Saturday, April 11, 2009

Echoes 19 - “Resurrection and Life” - Outline

Every chapter since the beginning of the second half of Echoes has seen me take the outline I wrote out and redo it from scratch. Well, not from scratch per se, for I replicate exactly some of the scenes. I think that's the difference, for me, between a scene and a full act/part or chapter in its entirety. I think a lot of people start with the scenes they see, but to make a coherent story, you have to connect those scenes with things you don't see. You need to fill in the gaps. I think the common mistake is to leave too little room to fill those gaps.

But making these outlines is a highly iterative process. I think I see each chapter as an opportunity to refine characterization. I've toned down Nakamura's stupidity a lot with this revision of the outline, and that's a good thing, but the core emotions are still there, and that's important. It remains to be seen how far I deviate from this outline (I deviated quite a bit near the end of "Sons," if only for reasons of pacing).

At any rate, I now present the outline for "Resurrection and Life," so that I may later comment on the changes I make as I go through the writing process. I'm still debating whether I will post the different sections of this chapter as I go. Anyway, spoilers below and if you don't wish to see them, I would be open to suggestions as to how to best present information to the interested (Bueller?) or if it's even a good idea to do this at all. Once again, SPOILERS BELOW.

Chapter Outline: 19 - “Resurrection and Life”

Teaser: Flashback: Nakamura Hideki sneaks into Masuyo’s bedroom and places Imi’s PET on Masuyo’s desk. Masuyo awakens to Imi’s prodding, and the two seem genuinely pleased to meet each other. Masuyo hurries to get ready for school, but she stumbles as her legs give way under her. She’s fine, though, and they move on. It’s Imi’s first day of being alive.

Act 1: Yuuichirou prepares for Netto’s arrival, marveling at how long it’s been since he was here, in this lab. For a long time, he’s put on hold the idea of bringing Saito back to life. Now he realizes he has an even bigger job: bringing him back to the life he has already. His boys have left behind normal life for these past two months, and it’s his job as a father to restore that, even if he doesn’t know how, even if these two bodies in tanks will ever be used. He quickly puts these thoughts aside, however, as Netto and Meiru are at the gate and will be here soon.

And it’s a strange homecoming for Netto and Meiru. It’s almost as if they’re not really home at all; the very face of the city is different, having endured much while he’s been gone. They catch glimpses of old friends like Dekao, but even still they’re reluctant to come out yet. It’s not over, and they both know that. At mention of Meiru’s betrayal, Netto is conspicuously silent, and he says nothing more until they’re inside the facility.

Yuuichirou greets them both and begins preparations for the procedure, and Meiru has to sit outside, thinking, waiting. After a while, Netto comes out. He’s fine; they won’t know until Rockman is reinitialized. He confesses that at least now, while Rockman is sleeping, he can speak more freely. Meiru immediately apologizes again for having deceived him, and Netto is forgiving. How can he be anything other than forgiving when that’s all his brother wants too? He expresses hope that when Rockman awakens they’ll be able to go out again, but Meiru doesn’t want them to. She says they’ve been through enough, she doesn’t want either one of them to die. Netto only assures her that he’s not going anywhere. The conversation turns to friendly bickering…but that’s when he hears Rockman. At least, a little.

Inside the lab, Rockman reports that he can feel Netto, but they don’t hear each other unless they really try to. Yuuichirou is disappointed, but it’s an improvement, and he has to be pleased with improvement. While Rockman is anxious to get back into the fight, Yuuichirou takes him aside and tries to work out his feelings, tries to be a father, but Rockman is still trapped in thoughts about what he’s done and how it’s affected everyone. That’s when Netto barges in and tells his brother he is forgiven for what he’s thought and done, that Rockman can stop worrying. Netto didn’t need to be there to hear the conversation first hand—he simply knew, even without the link to tell him. Netto resolves to rejoin Enzan in Choina and help him protect Nakamura.

Act 2: Flashback: Imi and Masuyo at dinner with Hideki, where Imi cheerfully explains all the things she learned at school from Masuyo and her classmates, including mimicking Masuyo’s sensei’s words about the appropriateness of little girls having PETs at such a young age. Hideki is impressed with her ability, and Masuyo seems quite pleased to have such an advanced navi and friend. The dinner is cut short, however, when Masuyo retires to her room, ostensibly not very hungry. Imi recommends that she finish her food, as she learned it’s rude not to clear your plate, but Hideki excuses this and allows Masuyo to rest. He speaks with Imi, and she’s gushing about how wonderful Masuyo is. She’s happy here. She couldn’t be happier.

