Okay, let's get on with
recording Advent Rey 2 for posterity.
I will admit at this point that memory becomes legend and legend becomes myth. The bulk of the material I had managed to write down has already been relayed earlier on in the thread, and I won't claim to remember all of the rest, especially the more speculative twists and turns in a plot I've never settled on.
Previously, what I dumped onto this thread was strictly limited to what I had concrete ideas about, and I didn't want to waste brainpower filling the gaps in a failed enterprise. But the road ahead is pretty patchy and, in order to have stuff to write, I will admit beforehand that some
C O N F A B U L A T I O N will take place for what I will write below. I haven't been using that story-writing brain much these days anyway.
It begins in the back of a limo. Kai Neusternberger is fiddling with his tuxedo, uncomfortable with the fanciness of the party he is going to and the general media spotlight he is currently under. Seated next to him is Lucine Seydlitz, a trusted lieutenant of Kai's father who is both Kai's parental guardian for everyday life purposes and his commanding officer for giant robot operations purposes. Seydlitz also covers as the Chief Media Officer of the sprawling Deutschlandland enterprise in the city of Neo-Manila and has engineered half the media coverage around Kai in the first place, which are just a few of the reasons why she is a lot more comfortable about the situation than Kai is. As far Kai is concerned, Seydlitz is cool and confident during Important Situations because she is older and An Adult and this is what Responsible Grown People are supposed to be able to do.
In contrast, Kai just managed to beat up *one* giant shadow demon. And he almost didn't! His performance was significantly worse than in training simulations even in the basic aspects of soul synchronization and piloting procedures in his Erlengel
. Considering that he had been training for this ever since he woke up in one of Dr. Elbing's gestation pods, it felt like a disgrace. All of Seydlitz's words about all the inevitable flaws in hardware and doctrine that can only be tested and corrected when the rubber meets the road he understands as a soldier, but doesn't really feel.
The limo they are in is in fact a hover-limo
, one of a small motorcade of German-made hovercars entirely intended for the Deutschlandland faction to strut its stuff for this occasion. (Though Ludwig Schroedinger is nowhere near Jurgen Baccara in the money leagues so it's more like one second-hand Stadtler SA-7, an older, less advanced and definitely very out of fashion model, followed by two rather wobbly SA-4s. Still enough, I suppose, for impressing Filipino bigwigs.) The occasion? A ball celebrating the founding of MANGS (The Manilla Association of Neighborhood GuardianS) at city hall, to be attended by everyone who matters in Neo-Manila. The civic ceremony and press conference earlier that afternoon was the tame, respectable part of the process. The evening ball is where the knives come out.
The real patron and mastermind behind Deutschlandland is of course Ludwig Schroedinger, but given that he is an internationally wanted Nazi warlock supervillain he cannot attend public occasions, which is why Lucine Seydlitz and a bunch of very professional, very whitewashed executives trained by EVIL Inc. are attending the party in his place. And Kai, too, since his battle spurred the formation of MANGS in the first place, and guaranteed Deutschlandland's primacy in the organization. He is in a sense not just the headliner of the Germanian delegation, but the star of the entire show. So okay, maybe Kai is being tossed into a pool full of circling sharks, or more precisely a social occasion he has never been prepared for, and he ought to be nervous.
Well okay it actually
begins in a cold open where Jose Rival, the infamous masked vigilante whom we last saw establishing a temporary alliance with Ludwig Schroedinger and the Marcos family, confronts Senator Manny Pacquiao and tosses him out of a penthouse window. As well as being a Watchmen homage, that I suppose set the political tone behind Neo-Manila and what I understood of Filipino politics in general. Pacquiao is a real life famous boxer who cameo'd in Advent Rey just so I could pull off a gratuitous Salvation Wars joke, which when I look back wasn't a high point of my writing, but which I ran with anyway in the spirit of taking all the jokes in Advent Rey and playing them straight in the sequel. When we last saw Pacquiao in Comix he was in a car crash, so I had him suffer a career-ending injury, leverage his fame to go into politics and become a Senator, because all kinds of personalities
* seem to become Senators in the Phils. Then he becomes hip-deep in corrupt dealings involving Neo-Manila's burgeoning killer cyborg industry masquerading as licensed sports teams (which, if you take my profile on PAINSAW as a guide, is as deeply unethical as it sounds) which earns him a dose of terminal justice in Jose Rival's eyes, or something.
*By the way, Lito Lapid had a cameo in Advent Rey too!
