BioQuest: Bring Him Home

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September 10, 1958

They crouched in shadow over the docks, and Booker waited for her plan. Four spliced men and Jack with only two of them to fight back… It would be close. The fish smell was stronger now, and it was hard to say if it was that or the coiled tension that made her feel ill. And to think, this was where she found the slug.  Wasn’t it fitting that the ending of Fontaine’s project would start here as well?

“Wait, who’s that?” Booker whispered, nodding to a man stepping out from under the dock’s guarded overhang.

Art by SlackWater

“What?” Leaning out slightly from her spot by the post, she saw the familiar man stop in front of Jack. The little boy stood with hands clasped in front of him, shoulders hunched and a loose sweater hanging off him.

“Nein,” Tenenbaum hissed. Fontaine was so arrogant, he dared to go where Ryan had supposedly shut everything down just to send Jack off himself. She could hear his drawl, even at this distance, and her heart pounded once again.

“That’s him.” Booker confirmed his own thoughts, a heavy darkness to his voice. Reloading, she turned to Booker.


“Fontaine changes the plan. We need to be careful, or he’ll use the phrase on the boy,” she started and Booker tensed as she spoke.

“I won’t give him the chance,” he answered and stood, his arm reaching out and launching fire toward the two men on the dock, engulfing them in seconds. They leapt screaming into the water as Tenenbaum rose, swearing at Booker, that fool.  His arm changed from red to blue, bolts crackling around him as he electrified the water and the two men floated up dead.


She took out the man by the pier and Jack took off, his ears covered, narrowly escaping Fontaine’s grasp. He jumped over the body on the pier and landed running up the stairs; Fontaine shouting with his voice swallowed up in gunfire.

Each footfall of Jack’s on the wooden stairs passed in agony. They would not shoot him, he was too expensive, and yet it did not feel real to have the boy in front of her.

“Dr. Tenenbaum,” he hollered to hear his own voice, pressing against her in an armless hug, hands tight over his ears still.

“Run!” Booker screamed from further down the stairs, however he’d gotten there in the chaos. “Go!” He was out of EVE, or whatever powered his Columbia plasmids, but he had a pistol drawn and another in his holster.


“Dr. Tenenbaum?” Jack looked to her, eyes wide and expectant, the gunfire closing in.

– – –

What do you want to do, Tenenbaum?

Read the next chapter.

– – –

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Relationships on Ice

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Yuri on Ice has many themes and elements: identity, love, perspective, and of course ice skating (and more). This analysis is focused on love as displayed by three different relationships of the following pairs of characters: Yuuri K. and Viktor; Michele and Sara Crispino; and Georgi Popovich and Anya.

These are not all romantic pairs.

This analysis does not touch on all representations of love in the series.

Just a reminder!
Now let’s get to it!

Viktuuri represents a healthy developing romantic relationship, Michele and Sara represent a dependent platonic relationship, and Georgi and Anya represent a toxic romantic relationship.

Viktor and Yuuri

Healthy Romantic

It should come as no surprise that the central couple is a representation of a healthy developing romantic relationship. They both start with a limited understanding of one another and a measure of idolization of what they know. Yuuri more literally than Viktor.

We as viewers are well aware of Yuuri’s idolization of Viktor as a role model on and off the ice, one he’s had since he was a child. That kind of idolization has mellowed over time, but never faded. To Yuuri, Viktor was perfect and the ideal person as well as skater.

But Viktor also idolized Yuuri to an extent. He seemed honest and down to earth, but also an accomplished skater who genuinely respected Viktor.

With their one interaction when Yuuri was drunk at a party and a viral video, Viktor had a simplified version of Yuuri is in mind because he didn’t know him well enough to know better. What they did know about each other interested them, and they both wanted to know more.

That’s the dating phase, when you’re seeing someone but not going steady, so to speak. It was under the guise of training (like a regular study session with your crush), but they were getting to know each other better. This was the beginning of their growth from idolization to intimacy.

But that intimacy doesn’t change their relationship, it builds on what was already there. They get closer, but they still have the foundation of what they had in the beginning. They surprise each other and learn from one another.

And those surprises mean so much to them both.

But sometimes this means getting hurt, and Viktuuri is no different. Surprises mean you always grow and learn, but you also make mistakes. As you do in any relationship.

They are not perfect, and showing how they handle that is what makes them healthy.

When they accidentally hurt one another, they continue to talk and make things right. They communicate what they did wrong and why, even if they don’t do it right away or it takes time to understand.

Viktor made a mistake with Yuuri in the parking garage in season 1, episode 7. He tried a tactic that likely worked on him – motivation through the threat of loss – but hurt Yuuri to the point of crying. But he apologized immediately.

And that made Yuuri actually voice his thoughts and fears, even when he knew they weren’t true.

It’s another surprise, a tough one that requires communication, understanding, and patience. All of which each of them showed even though the situation was emotional and it was easy to be hurt instead of being supportive. That’s their health, and it’s a healthy part of any relationship: the ability to resolve conflict.

And Yuuri also makes his mistakes, the largest being at the end of season 1, in episode 12. Instead of sharing his thoughts, he assumes that Viktor wants to return to the ice and training Yuuri is the only thing holding him back.

