equestria this blog is taking place, allow Amy and Rory to die? Why would the TARDIS take a path that would only save the Doctor and not Amy and Rory? Hell, why did traveling to another universe kill Amy and Rory? It didn’t do it the last time, so why this time? It’s not that complicated of an answer really: Amy and Rory die because it would be dark for them to die.

Will dies in a tank, Verity never inspires a generation, Patrick and Jon NEVER become friends, David Whittaker’s alchemistic tendencies are never given an outlet, Thomas is beaten to death in a bar brawl, Lawrence remains a jerk, Peter was type cast,

Which brings us nicely to what makes Discorded Whooves discorded Doctor Who. For at the end of the day, it’s just so generic and lacking in fun. All of its ideas come from other sources and the story does nothing with them. For example, the dark Pinkie Pie used in the story is the most obvious one possible: the one from “Cupcakes.” Now does the story do anything interesting with this character? No. It just plays “Cupcakes” straight. It even makes the potentially interesting stuff surrounding it uninteresting. No longer is Torchwood an exploration of this mad world we live in. Now it’s the Master’s Doctor hunting team. The Doctor hasn’t become his worst incarnation since the tenth. He’s just under some mind control that he’s fighting. Discord isn’t a force of chaotic madness that does what he does because it’s fun. He’s evil and cruel. Heck, the story could have done something interesting with the Valeyard by expanding on the “Doctor of Laws” aspect and making his scheme to turn My Little Pony into a bureaucracy. But no, he’s evil serial killer Doctor.

Colin B is hated by his own family, McCoy remains unknown and unloved, Pauly is stuck working on crappy American science fiction shows, Chris is stuck doing a terrible children’s show, David cries in the rain, Matt NEVER exists, Peter Capaldi dies at the hand of a Mandrel, and the wheezing and the groaning are forever silenced.”

And even worse, it’s not fun anymore. My Little Pony and Doctor Who are two shows that run on fun. These are worlds with Iris Wildthyme, Pinkie Pie, Frobisher, Cheese Sandwich, The Land of Fiction, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaappleloosa, LInDA, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Running Through Paris, the Smile Song, and so many more fun things. And this has none of it. There’s no place in this world for a demonically possessed Sweetie Belle desperately trying to be seen as a normal pony, Pinkie Pie baking a brew that can travel trough time, Sepia Tock drinking tea with Princess Luna and the Brigadier, Pinkie Pie being brought out of a nihilistic world view with a hug from Fluttershy, Discord and Princess Celestia teaming up against Daleks before Discord throws a Pie at Celestia’s face, Rainbow Dash letting Scootaloo stay with her for the night, Twilight buying the Daily Bugle, Applebloom accepting Jappleack as her sister, Ms. Cake being Ms. Cake(25), Octavia being obsessed with tea, Rarity not being a diva on the set of My Little Pony, Trixie playing a D&D campaign with Snips and Snails as inflammatory expies of the cast of MLP ending with Fluttershy taking Princess Celestia as a pet, Dinky always remembering her mother after Discord wipes her out of existence, and hope for the future. In fact, there’s no hope at all.

The madman was nearing the bottom of the stairs, but the Doctor still hadn’t reacted. The man shaped darkness continued, his bravado was becoming more forced “Soon all the children of all the worlds will realize the truth that all realists know: that stories do not have power, there is no such thing as hope, and there is such a thing as truly being alone.

That’s the big issue with this series: there’s no hope. Oh sure, there’s the carrot on the stick that is the Doctor fighting his discorded state(26), but that story’s wearing a bit thin at this point. In fact, we reached the logical end point for the arc on March 10th, 2013. The Doctor had one of his “non discorded” moments and went to make amends with his kids. But as things were going well, Derpy showed up. Naturally, as a character who is a domestic abuser and gets angry at the mere mention of Derpy’s name, the Doctor is about to hurt his wife again when a brick hits him on the side of his head. The one who threw that brick at him is his daughter, Dinky. And she has plenty more where that came from. As the madman is pummeled with brick after brick and thrown at a tree, he begs “Please…” to his daughter and a gives her a look that reads “Have pity on me.” His daughter’s reply is “I’m sure that’s what she said too.” As she is about to deliver the killing blow, she gives him a look that reads “I have pity for you. Goodbye Doctor.”

You think yourself FAR more than just ANOTHER Time Lord? Bah! I was there in the beginning; in fact, BEFORE the beginning, when Omega and Rassilon first met. FOR I AM,” the villain paused for dramatic effect, “THE OTHER!

And that’s where it should have ended. The Doctor either dies because of his cruelty and cowardice or is finally allowed to change into a better story and save the day. It would have been a fitting end, building off of the earliest actions of the series to the climactic end where the cruelty that has been shown to be within the Doctor since “The Twin Dilemma” is, at long last, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death at the hands of its victims. But no, the monster lives. Too far broken to be able to fix himself without an act of grace from up on high. This is a Doctor whose earliest action(27) is both physically and verbally abusing Ditzy.

The revelation was followed with a fit of maniacal laughter accompanied by a strike of lightning that one would think was timed. “You might as well roll over and die before I hurt you even more. In fact,

And it is here, that we see Discorded Whooves for what it truly is. Take away all the ponies, the Master and his plots, Jack Harkness and his team, The Valeyard’s missing adventures, and all the rest, and you discover that Discorded Whooves is essentially this:

TELL me Doctor… What shall we engrave upon your TOMBSTONE?” At long last the little Doctor looked at the Other, who finally reached the end of those 42 steps. The Doctor did not look upon him with anger or hatred. Nor did he look at him with compassion or empathy. He looked at the Other with pity. He had pity for that small man. And, with a sly smile upon his face, the Doctor replied

“Pinkie, you gotta stand up tall, learn to face your fears.
You’ll see that they can’t hurt you. Just laugh to make them disappear.”
    -Granny Pie explaining to Pinkie Pie how to fight monsters.
  1. Although, for some reason they keep ending up on the girl’s home planet.
  2. She has been known to be a bit of a ditz.
  3. Which is bigger on the inside.
  4. Whom The Doctor shoots in the face.
  5. Who tries to slit her wrists because of what happened to her friends.
  6. Who has some connection with the Valeyard which the writer of this post has no idea what that is due to some idiot thinking it was a good idea to keep that blog a secret from the rest of us.
  7. Who, from what I gathered, is the Master’s drums.
  8. Oh, hello. I’m Sean. Since I’m writing this in December, Happy Life Day and may Krampus bless us, everyone.
  9. Because of course he’s the 10th Doctor.
  10. He didn’t say anything, but Donna knew what was going to happen next. “Oh.” Donna gasped as she stepped back, shivering in terror. “Oh, but I ca-“ He was getting closer. “Oh I can’t go back,” Donna cried as he put his hands on her shoulders. “don’t make me go back,” Donna begged, “doctor. please. please, don’t make me go back!”
    “Donna,” he said with the sad tone of a person who wants to save everyone hearing his best friend wants to die, “Oh Donna Noble, I am so sorry.” Donna gasped with the horror of inevitability. “But we had the best of times,” he continued, “the best… goodbye” he said as his hands slithered ever closer to Donna’s head. “No!” Donna shouted, in the vain hope that it could save her. “No! No please! Please! No! No! No!”
    And then his hands caressed her face. She was able to cry one last “NO!” before falling into a deep sleep.
    In her sleep, she dreamed of the thrilling adventures of The Most Important Woman in the Universe! In her wanderings across the universe, the woman helped people, freed slaves, and fought off blob monsters by shouting at them. She was joined on her adventures by her best friend- the Doctor, a silly man who thought he was the most important man in the universe. His egotistical behavior wasn’t helped by the fact that he was the most important man in the universe. But he didn’t hold a candle to Donna Noble: The Most Important Woman in the Universe!
    But like most dreams, when she woke up, she wouldn’t remember any of it. Besides, she didn’t have time for dreams. She had work tomorrow.
    The woman fell into the arms of the man who made her dream her past away. He held her like a father holds his sleeping daughter. “I had to do it,” he consoled himself, “There was no other way to save her. She was going to die if I didn’t do it.”
    The travel machine landed in front of Donna Noble’s house without wheezing or groaning.
  11. Which if we weren’t trying to read this redemptively as Discorded Doctor Who, would make the Ask Blog one of the worst things in the world for essentially fridging a character by using the iconography of the worst companion departure in the New Series in a way that’s even worse than in the original context(28).
  12. As an aside, because I’m not sure where else to place this, I really wish the character who appeared on July 3rd, 2012 should have been paralleled with the Brigadier and I am very cross that she wasn’t.
  13. Oh, poor Pinkie Pie. And here I thought laughter made you happy.
  14. I could care less about the dress/I won’t partake in any cake/Vows, well I’ll be lying when I say/ That through any kind of weather/I’ll want us to be together/The truth is I don’t care for him at all/No I do not love the groom/In my heart there is no room/But I still want him to be all mine
  15. Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirls…
  16. Feelings?! I don’t care about feelings!
  17. Especially ones who have a desire for stories to have a canon.
  18. This is not in of itself a bad thing. The problems come about when the storytellers decide to decrease the joy within the narrative as well.
  19. And thereby reveal why Twilight didn’t tell her friends about any of her plans
  20. The author of this blog post would have done it on this fan fiction subgenre, but knew that the person who runs this blog would most likely not be fond of a post that consists of eight thousand uses of the word “fuck”. He would also like to ask any fan fiction writers reading this extraneous footnote to produce a Doctor Who/Conversion Bureau story where the 2nd Doctor gets thrown into the mix. But he knows this will never happen, because it’s always the 10th Doctor, so he doesn’t bother asking.
  21. I’D RATHER BEAT OUT YOUR VOICE BOX THAN LISTEN TO YOUR IRRITATING WHINING!!!
  22. Do it or I’ll tell your Twilight about Derpy.
  23. I mean he hates the sodding Puniverse for Pete’s sake. Who can hate a universe run on bad puns and friendship? That’s the aesthetics of My Little Pony in a nutshell.
  24. Who recently(29) appeared in the narrative some time after Children of Earth but before Miracle Day.
  25. Discworld.
  26. Wait a minute, why didn’t the main 6 go to deal with Discord?
  27. December 21st, 2011 to be precise.
  28. In the blog, not only is she unconscious and unaware of what’s happening to her, but, as previously mentioned, it is also an act perpetrated by the Master to hurt the Doctor(30).
  29. I.e. seven months.
  30. I.e. the life choices of a mixed race woman(31) are made by two white men to make one of the white men very sad.
  31. The character in question, Laura, is a zebra pony(32).
  32. Zony, as she prefers.

