Afterword, Part Two
As I mentioned in the interlogue (yes, I made that word up), I completely rewrote the outline for part two. As a result, the story is much richer, fuller. The process also reminded me that my way of storytelling—through several connected but smaller stories—is different from the conventional method and that, perhaps, my style doesn't lend itself completely to others' methods of structuring and planning. I can't say I came to any rigorous conclusions in that regard. The jury is still out, and I suppose I shall have to come to a decision some other time in my writing career.
I said in the first afterword that part two was, in some ways, an afterthought, a way to draw out certain aspects that I felt needed to be extended. They were Rockman's grief and mourning over Roll's death and his mission to get revenge on Imi as a result. Everything else followed from that: his manipulation of Netto to go to Ameroupe, their arrangement with Enzan while they trained and synched, and Meiru's quest to find Netto. In the original draft, the primary action was a sighting of Rockman driving Meiru to find Netto by a trace. She would fail, but Imi would suddenly hear Roll's voice to keep her from deleting Rockman. We wouldn't know this until Imi confronted Meiru at the curry shop, where another battle would take place that would hint at this.
Many things were wrong with this approach. Why would Rockman come out now and not before? I had no answer, and without some sequestering of Rockman and Netto, I felt like Meiru was not put through enough of an emotional trial to justify needing to find Netto desperately (which I thought would be good for her character, to give her a mission of her own that also tied in her relationship with him). Before I started writing it, I hadn't even conceived of a two-month gap between parts one and two (and that really complicated things). As a result, I was forced to consider a rewrite.
And the rewrite was a good thing. The first outline was devoid of action—the first four chapters were a telling of the same event from several viewpoints: Meiru, Netto, Imi. The redundancy of this approach quickly convinced me I needed more plot, and so I came up with most of the other conflicts in this half. Indeed, "The Brothers Hikari" was the extension of the original confrontation at the curry shop (which, while the conversation with Yaito remained in "Streets," the confrontation was nixed). "Imitations of Roll" and "Moments" were both new ideas, as were "Pilgrimage" and "Reunion." Really, only the part about Netto being tricked into locking Rockman in his PET was carried over into "Sons" (where before it was the primary climax of the second third or act), and "Savage Memory" was new. "Resurrection and Life" was the combining of a couple chapters of content from the old outline, and "Prodigal Daughter" was extended with Enzan and Hideki's subplot (having been altered from the original outline).
So, as you can see, a lot was new material. Good material, I would say, for it really added depth to the story and allowed me to work in several ideas that I had put aside. Among the most considerable, however, was Codey.
Codey was an idea I had for "Spine of the Hedgehog." The idea was that Hideki would be persuaded to build Codey as a weapon to use against Echo, not knowing that Imi was Echo. Imi would then meet Codey and realize (by touch) that he was her father's creation. She would also be refreshed by his tranquil voice in her mind (instead of a hostile voice like the others). But Codey would die, and Imi would have to find some way out of this predicament or die too.
It was that last part that kept me from making it a chapter in part one. I couldn't write a way out for her that made sense and didn't seem like a stretch. It also seemed a bit random to write Codey in and out so quickly. It was this issue in particular that actually kept him from the first rewrite of the outline for part two. I simply didn't know how I was going to work him in.
But I knew that in "Savage Memory" and "Sons" I would want Hideki to create something to kill Imi, and Codey seemed like a logical choice. It would be even worse to introduce him right then and there to kill off, so I went back to all the other chapters and decided I wanted to write him in. It was a good choice, I think, for it gave Hideki someone to bounce off of and addressed a practical problem of how he could stay hidden (answer: with Codey's help) this long. All in all, a good deal. My only misgiving at that point was that…I hadn't planned for Codey from the start, but hey, that's the nature of writing.
One thing I always aimed for was there to be strong parallels between Imi and Rockman. This is reflected in many ways: her ability to copy is not terribly unlike Rockman's Souls and Crosses. Forgiveness is their primary motivation—for Imi, it is her entire motivation, where for Rockman, that only comes into focus after Roll's death in part one.
I made the interlogue a separate chapter for a number of reasons: first, it'd been several weeks since my last update, and I wasn't exactly close to having another full chapter done. Second (and more importantly), the two month gap between the end of part one and part two's main action compelled me to set aside this one scene into something of its own. Contextually, this scene belongs with chapter ten, but chronologically, it really doesn't, and it felt wrong to just wham people with "Two Months Later" somewhere in the chapter or to just do it and say, "Hey guys, guess what? It's two months later, surprise." No, I wanted the chapter to just be two months later and not have to deal with that transition. The break between the interlogue and "The Streets of Ameroupe" does that.
