The lightbulb went off and I pitched the idea to Maxx, who loved it immediately.
"...And the Rest Was History"
I'll cover my Brief Adventures here in the order that I wrote them. "...And the Rest Was History" came first because, building off of the inspiration of a brief Doctor Who story featuring the Seventh Doctor apologizing to Peri, the first thing that came to mind was, "Rolf meets Nei."
It's a basic concept and there really isn't much to say about that in itself. We know that when Rolf met Nei she was in a worried and frightened state of mind. ("I remembered when we first met, she looked at me in just the same way. That was seven months ago.") So I knew I had to put Nei into a frightening situation -- from there it became natural to explore two main things. First, the attitudes of the townspeople towards Nei. And second, what Nei was like seven months before Phantasy Star II, before she first met Rolf.
I tried to convey an innocence (and ignorance) on Nei's part by the fact that she continues to smile at the apple salesman, not understanding that he is alarmed, right up until she hears one familar word: "Biomonster." Hardcore phanatics will also note that the apple salesman refers to Nei's ears as "horns," an allusion to my favorite Phantasy Star IV character, Raja.
Basically, I just tried to come up with a believable scenario that instantly made Nei look upon Rolf with the utmost trust and caring, and which also put Rolf into a position of wanting to make sure she was always protected.
Important first meetings of characters that were unseen in the games was definitely my first idea upon introducing Brief Adventures to Phantasy Star Ultimate, as my first two contributions to the section covered this theme. It's also no coincidence that the two first meetings seen in the stories (this one and the above-mentioned "...And the Rest Was History") also explore the origins of the love the two characters would later share.
But while "...And the Rest Was History" covered the origins of the platonic, brother-sister love of Rolf and Nei, "Star-Crossed Lovers" was meant to introduce the romantic love between Rhys and Maia.
This Brief Adventure actually covers two important but never-seen events. Not only does it cover how Rhys and Maia met, but it also covers how Maia ended up washed up on the Landen shore. I was also able to toss in a sly hint in answer to my question of how the Alisians respond to finding the edge of their The Truman Show-like dome worlds.
The main focus, though, is on the origins of Rhys and Maia's romance. I didn't want to take things too far, however. I felt it would be extremely unrealistic to have them kiss right there on the beach and to have Rhys return to Landen with Maia in his arms, announcing his impending marriage and asking for some nice warm towels for his bride-to-be. No, like any romance, Rhys and Maia's had to start with an infatuation, and so that's basically what I tried to convey in Rhys.
To be honest, the biggest challenge in doing that was to write something that sounded believable while not resorting to slang terms from our world that would seem out of place on Alisa III, like "hot tamale" and "four-alarm fire." Further, I didn't want Maia to instantly return the affection. I wanted to convey that Maia, too, was at least a little interested, but honestly, her main emotions at that point would have been fear and uncertainty, if not outright panic at her complete lack of memory.
In the end, with Maia smiling and giggling at Rhys's compliment, I may have failed somewhat in that respect, but I also felt it was important, even through her fright, to show that Maia, too, had some feelings for Rhys. Because besides showing the origins of the romance, I also wanted to indicate that Rhys and Maia were destined to be together, since their meeting really is the spark that lights the fuse of all the events that lead up to Dark Force's release from prison.
"World Shatters Apart"
I knew the biggest problem with writing a story about the death of Rudo's wife and daughter was getting the audience to care. In a Brief Adventure, you don't have much time to establish a new character, so if that's what is to be done, then the story pretty much has to focus on that. I didn't want to focus on that, though, I wanted to focus on how it made Rudo feel to find his wife and baby daughter murdered by Biomonsters. The audience may not care about two new characters, I reasoned, but an audience of Phantasy Star fans would care about Rudo.
That's why I took the approach of starting the story by establishing how Rudo feels about his family. If Liz and Jennifer's deaths were to have any impact on the reader, it could only be felt through Rudo. In a way, it was kind of grusome work... establishing the extent of Rudo's love, only to have everything he cares about taken away from him. But I blame Sega, not myself; they're the ones who established that Rudo's family was murdered.
I also tried to hint at Rudo's feelings towards Mother Brain in the story's introduction. Prior to the events within, Rudo has no opinion regarding Mother Brain -- or at the very least, certainly not a bad one. He even decides he's somewhat thankful for Mother Brain's ban on space travel. I felt this was important to establish because his wife and his daughter's deaths are Rudo's initial motivations in Phantasy Star II. Beyond ending the Biomonster contagion so that what happened to his family won't happen again -- and, I'm sure, a small element of revenge -- Rudo, at least at first, travels with Rolf for no other reason. He certainly doesn't knock on Rolf's door to save the world. What I was trying to say is that prior to these events, Rudo certainly knew about Mother Brain, but he really could not be bothered to worry about her -- because every bit of his care in the world was devoted to his wife and child.
Writing this story really made me see that Rolf is not the only tragic hero in Phantasy Star II. Rudo is quite a tragic hero himself. This story was also key in my characterization of Rudo in The Great Collapse as a man who had given up his life to defend Algo, and now was trying to finally build himself a new life.
"A Death in the Family"
This story revolved around a single idea: since we know the Dark Force sealed aboard the Alisa III lived on after The Profound Darkness's death... how would that Dark Force react to that news?
When faced with death, our intitial reactions are extremely varied. Sometimes we react with overwhelming grief, sometimes with defensive indifference, sometimes with denial... or sometimes, we explode with rage. Somehow, I think Dark Force's reaction would be the latter. But on top of that, I thought it might be interesting to show that there is one being in the galaxy that Dark Force does care about. It's probably no coincidence that it is also one of the few beings more powerful than himself.
