Two and a half months, 200,000+ words, and 60+ reviews. Quite frankly, I'm stunned I managed to get this story out in such a small amount of time, comparatively speaking. It wasn't an easy slog, let me tell you. Over the course of writing this thing, I've damn near burned myself out in trying to make every chapter as perfect as I could manage (still doesn't mean that the chapters are any good, mind you).
In any case, it's weird knowing that I have this story finished and now I have nothing left to write. Perhaps that might be a good thing, with what all of the people I've pissed off in the past few months and everything.
Oh well, you can't please everyone.
At the very least, I do hope that you did enjoy this story to some extent as I know that some of the decisions I've made were very…controversial, for lack of a better word. I had a lot of fun writing this thing and I really wanted to share this little tidbit that grew into an itch in my head. Guess writing about it was the only way that I could really scratch that itch.
However, I must take an aside and issue an apology in terms of what I did with the so-called "original concept" that was the basis of the story. Yes, having Shepard become a mechanical droid was something that I haven't seen much of in any fics before and I think that I nailed the overall tone in the first part of this trilogy, not doing my cockiness any favors there.
The only problem was…I kinda forgot about it in the other two parts.
I did mention that I wanted to understate that aspect slightly as I had run out of ideas to portray robot Shepard without being horribly blunt or obvious, so that decision was made knowingly. Unfortunately, once I had done that, I failed to realize in time that some of the magic was gone, that this was just another Shepard x Tali pairing story that followed the mold of the games. Believe me, if any of you were disappointed in that aspect, no one was more disappointed than me.
I mean, here was the one thing that made this story stand out (still doesn't mean that this was a good story, this isn't self-congratulation here) and I've gone and stuffed it. Hopefully, in the future, I would love to see someone else take a crack at the concept and see what ideas they can come up with that I could not. Maybe then, I could feel some sense of closure.
Or maybe I'm just rambling.
I do like writing descriptive dialogue that sets up the stage for the next installments. It offers me to get a crack at doing actual research for the Mass Effect universe so that I can put these concepts on paper. It's better than doing just bland dialogue back and forth for a whole chapter, you have to have something to break the monotony of it all.
Like so, I relish the chance to write fluff between Shepard and Tali, even if these exchanges are the hardest to write for me. It's a multitude of factors that can mean the difference between a realistic and romantic setup versus plain cheese. And the dialogue has to be not corny at all if you want to hook your audience into thinking this is a believable relationship.
That's not to say that I have necessarily done that. I'm a poor judge in this regard.
Opening: "Agnus Dei" by Elliot Goldenthal from the film Alien 3. A choral opening depicting the looming arrival of the Reapers upon Earth.
Titles: "God Particle" by Hans Zimmer from the film Angels and Demons. More choir in epic format denoting the higher stakes for this part.
One condition that I had when writing this story is that, aside from a few choice lines, no dialogue was to be taken from the actual games themselves. This was to make the entire experience seem fresh, as though the audience's expectations were going to be turned on their heads.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I had to write out every single nook and cranny verbatim. I made sure to streamline the chapters so that I wouldn't waste time detailing a skirmish that wasn't interesting on a mission that I didn't care about. It's like editing a movie, you keep the parts that are important.
And on another note, I'm actually really dismayed at how many times I've had Shepard strongly swear. It's not really a trait that I intended for him to possess as I only wanted him to use such colorful language when he was truly upset. Guess those moments were more than I initially figured, so I have to apologize for that OOC trait, a big mea culpa if I ever saw one.
Vancouver Invaded: "Space Suicide" by David Buckley from the VG Call of Duty: Ghosts. Rising chords to symbolize the rising dread as Earth falls.
Vancouver Evacuated (Shepard's Theme): "Honor to the End" by Steve Jablonsky from the film Transformers: Age of Extinction. Disregarding the annoying Imagine Dragons lyrics, this piece maintains a bold wall of sound that emphasizes Shepard's heroic nature and fierce power.
In what would have normally been a dull chapter, I took the opportunity to foreshadow the arrival of Rukin, Shepard's nemesis. Trust me, I realized a long time ago that robot Shepard is damn near indestructible which doesn't make for very exciting reading. That was one of the few reasons why I "neutered" him in later installments, but it also gave me an idea.
