lemniscate: (; cat (cause))
[personal profile] lemniscate
for camp nanowrimo i'm writing a carob flavour binge called sixteen short of twelve that destroys one of the core tenements of the cause trilogy. let me tell you about it.

okay, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, readers and other readers. let's talk about the colourverse.

specifically (since the colourverse lasts from the 1960s to the 2030s and encompasses four series: advent, cause, cataclysm, and amen), let's talk about cause. even more specifically, let's talk about the cause alternate universe i'm writing now.

cause is a big story.

it's about how there was a quiet, secretive, several-sided war between the people who knew what was going on as far as there being three worlds went but who differed on what to do with them; it's about how the three worlds that used to make up a cohesive universe were split and the magic was sucked right out of one of them like marrow; it's about how the freaky technologies, dust bombs and artificial intelligences and the amen virtual reality system, that shape the rest of the timeline came to be.

it is full of characters: from twins jessica and tessa mosier of the antimagic segment, to the nine epikaste siblings and their mother kiera, to transplants from a completely different universe like lyssia jocaste and the second isabel epikaste who followed her, to sam jones, ilse, tor green, and so on of the org, to astoria jones who shaped sam and gave him her name, to david who stood by and got things explained to him, to the wilson triplets, to the jamestown scientists terry howard and marie veridian, to belinda and her son aaron hydan, to the jamestown creations ice, fire, the sentinel, madison belfry, and case...

...to cat, properly catherine ann, hydan, daughter of belinda and derek, sister of aaron, driver of and single piece that is truly essential to the plot.

this shouldn't need to be so: among all of this scrabble of characters she, and by extension her shadow case, is and are hardly unique. they are useful, but anything cat can do aaron can do and usually better, what with the having more practice and a better idea of what he's doing; sure, she can travel from one world to another, but aaron hydan and jonathan epikaste can do that, and the re'idal even has a way to do it too. sure, cat can do other magic too, but so can her brother, and so can ilse and tor green, and so can almost all of the epikaste siblings -- and this group is hardly unique either. sure, case can read minds, but so can every jamestown AI but madison and so can laban epikaste.

but none of that matters.

the reason none of that matters is complicated: let's back up a bit.

there are three worlds, and there is a fight going on chiefly in one of them -- in the most-populated and least-magical, colourless -- about what should be done on the subject. each world has a different level of technology and a different kind of social integration of magic. one world, white, is the only one that puts out travellers: people who, via a blood sacrifice, can travel between worlds and do all sorts of other shenanigans.

there are four living travellers at the beginning of cause: belinda hydan, derek hydan, aaron hydan, and catherine hydan. it runs in the family. as does guardianship of something called the gate, which used to be stable enough to permit mass and fixed transit from one place in white to a corresponding one in the other two worlds without the inconvenience of opening a vein.

(speaking of it running in the family, interestingly enough, just as this story would be impossible without cat, it would also be impossible without incest. more on that in a second.)

now, at the age of twelve cat gets an unceremonious shove on her brother's part, down down down into colourless and as it happens the midst of the org. this isn't something aaron did by accident. the org are the group who want to stabilise the situation in all three worlds and open up some kind of contact between them, so that everyone can get the best of everything; aaron approves. and, more than that, he felt his sister would, and felt that she needed something big to be involved in instead of rattling around in a too-big castle in a near-uninhabited part of the world doing things she didn't understand and he couldn't be bothered to explain.

it turns out aaron was right, which is irritating (aaron is irritating when he's right about things). the org becomes home for cat and she's perfectly all right with their cause, despite the fact that it is doomed to fail -- because the only person who knows everyone else is interrogating the text from the wrong perspective is jonathan epikaste, and it's not like anyone's in a position to listen to him.

so cat makes friends and acquires the two things she needs: a greater cause than herself, and someone who relies on her (case, who is sort of a clone of her and sort of not, so mostly they just say they're sisters). which is all well and good for her mental health, even with all the assassinations, but what gives such great importance to the fact that she be here, that colourless from age twelve and onwards is the right place and the right time and this is essential to the plot like nothing at all else?

because cat being a member of the org puts her in a position to learn a lot more about the kind of magic she does, so as to eventually -- at the age of eighteen -- find an explanation for the cracks in the world she's been tripping over since she was sent to colourless and find a way to fix it.

cause is, essentially and eventually, the story of How Catherine Hydan Martyred Herself So The Worlds Could Work Right. and 'work right' is, in this case, very his dark materials: it was being bound to each other that was destroying all three of them. cat kills herself and so manages to use all the magic that was bound from her hair to the soles of her feet, bound up in the membranes of every cell and the DNA and the RNA and the electrical currents in her brain, the magic that made her almost more than anything else did (because travellers, you see, run on miracles), to fix it.

