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December 19, 2012

Spirit Showdown #8: The Soldier

“Hey, it’s your favorite band!”

My brother Rich recoiled at the sound of Linkin Park bursting through the speakers of his car.  It’s a running gag between us to say “it’s your favorite _____” when something either of us revile  or don’t care about shows up, like when I’d hold up the Wii installment of Deadliest Catch during a GameStop run and say “Hey, it’s your favorite game!”  But the mere mention -- the mere thought -- of Linkin Park made him positively livid.  Why, I couldn’t begin to guess.

Of course, he was quick to explain.  “Everyone’s allowed to like one shitty band when you’re young,” he said.  “I remember back when I was taking bass guitar lessons, my teacher told me to bring in a song to play.  So I brought in Linkin Park, and he was just like, ‘Ughhhhhhhh.  All right, let’s get this crap over with.’  I mean, they’ve gotta have the worst bassist ever.”

Not being a guitarist, I wasn’t about to debate with him.  All I knew was that at one point, he liked Linkin Park -- to the point where, when I’d come home from school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear him blasting some of their tracks.  Whether that was just to hone his skills or just because he loved hearing their music remains a mystery…though I suspect his discovery of the band was helped by stumbling upon a Dragon Ball Z AMV set to “Forgotten.” 

It goes without saying that, by virtue of audio-osmosis, I ended up liking Linkin Park for a while as well (it certainly helps that Rich left one of their CDs in my CD player after an extended borrowing period).  While those days have long since passed and I’ve moved on to some better stuff since then -- metal in particular -- there was a time when their music had a real effect on me.  Not the “CRAWLING IN MY SKIN” sort of affect, of course, but just enough to shape me just a tiny bit.  To change my perspective, outlook, and of course, creative processes.

So if not for Linkin Park, this next character likely wouldn’t exist.  And if not for the years that followed, and all the music therein, this next character wouldn’t be who he is today: quite possibly my favorite of them all.

All right.  Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.

As far as I can tell, it looks like everything I need is in place.  I’ve spent a bit of time with the technology, so even in the worst case scenario I’ve got everything I need all lined up.  There should still be content flowing for a while yet…not that I had any intention of stopping, but you can’t be too careful.  In any case, I should take the proper precautions.

I think I’ve just about got this mess figured out.  If the internet is imploding around me, and every time I do one of these posts I’m smack-dab in the middle of it, then there are only a few ways to fix it.  The most obvious is that there’s something I need to do here on Cross-Up -- i.e. plug up whatever hole’s been poked into the fabric of space and time.  And that guy’s the focal point of it all, if not the cause.  Of course, there’s always the possibility that I’M the one responsible in some measure, but I’d like to think that some guy who looks like a sprig of broccoli isn’t the reason for a complete meltdown of reality.

At the very least, I think I might have figured out what he’s after.  And if I have -- if all my reasoning turns out to be correct -- then I’ll end it all here.  I’ve just gotta cast out the bait, and wait for a bite.

…And then I can start considering going on a fishing trip.  Been a while since I’ve had one of those…and even longer since I actually caught a fish.  But I can think about that later; right now, it’s time for me to go to town.

I should probably start by saying that the title of “favorite” is extremely tentative; in the same sense that the details revealed in this Showdown aren’t 100% final (in the weeks since some of these posts, I’ve already come up with some significant changes to characters), so too are these characters bound to shift around the informal rankings.  I can tell you right now that Deias is in the top three -- partly because he is THE character I care about most, as the OG hero; partly because his general valor is something I’m eager to put forth.  As of late, though, I‘ve gotten pretty fond of Ursa; I feel like after struggling for years to make her worthwhile, I’m finally within arm’s reach of my goal.  The sheer amount of potential I see in her and her story is staggering -- I mean honestly, how often do you see a Godzilla-sized wrestle-mama in fiction?  So yeah, they’re pretty high up there. 

But Raze is different.  Significantly different.  And the best place to start explaining why is by naming his spirit -- which in this case is…


Normally this would be the point where I break into some ham-fisted celebration of a virtue, typically with some hint as to the character’s dominant element.  But I feel like that’s not a hundred-percent appropriate, given the context.  So I’ll leave it to you to imagine your own crazy line.