Nor could she be in reality. Imi and Codey enjoy many hours of games, talking about their father. Codey hints that Imi should go seek their father out, but she just won’t get the hint. She’s too excited about not having to worry to care, and Codey really doesn’t want to shatter his sister’s happiness, even though he feels the bug getting to him. Time is short, and he feels the effects of the bug debilitating him. Imi picks up on these signs, and she’s immediately concerned. She departs before he can even get a word in edgewise.

Meanwhile, Enzan is in Choina, on the phone with Laika, who’s with the others at a hospital in Namaste. Laika is actually somewhat unscathed compared to their companions, some of whom have serious injuries. They note that it’s better this way; it should be easier to keep Nakamura hidden with only Enzan to protect him anyway, but Laika is concerned they’re vulnerable here in Namaste. No sooner does he say this than Imi barges into the hospital, noting how easy it was to find them. Her request is surprisingly tame: Codey is sick, and she needs to bring him to their father to look at. Enzan quickly picks up that she doesn’t know she’s infected as well and decides to use this to their advantage. He gives her an address to bring Codey to and heads back to see Nakamura.

Who is struggling. He looks at his watch and sees the time ticking away. The thought of his two navis both dying is dredging up memories of Masuyo’s passing, and it’s hindering his work. Enzan urges him to pull it together, but he’s going way off the deep end. “I didn’t even tell him I loved him, do you know that?” It’s only thanks to Enzan that he can regain the focus to get working and solve what is, in his mind, is a simple problem. He still approaches the upcoming reunion with Imi and Codey as something to fear, but he’s grateful that things are moving forward.

Imi drags Codey to the meeting point, and he ponders whether to tell her the truth. Imi, for her part, is afraid. While Papa wouldn’t possibly use this to try to subdue her, Enzan and the others might. At the least, they couldn’t afford to give up the opportunity. She’s understandably cautious, but Codey’s progressive deterioration is forcing her to give up some of that caution. Codey, however, can guess that they want both him and Imi, and he tries to persuade her to stay with him, but now Imi is getting suspicious, and Codey realizes that being alone with her makes his situation very dangerous. Finally, he follows her request, but Imi is now too curious to let him go so easily. Codey departs, and Imi, in a moment of weakness, listens to the choir: she decides to follow.

Act 3: Flashback: Masuyo in her wheelchair at the arcade. Her drawing pad is tucked away behind her wheelchair, as she is unable to hold the pencil steady, but still, with Imi in tow, she’s eager to try something that she hasn’t done before: a net battle. The two of them watch Hikawa Tohru practicing with Iceman against some formidable but defeated opponents, and they try their luck against the pair. Hideki watches from the crowd, silently rooting for his daughter and her navi, despite Imi’s confusion over what she should do or how she can even retaliate without attacks of her own. Still, thrust into the ring, Imi defends herself as best she can with Masuyo’s new set of battle chips, but Masuyo’s coordination fails, and Imi is defenseless…until she erects an Ice Cube of her own to counter Iceman’s. The crowd turns in her favor, and she begins to copy Iceman’s abilities with ease, turning them against him, even the chips. In her inexperience, Imi loses the battle, but the crowd and Masuyo are very impressed with their performance. Even still, Imi finds the crowd and the mass of people unsettling. They’re all looking at her. At times, they were cheering. It dazzled her, it frightened her, and she herself doesn’t quite understand how she managed to copy Iceman’s abilities.

As Imi begins to follow Codey discreetly, Masuyo and Roll have a dilemma. The sense that tragedy is about to strike is palpable—the choir feels it, Imi feels it. With Codey and Hideki at stake, Masuyo is unwilling to sit back and watch again. The choir has power over her, and while Roll has been able to thwart Imi from time to time, it’s never been enough. They need more. They need the choir.