What if Shepard were to face someone his exact equal?
I didn't want to put Kai Leng in a robot body because…well, he's obviously dead, and I didn't quite say straight out that Rukin had died on the Rayya in part one so I revived the character (which was all part of my initial plan) to serve the purpose as the Illusive Man's newest right hand man.
Of course, there were elements to this character that hadn't been revealed to the audience yet so I made sure to keep things ambiguous for the time being as he was part of a few twists that I had lined up. I may have finally cracked the curse of creating villains that I like as this version of Rukin was one nasty bastard. In the end, you had every reason to hate him.
And for the most part, the rest of the chapter followed the Mars mission as it was in the game. I put the whole EDI taking over Core thing in the story because there was not going to be an opportunity for that to happen in a timely manner as detailed by my outline. But…I think that I made it work. I think.
Red Planet: "I'm an Autobot" by Steve Jablonsky from the film Transformers: Age of Extinction. This piece provides the necessary synth dread to accompany a new and desolate planet.
Core Deleted: "The Crane" by Alan Silvestri from the film The Abyss. Fast paced winds and strings for a chase/fight.
Out of all the chapters in this part, I hate this one the most.
I hate it because I was unable to do anything good with it. I completely blanked on how to make this mission unique as dictated by the terms in my story. Sure, I threw some extra dialogues in there, I did a bit more foreshadowing with regards to Rukin and the Scorpion pistols but…nothing really clicked for me.
Maybe it was because I wanted to concentrate on the Shepard+Tali aspect of the whole flippin' story and was rushing to get to that bit. It didn't detract from the story but it didn't add anything new, either.
If I had done a little more consideration with regards to the story structure, I probably would have just cut it out.
Protecting the Female: "Fog Battle" by Junkie XL from the film 300: Rise of an Empire. I think that the raw guitar works to define Wrex well. The brutal pacing and ethnic vocals also make a good comparison to krogan culture as well.
Up the Shroud: "The Lane Family" by Marco Beltrami from the film World War Z. A more melancholy tune as a lament for Mordin.
I honestly thought someone would call out my usage of Tali dying in Shepard's dreams as foreshadowing to a certain event. Either they kept mum or they didn't want to believe it true (heh…heh…?)
In any case, the first twist regarding Rukin was shown here when he was wearing Shepard's face as a disguise. I specifically did that to confuse readers into thinking that the Shepard clone was going to be the new enemy in this story but I would eventually make another twist out of that later on.
I like toying with the audience's expectations in trying not to make a predictable story and this chapter helped set me up for when the actual plot got a little meatier.
Plus, we had another brutal swordfight. I just can't say no to a personal action scene.
Hit Twice: "Operation Metro" by Johan Skugge and Jukka Rintamaki from the VG Battlefield 3. Harsh electronics accompany a fight between Shepard and Rukin's first encounter.
It was a relief when I finally got to write Tali back into the story. I had labored upon if I should include brief asides to her point of view for a couple chapters but eventually decided against that. I wanted to simulate the loss Shepard was feeling to the reader by intentionally removing Tali from the story for a bit until the opportune moment.
Plus, we get more fluff out of a romantically charged encounter like that. I will say that it's much easier to write dialogue for an already pledged couple than for two people who are flirting. Don't ask why, I just feel that way.
On another note, I had received several reviews questioning me ruthlessly about me "forgetting" to put Legion in this story. I didn't forget him at all, I just felt that his presence in part two would needlessly drag out the story when the actual quarian/geth conflict is really touched upon in the third part. Here, the character would come more into play and be more relevant to the overall story instead of having a token geth sidekick around.
…And then I would kill him off in the next chapter. Timing is everything, right?
Dreadnought: "Synchrotone" by Hans Zimmer from the film Black Hawk Down. Fast paced action mixed with a synthetic and experimental edge. Perfect for a geth fight.
I quite like the first scene where you would think it would be obvious that the actual reasoning behind the Morning War would be shown to the quarian admirals. It would have done a hell of a lot more in the games for making Shepard's life easier with regards to choosing between the geth and the quarians.
