I initially had no intention on writing A Postlude to Reconciliation in the first place, oddly enough. I thought that the last story I had written would have sapped me of any desire to write any further but apparently I was quite wrong on that, judging by the fact that I broke my supposed promise to retire by…actually writing this.
Oh well, I can retire at any damn time I want to.
A reason for actually writing this was probably my desire to bring about an extended conclusion to the Mass Effect storyline, my interpretation at least. Also because I couldn't end my writing career with a bittersweet ending like in The Rage Inherent Trilogy, I needed to churn out something sappy to make me feel a little bit better and not so dark.
Of course, when beginning to outline this, I had my reservations. For the most part, postwar stories are not done all that well, in my opinion. There are two big reasons as to why this is so. Firstly, a common storyline for many authors after the ending of ME3 is to create a new enemy that is treated as a new galactic threat, one that is as dangerous as the Reapers or even more so. Having that sort of conflict just dilutes the premise of the first three games so I had to make sure that whatever conflict I came up with, it would be localized in a matter that was more personal to the main characters and not as overarching in scope.
Another unfortunate aspect of most postwar stories is that many of them are rather plotless, only comprised of a few drabbles of fluff with no concise goals or direction (postwar collections do not qualify for this fact, only the ones that advertise themselves as actual stories). Therefore, I had to make sure that I didn't meander with my fluffy diatribes so much that it would take away from the plot. To quote John Powell, "Hopefully I haven't fucked it up."
And just like in all my previous stories, I also like to outline my chapters with orchestral bits from my personal library as listening to music usually is the best motivation whenever I need to crack down and just type away on the computer. Just thought I'd share some of these bits of inspiration for you people.
I didn't want the main villains in this story to be all Cerberus goons like last time, so I compiled a rogue's gallery of people who have had grievances against Shepard in the past and simply slapped the title "Galactic Coalition" over them. I kept the members in the dark to the audience specifically for the purposes of revealing them later for a more dramatic moment.
Two of the members (Linron and Balak) are sure to be recognized by fans but I actually wrote the Director to be the same character from the little known and poorly received mobile game Mass Effect: Infiltrator, so he actually is part of the ME universe. Seeing how that character received no development whatsoever in that media application, I was free to impart my own interpretation without going into OOC territory (not that anyone would care in the slightest).
We also got introduced to the person who would be Shepard's rival in the story: Darren Randolph. From the beginning, I wanted Randolph to not be taken as seriously as other operatives like Kai Leng or my older OC: Rukin, because if I did that, then the story would have been significantly darker just for the sake of conflict. I wanted a happy ending to this thing so I wrote Randolph to be a somewhat competent, but not perfect soldier to avoid similarities from other villains in the roster.
Randolph Infiltrates: "It's Your Ship Now" by Steve Jablonsky from the film Battleship. For anything related to the Coalition, I believe that anonymous electronic tones to symbolize the secretive nature of the group would be appropriate in this case, hence the intense soundscape in the building.
These flashbacks were obviously the fluffiest parts of the story. I wanted the reader, seeing as I had jumped the timeline a year and a half, to get an idea of where Shepard and Tali ended up and how they got to be where they are now. This of course, had to start with Shepard proposing to Tali from his hospital bed. I thought the timing for such an event was appropriate and would signify that Shepard achieved his main goal in destroying the Reapers: he won, and now he gets to live with Tali for the rest of his life – his reward.
I tried to have the plot intermingle with the fluff so that progress could actually be made and I wasn't just stalling with all of this wishy-washy dialogue between Shepard and Tali (even though I enjoyed writing that kind of dialogue and it was kind of cute). Also, I could appease the Garrus fans on this site by having him have a substantial presence here due to his involvement in the events that are most pertinent on the Citadel. I can't just leave that turian hanging.
"No Shepard without Vakarian," right?
A Proposition: "Top of the World" by Trevor Jones from the film The Last of the Mohicans. Generally, I dislike having to take such a well-known theme and implement it here but the romantic nature of the piece really suits the tone I was going for.
A Fresh Start: "Mount Fuji" by Hans Zimmer from the film Rush. I like the soft guitar work that brings about a peacefulness in this cue. Fantastic stuff by Zimmer.
I had the chance to clarify some aspects that I deliberately left vague at the start of the story in this chapter, starting with the reactivation of the geth consensus. I always felt, given the destroy option, that the geth were getting the short end of the stick in this circumstance, so I decided to make up some gobbledygook about how they came to be reactivated, as did EDI, because their losses in the games were really rough and seemingly unfair.
I also enjoyed myself in poking fun at aspects about Tali that other people fight over, mostly at whatever headcanon people choose to believe over how she actually looks in real life. Using the pulpy appeal of the internet for inspiration, it was rather humorous detailing how Tali reacts when other try to submit their own interpretations on her appearance, at least the most common aspects. (And I even got to slam that deplorable picture in the main game, heh).
