Episode 96: Syllabus Preparation

One of the more interesting things about teaching is that every year or so you get to do kinda the same thing all over again with a new set of students. You can pretty much recycle the same class, do something completely different, or more likely adapt things as needed in the quest for elusive pedagogical perfection.. This year I am teaching two sections of English 160: Literatures of the World, a class I taught two years ago. Half of my previous novel selections did not go exactly as planned when my students went through them. Contrary to popular belief (and by popular belief I mean the nerdy friends I have conversations with), teaching webcomic did not go well to the point that only one student actively liked it. Less than 5% approval rating is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination. I shuffled a few of the novels around and this is my syllabus for the course. Compared to last time, I feel that student’s will not be as suffocated with reading loads. Still there are a few things I am anticipating for trouble down the line that I want discuss from the syllabus as you read it further down.

First, the theme of home (plus identity, purpose, and journey) should be familiar enough for students to apply to the selected readings and to other texts they are familiar with. A big crux of the class will be based on something that seems simple enough during class introductions. In addition to the standard questions, I want everyone to tell me their favorite story ever, something that they have pretty much memorized and can talk about forever.  Pretty much any time that there are presentations it is going to be centered around these already familiar texts. By the time they finish overthinking and analyzing them, there is a good chance they may hate me for ruining their favorite stories.

Another interesting thing you may notice is that interspersed between readings there are discussion days about different stuff. I put them in there specifically to give kids a break, especially after a somewhat long and potentially boringish novel. My favorite one is the one about active reading and ludological practices, which actually means that I am talking about video games. The surprise factor  alone should make it a memorable class.

The other thing that worries me is Oscar Wao. That novel is awesome but the Spanglish and nerdy references galore could be too much for most students. Let’s see if they can handle it. Without further ado, here is the syllabus.

English 160/CLS 160: Literatures of the World                                                                  

Professor Gabriel E. Romaguera

Meeting time/place: Section 004 MWF, 1:00-1:50pm Washburn Hall 308

Section 007 MWF 2:00-2:50 Washburn Hall 308

Office Hours: M, W, F, 3:00-5pm

Office Location: TBD

Email Address: gromaguera@gmail.com

Course Description:

Leaving and Building Nests: Exploring Notions of Identity, Purpose, Journey, and Home

This course is designed to introduce a number of themes, forms, issues, and literary devices

relevant to a contemporary transnational or global moment. We will study how the physical and metaphorical home serves as a starting point and as a destination. Be it from something as broad as a continent to as small as a house, this sense of origin and accomplishment becomes an integral part of one’s identity.

·         How do motions across national borders alter individual and collective identities?

·         How does the journey away from one home or towards another affect perceptions and

reflections of the characters in these narratives?

·         Does transnational movement lead to a sense of placelessness? Is this placelessness

inherently negative? Can it be liberating?

·         Do certain artistic practices stem from travel back and forth?

·         What distinctions can be drawn between physical presence in a place or psychological

presence and absence in relation to location?

·        In what ways if any does gender play a role in any of the above factors?

Learning Outcomes:

·         Understand and analyze texts within broader social, philosophical, and historical contexts.

·         Recognize influences of artistic forms on contemporary cultural productions.

·         Develop critical writing and analytical skills.

·         Develop personal preferences and aesthetic regarding literature.

·         Observe how the printed word juxtaposed with pictorial and other images can be used for narrative construction.

Course Requirements:

Attendance and Participation: Attendance and active participation in all classes is required.

Students are allowed a maximum of three unexcused absences throughout the semester. Every additional absence will amount to a two point subtraction from your final grade. All excused absences must be accompanied with their pertinent paperwork. Keep in mind that absences of any kind also affect your participation grade. All students are responsible for keeping up with class discussion and material for any classes they have missed for any reason.

Classroom Courtesy: Get to class on time with the assigned readings read and bring your texts. Cellphones should be off or silent during class time. Refrain from texting. E-readers can be used in class but only for looking at the text at hand, no web surfing or chatting.

Quizzes: There will be announced and unannounced quizzes based on readings and/or any part of classroom discussions. You may not make up quizzes.

Reading Journal: Students are required to keep a reading journal throughout the semester.

Record your notes about the assigned reading and your responses to the reading and to issues that emerge in class discussion. The purpose of the reading journal is to be prepared for class discussion. It also serves as preparatory writing for the final critical essay. The reading journal will be collected at the midterm and final. The quality of your reading journal will be

factored into your participation grade.

Tips for Active Reading and Making your Reading Journal:

1. Create a list of characters and consult it often.

2. Take notes on the action of each chapter.

3. Keep a dictionary close by in order to look up unfamiliar words.

4. Write plot summaries to refer back to when studying for the midterm, final, and writing your paper.

Critical Essay: 6-7 page paper that shows original work supporting a literary

interpretation of selected texts.

This final essay will be developed from student thinking and reflection in the reading journals

and quizzes, and which will bring together the student’s close reading skills and newly-gained

knowledge of the field.

Midterm and Final Exam: The midterm and final exams will take place on the dates listed and

will be given only on that day. The exams will be objective in form and will test knowledge of

the lectures and the basic content of the texts.

Sakai Postings:

Short writing assignments will be assigned regularly through the Sakai website. Please visit

Sakai regularly as important announcements and expansions on class discussion will be sent

through here.