This scene developed nicely when I actually put fingers to keys, as it were. I did have some misgivings about the appearance of killing Roll twice, but I put those aside, knowing that when chapter ten came out, it would feel right.
Chapter Ten: The Streets of Ameroupe
This chapter bloomed so wonderfully after my false-start, the one that drove the outline rewrite. As a matter of fact (as seems to happen a lot) it just got longer and longer as I added scenes for pacing and transition.
The original idea for Hideki to be looking for power was present in the revised outline, but breaking into a house wasn't. That's an example of where things just kind of worked for the rest of the chapter. I hadn't even thought far enough ahead that Codey could be used as a tool for him to hack into systems.
And finally, after seeing him for not much at all during part one, we have Enzan. I freely admit, I had him "put on a bus" as the tvtropers say, largely so he could be a major character in part two, where he would have something meaningful to do, for though it would've been helpful for him to be in Japan, it would've done little to advance his character. Here, we get the first hints that Enzan is crumbling under the pressure (though largely for reasons unclear just yet), something that might be uncharacteristic under other circumstances. Even still, he is the one in charge, and he bears the responsibility for holding Imi at bay.
In the original outline, Meiru was the main focus of this chapter (hence I tentatively called it "Meiru's Quest"). Though she couldn't sustain a whole chapter by herself, I wanted her to have a major piece of it. Without Netto to lean on or Roll for support, she's had to grow up a lot. It's made her determined and, as Roll would later observe, much tougher and less fearful. That's not to say she's lost her soft side: she misses Roll terribly, and Netto occupies much of her thoughts.
We also see Imi's first encounter with her "brother," Codey. This she finds incredibly intriguing. She doesn't feel replaced, but rather Codey is someone she has things in common with. Codey is as close to a peer, an equal, as she can get, and thus, she's incredibly fond of him. Some might find Codey's ignorance of Imi contrived, but I justify it as indicative of just how little Hideki cares to discuss Imi, for the whole affair brings him great shame.
After two months of searching for her father, we can imagine Imi's frustrations to be great indeed. This is why she goes after Meiru with such ferocity. It was one thing for Enzan and Raoul to oppose her—I would contend that the actual confrontations she had with them in her father's presence were very few—but quite another for Meiru to steal her father away. It is only through Masuyo's persuasion and Roll's will that Meiru is saved, as Imi is too shocked to continue her attack.
But (and this is, again, to show how much Meiru has grown) even after facing near-death, Meiru won't give up the search for Netto, much to Enzan's consternation. He can't conceal her presence in good conscience, however. He can't hide the truth from Netto. At this point, we have little idea what Netto has been doing, but we can see that something's very wrong indeed. As the next chapter shows, things are profoundly wrong.
Chapter Eleven: The Brothers Hikari
It was in the third outline of this chapter that I developed the concept of Sim. In many ways, this chapter is unique: it's one of the few that I tell from a largely consistent viewpoint (Sim with a few excerpts from Enzan's POV), and I chose this structure for a specific reason—to provide an outsider's vision of Rockman's deterioration, just as you, the reader, would have. That was the reason I rewrote this outline. Trying to tell Rockman's grief from his point of view would've been a futile effort. It was much more powerful and moving to see it from the outside, for then the things that made sense to him would be seen for the irrational acts that they are.
One of the major struggles of Remnants has been characterizing Rockman in a way that makes sense but also puts him in a new direction. Rockman, being Rockman, would hold himself responsible for Roll's death. He would also try to justify his actions by continuing to pursue his humanity, making that a goal. At the same time, he would see Netto's connections to the real world—especially Meiru—as something he doesn't have himself. But these are his perceptions, his reactions to the events of "Selfishness." What would he do as a result?
One thing I would like to reinforce in revision is the idea that their training was as much about reducing the pain felt from their link as it was to achieve the Saito Style, the union of the brothers' minds. I think this is a major justification for their seclusion, and it puts that seclusion into a more rational light. Walking the fine line between understandable reactions and over-the-top rashness and reflexive acts was a serious challenge, and I'd be lying if I said I thought I got it totally right. That's just the difficulty of the position I put Rockman in.
Would Rockman try to compel Netto for obedience? Really? This is something I myself second-guess. While it provided ample impetus for Sim to leave, I still wonder if there was a better way to do it.