December 16, 2014-January 9, 2015

Escaflowne Episode 7 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Vision of Escaflowne and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.

Except I won’t, because I’m hanging out with Viga and Linkara. If one of you who is there could post the chatlog in the comments here, I’d appreciate it; I’ll update the post with my own comments once I’ve watched the thing.

Three gorram weeks later, it’s finally done! Chatlog with myself under the cut.


01[19:56] <Froborr> Say what you will about this series, this opening continues to be spectacular and I *will* watch it every time.
01[19:57] <Froborr> This recap is exceedingly helpful, because I have COMPLETELY forgotten what was going on last time in the weeks since I watched it…
01[19:57] <Froborr> Okay, yeah, I remember, Van got manipualted into dueling so he can legally be kuilled and Palas can take his mech.
01[19:58] <Froborr> Of course he instead kicks everyone’s ass.
01[19:58] <Froborr> Because only a named major villain can seriously challenge a hero, everyone knows that.
01[19:58] <Froborr> The reactions of the mercenaries getting slaughtered was very Slayers somehow.
01[19:59] <Froborr> Hitomi’s surprised face is lolarious.
01[20:00] <Froborr> So wait, is the king just on their side now, or is this another attempt to maneuver themselves into control of Escaflowne.
01[20:01] <Froborr> Hitomi is about to get falling down drunk isn’t she?
01[20:01] <Froborr> The older princess’ earpieces make her look like a Vulcan.
01[20:02] <Froborr> I wonder if the Star Trek universe has Vulcan wannabes who wear fake ears and play logician?
01[20:03] <Froborr> I see Dilandau is in the giggly phase of Anime Supervillainy.
01[20:03] <Froborr> Of COURSE there are four generals. Also: Power Spot? Is this all going to turn out to be just one giant game of Archon?
01[20:04] <Froborr> (Obscure 80s video game reference ftw!)
01[20:05] <Froborr> So Mole Man sold Hitomi out, of course, and now she’s going to get kidnapped into slavery, as you do when you fall into a fantasy world.
01[20:06] <Froborr> Allen continues to be a creeper, and Eries is aware of it.
01[20:07] <Froborr> The three of WHAT?
01[20:07] <Froborr> Oh. Okay. I guess dream-Tarot can have fish in it.
01[20:08] <Froborr> It’s almost like Van is a shonen hero stuck in the wrong genre…
01[20:08] <Froborr> I really like the swords in this show, have I mentioned that.
01[20:09] <Froborr> Ah, and Millerna has an arranged marriage, paralleling the king’s willingness to sell Hitomi off into slavery.
01[20:10] <Froborr> I do like that, thus far, the romantic lead and the heroic lead are two separate characters.
01[20:11] <Froborr> What the FUCK are those things on the ceilign!?
01[20:11] <Froborr> Wait, is Merle being… not entirely horrible?
01[20:11] <Froborr> Wait, no, she’s still awful.
01[20:11] <Froborr> It’s an entire clan of Nightcrawler!
01[20:12] <Froborr> Frog-people, I guess?
01[20:12] <Froborr> No, those eyes, they’re chameleon-people.
01[20:13] <Froborr> …Why does Escaflowne look completely different tonight?
01[20:13] <Froborr> Oh, right, disguising it.’
01[20:13] <Froborr> Ooh, “shadowgraph.” I like it.
01[20:15] <Froborr> Man, Escaflowne is REALLY not designed for use in the water, is it?
01[20:15] <Froborr> It’s not even watertight!
01[20:16] <Froborr> Oh great, now Hitomi gets a crush on Van, too, and love quadrangle bullshit begins.
01[20:16] <Froborr> Ah, they were Gecko-people.
01[20:17] <Froborr> Damn. If ONE Guymelef can do that to the CAPITAL of a major power, how the hell do kingdoms and empires even exist? They should be getting conquered or having civil wars every five minutes!
01[20:18] <Froborr> And off they go to protect the city. This feels very much like the end of Avatar the Last Airbender, “Kyoshi Island,” except they left Allen behind… sure he’ll be back soon.
01[20:19] <Froborr> And here to make up for the awesomeness of the opening is the terrible ending.

Video Vednesday: Legend of Korra S4E5 “Enemy at the Gates”

In which I make predictions that are confirmed by the TITLE of the next episode, plus predictions that are proven wrong by the next episode. Also some of why Kuvira is scary, and general ramblings about fascism, imperialism, and bad CG.

As usual, Tumblr folks will need to click through to my main blog to see the video for some absurd reason.

Quick Housekeeping Update

I fucked up, so Video Vednesday will be a few hours late. (It’s the one post type I can’t do during a break at work, because the place where I store the videos for Patreon backers is blocked by the office, and therefore I can’t pull one down to upload to YouTube. I forgot to start the upload to YouTube before I left for work, so I have no video to embed now.)

Also, because of various things I need to get done during this blog hiatus, I’ve changed my mind about Fiction Fridays–I won’t be doing them during the hiatus, because unlike the other regular features I’m keeping running, they take effort I’m not already doing. Sorry.

Captain’s Log, Weekly Digest 4

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • Spin the Wheel (cont. from last week): The crew of the Sakura goes on shore leave, but it’s actually a cover for Morwen to go on a mission for Drake. (Interdimensional Vampire Ghost Giants From Space Saga, Part 2).
  • What Lies Beneath: Armed with a prototype weapon, the crew of the Sakura return to the haunted depths of Drozana Station–but there is more than one way to be a ghost… (Interdimensional Vampire Ghost Giants From Space Saga, Part 3).
  • Eihress System Patrol: The Sakura protects aid shipments from Reman raiding parties.
  • Everything Old Is New: The Sakura away team returns to Drozana Station, and a gateway to the past… (Interdimensional Vampire Ghost Giants From Space Saga, Part 4).
  • Night of the Comet: The Sakura goes back in time to foil the Devidians’ plans. (Interdimensional Vampire Ghost Giants From Space Saga, Part 5).
  • [Promotion]: Commander: Morwen is promoted and given command of a new ship, the Advanced Research Vessel Kestrel
  • Klingon Scout Force: …and promptly sent on a pure combat mission involving no research.
  • Traelus Satellite Repair: Morwen reluctantly goes on another mission for Drake.
  • Kinjer System Patrol: The Kestrel is sent to study a rare form of radiation.
  • The Ultimate Klingon: The Klingons and Gorn have been raiding Federation medical and biological research facilities, and the Kestrel assigned to find out where they’re taking their plunder and why.
  • The Doomsday Device: Ambassador B’vat returns and awakens an ancient terror with the intent of turning it on the Federation.

Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle (Twilight’s Kingdom)

It is the end.
But the moment has been prepared for.

This is the path from Crown to Kingdom.

It’s May 10, 2014. Pharrell Williams remains “Happy” to play us out. The top movie is the Seth Rogan comedy Neighbors. In the news, violence between pro-Russian and pro-European factions in the Ukraine continues, the World Health Organization announces that polio is once again a growing international health concern, and on the day this two-parter airs, Austrian recording artist and drag queen Conchita Wurst wins the Eurovision Song Contest with “Rise Like a Phoenix.”

Meanwhile, the fourth season of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and My Little Po-Mo with it, end with the two-part finale “Twilight’s Kingdom” by Meghan McCarthy.

In the beginning, there was Light. God, the Universe, all things were One, and that One was Light. And God said “Let there be Dark,” and the Light retreated, retracted, creating a space that no longer held Light. 

The Dark remembers it once held Light. It wants it back.

In many ways, this entire story is an extended riff on the original piece of pony animation, the My Little Pony TV special, originally untitled but called “Rescue at Midnight Castle” on DVD and streaming services. That special introduced Tirek, a demonic being who wielded the Rainbow of Darkness and had the power to transform and corrupt ponies, impressing them into his service as dragons. At the end, he tried to attack the (seemingly ineffectual) Rainbow of Light wielded by the ponies and their human friend, Megan, only to have it first absorb his Rainbow of Darkness and then destroy him.

Now he’s back–and, despite never having appeared in Friendship Is Magic before, it is explicitly a return within the episode. Celestia tells the story of his long-ago invasion of Equestria, and it is more or less the story of “Rescue at Midnight Castle,” if one replaces Megan and the ponies of that story with Celestia and Luna, cuts Spike and the Moochick, and makes a few other minor tweaks, with the biggest change being that it ends with Tirek being imprisoned rather than destroyed. (On the other hand, he’s imprisoned in Tartarus, part of the Greek afterlife, so even that is consistent with him being killed.)

And, interestingly, he believes that the magic of Equestria–all the magic, upon which the world itself depends–belongs to him, that he is not stealing it but reclaiming what’s rightfully his. Simply the greed and narcissism of a cartoon villain who believes that, because he wants something, it belongs to him? Or a memory of a time before the Dark?

And it gets, a little bit, what it wants. A little trickle of light into the darkness, swirling into a vessel, a fruit, the rind of which is necessary made of the Dark because it has to hold the Light, and Dark and Light are the only things that exist so far.

What is it for? 

This is Keter, the Crown. It sits above the head, which is to say before inspiration even begins; it is the first stirrings of creative intent within the Infinite. It is the source of all form, and hence formless, an empty impulse to creation without any sense of what to create or why.

Twilight Sparkle has lost her sense of purpose. With the aid of her friends and her magic, after years as a student, she has attained enlightenment, the Crown of the princess. She has passed from student to teacher, brought together the shards of (the Rainbow of) Light, the Elements of Harmony, and restored them to their place in the Tree. She has ascended, attained apotheosis; she has climbed to the top of the tree.

Now what? Now she is filled with potential but devoid of purpose. The problem with being One with all things is that there is no room for anyone or anything else. To create and to connect, One must become many, must descend toward the world, the Kingdom.

The other three princesses have walked this path before her. They assure her that she has a purpose, and that she will find it. And by the end of the episode we see that she does: “That is the role I am meant to have in this world. The role I choose to have.”

“Meant to” is passive voice; it obscures who means her to have that destiny. But in the next sentence she answers: she does. She fulfilled one destiny, but her life continued and therefore she needed another, so she created it herself.

Just as all of the Mane Six did when they decided that they were destined to meet, based on the shared experience of getting their cutie marks from the first Sonic Rainboom. The Rainbow of Light is everywhere in Twilight’s life, right back to the beginning.

The Light trickles further. Chokhmah, the spark of creativity and inspiration that channels the pure potential above into the specific creation below, and Binah, the intuitive insight of how to apply that inspiration.

It is Discord that gives Twilight her key, literally and figuratively. Before setting off to face Tirek, he is trying in his own way to be helpful, generously providing her the bookmarked entries in the journal that are the clue to how to open the crystal box, but laughing mockingly at her as he does it. Generosity and Laughter together, as they are side-by-side on the Tree of Harmony.

There’s a mirror to this a little later, when Twilight first has that spark of inspiration and realizes the secret of the box: each of them has faced a challenge to their Element, and in the process taught someone else about that Element, receiving a souvenir in return. Those souvenirs are the keys–literally, as Pinkie Pie discovers when she throws hers into the box. (The line between intuition and a lucky guess, after all, is quite thin.) Inspiration and Intuition together, as they are side-by-side on the Tree of Life.

But one key remains. Twilight must face a crisis of friendship, and teach someone else a lesson in the process, before she can discover the secret of the box.

Down the Light drips, creating the Tree as it goes, filling and overflowing each vessel in turn. Chesed, loving-kindness, compassion, the necessity of ensuring that one’s creation is not destructive, but rather, in some way, makes the world a better place for being in it. And Gevurah, judgment and limitation, the honest recognition that one cannot do everything at once, and must choose the good and reject the bad.

Discord is not a good friend. He does seem to be actually trying, most notably with the gift of the book, but he still enjoys annoying others too much, which is to say he is still a petty sadist. He also lacks judgment; he is easily tricked by the more socially adept Tirek–it is in the nature of the trickster to upend norms and invert relationships, after all, and that includes inverting the relationship of trickster to tricked. Tricksters often find themselves falling for the tricks of others, as witness stories like “The Death of Anansi” or “The Farmer and the Devil.”

He mimics the acts of friendship, but doesn’t really understand the underlying necessity of empathy, of acknowledging that others have unique and non-negotiable needs and preferences which differ from his own. He has not, in short, learned Lesson Zero. He also lacks good judgment; he has in the past been effectively impossible to hurt or control without the Elements of Harmony, and so he naturally assumes Tirek cannot harm or effect him. Between these two factors, he is easily fooled into thinking that Tirek is being a friend toward him, and swayed by promises of freedom.

Note the argument Tirek uses, however: he promises to help Discord escape from the restraints of his ties to others, to become free of the world in which he is enmeshed, and thereby become more fully himself. What Tirek is promising, in other words, is a dark form of enlightenment–he has already usurped the role of representative of the qlippoth from Discord. No wonder he steals Discord’s power so easily later on! He’s already practically finished the job from the moment they meet.

The branches, near-pure Light at the top and slowly partaking more and more of the Dark as they go lower, converge. Here is the nexus-point, the trunk of the Tree where everything above converges into the moment of decision. This is Tiferet, Adornment, the point where compassion and judgment, kindness and honesty, must be balanced so that correct action can begin. 

Twilight Sparkle has a lot of experience in combining powers. The first appearance of the Rainbow of Light in Friendship Is Magic–heralded as such by the reprise of the original My Little Pony theme–is in the second part of the series premiere, when Twilight brings together the Elements of Harmony and releases it against Nightmare Moon. She’s a natural pick, then, to combine the powers of the princesses, even if she struggles to control it at first.

Tirek, by contrast, combines nothing. He is the Dark, snatching and devouring the Lights. His power is stolen, consumed, broken–thus, even with the combined power of every unicorn, pegasus, and Earth pony in Equestria, plus Discord, he is still only an even match for the combined powers of the alicorn princesses. He cannot defeat Twilight power-for-power, so he must instead force her to make a choice: her friends, or her magic.

He does not understand what Twilight understands, that this is a false choice. Friendship is magic; as long as she has her friends, she has her magic. She just needs to figure out how to access it after Tirek drains it.

And as for Tirek, given all the power he craves, what does he do? He destroys trees. His goal is obvious: to destroy the Tree, to cut the world off forever from the Light, so there is only what he has consumed. But to do so, he must destroy every tree, because every tree is in some sense the Tree–few more obviously than the Tree of Knowledge in which Twilight resides, the very first he destroys.

The Tree is supported by another pair of vessels, the third and final such pair, gateway to the trunk. They receive the decisive intention and power of Tiferet, and split it again so it can be balanced. Netzach, Victory, is the passion the creator puts into the work, the emotional force, the feelings that cannot be expressed through words. It is the shining power of the sun, creating warmth and life. Hod, Majesty, is the creator’s thoughts, the intellectual aspect of creation, that which can only be expressed through words. It is the powerful royal voice, decreeing what shall be.