Plagiarism: All submitted written work and presentations must be your own; if you consult

other sources (class readings, articles or books from the library, articles available through

internet databases, websites or other internet sources) these sources MUST be properly documented using the MLA citation format. Please see http://www.mla.org.

Failure to document any outside research will cause you to be charged with plagiarism and

receive an F for the assignment. In some cases, this might result in a failure of the course as

well. If you have any doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, visit the following website: http://gervaseprograms.georgetown.edu/hc/plagiarism.html

Writing center: All writers, all disciplines, all levels, and all stages of writing. If possible, call

ahead for an appointment (874-4690). Drop-in tutorials are often available. 4th floor, Roosevelt Hall.

Disability Services: Any student with a documented disability is welcome to contact the

instructor early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be worked out to support

his or her success in this writing course. Please also contact Disability Services for Students,

Office of Student Life, 330 Memorial Union, 874-2098.

Grading:

Midterm: 20%

Final: 20%

Critical Essay: 20%

Quizzes and presentations: 15%

Participation: 15%

Work on Sakai: 10%

Grade Scale:

A: 100-93       A-: 92-90         B+: 89-88           B: 87-83          B-: 82-80              

C+: 79-78       C: 77-73 C-: 72-70            D+: 69-68        D: 67-60          F: 50-0

Required Texts:

Cao, Lan. Monkey Bridge. Penguin. 1997. ISBN 0-14-026361-6

Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Riverhead. 2008. ISBN  9781594483592

Pratchett, Terry. Going Postal. Doubleday. 2004. ISBN 0-385-60342-8

Satrapi, Marjani. Persepolis I. Pantheon. 2000. ISBN 037571457X

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I. Pantheon. 1991. ISBN 0-394-54155-3

Welch, James. Fools Crow. Viking. 1986. ISBN 0-14-008937-3

SCHEDULE OF READINGS

Read the material prior to class on the date it is listed.

September

4: Introduction to course

6: Intro Continued. Discussion of narrative and “home”.

9: Discussion of “identity” Start individual presentations.

11: Discussion of “purpose” Cont. individual presentations.

13: Meet at Library: Tour and intro to research.

16: Discussion of “journey”. Finish individual presentations.

18: Fools Crow, Chapters 1-8

20: Fools Crow, Chapters 9-18

23: Fools Crow, Chapters 19-27

25: Fools Crow, Chapters 28-36

27: Discussion of the “bildungsroman” aka the coming of age tale.

30: Persepolis Pages 1-86

October

2: Persepolis Pages 87-end

4: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,  Chapters 1-2

7: Oscar Wao, Chapter 3

9:  Oscar Wao, Chapter 4-5

11: Oscar Wao, Chapters 6-7

14: Columbus day. No classes

16: Midterm: Bring your Reading Journal

18: Discussion on active reading and ludological interactive practices.

21: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 1-3

23: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 4-7

25: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 8-10

28: Monkey Bridge, Chapters 11-13

30: Discussion of Critical Analysis and Research

November

1: Group Presentations

4: Group Presentations

6: Group Presentations

8: Maus, Chapters 1-2

11: Veterans’ Day: No Classes

13: Maus, Chapters 3-4

15: Maus, Chapters 5-6

18: Going Postal, Chapters 1-5

20: Going Postal, Chapters 6-9

22: Going Postal, Chapters 10-Epilogue

25: Quick Presentations on Critical Paper topic

27: Discussion of Research Methods for Critical Paper

29: Thanksgiving (No classes)

December

2: Individual Presentations

4: Individual Presentations

6: Individual Presentations

9: PAPER DUE Class wrap up.

*Note: This course schedule is subject to change during the term.

Final Exam will be held on Friday, December 13 for Section 004 and Monday December 16 for

section 007. Both sections will have in the same classroom from 11:30am-2:30pm.

 

Episode 95: A New Batman

I have been trying to stay off my computer longer than usual in the vain attempts to be a productive member of society before I go into full nonstop dissertation writing soon. So lo and behold I get on my laptop for the first time today and all over I see the news that an actor has been selected to take the role of Batman opposite Henry Cavill’s Superman for their upcoming joint film in 2015. If you have been paying attention to this blog, you know that I love the Caped Crusader in pretty much every form but the announcement that Ben Affleck was chosen felt like a kick in the nards with George Clooney’s stupid “Bat Ice Skates” from that dreaded film that shall remain nameless. Pretty much every newsfeed I see is covered in friends declaring an almost unanimous WTF?! with relevant links for the news. I joined my voice to the chorus for a while but had to take a deep breath and reconsider if only for the hope that the upcoming film will be amazing. Rather than rant, I want to try and conjure a scenario where the film could work with Ben Affleck as Batman. Actually, it could just work with anyone with decent acting abilities to be Batman. So yeah, time for another round of hypothetical storytelling.

First, they have already established that they want this iteration of Batman to not be a Batman Begins Christian Bale but something closer to the tail end of his crime fighting days at the ripe young of age of early 40s. As long as you have the best trainers and nutritionists that a billionaire playboy can afford, he won’t miss a step when it comes to charming the ladies or beating up the bad guys. However, I personally thing that they want to emphasize the almost antagonistic identities between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight. I see Bruce Wayne as being a carefree celebrity that can afford to look like a hobo and act like an ass. So yeah, imagine House but without the cane. But rather than being a pompous dick I see him like the sad Keanu meme, sad and artsy while pushing people away because friends just means more people to have masks around.