Sim was a characterization challenge, too, for I hadn't put the pieces in motion for her arrival, really. What I chose to do was make her rather simplistic in terms of her responses—spending days on end battling, she would see everything naturally in that context, correctly or not. Rockman's kiss is the first serious emotional response we see from her, but she's smart enough to realize that these inputs don't match: you don't try to delete someone you love, or if you do, something's amiss. That's when she makes it her mission to understand what's going on, and when she realizes Rockman has a hold on Netto, she goes beyond that—knowing how kind and gentle he can be, knowing what a hero he's been, she resolves to restore that spirit. A noble sentiment, to be sure.
Chapter Twelve: The Web
This was originally "Imitations of Roll," but I soon realized it was best to sever it into two parts—one for the Ministry of Transport battle and related aftermath and one for the actual confrontation and hostage situation at the Chandler Hotel (yes, Sliders reference). I didn't expect "The Web" to be 15,000 words. I didn't expect "Imitations" to be 18,000, either.
There are a lot of effects in play here: Enzan's increasing worry and fear about having sequestered Netto, Raoul's suspicions, Rockman's reexamination of what he's become, Meiru's mission, and Sim's gambits to disrupt the status quo. Imi's motivations really take a backseat for this chapter as a result, which is sad, but I'll elaborate on that later. I called this one "The Web" for a reason, though (and not "The Verdant Dawn," as I was tempted, after the green flash that happens at sunrise and sunset): the characters are all tangled in this web of motivations, of actions and reactions. And in this way, one might interpret this chapter as expressing the futility of their internal motions. On the other hand, we see everyone's trying to make sense of the new world they live in, one in which the rules they've lived by have been systematically destroyed. They're doing the best they can.
In a lot of ways, I was cruel to poor Meiru to make her miss and miss Netto. I don't think I crushed her hope, but I gave her good reason to want to put her hope somewhere else, in Roll. And that immediately pays off.
Chapter Thirteen: Imitations of Roll
As I said, I'm shocked this chapter turned out to be so long. It makes me think on revision I should trim it, but each scene sets up something down the line. I wouldn't know where to begin. Indeed, I feel "Imitations" to be one of my finest chapters in terms of flow and logical organization. Everything about the chapter just makes sense, from Netto and Rockman's initial confrontation with Imi to Enzan's bold refusal to let the status quo stand any longer.
What I hadn't originally planned (at least, before I wrote her into the story) was Sim's involvement, but she actually made a lot of sense to drop into it and, well, make a mess of things. Not a mess—a tragedy of things. Sim is well-intentioned, trying to make sense of a world she doesn't really understand yet. After all, think about it: her only experiences thus far have been battling with Rockman and seeing the outside the few times he lets her do so. For her battle prowess, she's remarkably naïve, and as such, she comes up with a plan to save Rockman's soul (that's what it is, after all) that is risky at best and downright foolish at worst.
And yet, she's sympathetic because her heart's in the right place, and she's at least somewhat aware that her actions are not perfect or foolproof. If she'd had a further role in the story, I wouldn't have written her out here. As it was, I felt I had to, just to maintain the integrity of the story for later chapters. Her arc was finished, and I had no intention of setting her up as a true replacement for Roll (nor would she, in my opinion, want to do this). Could she have plausibly stayed to try to rehabilitate Rockman? Yes, but unlike a lot of other characters, I felt she would want to get out and make a contrast between those who stayed mired and those who moved on.
A lot of the focus of this chapter is on Imi and Hideki. Sometimes, I worry they take up too much of the story—they're not canon characters, so unlike the others, I have to make people want to feel their struggles. That's a tall order, and as one reviewer put it, well, Hideki's a stubborn character. So is Imi, in her own way. Hideki is stubborn to cover his own guilt and cowardice, though, and I tried to show that here with the shadow scene. And, of course, the moment he grows a backbone and tries to face Imi…well, it blows up. Bad.
The last thing I want to talk about for this chapter is Rockman's promise. I realize he doesn't actually make a promise in words; in part, I think that was my own imperfect memory. Still, it was deliciously twisted.
Chapter Fourteen: Moments
I really like "Moments," even though I feel it might be difficult to follow. Like much of the book, this chapter is a tragedy, one derived from several different forces all with different goals, and not necessarily meaning to compete with each other, either. Enzan's trying to finish up with Imi as best he can, for he can see Netto and Rockman are just a disaster waiting to happen. Meiru naturally misses Roll very much, and while her search for Netto has allowed her to put some of those feelings aside, it's still something she can't quite get over.