Celestia and Luna are sealed in Tartarus, but they are here in spirit. They were the original wielders of the Elements of Harmony, after all, and it was they, together with Cadance, who told Twilight she would find her destiny. The box which grew from the Elements, Twilight realizes and decides, contains that destiny. 

I have complained before that this series often cross the line from Friendship Is Magic to Friendship Is Mandatory, and unfortunately that happens here. Even though Twilight has never consented to Discord’s friendship, only tolerated having it thrust upon her, she chooses to own him as her friend here, a choice that seems forced on her by narrative necessity. A redemptive read is possible, however, if we note that Twilight had her moment of revelation–which, as for the other ponies in the key episodes, is shown by having the Rainbow of Light briefly play across her eyes–before asking for Discord to be freed.

We can take this to mean that she knows she has to teach Discord to be a better friend by modeling that friendship for him, and that in turn she knows that this will give her the final key to unlock the box and defeat Tirek. She willingly surrenders power that rivals Discord’s own–the power to take the kind of freedom Tirek offered Discord–in exchange for her friends, because she recognizes them as worth it, and in so doing she models for Discord the concept of putting one’s friends’ interests ahead of one’s own.

She rejects the notion of enlightenment Tirek offers, of escape and freedom from being tied to the world, and instead, this pony, who has already experienced apotheosis back in “Magical Mystery Cure,” chooses to be bound to the world, to be bound to her friends, even bound to Discord. Because she has climbed the tree, and seen what is to be seen from the top.

At last we reach the trunk, the connection to the world, the moment of creation itself. This is Yesod, the Foundation, the womb from which all things are born, and the point where the divine, filtered and made safe by the vessels above, actually touches the world. Traditionally, it is identified with the tzaddik, the righteous one, the Enlightened.

Twilight has climbed the Tree, ascending to apotheosis and embracing her destiny. Now she has returned, as the Enlightened do, as a teacher. She shows Discord what true friendship really looks like, and chastised, he gives her the final key.

Within the box is, of course, what had to be in the box all along: the Rainbow of Light. It no longer belongs to the Elements of Harmony or to the Tree, but to Twilight and her friends. The ancient drama replays: Tirek attacks it with his own power, and his power is taken away from him. The Light returns to where it belongs, spreading out into the hearts and souls and cutie marks of all the ponies of the world.

That is, after all, what Light does when it meets Dark: push it back, shove it away into the corners and the depths. Tirek remains what he always was–hungry, nasty, and weak, able to wield only stolen power, gnawing away in resentment at what he lost. While Twilight Sparkle? She shares her power, her Light, and grows ever stronger as a consequence.

Only one vessel remains: Malkuth, the Kingdom, which is the world. This is the lowest of all vessels, the closest to the primordial Dark, into which the creation must be released. This contact is never survived wholly intact–no creation is ever quite what it was envisioned to be, never quite captures that moment of pure potential with which it began. Even in the Beginning, the rabbis tell us, the Light was too much for the vessels, even filtered through all ten, and they shattered into shining shards, each bearing an imprint of the Light and of all ten. These are the souls of humanity, and it is the role of the tzaddikim to gather these shards back together and restore the Light, healing the world, undoing the damage done at its beginning.

This, it is implied, was no accident, but planned from the start.

The error all too many people make, when talking about spiritual progress and enlightenment, is thinking that spiritual progress and material progress are distinct and that, therefore, enlightenment is one-and-done. That there is some pinnacle of attainment from which there is nowhere else to go, and perfection is achieved.

But the vessels were always meant to shatter. Perfection is an illusion, and progress is not teleological. It is not a process of narrowing down to a singular endpoint, but of climbing up and out into new possibilities. The tzaddikim and bodhisattvas both understood this; that’s part of why they come back.

Because you can climb the Tree and sit at the top in contemplation forever, sure. But we don’t climb trees to see into space. The sky still looks basically the same from a treetop as the ground. But the world, that’s different. The real reason we climb trees is so that we can see the world below from a different angle.

The climb up is enlightenment. The climb down is an act of creation, of bringing what we have seen into the world so that we may find ways to share it with others, to plant a seed containing the Light into the ground–which is to say, to gather the sparks, the souls, with which to rebuild the vessels–and thus create a new Tree, from which to spread Light across the Kingdom.

So it is that Twilight’s new castle partakes of elements of both the Tree of Harmony and the Golden Oaks Library, which is to say the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. Because that too is a story of how the world started out broken, and it is up to us to fix it, to bring back together what once was. But the castle is also a tree, which is to say it can be climbed to see the world in a new way.

For three seasons, Twilight was a student, combining the duty we all share of healing and helping with a boundless curiosity and desire to overcome her ignorance. But she reached the Crown, and became a teacher instead. This season began and ended with her questioning her role; in between it gave the answer. Over and over again this season, we have seen the Mane Six teach others about their respective Elements of Harmony, and in the process they have learned and grown themselves.

Every creative work, be it the masterwork of a great artist or the scribblings of a child, a life lived or a scientific theory, even a silly little cartoon about singing, colorful magic ponies, is a tree made of Light, dribbling down from Crown to Kingdom. And because every tree is the Tree, we always have the option to choose to climb it, to be enlightened, to see the world anew.

And then in the act of climbing back down, of sharing what we have seen, we create a new tree, which someone else can climb if they so choose, while we go on to other trees. Because if every tree is the Tree, than the Tree is every tree, and no two trees offer quite the same view from the top. Again and again we cycle up into enlightenment and understanding and down into creation and the healing of the world, progressing, evolving, learning, growing, and we never have to stop because there is no end-point, but an infinite space into which to expand. We are, every one of us, at once creators and seekers, teachers and students, princesses and ponies, working to grow our trees, all together, forever.

There will be a semi-hiatus for the rest of the month. Regular features (Captain’s Log Weekly Digest on Tuesdays, Video Vednesdays, Fiction Fridays, and Saturday liveblogs) will continue as scheduled, but there will be no content on Mondays and Thursdays, and Sundays will be guest posts if I have them to post. Currently I only have one, on Discorded Hooves. Please contact me if you would like to do one or have something I can use, as I need at least two more.

Regular posting will resume on February 1 with the beginning of The Near-Apocalypse of ’09, a psychochronography of the DC Animated Universe.

Escaflowne Episode 6 and SMC Episode 13 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Vision of Escaflowne and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST. We will then be watching Sailor Moon Crystal at 2:30.

Chatlog below the cut!




