30 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies #5 - Velasco Investigations

St. Louis, Missouri
Velasco Investigations
26-JUN-2007  2300

Rose arrived in the conference room breathless.  Elena, Amber, and Allison were already in disguise, with Elena making last minute checks on the younger girls' coveralls.  The blonde looked over at the newcomer.  "Something wrong, Rose?"

29 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies #4 - Commentary

Rose's family gets introduced this scene.  The scene unintentionally sets up a couple of later scenes.  That's right, very little of the meat of the story was planned out from the start, just the beginning, a rough guide of scenes I wanted to include, and the end.  Even that rough plot map wasn't enough.

The mother-daughter conversation did a few things.  First, it established Maria as a supporting character.  Second, it showed that Rose had a family and that she cares for them.  Third, it let me show that, yes, I can write a family scene that isn't dysfunctional, unlike the relationship that Nasty and her mother have in Subject 13.  Finally, it let me hint at a more serious threat in the story.  A little bit of action before going back to investigating.  At the time I was writing, I never considered the story getting adapted.  However, if I did, this scene would help establish the larger cast of Rose's family.

Then there's the choice of the car.  The Ford Taurus is a fairly standard sedan, though it has been used by law enforcement.  Rose, although not really a police officer, was in a similar industry in her past.  She does appreciate the Taurus's capabilities.  Alas, for NaNoWriMo, a Ford Taurus only counts for two words.  She should have gone with the Ford Crown Victoria, but I felt that the Crown Vic was too obvious for her.

Other items of note: Maria is as observant as her mother.  She knew that Rose saw something, even if Maria herself didn't see it.  Rose also keeps a gun close to her, even when driving.  It's something her kids are aware of; Rose is well aware of the dangers.  And, again, more unintentional foreshadowing.

Tomorrow, the Ladies complete their mission!  Wait, that's no 50 000 words yet...
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Lost in Translation looks at The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Coming soon, more NaNo prep and test driving new games.

28 Aug 2013

A Subject 13 Special - Crossover, an Excerpt

A recent comment by Greg Taylor pointed out that if I keep mentioning that my writing has improved with the cast of Subject 13, then maybe I really should post an example.  I agree.  Thus, a snippet from Crossover, a NaNoWriMo project that involved Nasty and two other heroes from the S13-verse.  Again, Nasty has a foul mouth, so reader discretion advised.  The snippet starts after the cut.

26 Aug 2013

Creating Characters II - Names

Last time, I showed where my characters came from.  Now, they need names.  Some of them are helpful and tell me their name.  Others quickly get a name.  Some, still, require work.

Typically, I can get a first name for most main and recurring supporting characters.  I've used theme naming in two works.  One was a fanfic continuing from where the anime left off, so I used the naming convention from that; the other, which used alcohol types and brands, was all my own.  Most of the time, I try to avoid theme naming unless the character's parents are the type to engage in that.

I once took a course on creative writing, a short one offered by the City of Ottawa and taught by a magazine editor.  One of the things she mentioned is that characters are influenced by their parents, including the names.  There's two ways to approach the idea.  The first is to figure out who the parents are and then how they would come up with the character's name.  The other is start with the character and then work backwards.

I tend to use the second method the most.  A good example is from /Subject 13 - Nasty herself.  I began with just her and her nickname.  From there, I expanded her name so that Nasty worked as a nickname, and came up with Natasha.  I then gave her a last name, Giuliano, which implied her heritage, Italian.  Working from there, I figured out her mother's name, Maria, but working out what an Italian Catholic would name a girl.  It doesn't explain why Maria named her daughter Natasha, a name that derives from Russian.  I've worked out an explanation, but it won't be revealed until Issue 55 or so.

Another factor to consider is nicknames.  Again, I'll point at Nasty, who is referred by her nickname even in the narrative.  Meanwhile, over at the Lethal Ladies, Allison is the only one to get a nickname, Allie.  The other Ladies have names that aren't easily turned into nicknames, either because of length (Rose), lack of a good alternative (Amber), or refusal to answer to one (Elena).  Meanwhile, in Subject 13, nicknames abound.  Nasty (short for Natasha and reflective of her personality), Rennie (short for Renata), Jess and Jessie (short for Jessica), Rusty (from her hair colour), Stormie (reflective of her personality), and Skeet (long, untold story).  The difference between the two stories may come from the difference in cast size; Subject 13 has a far larger cast.