So you’re probably wondering, “What makes Raze different from all the rest?”  Or, alternatively, “What is it that makes this kid good?”  Well, in order to explain what Raze is today, I feel like I have to explain what Raze was.  And to do that, I’ll bring in this blast from the past:

This is what Raze looked like, once upon a time.  The story was that he -- like plenty of other characters in-universe -- was a psychic, someone with incredible powers of perception and kinesis.  As you can expect, that also means that plenty of psychics (children especially) are liable to be disasters in the making.  So in order to prevent any major catastrophes, children are sent in droves to the product of the global powers’ efforts: a school on a secluded island, with all the furnishings, facilities, and faculty needed to turn volatile psychics into viable members of society. 

Except things aren’t exactly idyllic and orderly; there’s a notable caste system in place, and psychics are organized into teams of four according to their skill level (as obtained from on-site preliminary tests), and placed in one of seven tiers.  The strongest psychics -- Tier 1 -- are given top-notch housing, treatment, and privileges; the weakest -- Tier 7 -- given ramshackle huts on the island outskirts.  Thanks to some technicalities -- and a completely-bombed written test -- Raze ends up in Tier 7 in spite of being several degrees stronger.  So not only does he have to deal with embarrassing living conditions and the hazing of his upperclassmen, but also a nigh-useless team featuring a short-tempered teenage girl, a crybaby, and some dude that spends days at a time asleep.  In spite of that, Raze is out to climb his way to the top, bettering himself and his friends and learning valuable lessons, as well as unraveling the true nature of the school and going head-to-head with a murderous cult. 

Basically, it was designed to be “a punk-ass version of Harry Potter” -- though in hindsight, it sounds eerily similar to Yu-Gi-Oh GX.  It might have worked in the long run, but in the end it was, in my eyes at least, more than a little derivative.  In its defense, the school stuff would only take place for the first half of the story -- the preparation for the global conflict to come, and Raze’s transformation to self-aggrandizing nobody to the frontman for a rebellion.  And even in those days, Raze was going to be the lynchpin of the story.  Energetic and wild and free-spirited; quick to anger (especially when someone cracks wise about his height) and impulsive and self-serving; he would have been a hero, no question, but his aggressive earnestness would do him no favors.  It certainly didn’t help that he was responsible for essentially nuking a town, had a clone born from his split-off psyche, and actually died at the halfway point.  Again, serviceable stuff -- nothing worth being TOO ashamed about, more or less -- but in the end, it didn’t pan out.  Looking back, it all feels pretty generic.  I could add a few flourishes, but not enough to separate it from the rest of the fictional world.

So I stopped.  I stopped trying to write a proto-version, and hid the notebook I carried it in deep within the annals of the earth.  And I started over.  Certain details remained, of course -- there’s still an island, and a few (retooled) characters, and psychic children (renamed Espers), but…well…

If you’ve been checking out this feature for the past few weeks, you might have noticed a little trend.  Sometimes -- well, often, arguably -- I’ll dream up a story and a character, but over the course of their development they end up as immensely different products.  Tonally, they can be the exact opposite of what they once were.  Cobalt and his story were supposed to be a little nitty-gritty, and the leading man a cocky, thieving, out-for-myself-unless-you-help-me kind of guy.  Now he’s sensitive to the point of being more skittish than a schoolgirl, and surrounded by people who are several levels more absurd.  Alice and her story were supposed to be the darkest creations I could muster; whereas the leading lady was once a callous demon-killer with a bad attitude, she’s cocksure and charming and living in a world that looks like a never-ending Halloween party.  FX started out as a pitiful little pansy with a muddled past and a dark secret; now he’s a borderline villain taking his terrorism in stride.

What does that mean for Raze?  Well, incidentally, I have some semblance of an answer -- and have had one for months.  I made this a while back, and in the interest of saving time (and providing visual aids) I’ll present it here for you once more.  Behold!  Backstory!

And that should pretty much set the tone for the story at large.  It’s not quite as oppressive as that little video made it out to be (this is me we’re talking about -- the guy who wrote a story about a hammy moron trying to build a harem via psychic powers), but hopefully you understand that it’s designed to be notably darker than what I’ve proposed in the past.