As for the Caped Crusader, I envision him as working really in the shadows, not being glorified by Gotham but rather that he beats up people in the alleyways. More detective and bruiser than gadgeteer genius. There is no Bat Signal or even police help, he is a vigilante that the cops have kind of lived with and sometimes send after something/someone they can’t handle. Far more ninja quick incapacitation style combat than drawn out kung fu fights. Grappling hook gun and batarangs galore but very few other inventions around. The Batwing is probably in storage and needs some repairs before he joins Supes for flying to a future mission. In fact, I imagine that the first shot of Affleck will be as Patches Malone (Bruce’s alter ego when he wants to visits the darker parts of Gotham). Hell, Patches should be one of the main features of the film. If Batman allows Bruce to fulfill his desire to act as guardian to the city, Patches allows him to be a citizen. He would be like any of Johny Depp’s eccentric characters. Wait, he should just be Johny Depp as he is in real life in fashion and overall charisma. He needs to have a weird style, enough so that no one can ever make the connection between the trio of alter egos. My best bet would aviator sunglasses with lenses that have lead in them to “better block out radiation” but are actually to prevent high tech surveillance and later Superman from taking a peek. He has a similar thing in his cowl obviously. Plus, the first time people see Patches he could pretend to be blind and then Poof! potshot to Daredevil, because self deprecating fan service is always good.

To further emphasize the opposite natures between Superman and Batman, let me set up some antonyms that respectively divide their identities. Light/dark, naturally gifted/training from Hell, amateur/experienced, clean shaven/gristled, brute force/strategy, optimism/pessimism, hope/despair. Let me focus on that last one for a bit. The first Superman film clearly established that the seal of the house of El doubled as the symbol for hope, thus making this hero a shining beacon for the people to see and follow. Despair might be too strong a word but you have to consider what the history of Batman entails. I love him as a character in pretty much every interpretation but there is one thing that has stood out about him for me as a reader, Batman hates himself. More specifically, he hates what he has had to become. The transition from spoiled rich kid to traumatized orphan on that dark alley one night left him yearning for a world that did not involve such wanton disrespect for life. Bruce Wayne creates Batman because he feels Gotham has forced him to do so. He could stop at any moment but the city needs him to prevent an even crappier existence to take place. This of course doubles for the Bruce Wayne public persona he has created and even to Patches, all of them masks designed for his surroundings, not for himself. I draw a lot of parallels between Batman and Don Quixote in that they are both a response to a world that needs them and that whatever is achieved ultimately accomplishes very little in the grand scheme of things. The only people that have seen the real Bruce after this tragedy are a few ninja masters, a love interest or two that conveniently disappears before the next film, the Robins, and of course Alfred.

Here is my plot for the film where an extra broody Ben Affleck (think Argo) could pull off being Batman. Bruce has been the Caped Crusader for years but realizes that he might not be able to keep this up much longer. The obvious thing would be to have a health scare or maybe a punk with a gun gets a lucky shot in, though I think something more drastic needs to occur. Bruce needs to experience the loss of the one stable thing remaining in his life. Since including any kind of Robin in the movie would not go well and killing him a la Jason Todd would be too much there is only one thing left to do. With almost two decades of hero work he is still unable to save the man that has been on his side all along. That’s right, opening scene needs to be Alfred’s funeral. Heresy I know, but it might just be the thing to distinguish this Batman from any other, make him a super loner, and push him to do something he never quite imagined. The one thing that is consistent and almost an outlet for his grief is putting away criminals (in this version I imagine a more mundane Rogues Gallery in Gotham, much like Nolan’s films). He sees the reports of Metropolis being almost shattered by Zod and begins to really consider what would happen if anything so Super would happen in Gotham, what would survive the carnage.

Now we cut to Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Perry White with boxes carrying them into a building and setting up some desks. With their flagship newspaper HQ demolished, the surviving journalists are forced to temporarily relocate to one of the smaller branches of the Daily Planet, Gotham. Now we have a reason for the other characters to stay together and be in a new place. Between people having died in the calamity and the survivors preferring to be in Metropolis’s ruins than take their chances in Gotham, we have an explanation as to why the recognizable reporters took the job. Now, Superman starts making appearances in other cities but does a lot of his work in Gotham now, which obviously makes Batman feel like he is losing his only responsibility. Sure he could stop and leave his work to more capable hands but the fear of another ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny leveling the place he has been protecting for so long makes him want to learn more. At first, he visits the offices of the Daily Planet as Batman to get more info, especially Lois Lane who was with Superman during a lot the catastrophe. Then he tries to buy the Daily Planet as Bruce Wayne to be able to get even more information. After that, he kind of infiltrates the workforce by being an on the street reporter, Patches Malone. This way we have Batman meeting Lois Lane, because she obviously is working late there when he infiltrates the office, Bruce Wayne getting into a dick measuring contest with Perry White, and even a bit of a rivalry between patches and Clark Kent to see who can find the scoop. Bam! banter between the cast and Bruce’s personas that help to establish different interactions for the rest of the film.