Rather than talking to Viktor about his concerns, Yuuri decides for himself what the best course of action is for Viktor and even says as much that he’s “making this selfish decision” – thinking he’s doing a good thing for Viktor without realizing how much he actually hurt him.

It’s only when he’s pushed to that point that Viktor communicates in turn why he’s so angry at what Yuuri did.

They had to be hurt to be honest, but they learned to compromise even when they were hurt by one another. A healthy relationship of any kind can handle the good times with the bad, and Viktuuri doesn’t shy away from showing the reality of that (particularly in romance).

Mickey and Sara

Dependent Platonic

There are a few things that merit mentioning with these two that is different than how most fiction represents their relationship type. First, it’s platonic and other two are romantic (and platonic relationships are rarely more than a backdrop in fiction). Second, it doesn’t take nearly as harsh an approach as many stories do with this type of relationship.

While the healthy relationship (Yuuri and Viktor) is purely positive in representation and the toxic one (Georgi and Anya) is canonically acknowledged as creepy, Michele’s dependence on his sister and her dependence on him in the past is portrayed as misguided affection.

She still loves him dearly and always will, just as he loves her. She simply saw before he did that they needed to be more distant from one another to be self-sufficient people. Everything he did, he did for her – leaving him with no sense of self and her with no independence. And that wasn’t good for either of them.

But instead of making him out to be clingy and desperate, they showed him as supportive but overbearing. He wasn’t demonized, as many people in dependent relationships are (particularly the one who struggles to let go, like Michele). Typical of Yuri on Ice, this is very forward thinking and humanizing, not condoning, of dependent relationships.

By his performance when he thinks she’s not watching, the English dub has his thoughts as:

“It’s over now. I have to accept that. I’ll show you how much I love you… By letting you go.”

And when she hugs him after to congratulate him on beating his personal best score, she says she’s sorry that she said such mean things earlier. But ultimately, she’s glad she did because:

It shows a dependent relationship mended so it can continue as a healthy, self-sufficient bond.

And it echoes the message of Viktuuri in that all relationships are about compromise and understanding. Just because their relationship could not continue as Michele wanted it to didn’t mean it couldn’t continue.

His willingness to let go and understand what Sara asked him to do for both their sakes combined with her willingness to come back to him and apologize (but maintain that she was right) is what allowed that relationship to become healthy for them. That’s the kind of depth and consideration I expect of Yuri on Ice, and they definitely delivered here.

Georgi and Anya

Toxic Romantic

Lastly, we have Georgi and Anya as a representation of what can happen in a relationship when it’s over but you can’t let go.

Georgi can’t let go, not like Michele did. He’s stuck on Anya and almost everything he does is for or about her, even things he used to enjoy on their own – like figure skating.

Even when he’s doing well and succeeding in his performance, the only time he doesn’t think of her is to think about his desire to make Viktor feel lesser than him.

So he’s really not in a great mental place as an individual. He lives for Anya and the morsels of attention she gives him, even the cruel kind. Think on her actions here too: she has a fiancee and a new life that she’s happy in. Why did she go to her ex-boyfriend’s performance, sit where he could see her, and bring her future husband? Just so she could do this where he could see it and his resulting emotional distress would potentially ruin his performance?

There is a kind of addiction to someone so lost in you that they can’t find themselves anymore that is a hallmark of toxic romance. She has another romantic partner and seems to be well and truly over Georgi, but she goes in person to his shows and acting in such a way to make it harder for him to move on. She hasn’t even blocked him on social media or had her fiancee do it because that way, he can see how her new life is without him.

In fairness, Anya doesn’t get equal representation here. She barely shows up and hardly speaks. Her opinion is not wholly represented, and I know this. We only have her fleeting screen time and Georgi to go by (and he is admittedly not a reliable source as far as opinions go, only what his mental state reveals about her).

But even then, she creates an environment where he’s still there to be desperate for her attention, any kind, and he’s so wrapped up in her that all Georgi wants is to be her protection.

Much like Michele wanted to protect Sara, only Michele saw that his truest expression of love was letting her go.

Georgi and Anya did not let go of each other, they don’t communicate, and they don’t respect each other. She treats him like filth and goes out of her way to do it, and he treats her like a possession.

But even then, Yuri on Ice comes forward to give Georgi good points and even subtly explain how this came to be between them. Or at least how it was possible for Georgi.
Yakov describes Georgi as follows:

He’s so receptive to what others tell him that Georgi won’t make opinions or decisions of his own. If Yakov tells him that a routine is better his way or to take a jump out or to practice in one arena over another, Georgi will just do it.

Even if that arena he was in was his first arena where he trained for years and felt most confident, he’d do what Yakov said. That’s what makes it one of his greatest weaknesses too.

Once Georgi learns to respect himself enough to stand up when he needs to, he’ll be able to move on (probably) and find someone to respect him back. The writers of Yuri on Ice give him that potential just by having Yakov think that about Georgi.

Thank you for reading!