With that in mind, let’s talk a bit about Raze.  Yes, he’s different, and more in line with the story he’s set to inhabit.  But I want to stress, quickly and immediately, that just because he and his story are darker doesn’t mean he’s without any of the trappings of a good character.  He has a personality.  He has motivations.  Strengths and weaknesses, both physically and mentally.  He’s capable of more than being a one-note character -- and most of all he never, ever falls prey to his angstThis is important.  Remember it for later, because we’ll likely come back to it.

Some advise that you should be able to define a character in three words.  Fair enough -- but for now, I’d like to do it in one.  If proto-Raze was “spirited”, then nu-Raze is, at the core of his being, “tough.”  He is a tough-ass kid. He’s stalwart.  He’s focused.  He’s determined.  He presses on and does what needs to be done.  His default temperament is “steely”; he can get emotional, but he’s so cool-headed and controlled that the moments when he DOES get emotional are genuine shocks to everyone around him.  He’s reliable.  He’s responsible.  He is, through and through, a soldier.  Of course, whether or not that’s a good thing ultimately remains to be seen…but I’ll get to that.

It’s worth noting that even if Raze isn’t exactly a goofy character, he is NOT the doom-and-gloom type.  He has a sense of humor, albeit an understated one.  He’s very serious, but not above a bit of relaxing with his pals every now and then.  He may be a pint-sized version of Solid Snake, but he’s not without his concerns and quirks -- he’s got a hang-up about his height, he’s notably terrible at most games (physical, electronic, or board), and he’s got a surprisingly weak stomach.  But most of all, he tries his best to be nurturing and peaceable; he’ll be the friend and mentor that his comrades need, and he’ll gladly resort to diplomacy instead of violence if he can possibly help it -- it’s even his preferred tactic and first option.  That’s not to say that he’s exactly successful at being warm and caring (he develops a largely-reviled alter ego, THE LEGENDARY HORSE-HEAD! in a failed attempt to try and cheer up others) because his toughness makes him awkward and an anomaly amongst his peers.  But he tries, damn it.  He tries, and he tries, and he tries, and he does it all without complaint.  He’s just doing what he has to do -- what he needs to do.

So to say that there’s a darker undercurrent in Raze and his tale than pretty much all the others should be rather clear by now, thanks in part to the circumstances.  This is, at its core, a story about children abandoned and excised by the world coming to terms with daily life in a world without order.  Everything they have is built by gangs of varying size and authority, and made almost completely out of junk from past eras.  Dilapidation is as common as graffiti, and it doesn’t help that gang warfare is as common as the sunrise.  Resources are fought over just to feed the “troops”, and all-out wars have sprouted just to get a modicum of territory.  There’s the emotional distress that comes from being separated from friends and family on the mainland, thrown into a world where you’re forced to toughen up and get strong allies or die, and occasionally fend off harassment by a military force that couldn’t give a shit about whether or not you come in peace.  You’re trapped on the island with no way out; you have to make the best of it.

And it IS possible to make the best of it.  The children have, skirmishes aside, carved out some semi-stable niches in whatever territory they happen to claim.  It’s not exactly a first-class life, but there’s more than enough to survive -- as long as you stay smart and get tough, that is.  In some cases (i.e. the backstories of several characters), it’s preferable to live on Kulitta Island instead of the mainland and Riaanian oppression.  Raze is no exception; before he got dropped on the island -- when he was seven years old -- he got picked up off the streets by a rebel leader hoping to take down Riaania, and got a first-hand taste of the destruction therein.  While it was far from an ideal situation thanks to the furious guerrilla warfare and almost-daily disasters (one of which was caused by Raze himself), that was how he got his first taste of music as well as his idolization of the soldier mentality, both of which were made possible thanks to his adoptive grandfather.  As these things tend to go, the rebellion didn’t pan out and said grandfather got bodied spectacularly, but those years formed Raze and his mentality as much as the years that would follow on the island.  Incidentally, the name “Raze Lagarta” is little more than a compound alias; the “Raze” is one he inherited from his grandpa, while the other has a different origin.  At one point, however, he says that his real name is Eddy Gordo.  Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but for you game-savvy, it should ring a bell.