The movie will mostly be about the interaction between the two caped wonders but Lois Lane needs to be around as well. I see her as an intermediary between Clark and Bruce, plus their alter egos. If you think the guy from Smallville, Kansas was intimidated by Metropolis then he is going to crap his pants when he gets to Gotham, a place that makes Detroit look good and Lois needs to hold his hand along the way but it’s ultimately Patches that acts as tour guide. With her having already deduced Superman’s identity I want that relationship to start take place. While Bruce might be looking to settle down eventually, I don’t want this to be the moment when he gets a love interest. He can make out with Wonder Woman in Justice League. Lois, should be focused on another story, like a prominent scientist that goes missing. She of course finds him, figures out that he has been forced to help the bad guys in some way, and helps save him all while figuring critical information and maybe some MacGuffin that helps her Super Friends save the day.

As for the main antagonist/plot of the film, I want it to start small with something that can easily extend into Justice League stuff. Batman has been finding that the regular criminals have been packing deadlier weapons that look almost other worldly. The heroes do their thing and quickly realize that their ammunition is strong enough to put a dent even in Superman, thus forcing an eventual team up. Clark and Patches make the connection to guns being supplied by Intergang, which is kind of like the mafia but on steroids. With no kryptonite around, the only thing that makes sense is that fragments from the thing that almost did the terraforming in the previous movie now have this deadly effect to the man of Steel. The heroes figure out that Intergang has been supplying the advanced weapons so they go and pay their boss a visit. While the Penguin could fill this role, I want a slightly less iconic villain to take the reins in this one. Red Hood would be too much trouble because comparisons to Joker and Jason Todd would keep showing up. Instead, the villain should be Black Mask, and for added effect let’s say that the actual mask is made of the faux kryptonite to give him a standing chance. Obviously, the heroes work together and the day is saved. However, we see that the weapons are in pretty good shape for being made out of scraps of alien tech. But then they realize that the writings on them are not in any language either of them recognize leading to a bigger mystery but the main threat has been neutralized as these impliments of destruction are thrown into the sun or something. Clark, Lois, and Perry return to a reconstructed Metropolis and all things seem well.

The post credit tease is a boomtube of one of the Intergang guys who escaped. He appears in a dark room and starts pleading for his life but he is only met with glowing red eyes that shoot lasers and kill him. An evil chuckle and a bit of an outline showing Darkseid’s face should suffice. The Justice League movie would explain that one of the failed Kryptonian expeditions into space landed on Apokalips, giving them a tech boost to wage war on the rest of the galaxy/universe and know Earth is in their sights. Well that’s my story, any Hollywood execs that want a full screenplay should contact me soon. I’ve got dissertating to do.

Episode 94: Story revised once again

Turns out you can’t submit a play or something in play format to a short story contest. Here is the most updated version. I’m almost at the limit for word count but welcome any and all input. Much appreciated.

 

A Bridge Too Far

The light of the half-moon is barely noticeable next to the campfire. Three figures come together over a makeshift table to plan that with a bit of ingenuity and luck might just qualify as a suicide mission rather than a waste of time. Their de facto leader, Mikufu is the first to break the silence with a voice filled with hope and determination. “We’ve been planning this for days and considering our options, we have the best chance of anything if we follow the plan.” A second voice chimes in with a humorous tone to alleviate the tension as Juan tries to take the spotlight for himself, like he always does. “I know a one in a million chance is better than nothing but you have to admit that this will probably get us all killed.” The seriousness of Inamoca’s response brings them back on track with the subtlety of a guillotine. “Agreed. However, at least this way we die fighting rather than running, hiding, and waiting to die.”

The two men share an awkward glance as Mikufu brings their planning session to order. “On that cheery note, let’s go over everything once again. We need to make sure we haven’t missed anything. Juan, some magical visual aids, if you please.”

“You know I insist that you refer to me by my full title unless we are at a time of duress where syllable efficiency is required. Juan Antonio Vega de la Mancha, Sorcerer Extraordinaire. But, since you asked so nicely I will make an exception and let proper procedures of protocol lapse.”

The table fills with an incandescent light that aids in illuminating our protagonists. Juan’s clean-shaven face and well-kept golden locks shine brightly as his nimble hands shape the light into a model of the city’s bay with the bridge that connects it to the capitol’s tiny island. Inamoca’s eyes roll upwards momentarily as they usually do instinctively from many of Juan’s lines as she brushes her brown hair off her still muddy face. Mikufu surveys the illusionary model with care as his coarse dark curls almost reflect the additional illumination. He strokes the stubble of his chin for a few seconds before he gives his thumbs up and directs his attention to the other two.

“I see you are still wearing camouflage even in the safest camp we can find.”

“You didn’t mind it when it when it helped me evade and outflank those crazy bandits with those exotic weapons on our first mission as a team.” Inamoca’s sense of preparation often bordered on paranoia but the lives the trio led made it very practical. “Besides, Virgilio already told us that our recent fame has brought about unwanted attention.”

“Ugh. I still have nightmares about that ripsaw glaive echoing through the marsh. Besides, I think we are all forgetting that it was my sleep spell that incapacitated half of them.” Chimed in Juan.

“Let’s not turn into another night of the supposed ‘Amazing Adventures of Juan and friends’, as you like to call them, good buddy.” Said Mikufu as he tries to get back to the task at hand. “Okay, the bridge was finished a week ago but it does not become officially open for use by the public until after the ceremony with the governor. Luckily, he is still out of the island and in Spain.”