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BioQuest: Things We’ve Done

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The lighting had fully dimmed in Arcadia, which was fortunate. Booker and Tenenbaum stood in shadow by the tunnels to the smuggler’s hideout, but they were quickly running low on time for Jack.

Tenenbaum snapped at Booker, harsh and breathy as she kept to a whisper. “I have no reason to take your word–”

“And I’ve got a few reasons to doubt yours, but this is about the kid,” he reminded her, his voice quiet like her own. It did not matter, Tenenbaum felt the heat burning in her throat, a raw anger at his response. Between the two of them, did he not think she knew more about this boy than he ever could?

“We have lost too much time already,” she dismissed, barely turning towards the tunnel before he grabbed her shoulder and turned her to face him.

He loomed over her, broad and sharply dressed even in shadow. Tenenbaum could see his gun at his side, and the close military shave. In this dark corner of the park, he nearly looked like…

“We head back now, and we can make it!” She shrugged his hand off, and he took that hint. Thankfully he didn’t have Fontaine’s accent or she may have shot him. But it was enough…

“You can’t even tell me why that is!” She went to Fontaine and his men with her ideas and a slug, and Tenenbaum knew from the moment they met he could soon be running Rapture… “I am no one’s servant.”

But she did not realize how much control he would have over her. She shook her head, stepping back and ducking into the tunnel. Her footsteps echoed off the close walls along with a distant dripping.

“Dammit, will you just listen to me?” Sliding her hands along the rough walls, she pressed on as her eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness. The floors were mostly even and her heels didn’t slow her down any more than Booker’s voice behind her.

“Doctor? Doctor!” He muttered another curse, and he clambered in after her. The dank, still air came as a comfort. Without these passageways, they would lose Jack. She could not have rescued the girls.

Her heart beat against her rib cage like a prisoner in rebellion, but Tenenbaum found a touch of peace here. Fontaine had used these passageways too, but for a much darker purpose… She shook the thought away again.

Booker closed the space between them even though she hadn’t slowed down for him, and they walked together in silence. At last, a light reached her and she paused at the exit… A familiar enclave greeted her, but not the one she wanted.

“Scheisse,” she whispered, putting her arm back to push Booker to retreat. The submarine was here, which meant Jack was still safe, but men would not be far… They needed to ambush them if they were to win.

“What’s it now, doctor?” Of course he could not see the men coming, and Booker continued. “We can still go back–”

“Hey, who’s there?!” Too late, he realized and pulled her back and fired, emptying his shotgun into the closest smuggler.

“It’s the damn Kraut, I,” the second man began, staggering back as he watched the blood pool around his fallen friend. “I gotta warn ’em!”

Taking aim, she lodged three shots in the man’s back as he ran. He fell into the ocean water, sinking below. A shame nothing he had would be usable by the time his corpse floated back.

More footsteps came, heavy and close. No Big Daddy by any measure, but more men than they could fight in time. “Go,” she ordered, and Booker followed. Rather, he lead, inefficient in such a small space but fortunately picking the right branch of the tunnel she’d meant to choose.

“You will see boxes up ahead,” she warned him. “Don’t step out unless you do.”

“I think you’re late on that,” he deadpanned and left the tunnel. Around him, boxes with the single handprint sat piled and waited for distribution. Anything to pull that Great Chain one link closer to Fontaine… “What was that about anyway? Those guys got a grudge against you?”

“Not them,” she said, winding through boxes to a cavernous hall that would lead from the hideout to a Bathysphere. This, this was what she wanted. “Fontaine.” And she stood low with her pistol drawn, burying the memories to deal with later. “Are you ready?”

He raised his gun and nodded. “I’m in.”

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They reached the station without seeing a single other man. Perhaps her mistake had saved them after all, she thought, sinking into a seat on the Bathysphere. He watched her still, but something in his eyes… They’d changed. Booker held the stance and alertness of a solider as always. And yet there was almost an understanding in the way he looked at her… At least for now.

Water rushed past them and rails guided the Bathysphere to Port Neptune. Flashes of neon flooded the pod and vanished, off and on, off and on. Minutes or ages passed before he cleared his throat to speak.

“First time I did something like this, I was…” He stopped, hesitated, just as soon as he’d begun. “A friend of mine asked me,” he tried again, the Bathysphere closing in on Port Neptune. He stared out in the passing blur of ocean, his back to her, but his tone was one she could not mistake.

“If you take away all the parts of your old self, what’s left?” She’d heard this from herself: regret. Tenenbaum leaned forward and the seat creaking seemed to bring him back. He shifted his grip on the shotgun and faced her. “You can’t erase the kinds of things we’ve done.”

“What have you–”

“Only decide what we do next. And right now,” he said, watching the Bathysphere dock into Port Neptune and standing in the cold light like a hero’s statue, “we’re gonna save that damn kid.”

The Bathysphere opened to the stench of fish flooding her senses and an uncanny silence. Booker walked ahead of her and this time, she followed him. He passed through the wharf as she caught up, his words marching through her head.

You can’t erase the kinds of things we’ve done. Only decide what we do next.

Light filtered through the glass above the wharf, meant to guide returning submarines. They were as close to stars as Rapture had, and they did guide them towards the fisheries where Fontaine’s men would be sending Jack away.