Nods to Tekken aside, it’s not much of a surprise that he starts gearing up for all-out war with Riaania.
Through a series of “missions” prior to the story, Raze stumbles onto a globe-spanning plot -- one that’ll not only secure Riaania as the unrivaled and unquestionable (literally unquestionable) world power, but leave Kulitta and every Esper that ever was or ever will be as smoking husks.   He knows that if he wants to…you know, stay alive, he won’t be able to take on Riaania and its PMF alone.  And that’s exactly why he embarks on an island-wide campaign: to bring all of its Espers under one flag, and harmonize them so that together they can strike back against those that dare to erase them.  It’s up to him to whip a group of island newcomers -- dubbing his gang the Swallowtails -- into shape, and use them as a platform for bringing total harmony.  Of course, he’ll have a hell of a time doing so; ignoring the fact that he’s essentially a kid general with an army just big enough to fit in a clubhouse, there are other would-be conquerors that have their own aims in mind -- unification under their rule, with all the chaos and bloodshed that it would entail.  And even if Raze manages to pull together a united front (with PMF forces breathing down their necks and trying to suppress a rebellion), the next step is getting off the island and actually taking the fight to Riaania.  Not exactly a simple task, that.

It’s just a good thing that Raze is so well-equipped for the task.  While he’s no Eddy Gordo in terms of combat ability (or propensity for button-mashing maelstroms), he’s got some extremely useful tools and skills that make him a threat even amongst Espers far stronger. 

Let’s start with the basics.  Espers have a shared tool set that you’d generally expect from a psychic from any medium -- though how effective they are with certain abilities varies from person to person.  In Raze’s case, his sensory abilities (hearing, especially) are top-notch, and he’s got some skill with telekinesis and telepathic communication; he’s not much in the way of clairvoyance or mind-reading.  More importantly, each Esper has a Dominion, or “Dom” for short -- think of it as a unique ability that gives them control over certain aspects of the world, usually encapsulated by a certain verb.  For Raze, his Dom is “echo”, meaning that most of his high-end abilities revolve around sound.  The more sound there is, and the louder it is, the more “ammo” he has for some of his stronger attacks.  He can make and direct sound as he sees fit, recall and reproduce sounds that once echoed in an area, and most of all use it as additional energy for his concussive blasts.  There’s much more that he can do with it, of course, but he’ll have to figure that out along the way.

It’s also worth noting that Raze is what fighting game fans might dub a “zoning-type character.”  Tht is, whereas other characters want to get in as fast as possible and put up a crazy offense, or just overpower opponents with devastating grabs, Raze has a more strategic approach.  He wants you at a certain range so that he can attack you with a wide array of long-range techniques, and all you can do is sit there and take it.  Generally speaking, he’s fantastic at playing defensively -- though of course, his long-range offense (while not exactly high-damage) is nothing to scoff at as a result.  He has lots of Esper-enhanced weaponry to do so, from amp cords that extend for dozens of feet to metronomes that double as grenades…and that’s ignoring his ability to batter you with psychic bolts and electric strikes, with his signature technique being a sniper shot that targets anything making a sound.  If an enemy manages to get within close range, Raze isn’t quite as handy…not as handy, but far from helpless.  He’s managed to convert an old baseball bat into an electromagnetic tuning fork, meaning that if you’re going to pressure him up close, you’re in for as rough a time as him.

But by far Raze’s most dangerous ability -- both for his opponents and himself -- is his FM Gear.  See, some Espers can temporarily enter an enhanced state that’s referred to by PMF soldiers as “Fatality Modulation”, or Fatal Mode.  It’s a high-risk, high-reward mode that dramatically boosts an Esper’s abilities, but is extremely exhausting and puts incredible stress on the mind and body -- so much that even the slightest disturbance can lead to death.  But for certain Espers (Raze, and a handful of others throughout the story), their Fatal Mode takes it one step higher.  Instead of just a burst of energy, they actually get special items -- instruments that grant entirely new abilities and an even MORE dramatic boost in power.  The downside is that it’s even more draining than a regular FM, and if anything happens to their FM Gear, they die.  Instantly.  No exceptions.  But it’s worth it; Raze’s FM Gear (Fatality Modulation: X-Caliber, or FMX for short) gives him an electric guitar that increases his mobility by several degrees, and makes every shot more potent by way of the guitar’s blasting riffs.  But more importantly, FMX comes equipped with a whirring circular saw -- and while it doesn’t cut through people (under normal circumstances, at least), it has a much more debilitating effect: every slash that connects with an opponent steals their energy and adds it to his own.  Energy he can release in a proportionally-fierce power chord.