I would say that this chapter went by in a relatively straightforward manner. Act of terrorism notwithstanding, everything here went by smoothly and quite calmly, judging by the dialogue.
Perhaps writing in the confrontation with the Terra Firma group was a little unnecessary, given that it's a source of conflict that kind of doesn't show up at all after that. But I like it because it gives the audience a glimpse of how Shepard is not a perfect human, that he isn't in control of his emotions one hundred percent of the time. It shows that he can be irritated, that he can show a few cracks in his armor, given the right circumstances.
Explosion and Appraisal: "Vegas Aftermath" by Alexandre Desplat from the film Godzilla. There is just enough menace and electronic manipulation to bring about the organic and synthetic tones that make up the proper moods detailing the Citadel explosion.
It really wasn't cowardice on Shepard's end that caused him to reject Garrus' plea for help so openly. Considering all that the man had went through and what lies ahead in the future, it would be an obvious choice for him not to accept and to go on his merry way.
This was always a confusing aspect for me in similar situations like this that other forms of media have portrayed. Generally speaking, if presented with these same terms, the main character would inexplicably accept such an assignment, bringing about a conflict between them and their loved one.
I wanted Shepard and Tali to have complete trust in one another at this point and having Shepard accept the assignment right off the bat just didn't seem right for his character, considering the fact that he's about to be married in a matter of days and the extra danger would only serve as a rift between the two. An emotional conflict like that wasn't necessary in this case and it would have felt cheap had I employed it in this case. I'm not one to use such tension unless I can find a realistic aspect in doing so.
Who We're Dealing With: "The Offer" by Marco Beltrami from the film The Wolverine.
I'm sure the slight Citadel DLC references were spotted here, given the prominence that Garrus' home defense system was revealed at the outset. This was one of my favorite chapters to write as I liked balancing the tense situation with a dose of dry humor.
Also, this chapter showed us the first of Randolph's blunders at completely botching the home invasion, showing that maybe he's not quite as good as we have previously seen, yet another example of me not taking the character too seriously. Simply having him wreck Shepard's house was enough, we don't need the story to get any darker than that.
The House We Built: "Fury" by Henry Jackman from the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yet more electronics that ramp up in intensity. Perfect for what's described in this chapter.
Common enemies for many postwar stories are the Leviathans and I wanted to at least get a mention of them somewhere in here. Initially, I was considering using the Leviathans as the main villains but I changed my mind once I saw how many other people had used that idea, but I didn't want them to go unmentioned here, so I tied them in to a remote subplot that was connected to the Coalition, requiring Shepard to speak to them once more.
This chapter helped correct a massive wall that I had hit while outlining, having nowhere to go after the home invasion detailed in the last chapter. By having the Coalition collect Leviathan artifacts, I realized I could use that as a reference point to get Shepard moving in the right direction. I also used the opportunity to firmly establish that the Leviathans would not turn villainous in the future, having them leave the confines of this galaxy for greener pastures, where they might create more Reapers as a version 2 of their utopia…or who knows. That's another plot for another day.
Leviathan Myriad: "Reborn" by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the video game Destiny. A conversation with Leviathan deserves and eerie sound to the entire mix, one that I think the DLC could have benefited from.
In an effort not to make the story seem rushed, I tried my best to bloat each chapter to the maximum, trying to produce as many important conversations as I could. That, in turn, would lead to the battle sequence of this chapter: a showdown with Randolph.
Killing Randolph off relatively earlier than expected was a deliberate decision on my end to reflect that he was never the main bad guy in this story. He was only a distraction that produced a headache for Shepard and Tali, never the primary source of conflict. As Tali was the one to best him and eventually kick him out the window, it gives her a new light that shows how determined and resourceful she's become from having been with Shepard all this time.
Fun fact: Randolph's death was meant to echo Conrad Verner's death (if you said the wrong things in ME2) embodying the same comical fashion under the circumstances.
Lab Rat/Randolph Flies: "War Machine" by Jack Wall from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The heavy and electronic beats embody the Coalition side while Wall's own Mass Effect theme makes a brief appearance in this cue, giving it the heroic edge that references Shepard and Tali's victory.
I mentioned earlier that many postwar stories sometimes feature nothing but fluff, yes? The extreme of that is that sometimes they're just used entirely for one smutty scene after the other, giving no flow to the narrative and making everything extremely predictable.
After my last story, I have gotten tired of writing such scenes so I wanted to make sure that the one in this chapter was a bit different in style. Instead of focusing more on the present acts, I took a step backward and portrayed the sexuality from a more analytical perspective, an approach I haven't seen much of, admittedly. That way, I could continue to respect the characters and present everything in a warm and informative format instead of utilizing the same old verbs to represent the act of procreating.
I had the final act set in Dallas because I used to live there from some time and I thought I should give the Lone Star State its due. And the Mako I actually described during the present scene was actually based on the new concept art for the vehicle in ME4. Obviously, given the timeline, having this model exist in the story makes no sense at all but I liked putting the hint in all the same, breaks in content disregarded.