Ahead of her, Booker’s posture changed as he took cover behind a post along the boardwalk overlooking the dock of Fontaine’s Fisheries. Tenenbaum crouched behind another post with pistol ready.

She peered over and saw four men on watch; one by the entrance to the pier, one on the roof above the loading dock, and two to get the boy into the submarine.

– – –

What do you want to do, Tenenbaum?

Read the next chapter.

– – –

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BioQuest: What Happens Next

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“Have you nothing more important to consider than my activities, Mr. Ryan?” The overhead radio started, one of Ryan’s encouraging messages sounding in the halls of the Welcome Center as he smiled. Beyond him and his men, a whale coasted over the arched glass hallway to the Bathysphere.

“You’re quite right, Doctor.” He cast a fleeting, watchful look at Booker at her side and again locked eyes on her. He held his shoulders so firm and square, and the lights reflecting in his eyes seemed to sharpen his gaze.

Fortunately for Tenenbaum, this was hardly any different than the head guards of the prison camp. “I have much to attend to. And I’m certain you do as well, Dr. Tenenbaum.”

“See to it, then,” she replied flatly. She was running out of time with Booker, and she could feel the man’s impatience to keep moving like a creeping fog. As if he did not see the men before them for what they could do. She supposed he couldn’t.

Tenenbaum returned the cold, practiced smile Ryan showed her. “You will find more reward in your Great Chain than in following us.”

“Is that a threat, Dr. Tenenbaum?” Ryan’s voice took on the level tone he carried when he was truly angry, or so she’d heard from Suchong. His recordings were so passionate, it was hard to imagine before she heard his calm rage for herself.

And what could she think but that Ryan was so bold when there were no rioters and he had Sullivan as his protection. “You do spend far too much time with that Fontaine fellow.”

“You know better,” she corrected him. “That was no threat.” And in quiet seconds that followed, she sensed Ryan finally understood. His eyes lost their edge, his posture relaxing however slightly. “And I’ve no use for Fontaine any longer.”

“Tenenbaum,” Booker reminded her.

“Oh, did I forget to introduce you?” She slid her hand onto his arm, meeting his raised brow with a knowing look. He was smarter than he seemed, not a difficult task, and at least he did not pull away.

“He is here for these dangerous times you mentioned. I find the docks of Neptune’s Bounty to be stimulating for scientific thought,” she lied, stepping closer to Booker, “and he is armed to protect me.”

Pointedly not looking at Booker, just as she had hoped, Ryan continued undaunted. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible for some time. You see, there has been some criminal activity by the docks lately,” he said, watching her for a reaction that she did not betray even as the chilling weight of dread spread in her chest.

If he planned to move on Fontaine this soon… “So we’ve had to shut the area down. But don’t fret, Doctor,” he echoed the self-assured quality of his recordings, drawing himself up once more. “In a few days’ time, Rapture will be rid of these smuggling parasites, and all will be as it was.”

“How fortunate for us that we have so little time to wait.” She answered promptly, not hurriedly, and he took that as evidence enough of her indifference to Fontaine. It was not his staged death that worried her now, but the boy… Now with even less time to rescue him and a longer path to get there.

“That’s the spirit! Enjoy your casual stroll with your… escort.” Ryan turned, walking between his guards to head deeper into Rapture. Shadows enveloped him, the faint ocean light playing at his silhouette as his steps sounded off the mostly empty halls.

Sullivan was the last to leave, and Tenenbaum felt Booker’s arm tense beneath her hand. Glancing to him, she realized… Something had occurred to him just then.

“Sullivan?” His voice was low, heavy. Unlike the certainty, even harshness, he’d shown before.

“Huh? Have we met?” Spoken like a man with not a second to spare, which was good. Easy to get him to leave, even for Booker. He started this conversation, and it was his turn to handle this. But the automated lights of Rapture were dimming to mimic the sun setting, and Tenenbaum tightened her grip on his arm.

“N-no.” Like that, it was done, and Sullivan was gone. Booker pulled from her to put his hand to his nose. And when he took his hand away, she saw the dark stain of blood there.

“Booker?”

“I’m fine. Just– get these spells sometimes. It’ll pass.” He wiped the blood on his pant leg, repulsive but effective. The steeliness came back to him and Booker only waited for her next word to move on. “So what happens next?”

“We go through Arcadia, through the smuggler’s hideout,” she said, leading him down the arched hallway.

“You’re insane.” He said it like an observation, a fact as plain as saying she was a woman.

“Very few people will be there. Fontaine has plans for all his men these days.” Between his death, Jack’s journey to the surface, and Atlas, he had too many plans going to have men watching the maintenance tunnels. “With luck, we’ll get by whoever is left.”

“Luck?” His scorn was clear, but he followed after her as she went off the path in the gardens of Arcadia towards the tunnels.

“I have good aim, and you are still alive.” She observed, crouching to get through the entrance. They were like mazes, but she memorized their pathways while she was planning to get the little ones free. “Let’s see how much more luck you have, Booker.”

“No.” She stood tall from her crouch, glaring him down already. “We need Elizabeth, she can sort this out faster.”