Incidentally, that’s not even the most powerful of the FM Gears.  Far from it.  And rase himself is far from the strongest Esper on the island.  But even if that’s the case, he’s sharp-witted and battle-savvy enough to use positioning and the battlefield to his advantage.  Stealth, subterfuge, and flat-out guerilla tactics are all part and parcel of his strategy.  He may just be a kid, but he’ll make you throw a tantrum; no matter what you do, he’ll counter it and prevent it before you even get in attack range.

You could say that compared to guys like Ocelot V or Shino -- rushdown and mix-up characters, respectively, who both specialize in offense -- Raze is a wall.  You won’t have your way, no matter what you do, and he’ll wear you down with skill and precision.  That’s all intentional, of course; Raze is as much a wall to his enemies as he is to his comrades, even those who join, support, and save him on the battlefield.  Yes, he tries to be nurturing and pleasant, but it’s made immediately clear and obvious that there’s always going to be a divide between him and everyone else.  He’s one of the younger members of the cast -- or at the very least, one of the youngest of the FM Gear holders -- but he’s also one of the most serious, outstripping most adults in terms of maturity.  It takes a lot of effort for him to be anything less than serious, and even when (if) he manages to break out of that shell he’s still incredibly awkward and prone to trying to slink off to do some business.  All this is exacerbated by the fact that he never smiles.  Ever.  He did when he was younger, but not since his grandpa’s death.  It reaches a point where it’s quite literally impossible to make him smile -- as in someone controls his mind and tries to force him to do so, but the mental effort required would be too much for even ten thousand Espers to handle.

So even if the story and the character have their bright spots, there’s something inherently sorrowful about both.  Something you just know -- something unsettling, and something you’ll either grasp immediately or have your brain itch every time you see Raze go to work.  He is inherently troubled; even if there is a battle brewing on the horizon, he’s a soldier fighting in a war that doesn’t exist.  His mind is always on the next battle, or the next summit between gangs, or the next supply run, or the next bit of construction work needed for the Swallowtails’ home base.  “Fun” is a concept that’s quickly becoming foreign to him, with all the dangers that it entails; more than anyone else in the story, he’s at risk of losing his childhood, his innocence, and his heart because he’s got little more than the mission on his mind.  Inevitably he’ll get called out on it, but that’s when he’s at his most defensive.  “I’m doing all this for your sakes,” he might say, as if that’s the end of it.  Or maybe “If I don’t focus on the mission, we all lose.”  His sense of duty is at once his greatest strength and his greatest failing, in the sense that not having it -- or failing to live up to it -- is tantamount to betraying everything he stands for…and at some points, worse than death.

But he has a reason for it.  He’s a reason-driven character; he can easily justify every action he takes, no matter how callous or ill-fitting for his age it might be.  It goes beyond the memories of his grandfather, and the lessons learned therein.  It’s because once upon a time, Raze didn’t do his duty.  He didn’t do what needed to be done.  And because of it, every Esper -- every Esper except one -- is facing mortal danger.

Up to this point, I’ve avoided talking about the villains in each story (for the most part at least).  This is a showcase of heroes, after all.  And in the event that I wanted to do a similar feature for the villains, I could do so without retreading much ground.  But in this case, I’ll make an exception -- primarily because there is no worse villain than the one Raze faces.

Generally speaking -- and additional nod to Tekken aside -- that’s what Raze’s villain, rival, and foil looks like.  But don’t let those looks fool you; Mariposa “Mari” Pesadilla is anything but a dream come true.  As a seventeen-year-old girl, you wouldn’t expect that much from her, and on a base level you’d be right; she’s scatterbrained, silly, and laid-back.  Whereas Raze is serious to a fault, Mari is widely-known for her perpetual smiles and cheery nature.  She was also the leader of the original Swallowtails -- a small gang, but more than tough enough to take on bigger groups with relative ease.  Part of the reason for that is because Mari is, by and large, one of the most powerful Espers ever to exist.  Her raw power -- and the seemingly-infinite potential of her Dom, “imagine” -- made her akin to a sleeping giant.  Leave her be, and you’ll know her as little more than a ditz.  Cross her, and you’ll see just how serious -- and deadly -- she can be.