Last names, or family names, are also important to a character's identity.  Even though many characters are easily referred to by just one name, for example, Buffy, they mostly have a last name or family name, with those without being the exception and a key part of the character's background.  Sometimes, I'll be limited in the range of names.  A Russian character won't have an Irish surname, and a fantasy character might not have a family name, just a trade or home village.  Looking at the Threefold, I wanted Miriam's last name to reflect her heritage, thus becoming Miriam Goldman.  Astrid, meanwhile, was named after her mother's favourite children's writer and thus doesn't really have a tie to her last name.  Since the Threefold's story is set in a modern setting, this isn't a problem.  In a fantasy setting, the mix-and-match style won't work.  Rufus, that most excellent priest, never received a last name.  My last PC for D&D Encounters was called Varendae of Shadowdale; her home village was, indeed, Shadowdale.

With last names, I don't always have an idea of what I want.  I tend to look for names that work well with the character's given name.  Closing credits of movies are a good place to look, especially outside the cast.  Few people notice the names unless they stand out, like Killmaster.  For nationalities that are under-represented in Hollywood, there are other options.  Eastern European and Nordic names can be found on NHL rosters.  Anime credits are good for Japanese names.  Hong Kong cinema provides Chinese names.  When in doubt, pick a year divisible by four and look up the Olympic team for the country of your choice for that year.

There are a few other little tips and tricks I keep in mind.  Never use two names that sound similar, unless that's part of the plot.  It avoids confusion between the two.  Avoid names that start with the same letter, unless the sound is completely different between the two.  I ran into the issue with Lethal Ladies with Amber and Allison.  If one had been Amy instead, the confusion might not have occurred.  Not everyone has a fancy name.  I know more Daves than I have any right to in real life.  Minor characters can break these guidelines; Steve the barista and Steve the gunman aren't going to cause issues if they appear in different chapters.

In short, names are important.  They give the reader a way to remember the character, helping to make that blob of a personality a definition.

23 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies #4 - George Washington High School

St. Louis, Missouri
George Washington High School
26-JUN-2007  1155

Maria Velasco inherited many of her mother's traits, hair, eye colour, height, but patience was once trait she didn't share.  She paced around in front of the school's main entrance, wearing a trail into the pavement.  Several of her classmates walked past, eyes glazed over from the final exam.  Maria waved at them, then continued venting her annoyance by walking.  She saw her mother's blue Ford Taurus pull into driveway and pull to a stop near her.  Maria stomped over to the car.  "You're late," she accused.

"Sorry, honey," Rose said as she opened the door.  "Meeting ran late.  How did your exam go?"

"I think I passed."  Maria slipped into the passenger seat.  "I don't see why I had to take this class.  It's so boring."

Rose slipped the car into gear.  "So you get into a good college, Maria.  We've been over this."

"But I don't want to be a geography-person.  Why can't I be a fashion designer?"

"You still need to know where places are in the world.  What if you got invited to Paris when you become a fashion designer?"

"I know where Paris is, Mom.  It's in France."

"Have you seen how the Parisiens laid out the streets?  You need to be able to read a map just to get around."

Maria snorted and folded her arms over her chest.  "I still think it's boring."

"As long as you passed, I don't care if can be used as an anaesthetic.  What do you want for lunch?"

"I don't know."  Maria shrugged.  "Something good, I guess."

"Want me to choose?"

Maria shrugged.  "I don't know."

"There's a sushi place that opened up downtown."

"Ew!  No.  What about that buffet place we keep passing?  Not the Chinese restaurant, but near the highway."

Rose nodded.  "Sounds good to me."  She merged into traffic and began the trip to lunch.  "How was your day, despite the exam?"

"I'm glad I'm done school for the year.  I get to sleep in for a change."

"Not for the whole summer, you're not.  There's stuff I want you to do over the summer."

"Can't.  Summer camp, remember?"  Maria stuck out her tongue.

"That starts up next month.  You're not out of your chores that easily, Maria."

"But, Mom."

"You can sleep in if, and I mean it, if you can keep up on your chores and if you don't antagonize Pascal.  Got me?"


"Good."  Rose turned to entered the highway on-ramp.

"I'm busy this Saturday night, though."

Rose glanced over at her daughter.  "Oh?"

"Tanya's throwing a school's out party at her place."

