Issue 3: Action, That's How! (A Caper in Time Part 2)

by Evan Forman and Michael Robertson - One Chapter a Week Starting 27.11.16


Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - King Zaedar is Introduced, He Learns of Our Hero’s Exploits in Issue #2, and A Mysterious Force Awakens™ From The Depths of The Ancient Past
Chapter 2 - John Boss - Incredibly - Escapes from "The White Palace of Death”, Shoots A BUNCH of Dudes, and Makes His Way to The Relative Safety of Dryadora’s Coal District
Chapter 3 - Dhubagèl Escorts Aerin Through The Sewers of Dryadora, But Maybe Also His Subconscious? What I Mean is We Get to Know More About This Previously Mysterious and At Points Unsettling Character, and The Subterranean Setting is Associated - in Jungian Psychoanalysis - With The Subconscious, So That Works
Chapter 4 - That Relatively Sedate Chapter Was Just a Break from The All-Important Action! As John Boss and Chel Make Their Way Through The Coal District In Their Attempt to Find Safe Refuge, But Not Without The Police Giving Chase
Chapter 5 - John Boss, Aerin Liette, Dhubagèl Shaen, Chel Hagar, and More are Finally United, and Ready to Strike Back Against King Zaedar’s Brutal Regime
Chapter 6 - The Past 30 Years of Aerin's Life Are Unlived for the Sake of the Plot, by Which I Mean Primarily the Plot of This Book, but Also the Plot Which the Red Hand Formulate in This Chapter, Which - If That Wasn't Obvious to You, Reader - Is a Clever Bit of Wordplay on the Similarities between The "Diegetic" Rebellion's Plot Which Requires Sacrifice, in a Very Fatalistic, Heroic Sort of Way, and The "Non-Diegetic" Aristotelian Plot Structure Which Requires Sacrifice in a Very Ritualistic “High-Maintenance Volcano God” Sort of Way
Chapter 7 - In a ‘Baroque Formalism’ Power Move, Four Conversations between John Boss the 34th and the Three Members of the Dryadora Red Hand Cell Are Intercut with a Scene of Domestic Mundanity, and a Scene of Great Heroism Which Is Also a Flashback into the past of John Boss the 41st. For the Purposes of Light Genre Parody, a Minor Character Has a Silly Name; A Minor Character Waits for a Bus, Which Doesn't Actually Move the Plot Forward or Contribute to The Themeing in Any Meaningful Way, And a Minor Character Mentions Things from Wurld’s past but Doesn’t Explain Them, Which Gives You That Kind of High-Fantasy Texture without the Bogged-Downedness That Comes with Fields of Exposition: All the Flavour of Fantasy with None of the Nutrition, and I Think That's Beautiful
Chapter 8 - The Night before the Operation, Aerin — Overcome by Insomnia — Hides Away in His Study and Distracts Himself from His Fear of Tomorrow's Events with the Comforting Familiarity of His Self-Loathing. Kreida Tries to Comfort Him and the Two End up Comparing Notes on a Relationship Forged under the Crucible Pressures of Mental Illness. It's Actually Really Nice.
Chapter 9 - There's a Flashback to an Episode from Chel Hagar's past with Revealing Parallels to Another Episode from Chel Hagar's Past: Chapter 7 of Issue #2. You Might Assume This Is Our Only Reason for Jumping Back a Few Years in Time, but Only If You Pay Attention Will You Notice That We're Subtly Reminding You of and Expanding on the Sub-Sub-Plot of Dryadora and / or the Whole Elvin Empire's failing Electricity System, Because That's Going to Be Important Later. We Then Seamlessly Transition into the Red Hand Cell's Infiltration of the DTV Station Where the Tapes of What Actually Happened in the Arena Are Kept. Being the End of Act II / Beginning of Act III, Things Go a Bit Skiwhiff and the Chapter Ends on a Thrilling Cliffhanger That You'll Have to Wait 'Til next Sunday to See Resolved!
Chapter 10 - Aerin and Krieda Spend Most of the Day in Dryadora's Pearl District, a Nice Day out Which Is Actually a Ruse by Aerin to Get near the Arena Where the Prime Minister Is Making His Speech. Krieda Is Conveniently Scheduled to Visit Her Parents in the Afternoon, so This Gives Aerin the Perfect Opportunity for a Heartbreaking Goodbye Scene before He Goes to Infiltrate the Press Crowd and Place Lockswell's Signal Jammer on the DTV Van's Satellite. Aerin and Dhubagèl Engage in Some Breathtakingly Suspenseful Scenes of Social Deception, but Are They Wily Enough to Avoid Detection by the Already On-Edge Members of the Prime Minister's Elite Guard? Also, How Good Was Doctor Who Last Night?
Chapter 11 - The Red Hand Defend the Control Room as Their Broadcast Goes out to the World. They Flee, and after a High-Octane Chase Scene They Escape into the Forests. All Hope Seems Lost, but Then They Are Saved by a Mysterious Character from an Earlier Point in the Story in a Way That Is Surprising but, Crucially, Still Made Inevitable by the Aristotelian Clockwork We've Established up until This Point. I Liked This Week's Doctor Who a Lot More Than Frank Cottrell-Boyce's Last Episode. It's Good That We're Getting More Fully-Realised Alien Planets In The Show Again
Chapter 12 - The Twelfth One