if cat is not in the right place at the right time to shut this down and to shut down the war between the re'idal, the ant', the org, and the splinter faction headed by jon epikaste (which was, more than anything else, inciting the others to greater craziness and violence because he was new, he was an unknown, and he was most definitely a pretty frightening threat), they tear each other apart.

if cat is not in the org at all, they never use case, and so they never get the data that helps them hamstring their opposition from her and the jamestown institute falls apart more quickly as no one sees a reason to deny madison her risky experiments; the sentinel is therefore unleashed on the world a lot sooner, and has to be taken down by a human being -- laban epikaste, after a whole lot of time and at the cost of his life -- instead of by something and someone who knows how to deal with it / her because they're the same base model.

if cat is not in the world of colourless, aaron doesn't have anything to keep him from wreaking havoc among the people who he doesn't consider to be real, because the person who makes him use what he has constructively -- his sister -- is right there with him and doesn't need protecting from afar, so he plays the war like chess and ruins everything he can because all of them are wrong, obviously, and if they all fall apart it would be easier for him and cat to walk in sooner or later (he hasn't yet told her that he was serious when he promised her the worlds).

and the reason cat was able to do what she did, why her death (not to mention her life, but let's talk about the pure technical details of the incredibly deep level at which she managed to reroute the wiring of the system of her worlds) was enough to get all of what needed to be done accomplished, is that traveller magic is genetic and had been dilluted for a while; people with it got killed off in masse, especially the stronger ones because they were flashier and thus targets, but the hydan family had been contracting so as to hide for generations and it was the fact that derek and belinda were half-siblings that grabbed what made aaron and cat travellers and twisted it up enough that they were essentially throwbacks to the golden age of when magic a was magic a instead of magic a being impossible.

by all rights everything about cat shouldn't have been a thing, from her birth to her death.

it was due to the meddling of marie veridian in the affairs of derek and francis hydan that they found their long-lost half-sister without knowing who she was, and that francis died and motivated derek and belinda to destory what they could of their ancestral gate, depriving aaron in the future of something he would've used as a powerful weapon. the bulk of what they could get rid of was the physical markers, because snuffing out magic isn't that easy, but they broke it; they didn't kill it outright, but between the two of them they could introduce enough cracks and flaws that it started to warp, and it would've simply fallen in on itself after hundreds of yeras if they'd been able to give it about forty. this made it outright unusuable and made aaron's big plans other than covering his sister from afar have to centre around fixing it instead of using it from the beginning.

because derek and belinda didn't know they were siblings and their father died at the right time (this one wasn't actually marie's fault, at least, but it may have been a longer-term reprecussion of what she managed to screw up while she was there), they were able to get married, and them having kids gave us two throwbacks, who shouldn't have existed: aaron hydan, magical psychopath, and catherine hydan, magical martyr.

because of everything marie managed to cause while in a world that she never should've been able to touch in the first place, derek and belinda basically holed up in the north, and while they left periodically because they needed stuff aaron and cat didn't see the outside of a perhaps ten-mile radius until, respectively, he was eighteen and suddenly managing the family's affairs, and she was twelve and thrown into another world. cat didn't even see parts of her birth world that weren't around the gate and the castle until she came back at ages seventeen and eighteen, though.

because aaron threw cat into a world that wasn't hers, she was able to affect the war, and case was finally put to use once they realised that they had someone she would be able to work with -- i say "put to use", and i honestly mean that she turned herself on more than they managed to pull her out of stasis, because cat. cat gave the org more weapons than they could know: an enraged traveller watching from far away and cutting the floor out from under anyone who looked like they'd hurt his sister, which tended to be the org's enemies; a telepath; and a very particular kind of magic, as well as a near-selfless adherent to their cause. (cat believes in things. it's what she does. if she hadn't been raised following the rather particular religion that is basically traveller-specific, in which all the gods are dead, she would have likely fought for gods.)

because cat was in a world that wasn't hers the way she approached magic was different and so she was able to do more things she shouldn't have been capable of, and furthermore able to eventually get all three points of view on what was wrong with the foundation of the worlds; if she hadn't been in so many different places, she wouldn't have been able to notice the cracks.

because cat was in the org, sam jones volunteered to be her and case's guardian; because he was their guardian, cat started insisting on tagging along on his org-assigned missions when she wouldn't be a liability and sometimes when she would, and they caught the trail of jonathan epikaste flitting from world to world so lightly. it took cat longer to realise that what he did was step through the cracks that were already there, like a moth through a screen door, instead of stab through the world and then stitch it up after himself, but that gave her the first chunks of knowledge she would need: the wrongness in the colour and the smell of the trail he left behind him, and the sick twist in black that it took a different version of for her to realise.