“Probably talking over with King Ferdinand how to impose more taxes and further limiting the financial growth of individual entrepreneurs.” Interrupted Juan once again, almost impressed with himself that his string of long words made sense.

“Juan, are you still mad about losing the gold mine? It was in my ancestral people’s homeland and I don’t even care that much about it.” Inamoca was not fond of pity parties. Her taíno warrior upbringing was largely devoid of complaints so they are still surprising to hear.

“The mine wasn’t that important but all the gold inside it was. Usually you go into the old abandoned caves, fight a few monsters, and maybe find a few things here and there but this was filled to the brim in that hidden chamber we uncovered. I was even going to do a fair split of 60/20/20 with you.” Juan’s arrogance was shortly exchanged with a sense of defeat. “Eminent domain laws don’t work like that.”

“Yeah, Bjorn Bjornson insisted the whole vein was worth at least 100,000 gold coins. Not to mention that magical artifact that we never figured out how it worked. Getting closure on that is one of the reasons we are we even considering this mission.” Mikufu segued the topic of conversation back to the mission.

“Regardless, without the governor present it falls unto Lieutenant Governor Pepe to do a final inspection of the bridge. Which he will be doing tomorrow.” Inamoca said this as she points at the illusory structure.

“Correct. If we want to be heard and make sure that real changes happen for the people of Puerto Rico, we need to talk to him, since he has power and he doesn’t have to grovel at Ferdinand’s table for a few more scraps.” Mikufu’s voice rose with disgust momentarily but he regained his composure. “Normally, he only goes out with a small squadron of elite crossbow men and infantry.”

“None of which can outshoot me and my bow.” Interrupted the female archer. “And yet, enough of them can prove to be deadly.”

“I still have the scars to prove it from our last skirmish with a few of them.” Juan reentered the conversation with his favorite topic, himself.

“I thought Ernesto healed you up with his divine powers or something.” Wondered Mikufu.

“First off, he did so reluctantly. He wanted to use all of his ‘lay on hands’ powers on little miss archery over here. Secondly, magic healing can’t cover up a whole wound, there is always a freckle or blemish at minimum. My flawless skin is getting one step further from perfection after every outing we go on.”

“Honestly, I’d prefer the squadron over what we will be facing. Pepe has a private meeting with some adviser to the crown.” Mikufu redirected the topic once again.

“Any reconnaissance on the old guy?” Asked Inamoca.

Juan responds in a rare moment of seriousness: “He is either a nobody or someone who takes careful measures that no one finds out anything. None of my contacts have a clue as to who he is.”

“He is an unknown threat to the plan but no worse than the one person whom we all have a grudge against. Elena and her giant bird are giving Pepe and the mystery man an aerial tour of the bridge before they land.” Mikufu said this with a combination of fear and hatred.

“I thought it was a dire eagle.” Inamoca inquired with an honest interest in ornithology.

Juan responds: “No, this is definitely a roc. You can tell by the fact that it’s as big as a house and the shape of its talons.”

“Are you sure?” Mikufu wondered.

“Come on! I’m the Juan man you can count on for all things about giant monsters.”

Inamoca sighs: “Are you still trying to turn that into your catchphrase?”

“That’s enough ‘pun’ishment from both of you.” Mikufu let a quick smirk escape his countenance. “Back to business. Rocs are big and bad but they aren’t invincible. Elena on the other hand might just be. I don’t have to remind you how lethal she can be.”

“She struck the ground and a column of fire appeared, killing Iñigo in one fell swoop.” Inamoca’s pride drooped as she relived the memory.

“Even if the guy was a selfish bastard that was certainly no way to go.” As shallow as Juan is, he is not immune to grief.

“If nothing else, we go to avenge a fallen friend. We are all a lot stronger and much better equipped than when she took him out.” Their leader’s voice boomed with reassurance.

“She has a lot to answer for. Killing Iñigo…” Her voice trailed off.

“Taking my, I mean, OUR gold.” Said Juan quickly correcting himself.

Mikufu’s gaze remains unsettled. “Putting all those new laws that make it so that native taínos (looks to Inamoca) magic users (looks to Juan), and even freed slaves (looks down at the chains that make up his armor) are legally treated even worse than they are now.”

“Not to mention that she broke your heart, buddy.”

“Juan?!? That’s when she was undercover as a barmaid. Long before we knew she was an Imperial Hellknight who thinks that the only way to bring order to something is by setting fire to it and then building from scratch on top of the smoldering ruins of what once laid there.”

Inamoca looks on quizzically: “Wait, I thought she was pretending to be a hooker?”

“A common misconception. We just assumed that whoever would want to voluntarily have sex with Mikufu expects to be paid for her services beforehand.” Juan responded in a professorial manner.

Mikufu shouts with noticeable blushing “Anyway! We all have plenty of reasons for wanting to take her out. Tomorrow might be our only chance to make some good for the island and get some well-deserved revenge in the process.”

“All we have to do is get to the middle of the bridge without alerting the forts at each end too soon and we will have a chance.” Said Inamoca.

“Right. One chance to catch them by surprise out in the open. All we have to do is kill a bitch with impenetrable armor and a super magical sword plus her monstrous feathered friend first.” Juan’s humor could not hide his worries. “Explain to me again how we aren’t going to die horribly before the rounds of combat even start.”