It was in this chapter that I developed the concept of signal jammers, mostly as a technical problem I needed to address. If a dimensional area were perfectly penetrable by Imi, then there would be no reason for her to ever fight anyone. She could run away indefinitely or get anywhere without limit. It was something that needed to be restricted, and I also thought that it would be a good reference to Ryuusei no Rockman as well.
And this is the chapter where Netto finally makes the choice to stand up to his brother. A difficult choice, to be sure, one made on controversial grounds. He could've let Rockman murder Imi right there (and this is why I let their initial shot weaken her so), but if Rockman is like the fallen hero, Netto is still the hero proper, the one who adheres to ideals and moral judgments even when his brother's grief and rage might suspend them otherwise. And, for that matter, it may well be right to kill Imi there and be done with it. I tried not to make a firm statement on that; this is not a book about morality. It's about people.
Chapter Fifteen: Pilgrimage
This, I feel, is a major turning point in the book. This is also the mammoth chapter, the one from which everything in the last half of Remnants follows. In a way, I'm proud of this chapter, as it ties a lot of things together. That said, I still feel how huge it is and wonder if it is truly cohesive as a result.
The major theme I wanted to get across with Laika and Pride's adventures back in Japan was how the world has broken down without Netto and Rockman to hold it together. This is the burden of heroes, after all, and in a way, the book itself is about how Rockman handles that burden, whether he feels up to the task or inadequate as a result of Roll's death. This is why Timeman is, in truth, a weak, minor villain here, not a foe to be truly feared like Imi. He's one-dimensional and defeated in a linear fashion. He's an enemy that could only thrive with the main fighters of evil gone.
I've always struggled with how to characterize Rockman. The kind of insanity or circular thought process he must have is one that's very, very difficult to pull off. Nigh-impossible, I would say, to do from his point of view without feeling overdone. That's why his actions are often seen from outside of him—from Laika's point of view, for example, when he shoots Glyde. This is also why I gave Rockman several lines to elucidate his state of mind. Rockman's own point of view, however, would be something I couldn't really touch until the last chapter.
Chapter Sixteen: Reunion
At the time, I had intended this chapter to be somewhat stand-alone, a chance to explore the relationship between Rockman and Roll and how distorted he sees it as a result of what he's gone through. Rockman, in my view, has never really understood what Roll wanted from him (which is really simple—to be himself, but also to rely on her, confide in her, need her), and as a result, he tries to make sense of things by trying to make her happy. What he's doing, however, clashes with what he's become, and that's why Roll can't really accept the Rockman who inhabits Imi's mind with her.
This is the chapter where Netto really becomes, in tvtropes's terminology, "the woobie." And yet, despite that, he's courageous. He endures massive pain to keep fighting, and though compelled to do so by Rockman, he doesn't let that affect his ability to fight, either. In the end, his choice to stay by Rockman and even give himself to stop Imi shows Netto's adherence to the hero aesthetic: when it matters, he is selfless.
Chapter Seventeen: Savage Memory
A chapter of transition, really, unlike many of the others, as it serves mostly to setup the action of the next chapter, "Sons." I wanted to address a couple things here, though. Again we see how good intentions can blow up due to cross-purposes. Yaito tries to track down Rockman, but in doing so, she compromises Enzan's position, which Imi counted on.
Something I touched on here was Medi and her relationship with Rockman. I never intended for her to be a replacement for Roll, but her motivations would stem from the same sorts of feelings. She can bring herself to use her abilities to kill in an insidious way for Rockman's sake, and while originally I meant for her to be a more central part of the next chapter (and to put into focus how appalled she is at what she's done), in the end, I had enough to deal with between Nakamura, Codey, and Rockman himself.
Chapter Eighteen: Sons
A tough chapter. This one had a lot of things to juggle, between Meiru and Netto, Hideki and Codey, Laika and Pride. Let's start with the middle of those three.
As I've said (I think; bear in mind I've been writing this afterword in chunks), Codey's original purpose was to be a trap for Imi. Since those times, his role increased substantially, but in the end, that was always his fate. What resonated with me was the idea that Codey would love his sister so much (whether it's justified or not is up to the reader) that he would risk his own life to try to convince her to stop her rampage, and in doing so, it emphasizes the continuing struggle of navis like Codey and Imi to look beyond their purposes in creation.
Let it be known that even while being tortured, Laika is badass. I admit, Pride's role in this chapter was reduced somewhat from what I had in mind, but the chapter was long enough already.
As for Meiru? Her choices here are tough, not knowing how Rockman's behavior is affecting Netto, hurting him.
Strange. I like this chapter, but I find I don't have a lot to say about it.