because cat was in the org but in a world that wasn't hers and in a position to see the big picture she realised that her brother's shenanigans had a bearing on what was going on in all three worlds and went to stop him and got herself caught.

because cat was able to figure out, if only on a mostly-subconscious level, what was wrong with the worlds, and because she was a freak throwback to when travellers were practically gods, and because she had been given a cause to latch onto with fingers and toes and teeth, and because she felt it would protect the person who she considered to be most hers, she killed herself to hide what she was doing and fix what she'd left behind her and protect those she liked and saved the day.

(because cat had been at the org and so they got case functional and case functioning being reported back to the jamestown institute delayed their move over to madison belfry's ideas, when the sentinel came first for anything that looked like it / her case was there, with all the force of her far more human and thus fractally more powerful mind, to stop the sentinel at a relatively early stage. a lot of the org died, and some people on the way, and every person in the jamestown institute; but that was where it ended.)

so if cat hadn't been there, the org never would've gotten aaron's help or case's, and so been on a lot more even footing with the other sides of the war; and so it would've escalated much more if everyone felt more threatened and had a lot of manpower to devote to it, and no idea what the other people were doing on the subject, forced to assume the worst. case would've stayed in stasis, and the jamestown institute would've broken earlier; the sentinel would've come to get whatever it / she felt was appropriate but manage to overlook case, and nothing would've stopped it / her until laban threw himself at it / her and, mentally speaking, blew the both of them up. the cracks in the world would've eventually been noticed, but from a different vantage point -- her and aaron in white, preferring to use them for their own purposes than fix them. the gate would've eventually been repaired, giving cat and aaron a powerful weapon; the worlds would've stayed connected as black succumbed to airborne plague and colourless to choking fire.

alice would've spent the rest of her life invisible. jonathan epikaste would've been hunted down and killed over and over, no one able to figure out what was up with his immortality thing. the rest of the epikastes would've died as well, in their war. ilse's master plan wouldn't have been worth anything.

trying to counterract the total loss of thirty years of work, the jamestown institute's works would've been torn apart to try to find useful things, while the sentinel coming on more unexpectedly would've prevented terry howard from locking down and erasing a lot of the things that would've harmed the world if widely released. thus artificial intelligences, telepathy, biological and mechanical engineering, virtual reality, and sundry other systems light-years ahead of anyting that did or could exist at the time, in at first the hands of the US government and later salted over the earth.

no one would've saved the world, and the world would've needed it. when the dust bombs fell in the 2010s colourless would have descended into an ultimately near-universally fatal war, while the spread of plague in black made it into a spinning, high-tech necropolis.

the re'idal's method for moving between worlds would've ended up in someone or other's hands and so black would've been ransacked then for their technology; conveniently, the plague would not affect people not living in that world, because it was a sickness that grew out of the specific things wrong with it, not the way they were turned a hundred and twenty degrees to affect colourless or white.

meanwhile, on a more personal level: catherine hydan would've grown up an astonishingly lonely and badly-adjusted young woman, her chief example of humanity being her fucked-up brother who she idolised. she would've gone ahead with pretty much any of his plans, but not felt much on the subject, having been assured from a young age that she and aaron were the only real people in any of the worlds and thus just feeling a bit sad that no one else got to really be human.

aaron hydan would've quietly disposed of their parents when he was in his late teens, just as he did in the real universe, and the first order of business of the hydan siblings now that they had autonomy of movement would be fixing the gate. aaron would drag cat over to watch the way the other two worlds -- and, in a way, their own -- were cracking and splintering, and deftly fan the flames of all three where it would be convenient for them.

and, when cat turned eighteen, as her present, he'd drag her through the gate and into the burning corpse-filled smoke-choked rubble of the org headquarters to find case, so she could have a friend.

eventually, the two -- two and a half, properly, because it has been defined before that cat and case together make up about a person and a half, being only around 75% of one alone -- of them would end up ruling the worlds, and the worlds themselves would be broken beyond hope of repair by even the most badly-thought-out sacrifice of a godlike, somehow idealistic young girl. which is just as well, because that girl wouldn't have existed.

that's why cat, and no one else, is the main character of the cause trilogy.

and that's why the alternate universe i'm writing, where none of the things that allowed her to sacrifice herself and fix everything -- and that made her someone who would do that -- happened, is a very, very bad ending.

September 2011

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