But Gerrel still manages to find a way to screw everything up, nonetheless, but the actions preceding it I thought were AU enough to be different and exciting.
The battle with the Reaper on foot came from an idea I saw posted on some message board a few years back that I simply expanded upon. We all know that inside every Reaper is their core and that every core is the shape of the species it had accumulated at the end of each cycle.
I just felt that Bioware missed a perfect opportunity with the potential imagery that could have come from such a fight and wanted to make sure that it got its due here. Hopefully my writing wasn't so dense that it scared people off.
In a way, considering the evidence presented, Shepard's promise to stay with Tali forever at the end of the chapter was my way of constituting a marriage proposal. In many fics, even in one of my previous ones, I've never been too happy with how Shepard presents the idea of marriage to Tali before. Many people, including me, have never seemed to get it right (based on the few that I've read so don't count me as an expert on the subject) so it occurred to me that the only way to introduce it was to not say it outright. That way, the scene was less cheesier and more believable in contrast to getting on a knee and popping the question after a huge firefight.
Like I said before, people. All about timing.
Reaper Afoot: "Stahl Arms – The Icesaw Chase" by Joris de Man from the VG Killzone 3.
Shepard/Gerrel & Tali/Xen: "Cave" by Tuomas Kantelinen from the film The Legend of Hercules. A sweeping fight theme for drama.
Home: "Final Confluence" by Austin Wintory from the VG Journey. This scene needs a romantically inclined piece, obviously.
Surprisingly, this was one of my favorite chapters to write out of the entire story. I just liked writing casual banter between friends as I take inspiration from conversations me and my friends have. We constantly joke around, rib each other, and act all goofy when we're out in public so I tried to reflect that in my writing.
I also wanted to write a dinner scene where I could throw in a few references and have them bounce around. All in all, it put a smile on my face when I got to describing how Garrus gets tormented by Liara and how Shepard and Tali act like a cute couple while they're out together.
Besides, I needed a break from writing action anyway.
A New Development: "Bonzo" by Steve Jablonsky from the film Ender's Game.
I believe this chapter was where I started to lose members of my audience.
It wasn't so much the reveal of Rukin as the big baddie all along that shocked people, it was more or less the death of Liara that cemented a sour mood for the remainder of the story. I really can't blame people for being utterly horrified that I would kill off a beloved character such as Liara (if you read this far then you know I pushed that boundary even further) but I felt like a mainstay had to die in order to telegraph to the reader that nothing is as expected in this story.
So, yeah. If you were offended by my choices, I can't say that I blame you at all.
Sure, channeling my inner George R. R. Martin was one thing but I maintain that Liara's death fit in with the overall tone of the story, and of Mass Effect 3 itself. The overarching theme is that war causes people to make sacrifices big and small. People will die and a "perfect" ending is practically impossible from a realistic standpoint. Her death was meant to accentuate that fact and I wanted it done in a way that didn't feel insulting to the character and was rather touching instead of just glossing over it carelessly.
Plus, that gave Rukin the extra grit for the audience to establish him as a more competent bad guy than Kai Leng ever was. Plus, he soundly kicked Shepard's ass in that fight if Liara hadn't interfered. Trust me, it wasn't a decision made lightly on my part and it certainly wasn't done for any reasons that might be considered petty. All part of moving the story forward.
War on Thessia: "Future Wars" by Jack Wall from the VG Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Hard electronics for a brutal battle.
Pieces of a Puzzle: "I'm Goblin" by Hans Zimmer from the film The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I like this theme that it creates an atmosphere of tension and dread while maintaining a sinister outlook. A good theme to fit Rukin.
So we have our bit of fluff plus another love scene. For a story of this size, it seems like two love scenes (I refuse to call them "lemons") is the magic number. If they're spaced out properly, the overall characterization is not weakened and you have a stronger bond between the two love interests.
Take the one in this chapter for example. It's not terribly explicit (very tame compared to some others on this site…yeesh), it has an emotional aspect to it rather than just physical, and it is a little more raw with the stakes driven into their actions, a little more realistic in a sense.