Chapter Nineteen: Resurrection and Life
But I do have some more to say about this one. Perhaps I have an unhealthy occupation about length, but in length of a chapter, I also see completeness. It's why I resisted making "Savage Memory" as short as it was, but there was just no way to pad that one out and nothing to be gained by doing so. This one, however, benefitted greatly from an expansion, a fleshing out of the issues at hand.
There are a lot of things going on here, and what I really liked about this chapter was touching back with Imi and her father. The flashbacks to Imi's past are, to me, the real action of the chapter, where we see how and why Imi came to be. In it, we see Hideki's own weaknesses and Imi's growing need to figure out what she will do when Masuyo's gone. It's the conflict between those two forces that set everything into motion in the first place. I especially liked writing the battle scene between Imi and Iceman, something I'd had in mind for a while but managed to develop considerably.
And yes, I always had in mind how Hideki forced Imi out, what Imi did to set him off. I hope the clues that have been peppered in throughout the story make sense now.
Do you see the old Imi in how she plays with Codey? I do. That's why she's a good character to write.
Roll's mission in this chapter was a good way to revisit the after-effects of "Reunion" (and yes, we haven't even had the chance to revisit that since). Her making peace with the choir was also necessary to make Imi weak in the last chapter (something I hadn't planned on but embraced as being essential to force Imi back home). It's also a great chance to see some characters we've lost touch with for a while—all the deceased who, as we see, come back in the end.
This chapter also shows Netto and Meiru's relationship at the beginning, how they depend on each other now and support each other. I think ultimately there will be time for them to be kids, but it's not right now, and in a way, that's all right.
Chapter Twenty: Being Human
I had the title "The Prodigal Daughter" planned for this for so long, and I hate myself for not being able to use it, but I had bigger ambitions for this chapter than simply wrap everything up with a bow. In the end, I realized I hadn't spend nearly enough time looking at Rockman, and since he was the one who needed the major epiphany to resolve this story, I needed to spend some time with him.
For the record, this version of chapter twenty is the seventh draft. I don't think any other chapter went past three iterations. That's just how much I played around with how to do this and how to do it right.
It was about on the third or fourth iteration that I came up with the driving idea behind the chapter you see now, but that's not to say it came easily. I balked at the idea of a dream world where everything would be erased. It's hard to avoid the "it's all just a dream" mechanic there. Making it a result of touching Imi helped alleviate that somewhat. Making the events that happened up until he touched her real did, too. Why isn't Netto in the dream as himself? Because he's not the one with massive issues. Rockman is.
You'll notice I call him Saito throughout most of the chapter to reinforce his identity as a human.
The third act of this chapter original had Netto accompany Saito, but I decided this raised too many issues. It shifted too much of the emphasis away from Saito's search and onto their interaction, which isn't what I wanted at that point. Once I cleaned up that act, though, most of the fourth came through on the first go, and I'm very pleased.
I always planned for Nakamura to kill Imi himself as he does here. How he reacts to Saito's visit in the dream, though a figment of Imi's mind, is meant to foreshadow this. The scene in italics is all meant to have really happened, even though neither Rockman nor Imi could've witnessed it, which is why it's not told through Nakamura (vision) but presented directly.
I don't know if I hit the emotional buttons quite right for this chapter. For that, you'll have to tell me. But I couldn't have asked that last paragraph of this chapter to come out any better.
The chapter speaks for itself for the most part, though. This is Rockman's redemption, the final confrontation between the need to fulfill the wishes of others and the desire to find himself, recover what he lost when Roll died. This is the conflict between his navi self and his human identity. The one thing I regret about this chapter was that Imi's actions are all presented from outside her; it's hard to get a clear idea of what she wants, but perhaps we don't need to. She wants forgiveness, and Rockman provides. And that's all we need to see.
So off of a downer ending, I give this, the final circle back to the prologue (and now you understand why I did that). Is it a cheat? A happy ending to soften a bad one? Perhaps. But it also shows people learning from their mistakes, which was always what I meant to happen. They still have to follow through with that message. Hideki will have to be a father to Imi and guide her back once he returns her memories. Perhaps he will try to recover Codey as well. Netto and Meiru will have to grow up together and discover a lot about themselves, but they have a bond forged through tough times. Rockman and Roll will always have each other, and never again will Rockman feel pressure to be something he's not. He can be himself, and so can Imi. Duality reigns, once again.
To my readers, it's been a pleasure and an honor. I hope if some of you are fans of Star Trek or Ranma ½ you'll join me as I venture into those arenas; I don't think I'll be back to Rockman EXE. I've said what I came to say. Thank you, and good night.