"Are Tanya's parents going to be there?"

"Yeah.  Mrs. Lowe suggested it.  Oh, I'll need a new swim suit.  They got their pool put in finally."

Rose merged her Taurus into the faster traffic.  "We'll go shopping for one tomorrow."

"I just need a ride.  Jenna, Loren, and me are going to the mall tomorrow to pick some out."

"Let me know when.  Are there going to be any boys there?"

Maria rolled her eyes.  "Duh."   She noticed her mother checking her mirror longer than normal.  "Something wrong?"

"Nothing.  You're buckled up, right?"

Maria pulled on her seat belt.  "Yes, why?"

"Nothing.  Just work related."

"Should I get the gun out of the glove compartment?"

"No, and I don't want you or Pascal touching it, ever."

"I know, Mom.  Sheesh."

Rose glanced in the mirror again.  "Maria, hang on."  As her daughter grabbed on to the door handle, Rose stepped on the accelerator.  The Taurus's engine revved and the car surged forward, threading through the traffic.  Maria looked out the back window.  "Who's following us?"

"Not sure."  Rose did a shoulder check.  "I think they're gone."

Maria faced forward.  "Which job is this?"

Rose glanced at the girl.  "You know better to ask, Maria."

"I've never been with you when you've been chased before."

"I wouldn't call this a chase.  More of a failed attempt at following me.  Nothing to worry about.  Besides, lunch is just this much closer now."

22 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies #3 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first.

A note on how I broke up the scenes: For a lack of a better idea, I went with a date, time, and location stamp.  I'm still working on finding a good length for the posting here.  The date belonged to the year following instead of the same year.  The time was worked out roughly based on when I wanted certain events to happen and adjusted accordingly.  The street names are real.  Google Maps are a great resource, especially with Street View.  If I needed to know the traffic density, Google could also provide that, as well as St. Louis newspapers and TV and radio stations.

Amber gets her big debut in this scene.  As I mentioned in the first commentary, Amber was adapted from filling the rigger role in the Shadowrun team idea I had.  She became the team's designated driver, which means it's a good thing she doesn't drink.  Instead, she enjoys coffee, or something that is coffee-like but more caffeinated.  Beyond coffee and cars, Amber's other interests include anime.  She also tends to speak far older than she really is.

The choice of the Lancer came from the video game Gran Turismo 2; I had raced it on rally courses.  Amber, being well into driving, has done her share of rallying, so the decision to have her drive a Lancer was easy to make.  Amber loves driving.  Not many people love being with her when she drives, though.  Elena is one such person, though an age difference also is in effect.  Amber also became my walking pop culture reference maker; the references are usually lost on Elena.

After the scene change, Allison finally get her proper intro.  Originally the decker in the Shadowrun idea, she became Velasco Investigations' IT expert and hacker.  Her stretch was one part fanservice (in a medium where she's not given a full description ^_^;;) and one part showing that she's graceful.  Allison maintains a desk in the server room as well as out in an office of her own.  Given that St. Louis has an average high of 30 degrees Celcius (86 Farenheit) in June before humidity, working in the server room, where air conditioning is needed to keep the computers from melting from their own heat output*.

In another technology marches on moment, the laptop losing its wired network connection wouldn't cause error beeps; it'd just switch over to wireless.  Well, it would provided the network administrator allowed for wireless connections.  Allison takes her job seriously and is up on security risks, both exploiting them and defending against them.  Of course, today, she'd have a laptop as her primary computer and a tablet PC for meetings.

I wanted to show that the Ladies aren't rookies.  "By the numbers" indicates that they have a set of procedures that they normally follow.  Allison's protests, in the form of math humour, shows that Rose is going outside normal processes.  Amber doesn't deal well with changes.  Read Elena's line to her as if she were Amber's parent and having to explain, patiently yet again, what has to be done.

Going back a bit, I once posted a Shadowrun snippet, an intro to the setting.  The correlation isn't one-to-one with the commenters - Numbers, Treehugger, Oswald, and Charles - there, but Numbers evolved a little from Allison while Treehugger evolved from Amber.  There are differences; Numbers is more reserved than Allison while Treehugger isn't caffeinated like Amber, but they runners share an evolutionary path with the Ladies.

Tomorrow, picking up daughters and tails.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, spin-offs.
Still to come, more character notes, more NaNo Prep, the Traveller story to get its own page, and more!