To say Raze has a bond with Mari would be an understatement.  For starters, he was her right-hand man -- the voice of reason, the number-two, the covering fire, the repairman, you name it.  If she called on him for anything, he’d handle it.  But more importantly, it was Mari who helped Raze get acclimated to life on the island, showing him the ropes and helping him develop his powers into what they are today (sans the FMX, as it’s a tool he only learned to harness recently).  His bond with her goes beyond respect and camaraderie; she’s the one he calls “Sis” with no shortage of affection, and is in no uncertain terms in love with her.  It was even as tribute to her that he took on the last name “Lagarta” -- he’s the caterpillar to her butterfly.

And then the plot happened.

Mari is a murderer.  An unrepentant, unflinching, unsympathetic murderer.  Her ditzy act is just a façade; true, she may act like a child -- one even younger than she is, at times -- but that just makes her “games” all the more horrific.  Raze had started to note a certain sadism and drive for violence in Mari for a few years, but remained silent about it.  After all, how could he confront the girl who was his mentor, his leader, his partner, and his love all rolled into one?  So he just kept his head down and did whatever missions he got, growing more and more aware of her dissolving sense of ethics.

It all came to a head one day.  They caught wind of a PMF ship circling the island -- and as a result, Mari suggested that it could give the children a chance to return home and reunite with their families.  So she gathered up the Swallowtails, and some other straggling Espers nearby, and led them to the coast.  With her power, she parted the ocean, and led them toward the ship.  They walked for miles, and miles, and miles, without stopping.  Without a break.  Those that couldn’t keep up were left behind -- swallowed by the waters without a second thought.  By then, the Espers had realized they’d been led into a dangerous situation, Raze most of all.  But he kept silent.  He wanted to believe that she hadn’t gone off the deep end.  So they all pressed onward in silence, hoping that the ship would take them to freedom.

Except it wasn’t a PMF ship.  It was just a regular cruise liner, nowhere near Kulitta Island.  They’d walked for days to intercept a ship with no relation to them whatsoever…or so it seemed.

Mari issued them an order.  Attack the ship.  Kill everyone on board, or be killed themselves.  She wanted them to know what it was like -- what she’d come to enjoy, and anticipate.  She wanted to give them one final sendoff, as she intended to leave Kulitta, the Swallowtails, and her life as a respectable leader behind.  But most of all, she wanted to do it -- and wanted everyone else to have a hand in slaughter -- for one reason.  Because she thought it would be fun.

What transpired was little else besides a tragedy.  The Espers went on the attack, fearing for their lives and the wrath of Mari.  If not for a small group of soldiers on security detail, the Espers would have gone unopposed.  So what should have been a total wipeout turned into a battlefield on the sea -- children and adults taking shots at each other, burning and blasting and breaking the ship, with both sides taking damage and taking lives.  And Mari gladly contributed to it all, killing friend and foe alike just to spread chaos.  And she did all of it with a smile on her face.

And Raze just stood there.  He stood his ground, frozen, having long since burst into tears thanks to both the grisly sights and the choking flames.  Amidst it all, he and Mari locked eyes.  She wanted him to join in the fun -- to abandon his self-ordained role as a soldier and live freely.  Live happily.  Do whatever he wanted to do, for the sake of his own gain and benefit and entertainment.  She wanted Raze to stop being Raze.  She wanted him to be just like her.

He refused.  And as a result, he has those scars on his face -- and plenty more.

After that…well, not even Raze is sure what happened.  The next thing he knew, he was on the mainland and being poked and prodded by Riaanian scientists -- with Mari nowhere in sight.  How he got back to Kulitta is a story in itself, but for now I’ll say this: even if that country is a major threat, it’s the MIA Mari who’s truly behind it all.  If Raze wants to give himself and his fellow Espers -- and the world at large -- a future, he’ll have to do what he wouldn’t do before.  It’s up to him to make amends.  He’ll have to find her, and kill her.

