Endgame: Seven Times Seventy
The big thing here was to establish Khalid's death and Ramon's resurrection. (Wow, Biblical all over the place!) To me, Khalid had to be shown "dead" for a few reasons. First, nobody would ever stop looking for him if Ray couldn't prove Khalid was dead. Yes, he's still got to provide tangible proof, but at least they'll know he's not lying when he says Khalid is dead.
Second, it removes Khalid from the storyline. I'm not a huge fan of "villain keeps coming back even when they think he's dead" plots, so yeah, unless I really change my mind later, Khalid's dead. I debated mentioning any of Khalid's offspring, but I don't know yet if he had any. He doesn't seem like a parenting kind of guy; I suspect any offspring would be purely accidental.
Third, Khalid's death avoids the problem of meeting himself later. If he went back in time and died before he was born, that means he couldn't possibly meet himself. So no paradoxes there. ^_~
It saddles Ray with a helluva problem, of course, which I touched on in the comments. But maybe this is why he seemed completely ignorant of Khalid's villainous exploits...
There really aren't any unused pictures from Endgame 7. The hospital set is actually a spare room in the Dumont household. I had to wait for Ramon to be tired enough to sleep in the bed, then edited out the Z's. The green glow is pretty close to the green "healing aura" in CoX; I'm still experimenting with glow-type effects. In CoX, Dumont was originally an empathy/mind control defender (!) because CoV wasn't out yet, and I wanted to figure out what his powers would be. The Aligned (the villains with the shards) didn't have a healer yet, so Dumont was it. He also had teleport powers, both himself and TP other people to his location. I think I worked up his entire powerset early on; I just never played him. ;)
Now, for Ramon's mental issues. ^_^ Khalid had a 'spoilsport' spell/power dropped on Ramon; if Ramon betrayed Khalid, Ramon would die. However, with Khalid's death, the effect would be lifted. Khalid didn't "die" until he went back into the past, whereupon he suddenly really was dead and buried in Moth Cemetery, but that counts. A little after that, Dumont tried the resurrection and it worked. I figure Ramon was at the boundary of how long you can be dead, since you apparently can't resurrect CoX people after a certain time or we wouldn't have those body bags to go recover in certain missions.
On the other hand, Ramon's love for Eric was caused not by Khalid, but by repeated zaps from a prototype gaydiation ray. Nobody knows this, except possibly Dumont. Dumont wasn't there, of course - you might remember that it was Cassandra Grunt who used the ray gun, thinking it would kill Ramon somehow - but Dumont later bought a finished model of the gaydiation ray from Doc Rayvn, so Dumont knows what its powers are like. (In case you're wondering, he had it modified to deliver subliminal advertising instead, and market-tested it, but it proved too costly with today's technology to be of widespread use, so the product was shelved.) So Dumont suspects someone's used a gaydiation ray, or something similar, on Ramon; he's just not sure who, or where they got the gun, or whether it worked on the same principles.
"You mean you can fix what's wrong with me? Really?!"
"I'm not a miracle worker, Jeffries."
Endgame: Eight Arms to Hold You
This one... what I was trying to get across, actually, was "not all people who don't like gays are evil". Yes, Iris certainly is. But is Ryan? No. Ryan doesn't like homosexuality. He also grew up in a culture that was highly anti-gay, so of course to him that's normal. He's willing to tolerate it, at least for now, in his older brother Joe/Teff, but that's probably because Ryan idolized Teff when they were younger. Whether Ryan can accept it past this first declaration by Teff is another thing.
(In-game, the brothers are thick as thieves. Teff gossips to Ryan about anything. Guess he's filling him in on the neighborhood. In this case, they're talking about poor dead Doc Rayvn and how he set fire to something. That happened, like, 18 months ago in real time. You'd think Doc had burned down the house. Teff wasn't even there!)
To me, Guy's thoughts that "The kid's just ignorant" are only that - Guy's thoughts. Ryan isn't necessarily ignorant, either. He is scared about what's gone on, and having your brother suddenly come out of the closet isn't helping. And let's face it - Guy is not being the most gracious host at the moment, either. It's understandable, what with everything going on, but Guy isn't trying to be nice to Ryan. Not sure if anyone's picked up on that. ^_^
This installment was originally much, much darker in tone, and was going to prove quite divisive to the Marlin family. On the one hand, you have Guy, who's openly gay and fine with it, because he never knew a world where he couldn't be openly gay. Even Khalid's attack was about the shard, not about orientation.
On the other hand, you have Teff, who would really rather not be gay at all. He wanted to be straight so badly that he agreed to enslave himself to the shard (back when it was still "alive") in exchange for it changing his brain around. The shard was destroyed before it could "fix" Teff, and at that point Teff mostly just gave up and resigned himself to always being miserable and self-loathing.
Older son Aaron, meanwhile, is gay, and since the Outskirts is fairly gay-friendly, sides with Guy on a lot of gay-related things, like being open about it (much to Teff's distress). To Aaron, Guy is the favored parent, the one who's got his head on straight (so to speak), and Teff is stubborn for not feeling the same way; Aaron literally can't understand why Teff feels the way he does.