32 HOURS, 46 MINUTES, AND 15 SECONDS

Aerin arrived, masochistically, at chapter eight. Since becoming a writer, other people’s fiction had long since become impossible to enjoy, for it was veiled by the necessary wall of words; improper punctuation, involuntary spasms of alliteration, thinly drawn characters whose spoke in hushed, functionalist tones about their conspiracy to move the plot forward; off-kilter. Rhythms, clockwise metaphors and similes that melted in the mouth like used rusty drug needles. (“A word on similes:” he quipped in lectures on composition he held in his head, “don’t.”)

He closed the heavy book with a thud. In The Shadow of The Valley by Aerin Liette. It was actually slightly better than Aerin’s other writing, in terms of manicured craftsmanship, but had none of the personality of his earlier literary sketches:

"I’m going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die I'm going to die by my own hand. Eventually. Maybe next week maybe next month maybe in ten years or 9 but it'll be me. Because I deserve this. Bad things are what happen to bad people. I deserve that and everyone in the world deserves better."

The words had been hammered onto the crumpled paper in the typewriter some time ago, but Aerin had been compulsively thinking along these worried lines for the whole day. He sat there, in the corner of his study, at the bottom of the old magisterial bookshelf hugging his knees, surrounded by the spilled contents of the wicker bin, obsessed with tomorrow. But for now, through a cocktail of sleep deprivation and terrified insomnia, he was rummaging through a bin in search of his soul.

Aerin sifted through the scraps to find another immune-system rejection from the typewriter:

"I am nostalgic for other people's lives.
I am nostalgic for lives I never lived.
I am nostalgic for lives I almost lived.
I am nostalgic for my past selves, for my ignorance and my wonder.
I am nostalgic for sun and heat.
I am nostalgic for texture and meaning and emotion.
I am nostalgic for sweat and for breathlessness.

When was the last time anyone was ever breathless?
When was the last time I felt something that wasn't bitterness or fear or anger or regret?
When was the last time the sun touched my skin?
When was the last time I thought everything was going to be okay?
When was the last time I had a chance to avert this hellish futurepresent?
When was the last time I thought 'I'm going to miss this moment because this is a moment worth missing and I am living in the reminisces of bitter Old Man Me, the saturated celluloid footage of the mind's eye, I am living in the joyous body of which he can only dream from his cave of skin and brittle bones, his consequences are my choices, his mistakes are my ambitions, his broken dreams are my tomorrow'?

When was the last time I felt happy, truly happy, happy all through the hairs on my arms and down to my stomach?

I'm not sure I ever did.

I'm not sure anyone ever does."

Aerin hated everything he read.

"I hate everything I write," wrote Aerin. Elsewhere: "I need to die.

I am no longer of use to existence and existence is no longer of use to me. Does nobody else see it? The bomb that's ticking away under my repellent body? At first I was reluctant about Krieda's polyamory, but now I feel as if I'm actively trying to pair her off with one of the other girls. They're lovely, all of them. Krieda is an artist and she sees the beauty in everything, I want her to be free to chase that beauty. Instead, she is tied down to me because of the pre-emptive guilt of what she thinks will happen to me next. I need to convince her I'm okay. I need to convince her she'll be okay without me, because the girl has no idea how strong she is. If only she could see in herself what I see in her, feel the joy I feel knowing that she exists in the world. That's the plan.

I came home and found her with a knife, the other week. I convinced her to hand it over, and it's been locked in the desk drawer beneath my wrists as I type this ever since. I've hidden the key, and the drawer shan't be opened again until I've played my part."

