A Year in Seattle

Excerpts - Errata and Deleted Scenes.



Inside Aaron's head - Sometimes, to get a feel for a character, I'll write a piece for them, about them or 'by' them. When I did this for Aaron, I found myself in a rather unpleasant place. It was a short piece. I don't think I could have stayed there any longer.

i see you there-- pretending you don't see me-- flaunting yourself to him, luring him as you lured me. He won't have you, you know... you belong to me.

you can feel me near you... we were meant to be together, but you keep playing your games... one minute offering me your soft parted lips, then lying through them with cold cruel games.

you can't win.

i own a part of you he can never have, that you will never show him. i've seen you hide it from yourself, but deep down, you know i'm right.

we were meant to be together. why do you hide from me, pretend it doesn't exist when you know so well it does? you're laughing. does it please you when i hurt?

i'll show you hurt. i'll show you both... you won't be laughing then.

Like I said, not a pleasant place to be.

Jess goes missing - In October when Jess was missing for a few days- I wanted to post something for the time she was missing- but I didn't know how or what to do. The first attempt was to tell the story from Case and Nick's points of view but that broke from the journal format and only seeing what Jess sees.

Here are the original entries -

Saturday November 4th 2056 - No reply at all - Part 1

INTERLUDE - part 1 - Casey

Case was worried. Jess's trail had grown cold and nobody had heard from her-- nobody. She hadn't called into work, to any of her friends- the police.

Not that he blamed her on that. It was looking more and more like someone on the inside was giving Aaron inside information. The only real question was, were they helping Aaron or using him?

There was very little to go on. Finding her hotel room had been a simple case of tapping into the case file for Alan. He cursed himself for giving her a day to sort things out.

He hadn't really noticed when she'd left, but someone had asked him why the date was written on the toilet paper.... He'd gone ballistic then. Someone had managed to slip in and threaten Jess, someone he'd trusted.

He'd called in more than a few favors in finding her, but once he was sure she was safe, he'd waited. The last thing she needed was somebody 'bringing her in' when she was finally somewhere she felt safe. Instead he'd waited, hoping she'd come back on her own, figuring she was safe where she was.

At least that was what he thought until he'd reviewed her journal. He'd found it laying on the floor- open and waiting for input. That was the last he'd heard from or of her.

He'd contacted the Walkers, Nick, even her friend Mario- no one had heard from her. Worse, none of them could find her through any of the methods available.

Nick had taken the news with a grim nod. Casey knew he hadn't given up, that he was searching for her his own way. He wished him luck. But things were not looking good.

Sunday November 5th 2056 - No reply at all - Part 2

Interlude - Part 2 - Nick

It was late. He was tired. There was still no sign of Jess.

It was almost as if she'd vanished off the face of the earth. After realizing that everyone was looking for her and failing to find her, Nick decided to try another tact.

Instead of finding Jess, he found her would be attacker.

Aaron was playing it awfully cool if he did have Jess, if he'd done anything to her- Nick tried not to think about that and focused on Aaron.

He was traveling in the open, making sure he was seen. That made Nick even more edgy. If he was making sure he was seen- building up an alibi, that meant that Jess was either dead or soon would be.

He found it interesting that Jess hadn't been able to shake the police tale when she'd left Casey's house and protection, but then she managed to lose them when she was holed up in a flea bag hotel.

No, he knew she'd had 'help' in slipping away from them. 'Unless...' He thought. 'Unless she never left the building.

He called Casey- it was the only thing that made sense. His heard was pounding as he continued to follow Aaron. If he had succeeded in eliminating Jess, Nick swore- it would be the last thing he did.

***Casey***

Room by room, floor by floor Casey carried out the search. There was no sign of violence, no sign of wrongdoing, no sign of Jess. He was running out of hope; he was running out of steam.

He tried not to think about the possibility of Nick being wrong or about them being too late. It was hard.

He'd seen Jess's folder, studied the psych reports on her attacker. It was, as Jess said, either him or her. There was no way both of them would walk away from their next contact, and since Nick was following Aaron- things did not look good.

As the last reports filed in he knew the building was clear. Jess was not in the building. He paused trying to think. There hadn't been a struggle in Jess's room. That meant a subtle attack, or a sudden departure. There were no voices or background noise in her interrupted journal entry- only silence.

He was fairly certain she'd left the room on her own, but what had happened after that was still a mystery. As he pondered the situation, one of the maids dumped a load of laundry into a laundry chute. He turned and watched her.

"Where does that go?" he demanded.