Mikufu responds with coy defiance. “By taking your dad’s boat, which you have so graciously volunteered, and pretending to be fishing at the mouth of the bay until the right moment to strike, go across the river and ram directly into the bridge itself.”

“See, if you are going to describe sailing into our probable demise you need to say it with a bit more dramatic flair. It’s what separates the eccentric underdogs from the crazy idiots who won’t last six seconds.” Juan said as he regains his signature smile.

“Shame we can’t use Captain Correa’s boat.” Stated Inamoca with disappointment. “A galleon like that would cause some serious damage to the bridge and give us a fighting chance.”

“Maybe, but its size would also give us a way too quickly. The bigger the boat, the harder it is to be inconspicuous.” Said Mikufu reminding everyone that strategy trumps brute force.

“That’s right, buddy. Keep telling yourself that size is inversely proportional to performance.” Said Juan reminding everyone that low brow jokes trump everything as even Inamoca can’t help but giggle at this comment.

“We can get official confirmation about that from your mother later. Right now, we have a mission to plan.” Mikufu’s verbal riposte was immediate and silencing to the point that Juan only did a slow clap of respect.

“We’ll be going upstream to get there. We can’t count on natural wind. Good thing we still have those fan feather tokens from those pirates we stopped a while back.” Inamoca knew how to make her arrows get to their intended destination, no matter what. When all you have is a bow, your problems start to look like targets.

“Their magic is temporary but it will be more than enough for us to get some decent speed in no time.” Claimed the sorcerer as if this were elementary arithmetic.

“Once we see that the eagle has landed we make our run for it. With any luck, the surprise and confusion will be enough for them to not fly off or give the forts a speedy counter attack opportunity.” Said the chained warrior with trepidation.

“Then we kill Elena and the bird.” The archer continued with a hint of bloodlust.

“And I use my gift of oratory to convince Pepe and the old man that we are on their side. He’ll then give the order for the soldiers to stand down and we can talk about reversing some laws over tea.” Juan mentioned this with the pride of being the most important cog in the process.

“But if your silver tongue can’t do the job, we’ll just have an old fashioned hostage situation where we can escape with our lives.” Responded Inamoca as if the danger meant nothing.

“Come on. Did I or did I not single handedly convince that girl to be bait for that masquerade party where we killed those vampires?”

“Juan, please stop referring to that poor girl as “bait”. Her name was Betty and she almost died in the process. Plus, I’m still convinced you used your abhorrent magic to do the job.”

“Everyone calm down.” Said their leader as he tried once again to keep the trio’s emotions in check. “First off, I got to give it to Juan, that move was pretty sweet. Second, I know you have never really cared about the anti-magical sentiments of society but shouldn’t you be more worried about the whole ‘all magic is from devils and mages should be jailed’ mentality and laws that are coming out?”

“Hey, I can be naturally enchanting as much as I need to. Besides, magic comes up in a lot of ways in people. For most, they are born with it, having been descendants of something beyond the Material Plane that manifests itself through being able to use magic. My bloodline is particularly awesome and that is the root of all my powers.”

“That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Trust me; I’ve known him since we were both kids.”

“Fine.” Groaned Inamoca. “So, we have a boat, the means to move it, the three of us, and some kind of plan. Any other resources, at our disposal?”

“Ernesto is still helping Ana at the cathedral. Even after we stopped that zombie outbreak the people are still close to a collective panic. At least, they sent their whole supply of healing potions.” Mikufu pointed at a satchel full of oddly shaped bottles. “Ina, were you able to convince any of your tribe’s people to join the cause?”

“No, they are now more entrenched than ever to make a stand at the mountains if any Spaniards are stupid enough to try to take away what little lands we have left. I heard Bjorn has offered his services to them. First time taínos and Prussians have worked together in recorded history from what I can figure. Juan, any news from Virgilio?”

“Not since he left the island with Carmen. Imperial soldiers already consider him a traitor for helping us out before so I don’t blame him for leaving. Besides, the man is on his honeymoon. I can’t in good faith ask him to fall short on his marital duties to help us.”

“And every mayor we helped before is too scared to repay the favor after they signed those petition amendments to change the laws without bloodshed.” Mikufu slammed his fist into the makeshift table, almost splintering it. “It’s like we gave the governor a list of everyone in power that he can’t trust.”

Inamoca sensed his anger and wanted to end their meeting. “So it’s settled. At dawn, we take the boat and begin our mission. We may die, but we’ll take as many of those Spanish bastards as we can.”

“Normally I’d take offense to that but I will make another rare exception.” Said the sorcerer with clear Spaniard ancestry. “With wanted papers of us everywhere on the island, it’s only a matter of time before they catch us. And if we survive, we’ll be heroes to all. Classic case of high risk versus high rewards.”

“If we die, we will still be heroes and our example will inspire the people regardless.” Mikufu regained his hopeful demeanor. “Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day.”

The next day, our not so merry band of protagonists try their luck at feigning to fish as the noon tropical sun and humid air make it so that sitting in the shade is sweat inducing labor. Their small sailing vessel lies anchored at bay close hand to the river. Any captain worth his sea legs knows this is a horrible place to catch dinner, but these three are casting their hooks out for something far more important.