* Ottawa sees similar temperatures.  I once was very happy to go into a server room to reboot a connection because it was stupidly hot.  Sweat ran in sheets on my forehead.

16 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies #3 - Southbound, North Florissant Avenue

St. Louis, Missouri
Southbound, North Florissant Avenue
26-JUN-2007  0935

Elena gripped the door handle of the Mitsubishi Lancer hard enough to turn her knuckles white.  "Please, Amber, I want to get there and back in one piece."

Amber Truswell laughed.  "There was plenty of space."  The Lancer's engine dropped into a throaty purr as Amber changed gears.

"If one is a gnat, perhaps.  I, however, am not.  Please slow down."

15 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies #2 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter before continuing.

The titling of the "chapters" were one issue I hadn't thought of when I started serializing the story.  Ultimately, I went with the location of the first scene; in the case of last week's entry, Velasco Investigations.  In 2006, I hadn't had a clue about how to chapter a story.  Previously, it was all works of under 5000 words, or split up at natural breaking points.  Lethal Ladies wasn't designed to be episodic.  Considering that the story was written for NaNoWriMo, it wasn't really designed.

Elena makes a proper intro here.  As mentioned last time, she was originally conceived as an Eagle Shaman for Shadowrun.  Her character changed the most when adapting the story to the new form; Elena became Russian.  Her last name, Gshalaevna, was found during a name search.  Later Russian names would be taken from hockey team rosters.  For those wondering, yes, there is a reason why Elena is Russian.  That reason will get revealed later.

In Shadowrun, most sessions start with the team meeting either a corporate liaison known as Mr. Johnson or a go-between known as a fixer* to negotiate a job.  Think of it as the job interview, except that the job is illegal and needs to be untraceable.  Once the team and Mr. Johnson/the fixer have talked about the job, prices get offered.  The same happens with Sexton.  Rose explains the costs, the risks she, Elena, and the rest of the team are taking.  I had Elena write the number down on a piece of paper and not discussed so that inflation didn't suddenly turn the expense into something from petty cash.

The meeting goes by fast enough that Tyler didn't get a chance to bring the coffee in.  Elena and Rose have time to discuss and figure that some legwork is needed.  The job, retrieving floor plans from a warehouse, sounds too easy for the special services.

Tomorrow, the legwork.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, a link roundup of news about remakes and adaptations.
Coming soon, hopefully, more NaNo prep work (two and a half months to go!) and character creation notes.

* Fixers are the people who know people who know people, and can arrange a meeting for a price.

9 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies #2 - Velasco Investigations

St. Louis, Missouri
Velasco Investigations
26-JUN-2007  0845

Elena and Rose sat in the conference room, a study in contrast.  Rose's navy blue business casual outfit provided the sombre backdrop for Elena's white skirt-and-jacket combination.  Both sat at the head of the table; several chairs, more than enough for all of the agencies investigators to sit around during the weekly staff meetings, lined the remaining sides.  Tyler entered with Sexton following.  "Here they are, sir.  Coffee should be ready shortly."  The admin assistant left, closing the door behind her.

Rose stood up.  "Ray, thank you for coming.  I'm sorry for making you wait, but the extra services we provide are through word of mouth."

"I understand," Sexton said.  He looked over at Elena.  "I don't believe we met."

"Ray Sexton, this is my partner, Elena Gshalaevna.  Elena is also works on the special services Velasco Investigations offers."

Elena offered her hand.  "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Sexton."

Ray took her hand into his.  "The pleasure is mine, and, please, call me Ray."


"Ray," Rose began, "before we even talk about the job, we have to bring up payment.  The services you are asking for involves high risk for us.  Not only could our licenses be revoked, we, Elena and myself, could be risking jail terms.  The compensation must reflect the risks."

Elena presented a sheet of paper.  "This is a history of the work we've done and the associated fees.  Naturally, names have been omitted and everything is listed in general terms."  She slid the paper over to Sexton.

Sexton sat down and read the figures.  "This is steep."

"Of course, the figure is adjustable depending on what you want done.  The less risk to us, the less you have to pay us."

Rose added, "Perhaps if you told us what you wanted, we can give you a more accurate estimate."

Sexton set his briefcase on the table.  "I have  the details in here."  He opened the case and pulled out a file folder full of paper.  "The target is here."  Sexton slid a map over to Rose and Elena.  "A warehouse along the river.  It's unmarked except for its address.  The objective is somewhere in there."

