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If you're here, I hope you've read "The Wrong Ground to Hold" first; this really doesn't stand alone, and isn't designed to. (I also hope you've read the Author's Commentary for "The Wrong Ground To Hold", because I'm going to try not to repeat myself.)

"The Wrong Ground To Hold" arrived as an episode tag--complete with a basic plot summary of the episode in question, but not a lot of detail. (Since I was mainly interested in the emotional arc of the tag, I mostly got the emotional setup from the episode--Tau, who doesn't admit to emotions and doesn't do guilt, taking self-loathing to the point of near suicide-by-stupidity because of the unexpected ghost from the past; Hazelbright--who'd admit this only to himself--terrified that he's lost Tau even though they've gotten him back; and Vortalon a good deal more worried than he'd admit, and the unhappy holder of a rather messy bit of Tau's history.) As I was writing it I discovered that some of the characterization and story that was in my head just wasn't going to make it onto the page thanks to the PoV limitations.

The worst casualty was Vortalon, who really isn't quite as much as a asshole as Tau likes to think (almost, but not quite) and who has a moral center (which Tau doesn't--he has Hazelbright instead!--so it's not surprising that he can't see it) and well-hidden core of...well, the thumbnail description I came up with and still love is "jackass with a heart of pure buttercream." Mind you, Vortalon would react to that description with flights of profane fury beyond my ability to write. It's still true.

So I had a certain amount of story that I could only hint at in the tag, a character who'd gotten rather short shrift, and an inspiration and beta reader (hi, Lanna!) who, when I laid out some of the emotional background of the episode, said "You should write that!"

Oh, dear.

I couldn't (and can't--I would if I could!) write the full episode, mostly because there are some very large holes in the world-building that I want to take my time about filling, so I don't have to retcon myself out of any egregious stupidity if I go back into this universe for a longer time. (And I may; I have a few more fic-fragments that I'm poking it, and something that is distressingly novel-shaped bubbling in my backbrain.)

As I was driving last weekend--yes, plotting-while-driving is rather a theme for me--I realized that I could probably write the actual scene of Vortalon's rescue of Varadar Tau without writing myself into any corners I couldn't get out of. Since it gave me Vortalon's PoV, it would also let me settle his character a little more firmly in my head, without the barrier of Tau muttering "stupid overprivileged jackass" in the foreground. Not, again, that he's wrong--one of the unexpected bonuses of writing this scene was the discovery that it turns out to be the first moment where Vortalon gets a glimmer of the notion that he could become a commander of Hazelbright's caliber, not just a fighter jock--and that might be something worth working towards.

As usually happens, I got the first line and the opening image--Tau's eyes opening in his blood-covered face, and Vortalon--who has a certain streak of sociopathy--stepping over the body of the man he's just killed--and then had to work from there. Most of the basics I had already from writing the tag--even it it wasn't all visible, it was there--but I had to write all the way through to find the ending.  (And one detail never did find its way to the page, except in unrecognizably obscure half-reference; my unnamed dead antagonist was not actually going after Tau on his own account.  He was assumed to have died with Tau's first ship--I don't know how he (or Tau) survived (or for that matter how the ship was lost, or I'd be a lot closer to writing the full story)--but his sister did die.  He was out to avenge her.)  Oh, and this too is named from a Vorkosigan fanwork--in this case, from Ezar's Reply to the Passionate Shepherd  by [archiveofourown.org profile] Bracketyjack 

If you like these guys...well, I do too, and there’s a reasonable chance that I’ll manage to give them some more page-space. Not for a while, though, because SF worldbuilding is not something I do easily, and I want to give them a worthy stage to play on.

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Ailis Fictive

October 2015

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