The Two of Them: "Guardian" by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the video game Destiny. I think that having a softer piece for Shepard and Tali's interaction together is about the only course anyone could take at this point.
Dallas Fight: "Sablon Pt. 2" by Lance Hayes from the video game Forza Motorsport 5. This is a more eclectic piece but I like the string work. Go figure.
This chapter at least gave Shepard the closure in the fact that Balak, the batarian that had plagued him for two games was finally dead. I always thought that conniving bastard always got off too easily in the games so I wanted to kill him off for good here. Since I had made previous references to Shepard's bad ankle in a few chapters before this, I had to reopen that wound (literally) and incapacitate Shepard for a portion of the fight, leaving Tali to say a cool line before throwing a knife in Balak's face.
I can be tempted by clichés from time to time.
Of course, given Balak's death and Linron's suicide, one might wonder why I wrote the Director not even getting caught. It certainly isn't for the purposes of producing a sequel, I can tell you that right now. I just felt that having the entire Coalition Council rounded up in such a small amount of time would seem too convenient in relation to the plot. Also, I would think that criminal masterminds would have the sense to not gather their entire braintrust into one location, no matter how secure it is.
The Director escaping also signifies that the cycle of violence is never going to end in any form in the galaxy. There will always be danger lurking about, one new enemy replaces another. Shepard did his part in this fight and now the Citadel is more invested in the dangers of the Coalition, making that organization's days numbered. It just isn't a priority for Shepard to engage in pursuit anymore, leaving all the time in the world to tend to his family.
Meet the Coalition: "Directive A-113" by Thomas Newman from the film WALL-E
Four-Eyed Freak: "Truckzilla (Act 2)" by Marco Beltrami from the film A Good Day to Die Hard. Driving guitar and percussion bring about a tremendous sense of urgency for a final fight.
Boot Knife: "Why Do We Fall?" by Hans Zimmer from the film The Dark Knight Rises. Fitting music for Balak's last confrontation.
The wedding was always going to be the final chapter for this story. I've seen several fics suffer because the wedding was placed somewhere in the middle or at the beginning of the story and then the plot loses all sense of purpose because of it. That's not saying that married life is dull but it just seems that weddings, combined with the postwar setting, should be saved until the very end as that is the ultimate goal for Shepard in any situation: settling down with a loved one and living a new life together.
From there, you can make up whatever ending you feel is best but the knowledge that Shepard actually got to marry Tali sticks into your head more, giving it all a nice sense of closure. And that's what this is all about in the first place: closure. After marriage, what other plot points could I possibly detail? Children? Maybe, but's that's very tricky to get down properly and not really the most important aspect of the relationship. Point is, there is little incentive to go on after this and the wedding serves as the most pivotal point in both the participants' lives, bringing about a satisfactory end to this story in a way that wasn't too cheesy. That was why I cut the story off when I did, the actual ceremony would be difficult to slog to without me groaning at my own lame words on the page. This way, I get to preserve the actual meaning and let other expectations fill in the blanks. Sometimes, the best way to write something is not to write it.
A Proper Ending: "All Ends Are Beginnings" by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the video game Destiny. This is a very emotional cue and I thought it would work brilliantly in the context of the final few paragraphs, closing just at the end.
Reconciliation Titles: "Gravity" by Steven Price from the film Gravity.
So there you have it: A Postlude to Reconciliation.
What did you think of it? Is there anything you liked? You hated? Write a review or a PM and let me know!
Now for some news on my end: I did say before that I wanted to retire myself after my last story and now I've broken that promise by writing this story. So…should that mean that I should retire now?
You see, during development of this story, I actually got the inspiration to develop two new stories, probably about the same length as Postlude, meaning that I'm definitely not planning on retiring anytime soon now. However, due to my schedule being extremely tight at the moment, it will be a while before another story sees the light of day as writing takes up a huge chunk of my time, and right now I happen to have none.
A few brief synopses would go like this:
-The first idea would be to have Shepard and Tali stranded on a dangerous planet during a routine scouting op, forced to survive against several hidden dangers while eventually developing their feelings for one another throughout the mission. (Takes place between ME1 and ME2, before Shepard's demise)
-The second idea would be to try my hand at a hurt/comfort story with the relationship between Shepard and Tali being badly fragmented at the beginning of ME3, as in external circumstances have caused them to develop an irrational hatred towards the other. To counter the weighty and uncomfortable subject matter, I plan on utilizing a very dry tone throughout with some wit in a very Max Payne-ish sense, or at least attempt it.
Of course, these ideas are still in the pre-production stage (hence the vagueness) but there are several aspects that I have in mind for each, some exciting, some heartbreaking, that I'd rather not reveal at this time. I have no idea which one I'd start first but I would definitely make sure to go all the way when I do start one. Hopefully I can get some time in after the new year, which is when I believe I will have enough time to start writing again.
In either case, my future notwithstanding, I thank you for reading through this story and I hope to see all of you again as soon as possible. You guys are awesome!