"Somewhere?" Rose asked.  "No specifics?"

"If I had specifics, would I need you?"

"Excellent point," Elena said.  "What is the objective?"

"A set of floor plans."

Rose snorted.  "Held at a warehouse in an industrial park?"

Sexton held his hands up in surrender.  "I didn't put it there.  From what we can tell, that's where the plans are.  All we need are photographs.  I'll even supply the camera."

Elena scratched some figures on a pad, then slid it over to Sexton.  "Plus expenses, of course."

Sexton read the number.  His eyes went wide.  "I wasn't expecting this much.  I'll have to get approval."

"Understandable," Rose said.

"I'll call to let you know what the decision is."  Sexton stood up.  "Even if I don't get the approval, it has been good doing business with you."

Elena stood up and started walking around the table.  "Thank you for thinking of us."

Rose remained seated.  "And thank you for coming this morning.  Ask Tyler to get you a cup of coffee before you leave."

Sexton nodded, then left the conference room.  Elena looked over at Rose.  "What do you think?"

Rose shrugged.  "Not sure."

"Maria's rubbing off on you."


"Your answer."

Rose glared.  "Just because I spend time with my daughter--"

"It's cute, I'll give you that.  However, that doesn't answer my question.  What's your impression of 'Ray'."

"I think we should get the payment up front."

Elena nodded.  "My impression, too.  I want to take a drive out to the warehouse."

"Wouldn't hurt.  Take Amber with you, just in case."

"Wouldn't think of leaving her behind."  Elena left the conference room.

8 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies - Commentary 1

Keeping with the tradition started with Subject 13.  I'll comment on the parts of Lethal Ladies posted.  As always, please read the chapter before continuing.

Lethal Ladies was my first ever NaNoWriMo effort.  A friend was a Municipal Liaison for Ottawa and convinced me to try.  The goal, that November of 2006, was to write a 50 000 word novel.  At the time, I was writing mainly fanfiction, though the later works were starting to go beyond the original work.  I was creating new plots and new characters to run alongside the original work's storyline.  At that point, I figured that all I needed to do was create my own setting.

The characters for Lethal Ladies came from a Shadowrun idea I had.  I decided to file off the serial numbers by moving the time to modern day, relocating from Seattle to St. Louis, removing all traces of magic, and turning my shadowrunners into a legitimate private investigation firm that does extra work for knowing clients.

The first of the Lethal Ladies introduced is Rose Velasco, the owner and senior partner of Velasco Investigations.  Rose started in the Shadowrun idea as the Yellow Rose of Texas, a street samurai inspired by a Rick Harris illustration in a Shadowrun supplement.  The changes made were to remove the cybernetics, age her, and give her a family and new background.  The age will come in play soon enough.  Meanwhile, Tyler, the admin assistant and office manager, was created specifically for the story.

Rose's afternoon appointment is with a potential new client, Ray Sexton.  Sexton wants the special services, the ones that don't get placed into the filing cabinet.  The Atlanta cola company rumours is just that, a rumour.  Rose is savvy enough to not admit or deny the rumour, though.  The references allows Rose to verify the person who asks for the extracurricular activities.  The risks involved in the extra work require ensuring that the person asking is legit and not a plant.

Elena was also from the original Shadowrun idea.  There, she was an Eagle shaman.  Now, she's a Russian immigrant and Rose's partner.  Amber, of the caffeinated buzz, was the rigger* in the Shadowrun concept and has become the company's driver and mechanic.  Amber and her coffee become a running theme through the story.  Right now, suffice to say that Amber likes her coffee strong and black.  No idea about her men.  Allison was the hacker in the original idea and became Velasco Investigation's network administrator.  When the characters get a full introduction in the story, I'll elaborate further.

The discussion between Rose and Elena about Sal Becker is to establish that the company and the Lethal Ladies have done under the table work before and were successful.  The call to Sal, one sided, was an exercise to see if I can manage a telephone call that was informative but without Rose repeating everything Sal said.  The aside to Elena was the only time Rose repeated anything.  I'll leave it to the reader to decide if the conversation worked.

The chapter ends with Rose having to go pick up her teenaged daughter, Maria.  This was more to show that there is more to the world than just the office.  The mention of Maria also created some plot lines later and helped establish Rose's age without mentioning any numbers.