“And how is that?!” Her accent thickened, rage starting to boil in her blood. She pointed to the tunnel, scanning the area for other people who might think to look closer. “We are here now, and to go back is to lose time.”

“…I can’t tell you.” For a moment, he almost seemed to soften his voice with regret. Almost, but then he thought better of it. “You take my word and we can get to him faster.”

– – –

What do you want to do, Tenenbaum?

Read the next chapter.

– – –

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Nosferatu: A Study

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Welcome to my possibly unnerving study of Nosferatu through the ages.

Firstly, a definition of the spell book is in order. It’s a tome, as most offensive magic is in Fire Emblem, and it always drains health from the target and restores that amount of health to the caster.

But what has changed for Nosferatu over the years? 

Yes, it used to be called Resire, but there are more compelling changes for the spell. For example, consider spell type where games in the series include it. In five of the games, Nosferatu is considered a light spell. In six of them, it’s considered a black or dark spell. (For the remainder, it’s simply referred to as a tome or other title.)

But these are two very different schools of magic. Light magic in Fire Emblem is mostly associated with characters from the church or godly descent.Dark magic as a contrast is often construed as evil. Some good people use dark magic and evil people use light magic, but these are there reputations.

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Bet you can’t guess which one is the dark mage.

So what about this spell in particular makes it walk the moral line of light and dark? To grasp this, we need to understand what the use is for Nosferatu in the context of both kinds of magic.

For light magic, note that Nosferatu is an offensive form of healing. If a healer is to be used most effectively and able to protect themselves in a pinch, Nosferatu was their best option. And it would be more accessible for them to learn than anima magic since it is based in the manipulation of health.

As for dark magic, it’s simply a way to heal oneself. Most dark mages are with other dark mages in combative situations. Whether this is because of stigma (in the case of Knoll in Sacred Stones) or through having no other options (as with Henry from Awakening), they likely don’t have a healer nearby for them.

And to reference Knoll again, he says that knowledge is the source of dark magic’s power, not the desire to harm others. So a typically religious class like a cleric or priest would be able to manage a spell like Nosferatu.

And yet…

There have been restrictions on this spell in other games in Fire Emblem. In Mystery of the Emblem, Nosferatu could only be used by female units. And in many Fire Emblem games, only dark mages can use this spell.

So why these restrictions? Most likely, the reasons are cultural or religious.

The women only restriction is more difficult to explain, but I believe it’s rooted in taboo rather than the idea of “purity”. While the real world Western history often considered women incapable of harsh acts like murder , I don’t think this belief applies in Fire Emblem culture as a whole.

Consider instead people like Witches from Echoes, who are women who offered their souls to the god, Duma, in exchange for their powers. There does seem to be a gradual process for becoming a full witch, soulless and only existing to serve, and death is their only redemption.

In being killed, their souls return in their final moments and then they can rest . My theory is that this restoration of the soul is only magically extended to women for as of yet unconfirmed reasons.

It seems likely to me that the soul of a woman is at least believed to be more easily adjusted and therefore more easily saved when a Witch is finally killed – and so, in matters of dark spells, it would make sense to restrict their use to women in the case of corruption (whether you were an evil or benign caster of dark magic).

As for restricting the use of Nosferatu to dark mages or sorcerers, I believe this is due to lack of access (such as in Sacred Stones, where dark magic is exceedingly rare and only a few Nosferatu tomes exist in the game) and moral grounds. Dark magic has an enduring negative reputation, and religious figures would naturally avoid an affiliation with it.
It’s not that they can’t use dark magic, it’s that they refuse to. After all, this spell can also be used to murder a god in the original game, Gaiden, and that would be heretical on its own.

Then why do some light mages use it?

Using Echoes as an example, all spells cost health for the caster. Even healers. So if you want your healer to not consume all your supplies while keeping your soldiers alive, they need an efficient way to restore health for themselves.

And so, all healers have Nosferatu in their repertoire​ in Echoes from the beginning.

Now dark mages do exist in worlds where Nosferatu is useable by light mages, and they have a similar skill set as light mages (warping, summoning fighters, etc.) but they seem less powerful.

A dark mage can only summon terrors, which are basically magic zombies, but a light mage such as Genny needs only a high HP expense to cast Invoke and get the same soldiers out of what seems to be light made real (and far less offensive to the senses than a rotted corpse).

So while a dark mage cannot heal you, only themselves, and Witches can only warp themselves, and both can only summon terrors or other Witches, the light mages of Echoes have learned to:

  • Warp others only
  • Heal themselves with Nosferatu
  • Heal other adjacent units or from afar
  • Summon units to fight

In conclusion on this point, a light mage can learn dark magic through a light method, but a dark mage cannot reverse this process. Is it any wonder that the evil units using light magic chose to learn the “purer” of these two schools of magic, then?

Knowledge is the power of dark magic, and knowing light magic first opens more avenues to a dark mage or sorcerer than light alone could. Although due to cultural and religious tensions, as well as differing worlds, this knowledge seems to appear and vanish from Fire Emblem games.

Otherwise Henry in Awakening would have a very different backstory indeed–

In any case,

Thank you for reading!