And so Roll ventures amongst the shadows, where Imi cannot hear clearly. At first, she doesn’t know what to say. The shapeless, formless figures remind her of her own time here, when it was easier just to go along with the flow, with the collective will of lost souls, but she also knows the poison these dead whisper into Imi’s ears, and she begins to swell with righteous indignation. They are as much responsible for Imi’s madness as Imi is herself. She berates them, yet they seem to ignore her pleas, and the situation is starting to look hopeless. As Roll is about to give up, however, a voice calls from the darkness… “Roll-chan…”

Codey arrives at the meeting point, much to Enzan and Hideki’s disappointment. He explains the situation to them, that Imi doesn’t know she’s infected too and that he needs to go back and explain, but Imi is listening. “Papa, Codey-kun…how could you do this to me?”

Act 4: Flashback: Masuyo is on her bed, dying, and Imi is trying hard to keep the girl awake and conscious, but Masuyo comforts her and assures her that all will be all right. Their father is grief-stricken, but Masuyo is tranquil and calm. She’s excited to see her mother; she just wished she could do it with her father in the real world, and not without him in the afterlife. Masuyo passes on, and Hideki laments that he will never see his daughter smile again, but that’s when Imi makes her mistake: she consoles her father by giving him what pleased him most. “It’s all right, Papa,” she says in Masuyo’s voice, with her eyes and smile. “I’ll always be with you; I’ll always smile.”

But Imi’s not smiling at all. As she challenges both Codey and Hideki to explain this, Enzan raises a dimensional area and steps in before she can strike, but she bats him away easily. Hideki picks up his laptop and his PET with Codey inside and runs, but Imi is hot on the trail.

And the choir is cheering her on. Though Roll is urging them to desist, to listen to her, they stubbornly plow on, cheering the carnage, the destruction of buildings and loss of life. Rockman has emerged from the choir, however, and he stands with her. This brings out other individuals: Grove, Slateman, Mazeman, Rouletteman. Sonicman and Pickman too. They all tell their stories, their horrors. They lost the will to live and as such, there must be others there, so they can do the same, so they won’t be alone. But Egami is here, too, and she makes an appeal to Grove. Roll persuades all of them to give up their selfish need for vengeance, and for a moment, they decide they can lend their support, control Imi. Not under Masuyo’s leadership or anyone else’s but Roll’s.

Hideki flees, but Imi’s after him, and Enzan’s harassing her. All Imi can see is blood, though. The choir is oddly quiet, but she doesn’t care. It was bad enough for Papa to condemn her; that she felt she could reverse. Now he’d betrayed her, he and Codey, her only family, and all that time when they were playing Codey never let on. Maybe he wanted her to die. But it doesn’t matter. She’ll destroy everything in her path; let the world burn. Then she’ll get Papa, and she’ll make him regret it. Regret making her, regret everything, even if she has to push him to the brink of death to do it. She punches through the laptop, shattering it and the cure along with it, but just as she winds up to strike, Roll intervenes, commanding the whole of the choir against her. Imi panics, realizing that she could never persuade them to leave her alone, but now Roll has united them, and she cannot disobey. She runs away.

Act 5: In the aftermath, Hideki awakens on a stretcher, being carted off in an ambulance. He gets up. He runs. He can’t find Codey, can’t find him anywhere, and his laptop is shattered, broken. Somewhere in the rubble he thinks he hears Codey, but he digs and digs until his fingers bleed. He finds the PET, but his watch alarm is ringing. Codey’s time is already up, and when he uncovers the PET, there’s nothing inside. Rather than go back, go to the hospital, he runs. He needs a place to grieve for Codey.

Just like he ran before. Just like when Imi tried to replace Masuyo, all he could do was sit there and order her out and cry over Masuyo’s body.

And Imi, for her part, is lost in confusion. She’s in despair. She’s angry; she’s upset. She’s afraid. Roll’s power now means she has a visible, intelligent enemy in her own mind, not the faceless musings of the choir. That’s when Codey arrives, weak, stumbling. He can hardly speak, but he whispers that Hideki was trying to dig him out then stopped. Despite their distrust, Imi holds Codey one more time, and he dies in her arms. Knowing this to be her fate, knowing that her father is nowhere to be found, Imi finally asks herself what she should do, and Masuyo has but one answer: “Go back home.”

As Netto and Rockman are going out the door to meet her, Yuuichirou gets a call. Imi’s returned to Densan, and now Netto and Rockman can face her together.

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