Tomorrow, details about the job.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, a look at superhero adaptations now that the Avengers Adaptation series has wrapped up.
Coming soon, more character creation thoughts, and more NaNo prep work.

* A getaway driver with implants to interface with the vehicle at the machine level.

2 Aug 2013

Lethal Ladies: Case File 001 – The Ouroboros Mission - Part 1

St. Louis, Missouri
Velasco Investigations
25-JUN-2007  1258

"Rose, your one pm appointment is here.  He's waiting at reception."

Rose quickly stashed the remains of her lunch out of sight, to the dismay of her admin assistant.  Swallowing the last bite of her sandwich, she said, "Send him in, Tyler, but take your time.  Give me a chance to straighten up."  She brushed a lock of her salt-and-pepper hair out of her eyes.

Tyler rolled her eyes and sighed.  "There's sauce on your collar."  She left, closing the door behind her.

Rose looked over her desk, amazed at how the paperwork could grow and cover the surface like algae.  She gathered the loose paper and slipped them into a drawer, then tossed plastic wrap from her sandwich into the trash.  By the time Tyler returned with the potential client, Rose was back in her seat, ready.

"Here she is, sir," Tyler said.  "Rose Velasco, CEO of Velasco Investigations.  If you need anything, buzz me."  She left, fingering her shirt collar.

Rose stood up and offered her hand.  "Thank you for coming, Mr. Sexton."

"Please, call me Ray."  He shook the proffered hand.  "Thanks for seeing me on such short notice."

"How can Velasco Investigations help you, Ray?"  Rose motioned for her visitor to take a seat.

"It's not what the company can do.  It's your special services."

Rose raised an eyebrow.  "Special services?"

"Rumour has it that you were responsible for keeping a certain Atlanta cola company's secret formula a secret."

"Rumour has a lot of things, Ray."

Ray smirked.  "And I did get a reference.  Sal Becker passed along your name.  He was very impressed with your work."

"Sal . . . Sal . . . ah, yes, Sal, I remember what he wanted.  Well, Ray, if that's what you're looking for, I'm sure you'll understand that I'll have to talk to Sal.  A mere formality.  Can I call you at four?"

"Certainly, Ms Velasco."

Rose smiled.  "Please, call me Rose."  She lead the way to the door.  "I'll let Tyler know what's going on.  She can show you the way out."  Rose opened the door.  "Tyler, Mr. Sexton will need a follow-up appointment.  Can you squeeze him in for tomorrow morning?"

Tyler nodded.  "I'll fit him in somehow.  And Elena would like to see you."

"Elena's my partner," Rose explained to Ray.  "She's the one who handles the books.  I'll call you at four and let you know."

"Thank you for seeing me," Ray said.  He left the office.

Rose let out a breath.  "Tyler, ask Elena to come see me when she can.  I have a few calls to make."

"Anything else, Rose?"

"Coffee.  Next time you go out for some, get me a small espresso."  Rose dug into the pocket of her crimson slacks and pulled out some bills.  She handed two twenties to Tyler.  "Find out what the rest of the office wants."

"Amber has coffee brewing."

"Amber has a caffeine-based drug brewing.  I'm surprised the DEA hasn't raided us to get her coffee pot.  If that's not enough, I'll pay you back."

Tyler picked up her purse.  "Elena first, right?"

"Right."  Rose returned to her office.  She checked the thermometer; the air conditioning was doing its job, keeping the room comfortable.  A knock came from the door.  "Come in!"

A woman with platinum blonde hair threatening to turn steel grey entered.  "Tyler said you wanted to see me?"

"Elena, yes.  Remember Sal Becker?"

The blonde nodded.  "We retrieved the design of his competitor's new gadget for him.  I believe the patent lawsuit is coming up in court next month."

"That was him?  I thought he was the guy who wanted dirt on Sony."

"No, Sal wanted the plans for the electronic toy.  I remember Allison's reaction to the design.  She muttered about it all the way back here."

"Oh, right.  Anyway, we have someone interested in the unadvertised part of the business, and he mentioned Sal."

Elena sat down.  "Have you called Sal?"  She adjusted her charcoal grey skirt before crossing her legs.