Escaflowne
 
[14:05] These awesome credits
[14:06] All right, when we left off, they had just rescued Van from his brother on the floating fortress…
[14:06] (oh, right, they do a recap)
01[14:06] Yep.
[14:07] The capital is called “Palas”
[14:07] “Hate you?” He was gushing over your abilities in the previous episode
[14:07] Well that reading did involve things he didn’t want to hear
01[14:08] This has been your daily dose of sexual harrassment.
[14:08] Wait, who did that? I missed it
01[14:08] Allen. To Hitomi. Just now.
[14:09] Yeesh
[14:09] Van, angsting
[14:09] (granted, he has actual reasons for it)
[14:09] Sorry, right now mine won’t play for more than a few secs at a time. I shoulda run it through ahead of time.
[14:09] Dang… next time, you should just play the VHS
[14:09] Yeah, learning that your older brother is guilty of actual for serious treason is something to be sad about
[14:10] Ah, and now the one character in the credits we hadn’t met yet shows up
01[14:10] “The seas smells the same everywhere you go. Except the dung planet. We don’t talk about the dung planet.”
[14:10] And she’s a Princess, because of course she is
01[14:10] Wait, doesn’t she have green hair in the opening?
[14:11] That was a trick of the light, I think
[14:11] There were all those long shadows in the opening
[14:11] Oops, she mentions his brother
[14:11] So Hitomi and Van both don’t like her
01[14:12] “Such a nice person. Like someone who would never join the evil empire. Nope, just a really nice, good person. How is he doing?”
01[14:12] That is a really weird horse.
01[14:12] Did it have cloven hooves? It looked like it.
[14:12] Oh, Merle
[14:12] MERLE!
01[14:13] She assumed Hitomi’s school uniform is some kind of fetish outfit, that’s hilarious.
[14:13] A little meta-commentary on anime tropes
[14:13] That’s a weird hat for a king
[14:14] Oh boy… he’s here
01[14:14] Pretty sure I’ve seen a painting of Henry VIII with a hat like that.
[14:14] So, Folken goes through legal channels AFTER using brute force
01[14:15] Or possibly every painting of Henry VIII, yeesh. https://www.google.com/search?q=henry+viii&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=oj-oVOzXMIafggTCo4DYCA&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=634
[14:15] Millerna… yeesh
[14:15] “stinky commoners”
[14:15] Whoa
01[14:16] Yes, Hitomi. Yes, Merle is trying to pick a fight.
01[14:16] Also, wow, she looks cute like that!
[14:16] Yeah, that’s a really good dress
[14:16] Millerna always knows the right thing to say (not).
01[14:16] Millerna is giving me evil vibes.
01[14:17] Then again, so did Allen.
[14:17] Musketeers!
[14:17] He still does from time to time
01[14:18] Why do misketeers in movies and shows never, you know, carry MUSKETS?
[14:18] Yeah, it’s always rapiers
[14:18] Well, they weren’t called musketeers just now
01[14:18] Da fuq, there are DOLPHIN PEOPLE in this world?
[14:19] Ohhhh yeah
[14:19] Not just cat-girls
[14:19] And dog-people, as you can see now
[14:19] The OTHER mere oblivion quit, I’m still here. (Long story.)
[14:19] Ah yes, I’d forgot about the CD
[14:19] Yeah, Van, heading towards the guys who you are running from is a good strategy
01[14:19] What.
[14:19] Well, it’s Folken
[14:20] My guess is that her mom brought that cd here
01[14:20] No, I mean. What. CD!?
01[14:20] Her mom?
[14:20] Her mom was seen breifly in an earlier episode
01[14:20] Oh, right, there’s a family connection to this world! The pendant!
01[14:20] I’d forgotten abaout htat.
[14:21] How can you not see that floating fortress from the marketplace?
[14:21] But oh well
[14:21] And now Folken is trying to talk to him
01[14:21] Wait, but if this show is presumably set in the 90s, Earth time, that means her mom went to this world *during Hitomi’s lifetime*.
01[14:21] *winces*
01[14:21] Dilandau is going to get SO infected, ew.
[14:22] Oh, he’s not being metaphorical? He LITERALLY died fighting the dragon, I’d forgotten that
01[14:22] *Is* he being literal? I don’t see any reason to think so.
[14:23] And now Folken’s trying to talk to him. Isn’t he going in reverse order? Negotiation first, then legal channels, then violence
[14:24] “Fighting to end fighting.” What a brilliant plan
[14:24] “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
01[14:24] Nah, Van is pretty clearly a shonen character, and shonen rules say you can only have serious conversations *during* or *after* mortal combat.
[14:24] Was that a purposeful translation?
[14:25] Wow, those guymelef extendable claws have serious range
[14:25] They just, y’know, overload if you do that
01[14:25] Though that was apparently too much.
[14:25] So, Dilandau finally noticed Hitomi… that can’t be good
01[14:25] Oh NEAT, it must be taking the material to form the claw from the rest of the mech, and so making the claw too long caused the mech to just… dissolve.
01[14:25] That’s a cool concept.
[14:26] Back to HIs Corrupt Majesty
[14:27] Yeah, Millerna, I totally buy that
01[14:27] Hmm, guess this is the local equivalent to “welcome to my country brave night, let us have a jousting tournament in yoru honor”
[14:27] You don’t need psychic powers to determine that there’s something wrong here
01[14:28] Except it’s going all Westeros-shaped
[14:29] And there’s the cliffhanger
01[14:30] It’s a good trap. If Van kills them he’s being dishonorable and a bad guest, and the King has an excuse to kill him and take his mech, but if he doesn’t they’ll “accidentally” kill him.
[14:31] Yep… though it’s still a bit shortsighted, since Zaibach wants Van alive
01[14:31] True. Maim him, take Escaflowne and give Van to Zaibach?
[14:31] Considering it from Folken’s perspective, if a Dragon took his arm off and the next thing he knew he was in Zaibach’s care, if they tell him he was literally dead he’d just have to take their word for it
[14:31] Ah, good point
01[14:32] Good point Arrlaari.
[14:32] I think they’re banking on him chosing to kill one of the combatants
[14:32] that’s why they are sending “criminals” instead of knights
01[14:32] Which, given what we’ve seen of Van’s temperament, isn’t a bad bet.
[14:32] Once he does that they have cause to surrender him and Escaflowne to Zaibach
[14:33] Sorry to be so out of it today. Next week I’ll get set up in time.
[14:33] Yeah… Van’s clearly always been SOMEWHAT of a shounen hero in terms of temperament, but now that he watched his home country get burned by his treacherous brother, he’s going to be extra cranky
[14:33] Dad, maybe next week you can just watch it on VHS?
[14:34] Excellent plan, aka capital notion.
[14:34] The mech failure when Dilandau overcharged for the sniper attack looked like an overheat. The machine literally melted and Dilandau only survived because the emergency water tanks cooled him
01[14:34] That makes sense.
[14:34] I’m not sure they ever go into that much detail on how the Crima Claws “work.”
[14:35] They had a technobabble name for the red gems in the shoulders, they appear to be the power supply
[14:35] But yeah, that’s what it looked like
[14:35] When Dilandau melted his mech they glowed and the meltdown spread from where they were
[14:35] The “Energists” are those dragon-heart things, I think
[14:36] Well, Escaflowne’s energist involved a dragon’s heart
[14:36] That’s true, we don’t know that they’re all powered the same way
[14:36] One who is without spoilers assumes that they aren’t all powered by dragon bits
[14:36] And the one of us who is with spoilers can’t quite remember
[14:37] Although, did Van call it an energist when he pulled it from the Dragon’s corpse?


[14:39] I opened episode 1 and he calls the dragon’s magic rock an energist
[14:40] Ah… well, that answers that… although maybe various guymelefs are powered different ways? Maybe it’s only Dilandau’s squad and Escaflowne who use dragon bits
[14:40] (again, I can’t remember)
[14:43] But, we’ll see