“The fuck are you doing?”

Aerin jolted as he looked up from his scraps at Krieda, whose tall and tired body fell against the doorframe, watching him from half-shut eyes.

“How long have you been there?” Aerin tried to be subtle as he hid the paper face-down on the floor in the shadow of the bin.

“Well I woke up a few minutes ago and noticed that I actually had a blanket, meaning you’re either be down in the kitchen for some water or you’re up here doing something silly.”

“Why would I be doing something…silly?” He asked.

“Because I read your writing and your diary about once a week and I know the bruise on your right thigh wasn’t from bashing your leg on the kitchen table.” She sat down on the floor next to him.

“What bru-…” He glanced down at the faded patch of brown that stained his flesh below the hem of his shorts. He’d forgotten about that. For a second there he thought that - seeing as, in physical terms, he was not literally THE Aerin Liette whose unique aura in space and time Krieda Caishead had fallen in love with for some unfathomable reason - the bruise she was talking about wouldn’t be there. But Aerin had forgotten about that. He forgot that he and his doppelgänger both grew from the same gnarled psychic root. He forgot how their friend from a decade ago got found out by her scars and never got free of the madhouse. He forgot the night they found out there’s less preparation and less risk of infection if you just find a good spot of yourself to wallop until your whole body burns brighter than whatever started the horror show. He forgot about the identical bruises on their right thighs.

Aerin swallowed. “That’s an egregious invasion of privacy.”

“Yeah,” she nodded.

“How would you feel if I went through your diary?”

"That's fair."

"Exactly!"

She got up and left the room. Thudthudthud down the stairs. From up here Aerin could hear the conservatory doors being slid open below him. Thudthudthud up the stairs. She entered the room and sat down beside him, handing over a black leather notebook.

"What's this?" He asked sleepily.

"My diary. You show me yours and I'll show you mine." She smiled through her trepidation. Aerin pulled on the black band that held the book shut, and opened it at its first page.

“6/8/12

I measure time in people. Numbers, months, years and dates don’t mean very much to me. The numbers that make up my life before The Year of Saedra Who Sat at The Table Next to Me in S4 Technical seem to blur together, distilled into a seconds-long infodump like the “previously on…” bits at the starts of TV shows. And then Leola rolls around like summer and time slows down as if to savour itself. I vividly remember the first time I saw her: I was sat in the art department and she walked past me and we didn’t speak because obviously we knew nothing of eachother. I vaguely remember the final time: we stood on opposite ends of a bus stop and we didn’t speak because we both knew too much.

The next three years were The Reign of Mhoir. Too much, too soon, my love.

The length of time that followed is indefinable. It’s such a dark smudgy haze, my brain was too numb to take in a thing. There were no years, maybe isolated couples of months, or a flickering night, but mostly solitary silence. Silence I barely remember, silence I can only fathom in awful scrawls in a diary I'll never, ever read. One day, out of nowhere, time started ticking for A Few Hours of Aerin Liette. There was this book we both liked, and there was the author doing a reading, and there was a seat between us he was too visibly nervous to fill, and the place was getting crowded, so I filled it. I think I heard him screaming on the inside. I was stood behind him in the signing line, and I watched him try to seem like he was casually looking around the library, and then he abruptly turned to me and said “Ilikeyourbadge”.

The point of contention in our tellings of this story is whether or not I openly laughed at him right there. But I was bored, and he was cute, so we ended up in the café next door, and I derived far too much glee at the redness of his cheeks, so that’s how it started. Hours of Aerin Liette ticked over into days as every red thing was the colour of him, and to my astonishment he actually worked up the nerve to phone me with the number I scrawled on his hand before we went our separate ways. (I noticed the tail of a neat scar poke out of his coat sleeve, which I was careful to avoid. Most people would assume he had a cat or something.) His first words were “I hate phone calls* so can we please just get this over with and arrange to meet in person as soon as possible?”

“That’s a little presumptuous of you,” I said.

“Do you like art galleries?”

“Aerin, I am an artist.”

“Because the AeLan’s just been renovated and-”

“I am aware.”

“Tomorrow? Like, 2?”

“Like 2.”

I measure time in people. I’m not sure how long an Aerin is going to be, but this is the first page of a new book. We will measure time in pages.”