Mikufu stares attentively at the horizon but takes a moment to relax his gaze and wipe the sweat off his brow. “Anything on the lookout, Ina?”

“Bridge is clear and no activity on either side.” She takes her keen eye off the spyglass and looks back towards her shipmates, making sure not to lose her balance from the current position of almost being the figurehead. “I still can’t believe you stole this boat.”

“Look, the boat is my dad’s, I just didn’t know that he used it as collateral for some card game and he lost it.” Juan adjusts his oversized sombrero, revealing his face and overly blinking eyes as he looks about. “Temporarily, I may add. Besides I didn’t steal it, WE commandeered it in the name of the magnificent revolution that is soon to come.”

“Revolutions are built on a foundation of blood and destruction. We are not here to force feed nobles to the guillotine. Just taking some momentary extreme measures to get the hearts and minds of the people ready to make about their own change.” Mikufu’s grip on the wheel slackens as he notices that Juan has a mound of trash next to him. “Please tell me those aren’t spell components.”

“No, I don’t even need those. This is just what I’ve caught today.”

“You’ve actually been fishing?!” Inamoca said being unable to hide her surprise.

“What? You said to act casual. I am a method actor and take my roles seriously. Thus, I cast my hook and see what bounties the sea bestows upon me. Mostly it’s just old boots, some tin cans, and this shell. And yes, I detected magic on all of them just in case, no dice.”

“Look alive, boys. I think the bird has reached the nest. Juan, hoist that anchor. Miku, get those fan tokens ready.” She gave the orders, moving swiftly on deck and unfurling the sails as her nimble yet calloused hands effortlessly undo the knots.

“Armor and weapons ready.” Mikufu pats the sheathed daggers, counts the potions in multiple pockets, and has his trusty flail at the ready. He pulls the tiny fan figurines from a murky bracelet. “The second we hit the bridge it’s going to be a brawl.”

Juan responds while struggling to pull up the anchor, his soft grip barely holding on to the rope. “Magical buffs already up. Urgh. Screw this.” He let go of the rope, and conjures some acid to splatter on the heavy bindings to burn them away. “Like we really needed an anchor.”

Mikufu turns the vessel into the river and throws the magical tokens upwards. The ship rapidly gathers speed as enchanted winds spur the sails onward. The natural movement of the water does little to impede their progress.

“We probably won’t make it through this so I should say this quickly before I no longer have a chance. Juan, I hate you. Miku, you are tolerable. But you have been good when things get tough and dangerous. Gentlemen, it’s been an honor.” Said Inamoca as the boat was getting to its target.

“Awwww. Ditto, darling.” Responded Juan in typical joking fashion.

“Save those last words for later. Everyone hang on, this isn’t going to be pretty.”

“And here I thought you were gentle when it came to ramming maneuvers.”

The ship barrels up the river. The three people on the bridge start realizing that something is about to go wrong. Even the gargantuan bird recognizes that danger is afoot as it starts taking flight. The impact from the boat shakes the foundation of the bridge, making all those standing lay flat on the ground. Elena, the woman in the heavily spiked plate armor, tumbles through the fall and is quickly on her feet. The bridge looks scratched and bruised as the boat crashes and becomes debris. Mikufu and Juan leap at the right moment and maneuver acrobatically through the air, the former landing awkwardly but without injury. Inamoca just hops off from the top of the mast right before the crash.

“Stay behind me, gentlemen. This trio of criminals is here to hurt you.” Elena warns them as she draws her claymore with her right arm and brings a bottle to her lips with her left. Having drunk its contents, she throws the bottle off the side of the bridge and adds to the flotsam of the wreckage.

“Actually, we just want to have a civil conversation.” Mikufu dusts himself off, adjusts the shield on his left forearm and readies his flail.

“But only after we hurt you, Elena. Time to pay for what you have done to us. As quickly as Inamoca said these words, she pulls two arrows from her longbow’s string and hits the roc.

“So, Mr. Lieutenant Governor Pepe and Mr. Mysterious Old Man if you give us a moment, we will take care of this little situation post-haste and then we can speak in private. Please stick around in the meantime. Now, if you’ll excuse us this kind of reunion requires something to start a celebration.” With a snap of Juan’s fingers a minor explosion of confetti bursts in front of the bird and Elena. Colorful scraps fly through the air and get stuck to all those present.

The roc is surprised and blinded by the chromatic explosion. It remains in flight, hovering off the bridge, but unsure of where her targets lie. She barely picks out the scent of the descendant of Africa as she lunges her massive beak at Mikufu. He barely dodges the attack but is able to counter with a heavy blow to the side of the beast’s head.

“No one hurts Miss Pitirre. No one!” Elena grips the hilt of her large sword even tighter as the pitch of her voice drops several octaves. Her armor, sword, and herself swell and expand until in a matter of seconds the almost petite woman is now the size of a small giant. “Prepare to die.” She charges directly at Mikufu, the blade finds a gap in his chainmail from which he starts bleeding in his side. “Burn!” The blade burns in a red light that explodes in a column of flames. Only Pepe and the mysterious old man are not caught in the area of effect. As quickly as the fire came it disappears.