For that scene, I went by my same principles as I did with the last one. Come to think of it, fellow reader lunchmeat5000 summarized the problem with most scenes like this perfectly: "…the stories that go into intricate detail of the quarian female body, or turn Tali into a raging nymphomaniac, cheapens the character and doesn't add anything…"
That being said, there are audiences that don't care about the little nagging grievances such as delivering highly explicit sex scenes. They serve their purpose on this site and we can't ignore their existence. But what I'd like to see several more authors do is apply a lighter touch, let the audience's imagination do the work for them.
Well like, that's just my opinion, man.
Same Whole: "Aningaaq" by Steven Price from the film Gravity. I feel like this softer and more atmospheric piece would accompany the love scene well. But as with all of my supposed "recommendations" you can simply take them with a grain of salt.
No one has good memories of the final London mission so I wanted to reintroduce the Mako and provide a slight bit of levity because I knew that things would take a turn for the exceedingly dark very, very soon.
I mean…I kind of liked the Mako back in the first Mass Effect game so I wanted to utilize it here and not make the mission a boring slog through the similar looking streets of London. No one seemed particularly torn up about the changes so I'm content with that.
I had a feeling that no one would call me out for killing off James like that and I was right. Despite his character being not as bad as most of us initially predicted, he still didn't have enough of our love to warrant an extreme attachment to him in the end. Therefore, he got the axe in my story, but in a heroic fashion, no less.
Killing Garrus, on the other hand…that was tough to write. He's my bro and all so I didn't want his death scene to feel particularly forced like a "Jonathan Kent." Hell, I would have preferred to not kill him at all.
But it really does stand to reason that a conflict on a scale like this should have telegraphed the fact that a happy ending might just not be attainable anymore. That the Reapers had the muscle to back up their words by taking away every person that mattered to Shepard, slowly driving him insane with grief until he snapped.
Because, in all honesty, I really don't feel like Shepard sacrificed enough in Mass Effect 3. Sure, a near-perfect runthrough would almost certainly have you losing Mordin and Legion but they were characters that you only met in the previous installment. The deaths of major characters like Liara and Garrus, people that you have known over the course of all three games, added to the mix really should have been possible given Shepard's attachment to them. It would have been interesting to have seen his grief portrayed on screen like that.
Or perhaps I'm just a soulless jerk.
Mako: "Dinobot Charge" by Steve Jablonsky from the film Transformers: Age of Extinction. An epic buildup to the beam is just what we need to heighten the excitement.
Lament for Garrus: "Godzilla's Victory" by Alexandre Desplat from the film Godzilla.
Yikes, I knew the backlash was going to be bad. I didn't realize it was going to be this bad.
Despite the inflow of reviews from people saying that they couldn't read the story anymore once they got to, well…that part, I couldn't really do anything except chuckle to myself. I guess I had finally done it, I had pissed off damn near everyone who fell behind pretty much every popular romanceable option in the Mass Effect universe, even the freaking Talimancers. That isn't an achievement I'm proud of as this was a plot point that I've had in mind since the beginning and a concept I've wanted to put into words for a long time.
If you think about it, there have been way too many stories out there focused on delivering the "perfect" ending in which everyone survives, Shepard gets married, yadda yadda yadda. That's all well and good but that lead to an unfortunate problem for me.
I had already written my version of a perfect ending in a previous story.
So, that eliminated my attempt at trying to top my work when I was so sure that the story in question had been virtually bulletproof in terms of delivering the ending everyone wanted. Thus, I had to consider alternate options.
Hell, I even foreshadowed this event mercilessly as it was nearing with the visions and the theme of loss surrounding Shepard. I really tried to soften the blow as best as I could for you guys but it appeared to drop jaws a lot farther than I intended. If I truly and deeply horrified you, I apologize but that was kind of the angle I was going for. I didn't want to revert to cliché again and I did state that I wanted to try an ending different than I've laid eyes on before. This is what I meant.
I feel that this act, despicable though it might be, fits the tone of the story perfectly. The point of The Rage Inherent Trilogy is dealing with one's own mortality, examining what it truly means to live in a life of which you have no control over some aspects. You cannot fully control what happens in a war, nothing ever goes as planned. People will get hurt, people will get killed. This was never going to end with everything being all hunky-dory. It was going to have a dark ending from the very beginning, but I'll be damned if I didn't leave a shred of hope underneath it all.