The maid looked at him for a few minutes and then shrugged. "The laundry room," she answered slowly as if he was asking a very obvious question.

"What floor is that on?"

She tilted her head slightly. "In the basement."

He nodded his thanks as he moved past her and to the elevator. It only went as far as the lobby. When he got there he headed for the front desk.

An hour later he had a map and a survey team going through the halls and the steam tunnels under the hotel. He was about to give up when he heard a faint tapping noise. Signaling for silence he listened intently as he heard the semi-rhythmical beat of something hitting the pipes.

***Nick***

Nick hated the bar scene, hated having to follow Aaron, hoping that he would lead him to Jess. Knowing what he knew about Aaron, he knew what he would do to her if he had the chance. He wondered what Jess had ever seen in him, but as he followed him around, he could see the innate charm he possessed.

He could attract people to him. He watched as yet another woman approached him and shook his head in disbelief.

He paused. There was something about the way the woman moved that caught his attention. This was not a normal pick up scene. She was a predator. He could see it in the way she stalked through the room, confidently handed Aaron something.

Aaron turned, smiling at her with a very grateful smile. He handed her something in return and then they went their separate ways.

"Not a pickup," he muttered to himself. Something told him he should follow the woman, that she spelled nothing but trouble, but Aaron came first. If anybody knew where Jess was it was the psycho on the left.

He followed Aaron back into the cold night air, back towards the hotel. That's when he knew they were close. He prayed Jess was all right, that her nightmare would be over soon.

***Aaron***

Luck had smiled on him once again.

He'd lost Jess at the hotel. Somehow she'd given him the slip, avoided him as she always did- but this time it would be different.

She was waiting for him now- a final rendezvous. He smiled- soon she would be his forever. No more meddling, no more running away- ever.

He looked at the directions the woman had given him. He didn't understand why she was helping him, maybe she wanted to see true love prevail. It was sweet of her.

He smiled as he slipped into the steam tunnels that ran under the buildings, beneath the hotel. "I'm coming Jess," he said as he picked up a lead pipe. "I'm coming..."

***Casey***

The sound was getting weaker- less frequent. It was hard to tell if he was getting closer or not. Then he'd heard the scream.

It echoed eerily through the tunnels, taking on a life of its own.

"Jess!" he called out, but there was no answer.

The pounding had stopped.

He looked around frantically, and then pulled out his gun. He methodically tapped on each pipe along the wall. Waiting- hoping for a reply.

There was only silence.

***Nick***

He followed Aaron as he traveled through the tunnels, pausing occasionally to check the paper the woman had given him. He was getting close now, Nick could tell.

He tensed as he saw Aaron pick up a lead pipe and test its weight in his palm. "Forgive me Jess," he muttered to himself as he continued to follow, to wait. He couldn't risk taking Aaron on here, he couldn't risk losing the map- losing Jess.

Then- he saw her.

Someone had handcuffed her left hand to an over head pipe. It was low enough that she could almost kneel on the ground- almost. She turned as she heard the noise behind her. He could see the relief in her eyes turn to one of resignation as Aaron moved in on her.

"There you are," he called to her as he approached menacingly. "Been avoiding me again Jess- you always do that..."

Nick pulled his gun and was about to shoot when he heard a growl behind him- a jaguar growl. He let his breath out slowly.

"Aaron first- then the cat," he told himself. "Aaron first... then the cat..."

Aaron froze at the sound of the growl. "Looks like we're not alone after all," he said moving closer to Jess, pulling out a gun of his own.

Nick took his shot. As he fired, he heard another shot behind him. He could hear something fall to the ground behind him, but he was focusing on Aaron. He wasn't moving.

"Go, you're covered," he heard the now familiar voice of Casey urge.

He nodded and moved in. Once he was sure Aaron was dead, he moved over to Jess. He held her as she sagged against him, finally relieving the tension and weight from her left arm. It worried him that she didn't make a sound. Just leaned there breathing heavily.

"'bout... time..." she finally managed to whisper, then passed out.

Aaron and the first big plot change - Originally the story was only going to last a year and Jess was going to go back to Baltimore- with an afterward in the journal of a street kid Jess took in and taught to write... and keep a journal. A passing of the torch I guess. The entry would have gone something like this:

June 22nd 2057

True to her word, a year to the day she was gone.

Jess left me the keys to the place- but its wrong without her. Worse- the news just came in... She's gone forever- killed by her ex-boyfriend. He finally got his way...

But- that was too depressing and I think it was after just a week of writing 'Year in Seattle,' that I knew I could never kill off Jess- at least not for a very long while. Its funny- I can mess a character up- expose them to the darkness in their souls, but killing them off is hard.