Younger son Joe, the one straight male in the household, sees it from a different point of view. To him, Teff is more worthy, because Teff just tries to be a good parent, spouse and person, and not trumpet "hey, I'm gay!" from the rooftops. Remember, Aaron grew up in a comparatively stress-free household, being several years older than Joe. Joe grew up with Iris in the house, and with Aaron's decisions to date boys causing family strife. To Joe, keeping family peace and not bothering Teff are paramount. Joe can't understand why Aaron insists on doing things that cause trouble in the family.
Then there's Ryan. I want Ryan to be sympathetic, but I also don't want the traditional (and, to me, cliche) "Homophobe comes around and discovers gay people are okay too". For starters, Ryan's not a homophobe. I don't even like that word, but it's a popular one and people like to toss it around. Ryan doesn't like homosexuality. Admittedly, probably his brother is the first one he's ever known personally, and Ryan's still dealing with the shock of Teff's announcement. Ryan loves Teff as the big brother he is; based on his exposure to gays (via the media), Teff doesn't act like "they" do. He knows that, in their small home town, being branded gay is a terrible thing, which is why he beat up someone who said as much about Teff.
Knowing that, he doesn't want to think of Teff as gay. It doesn't fit with the image he has of his brother. That's why Teff tells him "I'm still the same person. I still hunt..." Ryan doesn't want to think of his brother with another man, because he finds that personally upsetting. Teff knows that, and so all he's asking for is a chance of acceptance, not "you must still love me and my ways no matter what".
Also, Guy's initial words to Ryan aren't encouraging. Instead of "Ryan, you're welcome to stay with us if you want," Guy says, "[Teff,] your brother can stay if he wants." He's ignoring Ryan completely in that initial exchange, and is very cold toward him in the rest of the installment. Guy thinks Ryan is a closed-minded bigot who might be "rehabilitated". Guy can't see that Ryan's just had a big shock - to Guy, admitting you're gay isn't that big of a deal. To Ryan and Teff, it is. So Guy isn't helping his own case. (And yes, Guy is jealous of Ryan. Irrational, but when was jealousy ever rational?)
It helped that in-game, Guy was kind of a jerk toward Ryan. He kept wanting to argue with him.
Ryan, for his part, isn't too impressed with Guy. Guy seems like some soft city dweller, not a "real man" like Ryan, Teff and their culture/time see them. Ryan's willing to give the benefit of the doubt - after all, if Teff thinks Guy is OK, there must be something good about him - but if Guy continues his snobbery toward Ryan, it's certainly not going to help matters.
So, to sum up, here's part of what I wanted to get across:
- People who don't like homosexuality aren't necessarily bigots;
- Gays can be just as bigoted as non-gays.
Whether I got those across or not, I don't know. I suspect I didn't manage it in the installment.
On to other topics. The other big theme in this installment was loss. Teff lost Ryan years ago, and Teff has blamed himself ever since. (Did the rest of his family blame him? We may find out.) Then Teff almost lost Guy, while Teff was out saving the neighborhood. Teff's practically in lockdown mode. If Guy had died... honestly, I think Teff couldn't have handled it.
So for Teff, the whole thing is playing hell with his emotions. He almost lost Guy, but didn't - yay! Ryan is back - omgyay! I have to come out of the closet - gahiwannadie! And being the macho kind of guy he is, he's not likely to talk to anyone about any of it. 9_9
Almost all the expressions in this were directly from normal interactions - Teff's yelling at people toward the end, and his running his hand through his hair, were about it as far as using expression hacks. I got a lot of good stuff out of this one. This installment actually took two photoshoots, because the first time around, Ryan was glitchy and had "frozen face" - he couldn't stop smiling. I hoped to use at least some of the pix (once I figured out what was going on) but couldn't, so I exited without save, then entered at a later time and he was OK. I think I got better pictures out of it at the end.
Ryan's looks were based on using Teff as a template, then slightly altering the facial structure. Most of you haven't read the CoX fics, so you wouldn't know this, but Ryan and Teff are actually half-brothers; Teff's dad left his mom when Teff was a toddler, she remarried, and later on his mom and stepdad had two children, Teff's younger (half)brothers. Teff called his stepdad "Pop" and treated him as though they were blood related, and his stepdad did the same. So Ryan, Josh (the youngest) and Teff all consider themselves full brothers, even though they know they're half-siblings.
Anyway, I altered Ryan's looks a bit, but kept him mostly the same, and then used a lighter brown hair color; genetically he's the same as Teff, brown hair and blue eyes. He looks very young, I think.
For reference, here's what Ryan would look like with Teff's shaggy hair. You can see the resemblance, and also the differences. Ryan seems to have a happier face.
(iceraptoress, remember this entry? I was thinking about it, and your comments, while writing Endgame 8.)
And, of course the title. I've been trying to match up the titles with the themes of each installment. Some of them are probably pretty subtle. ;) In this case, "Eight Arms to Hold You," it's meant to reference the family. Four people = eight arms. The question is, will it be four people welcoming Ryan? Or four people supporting Teff during this stressful time?
And (continuing the obscure reference thing) "Eight Arms to Hold You" was, as I noted, the original/working title for the movie Help! I used this song on the Nine-Tenths of the Law CoH soundtrack, when the shard begins to take over Eric's mind. I think the verses are appropriate here, too:
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I've never done before
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you bein' 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?
...See what I mean? Way too subtle. ;)