"Just about to do that."  Rose flipped through her address book, then picked up the phone.  "Remind me to shred this."  She tapped the number into the phone.  After two rings, she heard the line pick up.  "Hi, my name is Rose Velasco.  I'd like to speak with Mr. Sal Becker.  Yes, I'll hold."  She swayed in time with the hold music.  Elena just shook her head.  "Oh, yes, thanks," Rose said.  "Ah, Mr. Becker, hello.  My name is Rose Velasco from--  Yes, Sal, Allison is doing well.  I'll tell her you asked about her.  How is your wife?  Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."  Rose covered the mouthpiece with her hand.  "Gout acting up," she mouthed to Elena.  She uncovered the phone.  "I'm sure my family would love to join yours for the long weekend.  I'll ask Elena.  Sal, I just have to do a bit of business here, first.  Do you know a Ray Sexton?  You do?  And that was my next question.  Thanks, Sal, and I'll ask Elena and let you know.  Take care, now.  Definitely.  Bye, Sal."  Rose hung up the phone.

"Well?" Elena prompted.

"Sal recommended Sexton to us.  And he's invited us out for Fourth of July celebrations.  You may want to go, all things considered."

Elena waved a hand in the air.  "You know how I feel about things like that."

"Still.  Anyway, Sexton comes with a good reference.  I'll call him after Tyler comes back from the coffee run."

"Amber's has a fresh pot."

"I want to sleep the next few nights, thanks."

Elena stood up.  "I'll go tell the girls about the potential job.  I'm sure Allison will be happy."  She left as Tyler opened the door.

"Hi, Tyler, coffee run go okay?"

Tyler held out a large styrofoam cup and some change.  "Amber didn't want any."

Rose smiled.  "Thanks.  Not surprising, though."

"You still have to pick up Maria from class."

"Damn, almost forgot.  If there's new business, pass it along to Elena or to Brandon.  I'll be back in an hour.  Two if Maria's having an angst attack."

1 Aug 2013

Subject 13 #30 - Commentary

As always, please read the issue before continuing.

Issue 30 turned out to be lengthy.  A lot happened that I could have split into two separate issues if I had thought about it.  The issue starts with Nasty being called into action after school while the threat of Famine, one of the Apocalyptic Horsepersons approaches Rochester.  The police and the Eagle Foundation want to keep rioting and looting to a minimum, and two heroes can protect a city better than one.  The specific threat is El Diablo Verde, The Green Devil, a hitman from Mexico.

I managed to expand the S13-verse with the introduction of Los Angeles-based All Stars.  Most comic book heroes, especially in the Marvel and DC universes, are based out of New England if not out of New York City, with the exceptions* of national heroes, like Marvel's Alpha Flight, based in Canada, and DC's Fire and Ice, from Brazil and Norway respectively.  Historically, the New York centrism stems from the publishers being based in the city.  As the influence of the West Coast grew, especially Hollywood, comics didn't expand and stayed either in fictional cities, like DC's Metropolis and Gotham City, or in New England.  Marvel's West Coast Avengers/Avengers West came about in the late 80s and early 90s, long after the Avengers started in the 60s.  Marvel even went so far to explain in The Runaways that a spell caused heroes to ignore the West Coast.  Me, I decided here's a good point to show that the West Coast has heroes, like Hollywood Hills**.

Nasty, naturally, has concerns.  She is well aware of her limits - she can hit people and she can swear.  But, go after El Diablo Verde she does, for she is the hero.  Just, not the normal sort of hero as the skulking man points out.  Nasty doesn't believe in a fair fight.  The skulker has a choice of two bad options, let Nasty know where the Green Devil is and risk being killed by him, or not tell Nasty anything and be in severe pain for the rest of his life.  Fortunately, El Diablo Verde steps out of the shadows to introduce himself.

Initially, I had some trouble working out El Diablo Verde's personality.  Originally, he was starting to look like a leg-breaker more than a suave assassin.  His dealings with the All Stars and his fight against Hollywood Hills certainly shows that he is a powerhouse.  However, I tested different voices for him.  When I read /El Diablo Verde's/ lines as if they were spoken by Ricardo Montalban, things clicked.  The Green Devil became the professional I needed.  Anyone can have dumb muscle; people will pay for smart hitman.