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I Will Handle This

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Elizabeth’s plea was heartfelt, but shortsighted. Not for any fault of her own, she simply did not have the knowledge that Tenanbaum did. “They’re in Port Neptune. Fontaine’s smugglers work there, the filthy pigs…” She scrunched her face, remembering having to resort to them for her studies on the sea slug. “They’re terrified of him, they will do anything he says. You are nothing to them next to Fontaine.”

“Thanks,” Booker dismissed her warning. “Elizabeth,” he ordered, his request known but unspoken. They must have worked together like this before, and for a moment, Tenenbaum wondered what they did back in Columbia. Not scientists, certainly. What need would such a pair have for each other? Regardless, he was missing a crucial point.

“And does she know where Port Neptune is?” Tenenbaum crossed her arms, waiting for him to realize his error. He looked to Elizabeth, perhaps hopeful that she would know.

“I… Fink didn’t have a map.” She apologized with her eyes and he let out a breath. Tenenbaum continued to explain now that he knew where he went wrong.

“You need someone to fight who knows where to go, and I need someone to stay with the little ones.” She faced Elizabeth once more, knowing the choice was hers in the end. “Do we have an agreement?”

“Well…” Elizabeth watched as Booker headed toward the exit, looming and quiet. Her attention returning to Tenenbaum, she answered calmly, “Of course, Dr. Tenenbaum. And please don’t mind him. He can be rude, but he’s capable. You’ll be safe.”

“I have had worse, but you are sweet to worry,” Tenenbaum replied. She simply turned and left to follow Booker, who waited at the large door.

“You ready now, doctor?”

“We’ll be going through the Welcome Center,” she began, opening the door for them both. Only she and the Little Sisters could open this door, her by genetic recognition and them by their size. “There have riots and Ryan’s men are watching, but it’s the fastest path.”

“Suits me,” he deadpanned and followed her through the doorway and along hallways to the Welcome Center. Something about this man… People they passed made note of him, but wouldn’t look at him directly. Fortunate for them, but that same ability might draw attention to him near the riots.

“You look like a thug,” she commented, and he scoffed. “We are in a war down here, Booker, and people need no reason to attack you. Save your fight for Fontaine’s men.”

“Right.” He lowered his gun to a resting angle, but now he watched her instead.

“You must have a guilty conscience,” Tenenbaum mocked him, “To be so openly distrusting of me.”

“What, you some kind of detective now, doctor? Fink didn’t have a map, but he had plenty of dirt on you.” She glanced back to him, and their gazes met briefly.

Tenenbaum did and did not want to know what he saw in those reports from Suchong. He had a tendency to ramble that was not becoming of a scientist, and he knew a lot. More than she wanted him to. “I know enough about you to be distrusting.”

“We’re nearly to the station.” She kept her voice resolute, and he took the cue. “Stay focused.”

“Dr. Tenenbaum,” a familiar voice broke her from her thoughts. “Do you think it wise to be traveling in such dangerous times?”

She could sense Booker shift behind her, the very energy around him changing. Tenenbaum raised a hand to him and saw him stop mid-aim. Ryan would be no threat if she handled both of these men right. “Let me handle this.”

Ryan smiled, his suit as immaculate as always, and Sullivan lurking behind him with two other men. The civil war weighed on them all, but Ryan looked as if he’d aged ten years inside of the past two years. “I see your security is a touch over eager. Where might you be headed, Dr. Tenenbaum? Perhaps you will be passing my greetings on to Mr. Fontaine.”

– – –

What do you want to do, Tenenbaum?

Read the next chapter.

– – –

Suggestions from last chapter:


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Carol Peletier: Development

I started watching Walking Dead on a whim because I needed background noise while sewing. You will be certain after this brick here that it is no longer background noise to me. And one of my favorite characters, hands down, is Carol Peletier.

What prompted this analysis on her character was this idea from the Walking Dead Amino from TyReeses Puffs with support from Crescent.

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Let’s #MakeCarolGreatAgain and show her some love!

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SPOILERS BELOW


 

Naturally, we start at the beginning.

Carol was mousy and quiet, but people liked her. They wanted to protect her from her husband, Ed. That kind of thinking around Carol does factor into her persona later in the series, but it’s a slow build, so just bench that memory: Carol started as someone timid and in need of protection.

And most people who end up in abusive romantic relationships either had abusive relatives or are the sort of passive personality that will sit in silence through abuse. I believe Carol falls into the second category, having grown up as a quiet girl that people felt the need to shield from the world.

Ed likely started off as a firm guardian, developing to the relationship they have in season one where he owns her and she’s “in debt” for all the protection he’s given her. He found a passive partner who would allow him to continue the cycle of abuse (as I think Ed himself was abused as a child— but this isn’t about him).

< Source for typical patterns of abuse >

Ed teaches her that she’s helpless and she has to do as he says for things to go well. Obedience and control are his goals and making him the center of her universe is how he does it. That’s why he’s able to hit her publicly in season one, episode three, and she’s upset that he’s hurt afterwards.