(*Aerin hated phone calls, he’d discovered earlier that evening. The hateful little bell inside was the worst noise he’d ever heard, and the lifeless tone which hummed like a black insect in his ear, and the voice of Dhubagèl Shaen which intoned “This is a secure line, if anyone looks at the records this will come up as being from a call centre. The plot,” (This is what the planned operation to air footage of John Boss the 34th destroying the Siran X-01 was referred to as. ‘The Plot’.) “is being set in motion. Be at Dutah Square by 12:30PM, have the signal jammer ready in the DTV van by 1:15. That’s when we’ll go live.” The hiss of white noise continued. “You have to put the phone down, Aerin.”

Aerin whispered “Oh, right, sorry I was just waiting for-”

“Say it’s a call centre. Put the phone down now.”

Aerin shoved the receiver back on its infernal perch. Krieda shouted through the house “Who was it?”

“Call centre. I hate these things.”

“They’re basically an oppressed minority at this point. There should be hate crimes against call centre workers.”

“No I mean the phones, they’re awful! Who invented these atrocities? Who do I have to go back in time and kill?” He said, not even remotely joking. “Back in the 2000s the house retained its god-given purpose as the place you go to hide from friends and loved ones. Now these machines come along and suddenly any fucker can barge their way into your attention span as they see fit! It’s offensive! It’s outright dystopian! Walls were invented for a reason!”)

The two of them were now sitting together silently, reading each other. Aerin was always watching what she read from the corner of his eye. The words slipped out of him: “This is beautiful.”

“What is?”

“Your writing, and your handwriting. It’s all loopy and ridiculous.”

“They say a person’s handwriting tells you a lot about their personality.”

“Oh so that’s why mine is so awf-” She kissed his mouth shut.

“Shush. No. I won’t let you.”

“I was joking.”

“No, you weren’t.” She said, looking at him seriously. “I know you. Your jokes are just disguises for darker things.”

Aerin thought for a moment, glancing away from her gaze. “Yeah. I suppose it is an old habit.”

“And it’s one I'm breaking. Because you’re lovely. You’re lovely and no you don’t deserve this life,” she said, waving the piece of paper she was holding. “You deserve better.”

You don't deserve this life,” said a voice in the blackness of Aerin’s head. It was a familiar chant.

You deserve better,” said the memory of Krieda’s. The old death-song had been given a second verse.

Aerin’s eyes widened.

Krieda looked worried. “What?”

“Not for the first time I am just fucking stunned that you exist.” He bluntly declared, deriving far too much glee from the redness of her cheeks. “You realise what you’ve just done there, right? You have taken one of the foundational rhetorical tricks of Most Awful Awfulness and you have inverted it and you have made it beautiful, and good and kind and helpful and the only thing I can think about is how much I love you for it.”

Krieda was slightly taken aback. “I didn’t-” He kissed her mouth shut.

“Don’t finish that sentence. I don’t want you putting yourself down. Not anymore. You deserve better, and you’ll get better.”

“I’ll get better.” She didn’t think about saying those words in the same way one doesn’t think about breathing.

“Good.”

Aerin and Krieda had dropped their pieces of paper and were now wrapped around each other, leaking slightly, like two identically warped flowers whose stalks had entwined in the tranquillity after a sudden shower of rain. Or snails fucking.

“We should do something tomorrow,” said Aerin, his voice buried in her shoulder. “Emerald District? Find somewhere new for lunch.”

“Won’t there be loads of crowds there? They’ll all be there for that speech about the arena.”

“We can avoid the crowds, surely.”

“Maybe.” She wiped a residual tear from her eye. “Tomorrow’s the last day of my exhibition at the gallery. Maybe we could pop in, see how people manage to fuck up everything I was trying to do.”

“That sounds good,” he smiled against the fabric of her jumper.

“Well, I say ‘tomorrow’. It *is* 2am.”