SMC
 
[14:46] I love the Toei logo
[14:47] Ah yes, when we left off, she had gone all Romeo and Juliet on her brainwashed lover
01[14:47] Oh right, last episode Usagi was TOTALLY METAL for about 30 seconds, and then ruined it.
01[14:47] He’s not worth it, honey.
[14:47] Of course she’s going to Get Better, but still…
[14:47] Oh, right… they can reincarnate as many times as they want
[14:48] I believe you had decided that they were a good fit after she kissed a dude right after killing him
[14:48] I forgot that part
01[14:48] Yes, but he’s still not worth dying for.
[14:48] Maybe he’ll turn out less of a jerk next time?
01[14:48] *cue cheery upbeat music*
[14:48] Madoka had upbeat theme music as well
[14:48] Of course, that was supposed to be a deliberate dissonance trick
01[14:49] Anyway, yeah, I know they don’t do it, but given that reincarnation is an established thing in this show, they *could* have everyone fail and die and then pick up again a generation later with their reincarnations in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
[14:49] Madoka’s theme was a jpop song, this is rock n roll
01[14:49] Good point Arrlaari!
[14:49] That’d be a pretty decent concept for an expy/AU spinoff
01[14:49] Ad.
[14:50] Act 13: Final Battle
[14:50] Does Queen Metalia finally go down now?
01[14:50] Final Battle -Reincarnation- no less.
01[14:50] So Ic ould be right!
01[14:50] Ad 2 jus started.
01[14:50] Ad 3.
01[14:51] back
01[14:51] What in my viewing habits could POSSIBLY make you think I care about American idol and chapstick, Crunchyroll?
01[14:51] *has only ever used it to watch magical girl shows*
01[14:51] …Oh.
[14:51] You could make a great sci-fi series with the premise of “The magical girls lost in their previous life and now the tyrants have ruled for a generation”
[14:51] Ah, that revivification was quick
[14:52] Wait, the crystal has turned malignant?
[14:52] Oh, it’s just made itself vulnerable to her
01[14:52] Substitute “super robots” for “magical girls” (which is pretty much always a substitution you can make without changing anything else) and you have the plot of Gurren Lagann, Sylocat.
[14:52] Uh, Luna? Not a good idea
[14:52] Attack on Titan as well, to some extent
[14:53] Is Luna getting attacked going to be her berserk button again?
[14:53] “Protect them?” Metalia just demonstrated she can control the thing
[14:54] Does Luna think she’s about to have a tearjerker death scene?
01[14:54] And then the kitties teleported to the moon, because everyone who isn’t Fedora Mask can teleport.
[14:54] The arctic circle should be floating ice or open sea
01[14:55] There are islands in there, aren’t there?
[14:55] So, does Metalia have a true form?
[14:55] Like, did she once have a human shape?
[14:55] That went about as well as could be expected
[14:55] We haven’t seen her drawn any other way than this
[14:56] Ah, so she’s the Ball of Evil from The Fifth Element?
[14:56] Or Homura from the end of Rebellion…
01[14:56] Dude, is she turning random people into zombies? That’s pretty hardcore.
[14:57] Luna, if it could really do that, why didn’t you just ask it to before now?
[14:58] Whoa
[14:58] Trippy flashbacks
[14:58] Of course, her motivational speeches to them focused on their looks
[14:58] (well, to two of them, at least)
01[14:58] All of them except Mina.
01[14:59] But I’m just enjoying that this is CLEARLY all of them being energized by thoughts of their One True Love.
[14:59] Also she stabbed herself right in front of y’all
[14:59] Yeah… I still want to see the lesbian Senshi orgy
[15:00] (I hope, but am not naïve enough to believe, that the Rock Knights are Dead For Real)
[15:00] AD POWAAAA
01[15:00] Wow, giving up their power to revive her? *nods* Yes, that’s a way to do it wihtout being super-cheap.
01[15:00] Ad.
01[15:00] MORE American Idol? Seriously?
[15:00] WAIT UP
[15:01] At least it’s not three ads in a row for Crunchyroll’s premium service
[15:01] I assume that’s what I would be seeing if it weren’t somehow broken
01[15:02] back
[15:02] This week they found the ad segue, that’s nice
[15:02] Whoa, it didn’t work?
[15:02] Or is that what gets through to her?
[15:02] Ah, of course it is
01[15:03] See, Usagi, the other scouts! That’s what a person who actually values yuo looks like!
01[15:03] Haaaaaaaaaaxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[15:03] The WATCH caught the sword? How did it go so far into… what the…
01[15:03] The watch? Seriously?
[15:03] That’s just cheating
[15:03] ooh, creepy
[15:04] Now she’s talking like Kefka
01[15:04] Queen Metalia wants Usagi inside her.
01[15:04] But then again, so does everyone in this show.
[15:05] AHAHAH… “My body is getting hot.” That subtext
[15:05] Yeah, it’s not gonna be that easy
[15:06] “Usako?” Is that like some corrupted form of “Usa-chan?”
01[15:06] No, it’s the false name she gave him back when.
[15:06] Ah… right
[15:07] Because you need the other four to help you, genius
[15:07] Come on, where are they?
[15:07] Oh, are the cats going to come back and help too?
[15:08] Ah, their ghosts come back to help?
01[15:08] Strike her weak spot for massive damage!
[15:08] Ah, so when they help defeat her, they get their bodies back and become the scouts’ boyfriends again, amirite?
01[15:09] OH MY FUCKING GOD
01[15:09] ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME
01[15:09] THAT’S WORSE THAN THE WATCH
[15:09] I’m trying to think of something to say that could possibly make that twist funnier
[15:09] Hey, it’s that thing I was wondering if it would come up: The four knights turn into their eponymous gems when they die. I’m told he kept them on a shelf in the manga.
[15:10] Was that ever mentioned before in the anime?
01[15:10] You know, for a show where the theme song contains a line about not needing to be rescued by boys, they SURE DO GET RESCUED BY BOYS A LOT
[15:10] Well, to be fair, it was the boy who got rescued by boys, in this particular case
[15:10] Ooh, some homoerotic subtext on the male side as well!
01[15:10] Yeah, but they gave him necessary information to save her.
[15:10] I was going to say, it looks like they have symmetric implied harems
[15:11] Oh come on, wake up already, senshi
01[15:11] Yeah, I mean, the whole thing about the generals neatly lining up one-to-one to date the Sailor Scouts is CLEARLY a beard.
[15:11] Or a queer-bait
[15:11] Lavender Shipping
01[15:11] Okay.
01[15:11] So, thoguhts?
[15:11] Huh, one more episode?
01[15:12] Actually I’m pretty sure it’s a 26-episode buy.
[15:12] I’m still trying to think of any witty comment that could possibly make that “The rocks caught the sword” twist funnier than it is all on its own
[15:12] I’m not sure what they’re going to do with 12 more episodes after the next
01[15:13] Whatever the next arc of the manga is?
[15:13] If they finished Metalia this episode they’d have spilit 13-13 between first and second arcs
[15:13] I mean, if it had been something Usagi gave him that caught her sword blow, that would at least be somewhat dramatic
[15:13] but I don’t think the next arc can fit into one fewer episode
[15:14] How many arcs are there in the manga?
[15:14] Small stranger…
01[15:14] Well, I mean, *most* 26-episode anime split into a 13 episode piece and a 12-episode piece, plus a recap in the middle.
[15:14] I know who that is but I shan’t spoil it.
01[15:15] Possible they just cut the recap and had it be a 14 and a 12.
[15:15] I guess we’ll see
01[15:16] Any other thoughts?
[15:17] Not at the moment, on my part
[15:17] You two should definitely find time to watch the end of the old anime’s season 1
[15:17] not before watching next episode of crystal
[15:17] but soon after
01[15:17] kk
[15:17] I intend to… I’ve never seen the old anime subtitled, I only saw that absurd dub

Xenosaga fic, chapter 3, part 3

I wanted to get more of Ghost’s story done, but yesterday didn’t at all work as planned. I meant to finish the next Near-Apocalypse article, the final My Little Po-Mo, and today’s post. Instead I got more and more distractible and tired as the day wore on, so it got to be 8 p.m. and I was still only 80% through the MLP, struggling to force my way through, and I just couldn’t. So I gave up and played STO the rest of the evening, so you get another chunk of the Xenosaga. Click the “der wanderer…” tag if you forgot where we left off. (Tumblr users and possibly people on feeds, you’ll have to click through to the blog first.)

“Daaaaasraaaa,” called Aser. “Ohhh Daaasraaa. Dasra!” Damn it, that girl was never around when he needed her. He’d made it to the benighted little planet his prey was on in five hops. One more had taken him to the large desert that was the one part of the planet flat enough to build a spaceport in. Somewhere in this ridiculous capital, his quarry was trying to sell the Primus’ shiny new toy–and Dasra wasn’t around to tell Aser where!

“Ah well,” he said. “I suppose I’ll just have to check the usual places for spacers to spend their time.” He flew the UR Hod overland to the spaceport, looking for somewhere to dock it.

Just outside the spaceport, Seth’s crew finally managed to find an open bar. It was local mid-morning, so most places were closed; fortunately, this close to the spaceport, there were enough offworlders running on different clocks to fill one bar.

“I’m not sure I like the looks of this place,” said Wehj.

Vix looked around. The dim, smoky interior of the bar was half-filled with a mix of spacers in a wide variety of dress and local alcoholics getting an early start. The locals, just like everybody she’d seen on the streets outside, seemed to dress in nothing but loose brown and rust, with scarves and hoods they had to pull aside in order to drink. The bar was extremely bare — unpadded seats, exposed pipes in the ceiling, everything made of some dark, hard stone. Nothing was clean. “It looks perfect,” she said.

“Are you serious?”

“Absolutely,” said Vix. “Weren’t you looking around outside? We passed four different churches on the way here. Bethelians are clearly a spiritual people, which means their booze is going to suck.”

“Then why are we bothering?”

“Poor, naïve, foolish boy,” Vix teased, “don’t you get it? On a planet with good booze, you find the best in the best bars. On a planet with bad booze, you find the least bad in the worst bars. It’s just how it works.”

“If you say so…” said Wehj. They sat at a table and a surly-looking waitress silently brought them dirty mugs full of pale-brown liquid. “Um…” said Wehj.

“What, were you expecting a wine list?” asked Vix. “Drink it. It’s been long enough.”

Wehj sighed and took a sip. “Gah!” he said. “You could strip paint with this.”

“Bye-bye, brain cells!” said Vix, and downed half her mug at a gulp. “Ah,” she sighed. “Blessed boozehol. Mommy missed you.”

Wehj took another sip. “Okay, it’s a little strong, but it’s not bad.”

“There, you see? Told you.”

About twenty minutes later, a man entered the bar. “Hey, check it out,” said Wehj. “He doesn’t look like a local.”

Vix half-turned to look at the entrance. The man was tall and gangly, with prominent elbows. He was blonde and pale, and wore a form-fitting green jumpsuit that left his arms bare. A large symbol on the jumpsuit’s chest, an inverted cross topped by a spreading tree and flanked by stylized wings, marked him as an Ormus monk. A pair of crossed swords above the tree might have indicated his order, but Vix wasn’t sure. “A monk,” she said. “Not the kind of guy you expect to come into a bar like this.”

“I don’t like the looks of him,” Wehj whispered.