"Tragedy on ASC Flight 1000"
This one just... kind of came together. I was simply thinking one day about everything we know regarding the space ship crash that killed Rolf's parents, and when I started putting all of the pieces together, the story literally just started telling itself. What's most notable is that when this happened, I was away from a computer, and so I actually scrawled half the story out onto notebook paper and later typed it up. Now that may be Darrell Whitney's standard way of writing, but it sure as sin isn't mine -- I often don't even think about writing when I'm away from a keyboard.
The hardest part for me to figure out was why, if this was the first trip outside of Algo, would Rolf be onboard? The first trip destined to leave Algo does not sound like it would be any kind of colonization mission; inevitably, such an experimental flight would be a science experiment. Once I came up with the idea of Rolf being aboard as an observer sent to report back to the children of Algo regarding the mission, I had everything in place.
Beyond that, honestly, this story was all plot. I really wasn't looking to explore any facet of any character's personality, or shed some light on a particular theme from the game. The closest thing to anything like that I wanted to show was that Rolf knew and had deep love for his parents. No, for the most part, here I was basically going after the most fundamental reason we started Brief Adventures in the first place: documenting previously unseen yet very important Phantasy Star events, and offering a few explanations for things in the process. An example of this is in the final paragraph of the story, where the significance of Rolf's yellow headband (or at least my interpretation of its significance) is revealed.
Finally, it should also be noted that I used this story to give Rolf a last name, a last name I later used in the early chapters of The Great Collapse. I have never agreed with those who feel Rolf's last name is Landale. Yes, he is the descendant of Alis, but if he shares her last name, then it really shouldn't be a surprise when Lutz reveals that to him. If my last name were Washington, for example, and someone one day said, "You are a descendant of our first president," my reaction would not be surprise, but rather, "Oh, I always wondered if I was."
So no, Rolf's last name is not Landale... but I also decided I didn't like giving him a last name I came up with, either. Some things, like V's face and identity in V For Vendetta, just aren't meant to be revealed. If Sega announces Rolf's last name one day, I'll perhaps go with that. (I'll definitely go with it if it is released in a way that makes it official for the English versions.) But until then, I think I'll just keep Rolf without a last name.
Surprisingly, of all my Brief Adventures, I seem to get the most email on this one. I say surprisingly only because it does not feature a single hero from any Phantasy Star game, and an established villain only shows up for the climax in the second half of the story.
My initial inspiration for this story was the story's most famous exchange of dialogue. "Where are you from?" "Connecticut." That's all I had to start with, but it was enough to build upon. From there, I came up with the idea of a man that was speaking out against Mother Brain, a man who was a threat, but not a physical one. A man the Earthmen decided they needed to quietly eliminate.
Of course, I used it as an example to explore the character of the Earthmen. With all apologies to Joel Fagin, I wanted to explore my interpretation of them as being thoroughly evil creatures. Terrick could have had his soldiers simply put a laser blast through the head of Naris Borland, but instead he takes care of the execution personally, clearly delighting in it as a way to tide himself over until the day they kill all the Palmans on the planet.
After telling the crowd that Mother Brain is leading them to ruin, Naris Borland says, "Let those who can hear, hear!" My Christian readers will recognize this as being a paraphrase of the words of the Lord. An example can be found in Matthew 13:43, when after reciting a parable, Jesus says, "Whoever has ears ought to hear." In no way was my intention to make Borland a Christ-figure, but I did feel this quote was appropriate, because both the Lord and Naris Borland are saying, "If you can hear the truth in what I'm saying, listen to me." I think the only other thing I can say in regards to this one is the comment Maxx had when I first sent him this story. He said, "Wow! I knew that guy was a goner, but I didn't think you'd sick the Earthmen on him!" I guess if I surprised even Maxx, my mission was accomplished.
"Chooses to Kill"
My most recent Brief Adventure, written in early 2001, and my first ever PSO-related work. The idea for this story came from two places. First, my friend JWL came up with the idea that the name "Vol Opt" could be a combination of the Phantasy Star II instant-death technique Vol and a shortened version of the word "option." Thus, Vol Opt's name could mean "The Death Option," or "Chooses to Kill."
The second inspiration for the story was Kireek's line in "Waterfall Tears," "My Pioneer 1 rival would be happy knowing I found a worthy opponent." I found this line very intriguing. So Kireek had a rival on board Pioneer 1, eh? Interesting. What kind of rival would Kireek have?
It was from that basis that I created Massdiatiel as Kireek's rival. A HUcast like Kireek, Massdiatiel can match Kireek's every move in combat. The difference is where Kireek is evil, Massdiatiel's basic disposition is good. Though he is an army soldier, he even refuses orders that he does not agree with.
It was from there that I had the idea that Vol Opt could be Massdiatiel, captured and reprogrammed by Dark Falz.
I had a lot of fun with this story, though I tried to skirt around the issues of the exact timeline of Pioneer 1's discovery of the Ruins and Rico's journey to the Ruins. The best part was bringing PSO-style combat to life in prose. Admitedly, that didn't take a whole lot of imagination, since combat is easily more visible in PSO than in any other Phantasy Star game. I also tried to build off of Rico's line that the Mines robots "were customized robots originally for industrial use." Coming up with ideas for what the Mines robots were supposed to do was my favorite part of this story.
This time, you're not the only hero.
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