If he doesn’t, then Mari’s influence and body count will keep on rising.  She’s playing Espers and Riaania against each other, using both in whatever way will help her get the most entertainment.  And while she watches disasters and devastation rip across the world, it’s Raze that ends up on clean-up duty.  He has to take a stand in an unavoidable war between Espers set in motion by Mari’s well-timed assassination.  He has to end the dreams -- and maybe the life -- of a young girl, one whose fate was set into motion by Mari’s careless antics.  He has to face off with another kid general, one who’s out for blood and vengeance thanks to the cruise massacre Mari spearheaded.  At one point, Raze even has to kill his best friend…all a part of Mari’s plan.  And that’s not even the worst thing she does.  Not by a long shot.

I hope you’ll forgive Raze for being a bit obsessive when it comes to Mari.  At one point, she admits that part of the reason she’s spreading all the destruction she can is because she knows Raze will swoop in and try to counteract it -- he’s the harmony to her discord.  She knows he’s suffering, and enjoys it, because one of two things will happen.  One: he’ll break under the pressure and get picked off easily as a result.  Or two: he’ll soldier on and try to stop her…and fail, leaving her unopposed and ready to search for a new playmate.  Of course, Raze opts for a third option: he’ll stop her.  He’ll fulfill his duty, and take down the person who matters to him the most -- even if it means putting a bullet through his childhood.  In his eyes, it’s what he has to do.

He’s a soldier; nothing more, nothing less.

And that’s really all there is to it. Well, no, not quite.  There’s still the matter and place of music in the story.  Part of the reason it’s so powerful (and by extension, why those who hold the instrument-esque FM Gears end up becoming the leaders of their respective gangs) is that it has more than enough potential to transform sane Espers into lunatics.  But for those who can control and harness the power of music -- Raze well among them -- it can be the ultimate rallying cry.  Of course, whether or not Raze is up to the task, or if his own exposure to music has negatively affected him, is still up in the air.  But when you’re going up against a homicidal teenager with a toddler’s mentality and nigh-incalculable potential wielded on a whim, you take what you can get.  And you’d better be ready for a fight.

Incidentally, here’s Raze’s theme song.  I can’t promise it’s in a genre suitable to all, but generally speaking I think it’s fitting…for now.

And that’ll do it for now.  So, with all that said…I think it’s about time for you to come out now.

Come on, don’t try and shrug me off.  I’ve finally figured you out, at least a little bit.  The fact that you’re here now is all the proof I need, isn’t it?  So how about giving me a little credit?

…And just what exactly do you think you’ve figured out?

Something substantial, I hope. 

Care to indulge me?

You know I would have done that even if you didn’t ask, buddy.  But to put it simply, it’s all starting to come together.  I was more than eager to assume you were just a creation of mine that developed free will and broke loose, but looking back, that might have been a little too indulgent on my part. 

What do you mean?

“Indulging” really is the word of the day, isn’t it?  I’ve been working on this feature for weeks now, typing out long-winded posts as to why anyone should care about these characters.  It’s not exactly clear what the end result will be, or if anyone cares beyond looking for more pictures of Christina Hendricks, but at the very least I have one guy who I know will be watching my work very, very carefully.


You’ve always been there, haven’t you?  You acted like what I did was a waste of time, firing off your sarcastic comments like a Gatling gun.  But deep down, you knew you were here for a reason.  You came here to my blog because you needed something.  You needed sustenance.  Energy.  Material.  Something to latch onto.  And week after week, I’ve been providing it.  I’ve been putting my all into these posts -- and for every bit of mental energy I put into it, the better-fed you end up being.  You only came here to get that energy for your own purposes, even if it meant putting up with me.

That’s pretty presumptuous of you.  Besides, I haven’t been here every week; I took off --

Yeah, that’s what you want me to think.  But just as this feature’s not complete without the full set, neither are you.  Each post gives you a piece of the puzzle, for something more than just stuffing your gut.  You needed the guts.  The love.  The pride.  The dreams.  The knowledge.  The freedom.  The justice.  The duty.  Even if I couldn’t see you, you could see me and those spirits, and harness their energy for your own purposes.  That means you’ll be back two more times -- and by then, you’ll have everything you need for your plan.  And the internet at large -- reality at large -- is just collateral damage you’re more than willing to let come to pass.