So- Aaron ended up dying and Jess got to stay.

Of Blood Mages and Cameos - As I stated in the notes - I needed a blood mage Jess could trust... and Nitro was kind enough to let me Diaz- even better we got to play out the scene. And I am so glad I did.

I hadn't planned on things being so rough on Jess- but one of the cool things about role playing is the fact that you don't create the situation ... just your character's interactions with it- and how that changes things.

When we played it out- I knew Jess wasn't going to go with it. Her ethics... her code wouldn't allow her to take the easy way out. Like I said- I love messing up my characters- I just can't kill them.

MARIO - I couldn't see Mario accepting Jess's action after he'd warned her. I hadn't really thought much more of it until Rat asked me - Why? What had happened to Mario that made him so vehemently against blood magic (aside from the usual 'its nasty' response)

I could have just gone with that- but it wouldn't have been as much fun. So I sat and thought about it for a while... and realized that it was time flesh Mario out a little more and that meant delving a little more into his past.

Again- an added bonus and a lesson to me as a writer- figuring out people's motivation- and explaining it. After I wrote that scene Mario didn't come off as self righteous- he had suffered, and there was a reason behind his abandoning Jess.

And ultimately- an understanding between them.

Eldorado - The next big plot change - Originally the boys were looking for or had found Eldorado and with it some treasures that would have been very dangerous to have in the hands of blood mages.

The boys were working with a dragon named "Chynoweth" (Named after a lightrail station in San Jose) to find the object, but they realized that they couldn't trust it in anybody's hands- even an ally.

Then watching TV one evening- I saw advertising for 'The road to Eldorado (City of Gold)'-- Due out just about at the time Jess would find out how to get there herself. (See Rat's Law of Literary Coincidence )

But- things worked out in the end. I started researching Eldorado - and learned of 'The guilded man' El Dorado... And legends of a man who would coat himself in gold dust and then dive into a lake...

I'm not sure where the search went from there- but I researched the Mayans, the Aztecs and then- the Incas. The Incas fared slightly better than the Mayans and the Aztecs when it came to dealing with the Conquistatores but... not much. Machu Pichu the mountain stronghold had never been found and thus was safe- but I found something interesting...

'The Inca' - Basically the HMFIC of the Incan people at various times died under 'mysterious' circumstances when in the Conquistador's... uhm... care (and would then be replaced).

There were several rebellions and reprisals and on one occasion, The Inca turned himself in- along with a statue that traced his lineage- and was said to contain the hearts of his predecessors.

Now if that doesn't sound like a big mo-hunkin magic item to you...

By the time I finished my research- I had a good idea of where to go- then it was just the question of seeding the clues and watching them grow.

Research

I did a lot of varied research during different phases of the story. I have to admit I learned a lot. There were times where I sat at the computer with the Seattle source book on one side and a pile of training manuals on the other.

I got a lot of information from watching the Discovery channel. They had specials on the motorcycle medics in London and their regular series "Paramedics" helped as well.

Then with all this research and striving to keep the game world and my assumptions backed up... I nearly blew it with one slight slip up...

I had the cruise ship's port of call being Cusco- a landlocked area... at 10K + elevation. If the ship could pull in there...we'd all be in some serious trouble.

To Save a Child - Another great thing about the serial. I got to complete the story/game that started it all. The reason I had created Jess in the first place.

There was so much to work with- but I had to keep it short in order to keep up my time table. Fortunately by this time I was sending advance reading copies to RAT - who played Tal in the game.

I wasn't happy with the ending I'd written- Which involved a dragon and basically a Dues Ex Machina ending... Rat pinpointed the problem (which was the Dragon God Machine solving all my woes)...

I think I was too close to it to see. Plus.. Well... I wasn't letting the characters really *do* anything and that's not the way the story would have gone- If anything when we were playing Jess felt like a fifth wheel.

I re-worked it and ended up with an ending I was much happier with. If anything I've learned to trust my instincts on this. If something isn't working- get rid of it.

Lets face it- If I was reading this story- I would have been let down with the first version.

The Proposal - The next bit of fun.

I hadn't originally intended for Jess to end up with a steady guy- let alone a fiancé. In my original (albeit very rough) plot outline- Jess NEVER ended up with a steady relationship- it just wasn't part of her make-up- when I did the twenty questions on her, I just knew that EVERY relationship Jess would get into would end in friendship (well, except for Aaron but we already knew that)

But then Case ended up on the scene- and the two of them just decided that they were going to be a couple whether I wanted it or not. I swear it!