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In the abusive structure he built, he protects her and she “deserved” to be hit for the failure of her friends to stay quiet. In her manipulated mindset, he protects her from everything. And when he’s killed by a walker, she loses the person she thought was responsible for her continued existence.

Her pain wasn’t at the loss of her spouse— as she explains in a later episode at the church while Sophia is missing, she knew Ed deserved to die— her pain was mainly at the loss of someone she’d been abused into being dependent on and now she was alone.

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The first change.

This was actually Carol’s first introduction to the thought of doing and bearing the burden of horrible things for those you love. She was supposed to love her husband, and so she made sure he didn’t turn. She did love her daughter, so Carol made sure she would never have to see her father as one of the undead.

But there are hints at Carol’s deeper personality before this as well. She takes her husband’s abuse quietly, but she protects Sophia from him. When Ed basically tells Sophia to keep him company in tent, Carol coolly insists that she wants to go out, takes her daughter by the hand, and leaves.

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And Ed doesn’t argue or fight her. Granted, he’d also just been beaten very recently at that time, but she stood firm and he didn’t even try to put her in her place. I think she’s always had that line drawn in the sand, especially since she also admits later in the church that he “looked at his own daughter” (heavily implying a sexual interest).

Her loyalty to her family and willingness to do anything for them goes as far back as that in canon. She wouldn’t protect herself from Ed, but she was unafraid to stand up to him for Sophia.

But then Sophia goes missing. That led to the other role for Carol, a mother, being threatened too. As much as Carol tried to defend her child from Ed, she still instilled in her the idea of living in fear (as many abused spouses do unintentionally by example). When Sophia was cornered under a car by walkers, she ran and as Carol later says, “running wasn’t enough”.

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The discovery of Sofia’s fate is the breaking point for Carol. She was not a wife or a mother anymore, and all she had left were those who reached out to her while she still had been those things.

Daryl, who held her back when Sophia was first seen, and who brought her hope throughout the search, played a massive role during this time. His kindness as well as his wounded cruelty later on both impacted Carol.

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Carol resumes control of herself

Take a moment to see Daryl through her eyes. He’s kind in times of need, but genuine when he’s upset. What he said about Sophia not being his problem, that was hurtful— but true. He also introduced the idea of starting over very uniquely: “Fuck the way I was.”

And this next part can be difficult to understand, so bear with me. Ed took control away from Carol. She was weak, helpless, and pathetic to him— she needed him to survive. Even the people who tried to protect her from Ed reinforced that concept (although with best intentions and you can’t fault them).

With Daryl, the control over her life was put back in her hands. She could start over, and she could be tough when she had to be. And that’s a heavy burden and it hurts to know that she could’ve saved her daughter if she’d done more to prepare Sofia better to protect herself before her life was on the line.

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But for someone who had gone through years of abuse and feeling like she had no control, this was empowering in a weird way. She had more control over what happened than she thought. And while she couldn’t change the past, there was always the future. Her connection to Daryl and his honesty was the final catalyst for her growth.

There’s a large time skip between the fall of the farm and their discovery of the prison, and she goes through a lot of development in that time. She learns to rely on herself and displays loyalty through doing more than being someone to protect. She did the protecting then, and Carol was just starting to discover that she was good at it.

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And one of the most powerful scenes for Carol’s transformation is at the prison. Talking to another survivor, she said that she’d like to think that if Ed walked in that door and told her to go with him, she’d tell him to go to hell.

But she knows she wouldn’t (or at least she fears she couldn’t).

The building blocks of her survival are supported by the fact that she was abused. She learned what inaction costs through abuse. She learned to seem harmless and get people’s guards down through abuse. And she learned to read people because she always had to anticipate the next attack from her husband. These symptoms of abuse are now her weapons for survival, so she can’t remove one from the other.

And abuse never goes away. As an abuse survivor myself, I can say that the emotional cuts turn into scars and stay with you. Trust becomes difficult and all that much more necessary. This insight from Carol explains quite a bit down the line, so hang onto this too.

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The prison is where Carol really latches onto the idea of saving the future by learning from the past. She teaches the children how to fight under the guise of storytime – not because she fears repercussions, but because she knows Rick won’t approve of why she’s doing it.

He understands, and she knows he does, but he’s not accepted it yet like she has by then. Considering Rick family as she does, she trusts him but isn’t afraid to do things for everyone’s benefit (even if they don’t like it).

It escalated after that to the point where she’d confirmed that she’d killed Karen and David to protect the rest. In a later conversation with Rick before her exile, she tells him that he doesn’t have to like what she did, and she didn’t, but he had to accept it.

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Action does not mean victory.

At this point, Carol is taking her life by the horns. She’s taking control where it had been denied for so long, and she felt she was doing the right thing. But then the disease spread anyway and the prison was lost. Even though she took action, the end still came. This was Carol’s first failure after taking control to prevent people she cared about from dying.

And then she was exiled by Rick, only to come back and end up with Tyrese, Lizzie, Mika, and Rick’s baby, Judith. Still on edge after losing the community she was with, Carol tries again to restore her sense of belonging with this smaller portion of her family.