And a creation of yours is to blame.

Don’t try to pin this on me.  I know who you are now.  See, I’ve inadvertently been slipping between the real world and this virtual space for a while now.  Like I’m temporarily merging with Cross-Up every time I post something.  It’s while I’m in that state -- which would likely explain why in some of the art for the site I’m missing my nose -- that I’m vulnerable to attacks by you.  Or better yet, manipulations by you. 

It was all a part of your master plan, wasn’t it?  You spotted my blog from the virtual ether, and wormed your way in so you could get exactly what you needed.  And you gave yourself the perfect alibi: you messed with my memories to make it seem like I created you, and you were little more than a voice -- a creative tool -- used to counter my own.  Your disguise was perfect.

Well, almost perfect.  You forgot one minor detail -- one that’s proof that you’re not a creation of mine.

And what’s that?

You’re not nearly quirky enough.  My resident ninja is a slob with an increasing fascination towards lady-parts -- what have you got?

“What have I got”?  More than you’ll ever know, you moron.  You’ve thrown together some accusations, but without proof --

Oh, you don’t want to play this game with me, my friend -- I’ve beaten more Ace Attorney games than I can count. Well, I’ve beaten two at least, but that’s beside the point.  If you want evidence, then answer this: what’s your name?

My name?

You can’t be a character if you don’t have a name.  The same applies for other things, too -- appearance, stats, likes and dislikes, skills, a birthday…all the sorts of things that make you you.  I wouldn’t dare make a character without filling in all the details.  So if you’re really my creation, you can fill in the gaps, right?

And even if you can’t, then that’s fine.  After all, you must know who you are, and what you were, and what you want to be.  If not, then what are you, if not a formless mass of thought? 

I’m me.

And that would be…?

I exist.

If that’s the case, then you can give me the answers I need.  If what FX said is true, then you DO have some kind of a form.  He called you a young man.  Fine by me -- I just want to know more about you.  I want to see some ironclad proof that you exist.  For someone as wise and savvy as you, then that should be no problem.

Unless, in the end, all you are is an idea.  A mass of concepts, themes, and theories that can only hold a stable form for a short while.  One that needs to harness, and occasionally feed, on the thought energy scattered throughout the internet -- this blog, for example.  If the spirits I’ve put forth weren’t enough for you, then surely a gritty little love story between a soldier and a killer would be enough to reel you in and expose you for what you really are.

And what do you think I am?  If you’re so smart -- if you’ve got all the answers -- then tell me.  What am I?

Easy.  You’re incomplete.

…You can’t be serious.

I am.  And there’s a lot more to you that I’ve been able to figure out.  It’s just a guess, but I may have figured out your motivation -- why you’re doing what you’re doing, beyond just keeping yourself alive and stable.  The clues have already been left behind by your antics; if you want, I’ll gladly explain it to you.

There’s no need.

Why’s that?

That, I can gladly answer.

What the hell --?!

You said it yourself: as long as you’re in this space, you’re more vulnerable to me efforts.  So if affecting your mind can work so well, let’s see what happens when your body’s at risk. 

I bet you’re dying to see what happens next, aren’t you?  What happens to someone who crosses over, and then ends up stabbed in the heart?  Does he die in both worlds?  Or does his mind merely fall into the abyss?

Let’s find out, shall we? 

So long, friend.  It was fun -- but in the end, you and your blog are replaceable.  If nothing else, maybe the next one will be far more useful…and far less annoying.


  1. Rhamy! Nooo!

    Let's hope my theory of you being a digital projection of a human being is solid and that this is just a cliffhanger.

    On another note, I like Raze, almost as much as I liked Ocelot and the Agent. Duty's a great character motivation, especially when handled well.

    But seriously, fuck you incomplete-story meme! I'll take you on any day motherfucker!

  2. 01000010 01110010 01100101 01100001 01100011 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01010010 01100101 01100001 01101100 01101001 01110100 01111001 00100000 01000110 01100001 01101110 01110100 01100001 01110011 01111001 00100000 01000010 01101111 01110101 01101110 01100100 01100001 01110010 01111001

    [Well, well...if you think that you can beat me, then I welcome you to try. Fair warning, though -- you WON'T like the consequences...]

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