An aspect of what I hated with Bioware's endings is that Shepard's LI never gets a chance to meet up with him again (that we see) as he's either dead or still buried under a few tons of rubble. Completely botched, if you ask me. So, if Tali was going to die in this story, then that meant that Shepard had to die as well. Like it's mentioned, wherever they go, they will always be together.
This, of course, led to me writing a final fight with Rukin, utilizing a few over-the-top moves in the process but I wanted to emphasize the brutality of it all, the rage that Shepard embraces at the last moment to overpower his foe and mercilessly dismember and finally disembowel him for maximum satisfaction. Having Rukin be the one to actually kill Shepard gives him more credibility as a villain, the one man who took the commander down, even though he never lived to tell the tale.
I don't regret what I did in this chapter. I took a chance and I'm going to stick with any potential consequences, even if that means any form of disdain from my readers. I'm not going to attack anyone for "failing to understand the meaning" because that's just terribly pretentious, plus I might have written it in a fashion that is all terribly dense that the meaning is not apparent enough. It all boils down to if you liked it or if you didn't like it. Simple as that. I'll respect the conclusions that people draw upon this but I feel that my actions were well justified in this case.
But man…I haven't been attacked like this since I was accused of having an anti-Christian slant in another one of my stories. (I still don't know how that conclusion was drawn!)
The Four of Us: "Arm & Eye Surgery" by Brad Fiedel from the film The Terminator.
A Rage Inherent: "Hunted" by Steve Jablonsky from the Transformers: Age of Extinction EP. I think that the brutal pounding of drums and strings gives it that manic edge that we finally see from Shepard in the end.
The Two of Us: "A Small Measure of Peace" by Hans Zimmer from the film The Last Samurai.
If you thought I was going to end it with both Shepard and Tali lying stone dead on the Citadel, then I just have to say that that would have been a terrible idea.
Writing this one short chapter turned the mood of the ending to be more bittersweet, in my opinion. It probably won't save this story for many people but I just wanted to put in an aside to the readers and say that, "Hey, everything's all right."
I have my own interpretation for how this chapter can be considered as I left many things open ended. I will say that there's no right or wrong way to how one tries to determine the meaning of this as we all perceive things differently. In the end, it doesn't matter all that much.
Plus, if you consider the mere fact that Shepard and Tali can meet again, then wouldn't that mean that Shepard can now share a drink at that bar with Garrus? Naaaah, that sounds silly… (hmmmm….)
Unmasked: "To the Forest…" by James Horner from the film Apocalypto. Take a listen and tell me that this doesn't fit the mood perfectly.
The Rage Inherent End Titles: "Navras" by Don Davis/Juno Reactor from the film The Matrix Revolutions.
With that being said, I do hope that you enjoyed some aspect of this story, radical changes and what not. It was certainly an enjoyable experience getting to write for you all and stretching my brain on what to put down on paper.
If you have a favorite chapter or anything on your mind, please drop a review. If you have any questions about this story, feel free to PM me. I always respond in a timely manner for PMs, reviews not so much unless they deliberately ask me a question. Hell, if you have multiple things on my mind, you can even request to IM me and we can set something up. I always like conversing with people who have things to point out about my stories and chatting with them is a very beneficial experience, so don't be too shy if you have a nagging tidbit that you want to share.
If I were to take a guess for the long run, then I would have to say that The Rage Inherent Trilogy is likely to be my largest story that I ever will write because I will now languish myself to a temporary retirement as my schedule starts to tighten. I'm not sure when I'll get to writing for the Mass Effect series or even writing at all as I have been quite thoroughly burned out from producing this story. I just don't have the energy in me to start typing away anymore, but I'll still be around in some format. I hear they're always looking out for new beta readers…
To all future authors out there, good luck to you, and to all my readers, thank you for following this story right down to the end. I wouldn't have put in the effort if you had not kept reading this, so I have to extend to you my gratitude for your very important involvement.
Before I end up pissing more people off, I bid you all a fond farewell and a Keelah se'lai!
-Thanks again from Rob Sears