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And we know how this goes. This was the harsher reminder to Carol that you have to do terrible things for those you love and more recently, that even if you try, you can’t save everyone. Lizzie and Mika were substitutes for the daughter she couldn’t save. Only Lizzie couldn’t handle the world the way it was, and she ended up being a danger to Mika and anyone else she met.

When Rick asked her at the prison if there was anything she wouldn’t do for these people, and she said no. If killing Karen and David wasn’t evidence enough of that, this scene drives that home. Carol has lived a life of pain and she’s willing to be hurt time and again for the chance at a life of being safe and loved.

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But she hits rock bottom at that point. Tyrese had sworn he was going to kill whoever killed Karen and David for several episodes by then, and I don’t think Carol told him for the sake of being honest. She was hoping he might kill her and put an end to the pain of repeated loss of who she loved.

But Tyrese really turned that around on her. After what he’d seen her do, angry as he was, he forgave her. Carol had unknowingly been a role model for him even just then. As much as it pained her, she killed Lizzie because it was the right thing to do.

And as much as it hurt him to lose Karen, he forgave Carol because that was also the right thing to do. She was surprised and touched by this— at last, a success in keeping someone she cares about through her protection by making tough calls.

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Fast forward to her rescue!

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Recently reassured that she was on the right path of showing love through indomitable strength, Carol wrecks this joint singlehandedly. She covers herself in walker guts, explodes the barriers, and murders anyone fool enough to get in her way.

But it’s her conversation and fight with the mother, Mary, that leaves a mark on Carol. Mary tells her, “You could have been one of us.” Mind you, this is after Carol shot her in the leg. Carol is in the middle of reclaiming her family, showing the world she will stop at nothing for the life she wants— and then this cannibal who was going to kill and eat her family says she could be one of them.

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It doesn’t phase Carol on the surface, at least, and she lets walkers into the room to eat Mary alive. Then, after finally getting back with her family, Rick and the others, Carol is rewarded for the devastating brutality she wrought by having her family back.

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Go to Alexandria.

And then comes their arrival at Alexandria. Carol becomes her sweet, mild self from the beginning of the series minus the nervousness. But no one would suspect her of being a killing machine, and that’s what Carol wanted.

These people were not her family. She didn’t trust them and to better watch them, she was willing to assume the persona from the very beginning of this analysis: the quiet one in need of protection.

Her interview includes her saying, “I sort of became their den mother, and they were nice enough to protect me.” This was her plan from the moment she knew the interviews would be happening. Carol would do anything for this group and she acts on her own instinct (not teamwork).

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But this is also the beginning of Carol’s realization that she still isn’t happy with this. To protect people, she feels she has to destroy anyone who threatens them— only remember that she knows that you can’t save everyone either. When the Wolves attack, her confrontations with Morgan and the sheer devastation finally hit home with Carol.

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She had grown to care about the people of Alexandria, even from behind her guise as timid homemaker. And she couldn’t save them for all the fighting and killing she’d done. Pair that with Morgan telling her during the fight that she doesn’t like killing, and Carol had a lot to think about.

Even the budding romance she’d started with Tobin in Alexandria… he said after the fight that she could do things “that just terrify me”. She had become someone else after losing her first family, and now she had the chance to reflect on if that was someone who she wanted to be.

One of the lines that stuck with me most at this point was from a conversation she had with Morgan, where Carol said: “I don’t trust you, but I never thought you were lying.” Carol was capable of love and belief in others, but she couldn’t bring herself to trust anyone. They were potential threats, all of them. And that wasn’t what Carol wanted.

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By season six, when Carol and Maggie are being held captive, Carol’s charade as the “nervous little bird”, as Paula from the Saviors called her, was part charade and part reluctance to be the other self she’d built up.

When Paula was the last one still alive there, she said to Carol:

“You’re good… Nervous little bird. You were her. But not now, right? … If you could do all this… What were you afraid of, Carol?”

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To which Carol answers:

“I was afraid of this.”

She’s seen the fear that she instills in others, and it scares her now too. Carol doesn’t want to be a killer, but there’s another part to what Mary of Terminus said that speaks to her situation fairly well: “You could’ve listened to what the world is telling you!”
She finally decides to leave and strike out on her own, and the reason she gives in her letter is, “I love all of you here, I do, and I’d have to kill for you. And I can’t. I won’t.”

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But then the world speaks to Carol again, to mimic Mary’s quote, and she encounters bandits who were after Alexandria. And when she realizes in a panic that they mean to kill people, she tries to follow in Morgan’s footsteps and stop them. But she doesn’t have the skills he does, and she can only follow what she usually does.

Get their guard down.

Kill them all.

Her bond with King Ezekiel and their personas for the apocalypse played a tremendous role in her recovery at the Kingdom. She had Morgan to help her connect to her brutal self (not much different from his own) and the King to help her realize that this persona had its uses— just as his did— and that it didn’t take away from her true self in any way.

Morgan’s descent into aggression is timed with her own coming to terms with the various aspects of who she is— victim, survivor, and den mother. And in season eight, I expect Carol will be able to fight with her full force but love with all her heart as well (platonically and romantically).

But I look forward to seeing the show air again and get the canon story at last!


Thank you for reading!

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