Still- when I saw how well they went together- I knew where it was heading- but that didn't mean I had to make it easy on them...

Everytime Case got ready to propose- something would happen. Originally Jess was going to find out about it from Therese- but again, after all the trouble in Atzlan- I figured and idea of trying to find the 'right time' would be thrown out the window. In a world like this- the right time is NOW!

Jess finds her brothers

The battle over the statue and Jess' quest ended differently than planned, which was just as well. The original battle sequence was quite a let down... especially after a year's build up. Here is the way that originally went as well:

Sunday May 20th 2057 - T-Minus-Zero

<NO ENTRY>

Monday May 21st 2057 - The Tour

I don't think we're going to make it to Machu Pichu this trip.

Right now I think we'll be lucky if we make it back to the ship tomorrow. I don't think I was awake longer than half an hour yesterday. - Not since we got back from Korikancha with the boys.

Matt and Alan at any rate. We're still trying to piece everything together.

Let me start with what I remember...

Case and I got inside Korikancha around 2200. It took us a while to find a way in that wasn't blocked or guarded. We ended up coming in through the back of the Temple. I remember worrying that we weren't going to make it- or worse that we would and it would be the wrong 'private celebration.'

It was the right place.

My god... the place was crowded with people. Some were just reveling in the celebration of the new year... others... others were gathered in private for the darker festivities. I felt almost drawn to the place.

It was an open area- old cobbled grounds and a stone altar in the center and strapped to the altar was Alan. Standing over him was a man in Aztec ceremonial robes. I could hear him saying something to those gathered, but it didn't really matter. All that mattered was the knife in his hand, and Alan laying helpless before him.

I wanted to storm in then and there, but I knew if I did, Alan wouldn't be the only one tied up there. Case gave me a grim smile and nodded towards my gun. I patted in and nodded. It was only a matter of time.

At 2330 six more men wearing feathered masks arrived, carrying a large gold disk- the Punchao. The priest's voice rose over the din from the party. I only understood a few words- but what I did understand was more than enough.

He was going to kill Alan... and from the way he was handling the knife- it was going to be a long drawn out process.

Case and I separated and started moving along the sides. I'd almost made it to the side, when one of the masked revelers grabbed me. I reflexively tried to break his grip and in the process, knocked his mask off his face. It was Fin.

His expression was unreadable- like he was doing something he didn't want to do, but had to. Then everything became a blur.

LATER

We've talked a lot about what happened this afternoon. Case ordered room service and we ate quite a bit, then talked some more. Alan's sleeping now, and Matt is pacing like a caged animal. The statue is resting against the couch, an odd reminder of yesterday's events.

It's all coming back to me now...

Fin tried to take me out of the room quietly, but my struggling drew attention to us. Having no other choice, Fin dragged me before the altar. The priest praised his diligence as he looked me over. Even thinking about it now I want to take a shower.

He said something about dealing with me later, and signaled his men.

That ended up being the signal for Case, and Matt to swing into action. We're still not clear on exactly what happened next...

The priest continued his ritual while his men tried to deal with the intrusion. I couldn't get near Alan- but I could get near the statue.

I don't know what possessed me. I can remember thinking about Blood magic, and how they use another's life force for power. I knew that the priest was somehow using Alan's blood and energy to manipulate the statue...

I don't remember cutting myself, but that seems to be what I did. Offering my blood and energy, redirecting the power, fighting the priest, trying to save Alan.

According to Alan, it shouldn't have worked. The priest had already attuned the statue to his magic and Alan's blood, something that'd taken him almost two years to prepare- well two cycles of the Mayan calendar.

And yet somehow- we're here and he's not.

I'm too tired to really worry about it.

Tuesday May 22rd 2057 - Cruise

We checked out of the hotel around 11:00. Case and I walked through the streets of the old city. For better or worse... it was over.

We kicked Matt and Alan out of the room around 1900 hrs. It was priceless.

Alan stood in the doorway looking at us.

"But... this is the honeymoon suite," he objected.

"Exactly," I told him.

"But...."

"Good night Alan,"

There was a note waiting for us at the hotel desk. Matt and Alan were taking the statue to Lake Titticaca, where it belonged- then they were going after Andy.

Lake Titicaca.

According to all the legends I could find, (granted the were mostly new-age)... the resting place of the statue was Lake Titicaca. It was a sacred lake with some serious history behind it... and no other name...

I, like Jess... am not all that mature, but I'm not the only one. Rat sent me this gem:





Don't worry- Jess will be back, I'm just not sure when.