(Of course, in formulating the above I deeply underestimated the turn Filipino politics would actually take, which is another reason why this story is too outdated to be written.)
The scene implies that Jose Rival has been acting as black ops bag man for the Germanian faction for the last five years, clearing away the city's political resistance against Schroedinger's plans. It doesn't hurt Rival that a lot of these targets are the sort of people he would have gone after anyway, but it does hurt him to admit that his vigilante activities are actually being facilitated by the clout of an evil apocalyptic wizard and literal Imelda Marcos, She of the Shoes.
Manny Pacquiao knows this much, and even puts up a bit of a fight with his own reconstructive prosthetics, but is ultimately screwed by the choice of acquiring a very expensive apartment right at the top floor of one of the prestigious and well-managed apartment towers in New World East, the Chinese property development that pretty much symbolizes mundane aspiration in a place like Neo-Manila. For all the overt manifestations of weirdness in Neo-Manila, mundanity
is only skin-deep. Just as all the expected rich important people security features that New World East has in place are no defense against a cyborg ninja. Manny's death only presages the depths behind the city's, and the story's, facade.
What Pacquiao doesn't know is that his murderer is playing even more sides than that, being your designated cyborg ninja character. Maybe his murders are bit too loud and egregious than necessary, leaving a trail that subtly implicates the Marcos and the Germanians. And this, I suppose, is the thread for Wolfe Trask, the Socialist Hawk, to start pulling at on everyone's behalf, forming the foundation of the street-level side of the story.
Back at the MANGS commemorative ball, news of the murder isn't a big deal. All the power players behind MANGS are international investors specifically not beholden to the local politics, and their host, Rey Quirino, doesn't care either. And even the death of a Senator contributes little to the simmering pot that is the local political atmosphere, already long filled will prideful and rapacious actors at odds with each other, catalyzed by the prediction of more catastrophic giant monster attacks. There's a lot more on everyone's minds.
The murder especially goes over the head of Kai Neusternberger, who is still swimming in his foster mom's last-minute advice and navigating the delicate balance between playing the role his father demands of him and just making a scene. This is important, as he (and the reader) is introduced to all the other characters who will be involved in MANGS, including:
- Sam "Captain Capitalism" Trask, who in this story is a J. K. Simmonsesque figure who is only a slightly larger ham than he is a ranting grandpa, but who is also older and more philosophical about getting his revenge on Rey Quirino in particular and the entire country of the Philippines in general;
- Carissa Anne Matilda Lancaster, Trask's ward and designated American mecha pilot, who is for once in her natural element at a high society function and only freezes up for a moment when Kai inappropriately remarks on the calluses on her hand;
- Wolfe Trask-Trotsky, prospective Commander of MANGS despite his qualifications as mostly a socialist agitator-vigilante because god knows what kind of strings his brother pulled, wearing something that barely meets the party dress code, who makes it quite clear to Kai that he took the job only to keep an eye on Carissa who is basically a favorite niece to him, which would be an uncommon display of human depth of CapCap's part if this was actually his idea all along;
- Two richly robed Technopriests flanking a mobile hologram projector, displaying the AI that will be piloting the Chinese mecha. It's some kind of repentant ex-rampant AI who is quite unconcerned about being reloaded from backup every time its mecha gets blown up, which is enough of a display of being an obedient instrument that it creeps Kai out, because Kai recognizes on some level that this is what Ludwig Schroedinger wants out of him. And on the replaceability point, maybe he's also righter than he thinks ooh foreshadowing.
- Rey Quirino, Chairman of Neo-Manila and Hero of the Philippines, who doesn't come to introduce himself to Kai like everybody else because what is he, a peasant? Instead he uses his control cane (which, remember, can hijack every unsecured PA system in Neo-Manila) to draw everyone's attention to his resplendent presence on an actual stage set up for the purpose.
In any case, Rey doesn't like Kai. He doesn't like the way he is being upstaged in his own city. He doesn't like that his own rash stake in MANGS puts him in direct competition with Germanian giant robot building expertise, a race he doesn't even begin to know how to win. He doesn't like Kai for all kinds of predictable ego-related reasons and this doesn't cast him as a very likable person, especially to Kai.
But later in the night they bump into each other in the bathroom. When Kai's guard is down and Rey is no longer putting on a show for his ever-present audience, the latter recognizes that the former is just a kid, whereas Kai has a sudden and very brief flashback of someone else's memories. There is some mysterious connection between the two, not the least because Kai was created with Rey's DNA, which establishes their evolving relationship going on in the story.