Vix had to agree. There was a strange look in his eyes, like he was laughing at a private joke at everyone else’s expense. He moved wrong, too. He was unnaturally still, mostly, and when he did move, it was suddenly, swiftly, and precisely, almost mechanical. She considered the possibility that he might be some kind of Realian, then discarded it. He wasn’t pretty enough to be artificial.

“I’m looking for the crew of the Isolde,” he said. “They have something I wish to buy.”

Wehj shook his head at Vix, but she ignored him. “I’m the pilot of the Isolde. Pull up a chair.”

He walked over to them with swift small steps. “I prefer to stand.” The corner of his mouth twitched as if he were struggling to keep from laughing, and Wehj shivered.

“We can’t sell you anything ourselves, but the captain should be back from his delivery in an hour or two. You can talk to him then.”

“The captain…” said Aser, rolling the words in his mouth, tasting them. “Where has he gone?”

“None of your business, is it?” Vix appeared utterly nonchalant, but alarm bells were ringing in her head. Something told her that she was speaking to a killer.

Anger flashed briefly across Aser’s face, to be replaced by a broad smile that didn’t touch his eyes.

“Of course, of course! The legendary privacy and independence of free traders. Mustn’t tread on that.” He laughed a little too long. “Well, if you could inform your captain that a potential buyer wishes to speak with him, I will return in the afternoon.” He turned on his heel and walked out of the bar.

Vix looked down at her cup. “I’ve lost my taste for booze,” she said. “Come on, let’s go find some lunch, then go back to the ship and wait for the captain. Soon as he gets back from the refugee camp, we should leave. Go to Ur-Chaldis or something, wait for buyers there.”

“Yeah,” said Wehj. “I don’t want to be on the same planet when this guy comes looking for us.”

The two walked out of the bar. As soon as they turned the corner, Aser stepped out of the alleyway and reentered the bar.

“Now!” he said. “Who wants to tell me what they said after I left?”

A few pairs of eyes looked up at him, then returned to their drinks.

“I said,” he giggled, “who wants to tell me what they said?”

“What’s in it for us?” slurred a local, blinking over his twelfth cup.

Aser moved across the room with blinding speed, upending the local’s chair and slamming him into the floor. “Survival,” Aser said, grinning, his hand tightening around the man’s throat.

A dozen chairs creaked or fell as their occupants jumped to their feet. Several ran for the door, only to be brought up short when the half-choked man Aser had been holding crashed into it and slid to the ground, moaning.

Two spacers came at Aser with knives. He laughed as he killed them with a single blow each.

***

A city in space, a world unto itself, the Dammerung floated in space. More than five hundred years ago, it had been the headquarters of the mighty Vector Corporation, a neutral power on par with the Immigrant Fleet and the Federation. After the Gnosis War, when the Dark Ages began, Vector collapsed, and Scientia took the city-ship over and devoted it entirely to research, to preserving and extending the knowledge of mankind.

For the Dammerung was no longer merely a ship the size of a city or a city built into a ship. It was a university the size of a city, built into a ship. Like any university, it had a plethora of committees and subcommittees, departments and colleges. One stood above all the others, however: the Council of Deans.

Here they met to discuss the important matters that affected all Scientia, the plans and policies, budgets and projects. Each of them represented the interests of one great College. Some were academic leaders, such as the Dean of Cosmology and Physics; others were concerned with more temporal affairs, such as the Quartermaster. Still others stood entirely alone, their position on the Council guaranteed by tradition, but the reasoning forgotten by all (excepting always HANA, of course, who would explain if asked, but no one ever did).

No matter the reason for their presence, each of these men and women was considered equal. Each possessed one and only one vote in their deliberations. No one could claim precedence over the others, and for this reason they were arrayed on either long side of the table.

Except one. The Director-Captain of the Dammerung sat alone at the head of the table. She alone could force a debate to close without a vote. She alone could demand an immediate vote on any issue she chose. She decided who sat on what subcommittee, and her approval was required for any budget. In times of crisis, she could even claim sole control of the ship for the duration, in her capacity as its captain.

She was reputed to be the most powerful person in the cluster. Her power was checked only by the Council itself, which could vote to replace her; in practice, however, deft political maneuvering could ensure that there were always more Deans who gained by her position as Director-Captain than gained by replacing her. Few Director-Captains had ever left office by means other than retirement or natural death in the five centuries since the legendary Momo Mizrahi had assumed and combined the positions formerly held by her equally legendary parents.

The current Director-Captain was the twenty-second to hold that title. Kara Mizrahi-Dirdan was a slim, tall, regal-looking woman with iron-gray hair pulled back in a tight bun. She radiated an aura of confidence and power, unsurprising in the woman who had held the title of “most powerful person in the cluster” for nineteen years.

All that power, unfortunately, was not enough to escape committee meetings.

“And so it appears necessary that, in order to minimize inefficiencies, we must vertically integrate the departments providing ship functions,” droned the Provost, and insufferably tweedy old man who’d served three Director-Captains with precise, fussy, mind-numbing distinction.

Enough was enough; he’d been talking for nearly half an hour without sitting down. That wasn’t unheard of, but with the Provost, half an hour could seem like an eternity. “Summary conclusion to discussion,” Mizrahi-Dirdan said. “All in favor?”

The Provost’s own hand waved pathetically in the air.

“All opposed?” Mizrahi-Dirdan’s own hand was joined by two others. The other forty eyes in the room were still completely glazed over. “HANA, record one in favor, three opposed, twenty abstentions. Motion defeated. Next item?” The Provost sat down, looking disgruntled. Doubtless he’d bring up the same scheme next time he found a patsy willing to second the motion, but hopefully that would be a while.

The Secretary glanced at his tablet. By tradition that had the force of law, he was neither a professor nor an officer, but a Hydroponics, Security, or Maintenance worker selected at random once each year. Besides keeping track of the agenda and reading the minutes (both provided to him, of course, by HANA), he had the same single vote of any other member, though he nearly always abstained. “Report by SDI Chief on destruction of Affiliate on Ur.”

Mizrahi-Dirden nodded to the Chief of Security, Defense, and Intelligence, who stood. “Madame Captain,” he acknowledged. He tapped his own tablet, and a hologram projector in the center of the table lit up, displaying a map of the Lesser Spiral Galaxy with the Fifth Jerusalem Sector marked. As he spoke, it zoomed in to display the region, showing the tiny Ur system in the neutral area between the two powers — the Fifth Jerusalem Federation and the Empire of Artaxerxes — that dominated the region. “As most of you by now know, a matter of hours ago, the Gate Station in the Ur system picked up a burst of radiation consistent with catastrophic asymmetry from the southwest quadrisphere of Ur itself. Repeated attempts to contact our Affiliate in that area have since failed.”

“Is it the disappearance phenomenon?” asked the Dean of Humanities fearfully.

The SDI Chief shook his head. “The burst was consistent with a Hilbert Atrophy bomb. We’ve monitored coded transmissions among Ur’s investigators. Apparently, they believe it’s a terrorist attack, backed by either a militant Fleet Church splinter group or a pro-FJF faction trying to look like the Fleet Church, it’s not clear.”

“Damn,” said the Dean of Social Sciences. “Either way, it’s going to destabilize the region still further, and possibly push Ur into joining one side or the other. I believe we’ll soon see a fourth Federation-Artaxerxes War over the matter.”

“And that, coupled with the internal instability of both empires…” said Humanities. She looked thoughtful. “It could seriously delay the renaissance we expect the completion of the IS Gate system to bring. You all know that the Fifth Jerusalem Sector is one of the likeliest places for it to begin.”

“There’s a more immediate concern,” said the Dean of Engineering. “The Original was being kept there. Its loss represents a serious setback for several projects.”

“Engineering projects,” scoffed the Dean of Physics. “Need I remind you that the completion of the IS Gate System, though a matter deserving of celebration, is not the final stage of Project Tetragrammaton? That remains, as it has always been, our highest priority.”

“I’d like to see you finish Tetragrammaton without engineers,” countered Engineering.

“What about trade?” asked the Quartermaster. “We’ve been getting a lot of our luxury foods and textiles from that area for the past decade. Should I be looking for another source?”

“Madame Director-Captain,” interrupted HANA. “There is an urgent matter requiring your attention.”

Everyone in the room stared at the ceiling, the usual source of HANA’s voice. She never spoke in Council meetings, or indeed in any meeting, unless asked a direct question. For her to interrupt was unthinkable.

“I’ll take it in the anteroom,” Mizrahi-Dirdan said, getting up.

It was popular, in Scientian poetry, to compare the Dammerung to a body. Its power cores and generators were a multitude of hearts; the bridge its nerve center; the Council of Deans its will. If that were true, reflected Mizrahi-Dirdan, then HANA was its soul.