The comment about Nasty's accent when saying his name came from the difference between an Italian and a Spanish accent.  I took Italian for a year in university as a way to avoid writing essays.  I had taken French through out elementary and secondary school; bilingualism is a requirement for a decent job here.  Several of the other students in class, though, had taken Spanish in high school, and got through the class by speaking Spanish with an Italian accent.  Nasty does know Italian, having learned it from her mother and grandparents.  Pronouncing El Diablo Verde without mangling the name is easy enough for her.

Nasty isn't dumb.  She's smart enough to stay at both Seward in New York and Fieldson in Rochester, even if she has to work hard.  She can make the obvious connection, the one I was wondering about - why is the Green Devil in Rochester?  Well, yes, he's being paid to be there.  By who?  I have no idea and he's not telling.  I did say he was a professional assassin.  He wouldn't remain one long if he told everyone who he worked for, unless that was in the contract.

The other problem I ran into is that the Green Devil is more experienced and more powerful than Nasty.  A fight would leave her in the hospital.  She does do some posturing, more for her sake than his, but she isn't eager to punch him.  Nasty lays down her options to the Green Devil, who offers a third.

The Foundation wasn't expecting the third option, either.  They're being very careful, but the Green Devil hasn't done anything to cause them to react and New York State doesn't have any warrants on him.  Here's where I take a little bit of liberty with American laws.  International law requires a country to ask for extradition, something usually pre-arranged in a treaty.  American states aren't quite separate nations, as much as a few might wish they were.  But, state police can't cross state lines to arrest a criminal except under certain circumstances, and an outstanding warrant in one state may not mean, at least in the S13-verse, that the police in one jurisdiction have to send an alleged criminal to another.  Or, at least, it can be rules-lawyered as such in extenuating circumstances.  Special Agent Johnson disagrees with me.

Special Agent Johnson of the FBI is a shout out to Die Hard, where all the FBI agents were Johnson.  Naturally, the FBI has a division specifically for powered criminals, such as the Green Devil.  This is a bit more world-building; in a world where superpowers are known, there will be a need for law enforcement agencies to be able to respond.  Thus, the FBI has its Special Enforcement and Investigation Branch.  The RCMP has its own, as do state police and police departments of large cities, like New York.  Jurisidictional disputes do make for decent conflict.

Nasty and El Diablo Verde did make a connection.  They do respect each other somewhat.  He was impressed that Peregrine didn't go in charging, was willing to listen, and realized why he was there.  Nasty was relieved not to get hit, and gained appreciation when she realized that he was a professional, like Micki.  Micki doesn't like the comparison.

The issue ends with Nasty seeing how hard it is to be a hero, the responsibilities, the tough decisions.  Experience is the best teacher at times, but the lessons can be hard to take.  Anne helps by pointing out what Nasty did accomplish, despite creating a relations headache with the FBI.

Issue 30 marks the end of what I had prepared for Subject 13.  Issue 31 is the stumbling block.  Most of the major action, the fight against Famine, will be offscreen for the most part.  The battle will take place over Lake Ontario and involved a number of heroes from both Canada and the US, along with military support, including CF-18 squadrons from Bagotville and as much artillery the New York National Guard can bring up.  Nasty, however, doesn't have either a flight power or a ranged attack power, and has to be relegated to the sidelines, dealing with minor threats popping up and debris from the fight, like the tail section of a National Guard A-10.

I do have plans for after the battle with Famine.  There is a missing issue where Nasty fights off a supervillain with electrical powers while keeping her identity secret from Rusty.  The Consortium will finally make their move on Nasty, which will lead to a mindscape arc.  After that, Nasty realizes that she needs to go back home, but goes public about the Consortium first.  Once home, she and Maria have a reunion, she returns to Seward and Eric and Tia.  The school's senior semi-formal arrives, leading to Nasty's first serious dance with complications.  Long term plans for Nasty include meeting her father and his family, college, a younger sister, a new career, love and heartbreak, her own child, and the difficulties of having gone public.

Other parts of the S13-verse include Prototype Alpha, a powered suit wearer who fights crime and world domination in Toronto, The Youth Brigade, teen superheroes in New York, and The Global Vanguard, the world's premier superhero group.  Crossover brings together Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and The Youth Brigade to stop an inter-dimensional threat.

Tomorrow, I start a new serial with the Lethal Ladies.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, the last of the Avengers Adaptation.
Coming soon, details of other works and more notes on character creation.

* And other exceptions, such as when writers and editors realize that there's an area of the US not covered.
** If no company has thought about using that name, I'm ahead of them!