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - King Zaedar is Introduced, He Learns of Our Hero’s Exploits in Issue #2, and A Mysterious Force Awakens™ From The Depths of The Ancient Past
Chapter 2 - John Boss - Incredibly - Escapes from "The White Palace of Death”, Shoots A BUNCH of Dudes, and Makes His Way to The Relative Safety of Dryadora’s Coal District
Chapter 3 - Dhubagèl Escorts Aerin Through The Sewers of Dryadora, But Maybe Also His Subconscious? What I Mean is We Get to Know More About This Previously Mysterious and At Points Unsettling Character, and The Subterranean Setting is Associated - in Jungian Psychoanalysis - With The Subconscious, So That Works
Chapter 4 - That Relatively Sedate Chapter Was Just a Break from The All-Important Action! As John Boss and Chel Make Their Way Through The Coal District In Their Attempt to Find Safe Refuge, But Not Without The Police Giving Chase
Chapter 5 - John Boss, Aerin Liette, Dhubagèl Shaen, Chel Hagar, and More are Finally United, and Ready to Strike Back Against King Zaedar’s Brutal Regime
Chapter 6 - The Past 30 Years of Aerin's Life Are Unlived for the Sake of the Plot, by Which I Mean Primarily the Plot of This Book, but Also the Plot Which the Red Hand Formulate in This Chapter, Which - If That Wasn't Obvious to You, Reader - Is a Clever Bit of Wordplay on the Similarities between The "Diegetic" Rebellion's Plot Which Requires Sacrifice, in a Very Fatalistic, Heroic Sort of Way, and The "Non-Diegetic" Aristotelian Plot Structure Which Requires Sacrifice in a Very Ritualistic “High-Maintenance Volcano God” Sort of Way
Chapter 7 - In a ‘Baroque Formalism’ Power Move, Four Conversations between John Boss the 34th and the Three Members of the Dryadora Red Hand Cell Are Intercut with a Scene of Domestic Mundanity, and a Scene of Great Heroism Which Is Also a Flashback into the past of John Boss the 41st. For the Purposes of Light Genre Parody, a Minor Character Has a Silly Name; A Minor Character Waits for a Bus, Which Doesn't Actually Move the Plot Forward or Contribute to The Themeing in Any Meaningful Way, And a Minor Character Mentions Things from Wurld’s past but Doesn’t Explain Them, Which Gives You That Kind of High-Fantasy Texture without the Bogged-Downedness That Comes with Fields of Exposition: All the Flavour of Fantasy with None of the Nutrition, and I Think That's Beautiful
Chapter 8 - The Night before the Operation, Aerin — Overcome by Insomnia — Hides Away in His Study and Distracts Himself from His Fear of Tomorrow's Events with the Comforting Familiarity of His Self-Loathing. Kreida Tries to Comfort Him and the Two End up Comparing Notes on a Relationship Forged under the Crucible Pressures of Mental Illness. It's Actually Really Nice.
Chapter 9 - There's a Flashback to an Episode from Chel Hagar's past with Revealing Parallels to Another Episode from Chel Hagar's Past: Chapter 7 of Issue #2. You Might Assume This Is Our Only Reason for Jumping Back a Few Years in Time, but Only If You Pay Attention Will You Notice That We're Subtly Reminding You of and Expanding on the Sub-Sub-Plot of Dryadora and / or the Whole Elvin Empire's failing Electricity System, Because That's Going to Be Important Later. We Then Seamlessly Transition into the Red Hand Cell's Infiltration of the DTV Station Where the Tapes of What Actually Happened in the Arena Are Kept. Being the End of Act II / Beginning of Act III, Things Go a Bit Skiwhiff and the Chapter Ends on a Thrilling Cliffhanger That You'll Have to Wait 'Til next Sunday to See Resolved!
Chapter 10 - Aerin and Krieda Spend Most of the Day in Dryadora's Pearl District, a Nice Day out Which Is Actually a Ruse by Aerin to Get near the Arena Where the Prime Minister Is Making His Speech. Krieda Is Conveniently Scheduled to Visit Her Parents in the Afternoon, so This Gives Aerin the Perfect Opportunity for a Heartbreaking Goodbye Scene before He Goes to Infiltrate the Press Crowd and Place Lockswell's Signal Jammer on the DTV Van's Satellite. Aerin and Dhubagèl Engage in Some Breathtakingly Suspenseful Scenes of Social Deception, but Are They Wily Enough to Avoid Detection by the Already On-Edge Members of the Prime Minister's Elite Guard? Also, How Good Was Doctor Who Last Night?
Chapter 11 - The Red Hand Defend the Control Room as Their Broadcast Goes out to the World. They Flee, and after a High-Octane Chase Scene They Escape into the Forests. All Hope Seems Lost, but Then They Are Saved by a Mysterious Character from an Earlier Point in the Story in a Way That Is Surprising but, Crucially, Still Made Inevitable by the Aristotelian Clockwork We've Established up until This Point. I Liked This Week's Doctor Who a Lot More Than Frank Cottrell-Boyce's Last Episode. It's Good That We're Getting More Fully-Realised Alien Planets In The Show Again
Chapter 12 - The Twelfth One