HANA was the computer of the Dammerung. It was said that, centuries ago, she was a person, a Scientia researcher in the first two or three generations after the Fall. In the Golden Age, legend said, it had been a trivial matter to transmit a mind back and forth between body and machine, but with the loss of the UMN–whatever that was, if there ever really was such a thing, thought Mizrahi-Dirdan–it had become nigh-impossibly difficult. HANA was the one true success, a living mind copied into the Dammerung’s computers, vastened far beyond the capabilities of a mere human or Realian.

HANA watched, and listened, and advised. When you ate an exotic food for the fourth time in your life, and you got sick three days later, just as you had the last three times, HANA would notice even if you didn’t, and she would warn you to get tested for allergies. When you needed someone to talk to, someone who would never judge, HANA was there. HANA already knew.

It was HANA, Mizrahi-Dirdan suspected, and HANA alone that had kept Scientia from straying from its mission over the centuries. When the Dammerung was the only ship capable of traveling faster than light, it must have been tempting to come as conquerors rather than teachers, to set up puppet states instead of research Affiliates that were as much about helping the locals as helping Scientia. Seventy years ago, when the first IS Gates were built, it must have been tempting to use Scientia’s control over them to establish an empire, rather than remain strictly neutral and allow everyone who paid the fee to pass, from peaceful traders to enormous warfleets. Or to use the fees to become as rich as Vector had once been, able to buy anything they wanted and impose their will through economic force, instead of charging just barely enough to keep the gates running. That was the one Mizrahi-Dirden tended to fantasize about.

Hardly a week went by that HANA didn’t gently remind Mizrahi-Dirdan herself of some responsibility she was neglecting or some principle that a policy she was considering backing violated. Sometimes, Mizrahi-Dirdan wondered about her predecessor, retiring into obscurity at the peak of her career. HANA knew everything, after all. Every bit of knowledge Scientia gleaned, every Affiliate report, and everything said or done anywhere on the Dammerung, all went into HANA’s capacious memory banks. No one could reach the heights of the Director-Captainship without a few skeletons in their closet. Had, perhaps, HANA encouraged the old battle-axe to retire?

Sometimes Mizrahi-Dirdan wondered who the real leader of Scientia was.

No matter. HANA had interrupted the Council; it must be important. “What is it, HANA?” she asked.

A small text ad appeared, floating in the middle of the anteroom. “A small-scale independent trader uploaded this to our marketplace about an hour ago. Anything strike you as interesting?”

“That’s it?” asked Mizrahi-Dirdan. “I don’t understand.”

“The container is appropriately sized to contain the Original and support apparatus.”

“Huh,” said Mizrahi-Dirdan. “That’s an interesting coincidence, but there’s no evidence to connect it to the destruction of the Affiliate.”

“No?” asked HANA. “How about if I told you the Ahura was outward bound from Ur?”

“Okay, now that’s a little more interesting. But why don’t you get to the point?”

“It wasn’t called the Ahura when it left Ur. It was the Pellegri. Both ships are registered to dummy corporations, owned by –“

“Oh, hell. The Fleet Church.”

“Precisely,” said HANA.

“So, the Church staged a terrorist attack as a cover to steal the Original from us, probably with the collaboration of the Ur government. Then somebody else, also after the Original, attacked them off Bethel. The two groups mutually annihilated, and then this salvager picked up the Original. That’s the scenario you’ve mapped?”

“Very nearly,” said HANA. “The timing is slightly off. The Original must have left Ur no later than two days ago, assuming they traveled directly to Bethel. As it is in precisely the opposite direction from their most likely destination, Artaxerxes, I suspect it was indeed their first stop and that the Original was therefore on board the Pellegri when it left, rather than transferred from another ship in Imaginary Space.”

Mizrahi-Dirdan sat down and pinched her nose. She could feel a major headache coming on. “So whoever attacked the Ahura destroyed the Affiliate? No, that doesn’t make any sense. If they knew it was on the Ahura, why attack the Affiliate?” She groaned. “We’re dealing with at least three parties. The Fleet Church stole the Original and shipped it to Bethel. Somebody else learned about this and attacked the Ahura, trying to steal the Original. And the third party, unaware the Original was already gone, staged a terrorist attack on the Affiliate as cover for their own attempt to steal the Original. Yeesh.”

“That accords with my own analysis. I would append the possibility that the trader himself is a front for the second party, who seized the Original for purposes of selling it back to us.”

“Or the FJF, or the Church, or anybody else who might have the cash on hand. Do we have anyone nearby we can trust? I’ll have to use the discretionary fund for this; there’s too much politics involved to let the Council know. By the time they agreed to buy it, somebody else would have beaten us to it.”

“Agreed,” said HANA. “We do not have an Affiliate on Bethel, but there may be someone on the planet or in the IS Gate staff. An additional coincidence to note: the ship which made the salvage is the Isolde.”

Mizrahi-Dirdan blinked. “Why is that name familiar?” Her jaw dropped. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “No, the universe doesn’t work that way. It can’t be the same ship.”

“I have located someone I believe known to you personally who can ensure we are not cheated. Will this individual suffice?”

Mizrahi-Dirdan needed only to glance at the dossier HANA called up before she began laughing. “Perfect,” she said. “Set up a call with the trader.”
Aser is a bit of a struggle as a character, because there’s three competing things going on with him. First, I wanted an Albedo-like villain, because Albedo is one of the all-time great, effective villains. That’s easily done. Second, I wanted him to be distinct from Albedo. Also relatively easy–do some research, give him a real disorder instead of generic “crazy” villainy. Third, that’s still ableist as fuck, which is where the challenge is. I think I have an idea of how I can retain the unpredictability and viciousness of the archetype while not supporting stereotypes about the mentally ill, but it will take a little bit to unfold and will look quite a bit like those stereotypes in the early stages.

So, basically: sorry, I’m aware of the problem, and I’m working through it?

Why I’m Turning Off Anonymous Comments

Because they’re worthless.

Now let’s back up a second. I am not, I should be very clear, referring to the content of anonymous comments–I have had a number of very insightful comments which happened not to be made by someone who gave their name. These comments are valuable and I’m glad to have received them.

And I have not been inundated by anon hate the way some blogs I follow have been, so it’s not really about that–although the possibility of that occurring is a factor in the decision, definitely.

No, the issue is twofold. First, anonymity is entirely unnecessary here. The only reason a person might need to be anonymous is if some kind of negative consequence were going to befall them either for what they say, or for being here at all. But I’m fairly confident that none of my commenters is living under an authoritarian regime likely to arrest, torture, or murder them for expressing an opinion on a blog, nor do I suspect that any of you are engaged in some kind of undercover operation or secret agents or otherwise subject to the sort of scrutiny that makes connecting to the Internet a risky endeavor–and if you are, what are you doing risking coming here? No, for anyone actually commenting here making a Google account on a fake name is surely protection enough, and if you’re really paranoid you can even do it through an anonymizing proxy of some sort.

And since none of you need an anonymous posting option, I’m under no obligation to provide it–and anonymity works against what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog.

I want, ultimately, to do three things with this blog. The first is to get my ideas and words out into the world. Having or not having anonymous comments makes no difference to this purpose.

The second is to provoke and participate in discussion. Anonymity makes this difficult, because I have no way of telling if multiple anonymous comments in a thread are by the same person or not.

The third is to create community, and anonymity makes this impossible. Anonymous commenters are a faceless, amorphous mass. Because I do not know which comments are by different people and which are by the same people, it is impossible to build a sense of who anyone is. Identities become impossible to discern, and without individual identities there can be no relationships and therefore no community.

And, frankly, I am disgusted by the culture of the Internet, and much of that disgust is provoked by the rampant abuse of anonymity as a shield from behind which cowards can bully and harass, express bigotry without exposing themselves to the social consequences, or maliciously and sadistically hurt others to make themselves feel big. Even putting aside trolls, it encourages a dehumanizing and depersonalizing sense of power and distance, a hyper-rationalist form of discourse in which having an identity is an exploitable personal flaw and expressing emotions is a signifier of weakness and inferiority.

That is not what I want my blog to be. I don’t want people to just make provocative statements, I want them to defend those statements with the passion that only comes when your reputation depends on it. I want continuity between discussions, so that something a person says in one thread can be brought up in a later one to ask them to explain an apparent contradiction or hypocrisy. I want people to own what they say, so that they put a little thought into it before they say it. And most of all, I want the opportunity to get to know the people I interact with here, which requires that they be people and not faceless ciphers.