Mikufu’s wound has been cauterized but is now covered in burns. Juan seems to have also taken the full force of the flames but his body barely shows any signs of damage. Elena shows similar singes but is mostly unhurt, an amazing sight considering that she was at the center of the blast. Miss Pitirre was also affected by the vertical dimensions of this flame strike and has taken some damage to its massive frame as well. Inamoca looks unscathed as she barely jumps out of the way at the last instant.

“Somebody enjoys a little too much collateral damage.” She sends a triple volley of arrows straight at her adversary but they all bounce off her white enameled armor. “I’ll get you for what you did to me, to my friends, and my people you ethnocentric imperial swine.”

“I cannot believe that you actually got a potion of ‘enlarge bitch’. That’s a pretty rare spell. Plus, you used the same tactic you used on Iñigo, that won’t work on me. So why don’t you just stay still and let’s just say you lost now. Deal?” Juan moved his hands as if to enrapture Elena’s mind and body. She shudders but is able to turn right at her magical aggressor and give him an intimidating glare even through her helm. “Oops.”

Pepe and the still unidentified man keep their distance from the melee as the younger of the two looks at the edge of the bridge as an invitation for a possible escape route. The other grabs his arm and motions him to stay still. The jovial old man in a barely audible whisper compels him to stick around just a little bit longer and not to worry. The roc flies into the river, for even in its relatively shallow depths it can ease the burning and wash off whatever colorful fragments impede its vision.

“You thought you could invade my mind and stop me!” Her booming voice makes Juan’s knees buckle with fear and his guileful grin now quivers with fear. “You mages once held so much power and you almost blew up half the planet in your quest for more. Your magic can let you resist fire, let’s see if you can resist steel as I smite your chaotic mind back to the hells your powers come from!” Completely ignoring Mikufu, Elena charges with towering blade overhand directly at Juan. Putting all her weight behind the strike, the edge cuts down from his right shoulder and halfway down his torso. Had the slash been a bit to either direction he would have lost his arm or his skull cleaved but Juan was lucky. He was injured grievously but he was still alive, for now.

“That was my best friend you slaving tease!” Mikufu was still reeling from his own wounds as he shouted in vain. He took a healing potion from his belt and drank it. The bleeding had stopped and the pain had dulled but he knew that one good enough strike from his armored adversary would leave him even worse than Juan.

“You may kill all of us but I will take you down with me.” Inamoca focused on her hated enemy with one arrow and is able to get a direct hit to a small armor gap in her right hip. “Why not try taking a stab at me?” She said this with defiance as she walked further back, stretching the distance between the two.

Juan coughs up blood before falling to his knees and eventually collapsing face first in silence. Pepe no longer cowers as he sees that this new bodyguard that the higher ups commissioned for him would get the job done. His mind wanders and he asks out loud what Elena said about blowing up half the planet. Again, the answer comes with a whisper. “This new generation is so quick to forget. You know how the lands of the Germans, Prussians, and Ottomans do not expand east for there is a vast wasteland of shadows and death. Thousands of years ago, the most powerful mages went there with a mystical artifact. Their experiment went horribly wrong and the arcane apocalypse almost killed everyone and left that land and neighboring ocean in ruins. If memory serves, they called that place, Asia.”

“And so ‘princess Inamoca of the natives’ remains unhurt. You think your precious ‘baira’ or whatever you call your archery can get you out of any trouble.” Elena shakes off Juan’s excess blood from the blade as she turns to face Inamoca “Why can’t you recognize that you should just stay down and accept that the colonizers now rule you no matter what you do? Pray to your false mountain gods and witness how they fail to save you. Time to exterminate another pest!” She charges recklessly once again but her blow misses any flesh as Inamoca barely dodges the blow. “You can evade steel but do you have the same luck with talons?”

Elena whistled an odd tune. Within seconds the roc flies up and snatches Inamoca from the ground. It continues its upward trajectory. She remembers when her father taught her how eagles eat tortoises. They pick them up, fly to the sky, and let them fall unto the sharp rocks, to then feast on the shattered remains. She believes that this is now her destiny.

“Don’t think you’ve won just yet.” With Elena being distracted, Mikufu runs at her. Rather than strike her directly, he aims for large sword, and disarms her of it. He uses the momentum of the flail to swing the sword into the river. “Hope it doesn’t rust.” He started to chuckle but was immediately punched in the face by Elena. Several other blows rain down upon him but his armor absorbs most of the impact.

With reinvigorated anger, Elena proceeds to give him a physical and verbal beatdown. “You think that some cross breeding a few generations ago between your slave grandmother and some misguided Spaniard makes you special? No matter how light a shade of black your skin may be, you are inferior and your whole race is meant to be subjugated. You might be able to buy your freedom, turn your old chains into your armor, and even change your name to rope or binds or chains or whatever Mikufu means in your accursed tongue. I know everything about you, even what your old master named you, Tobias. Once I kill you, I will make sure these new laws become permanent, just like how your people will stay forever under my heel.” She spewed her hate filled speech without stopping to take a breath as furious blows are sent one after another at Mikufu.

The roc continues to take flight upwards with Inamoca still in tow. She has stopped struggling now that she realizes that even if she slips the bird’s grasp the fall would not be pleasant. Mikufu tries to measure a counter blow but Elena’s punches and kicks are so fast that he can only put his shield forward and hope for a miracle. The silence of accepting an imminent death is broken when a familiar whistle pierces through the sky, though not from Elena’s lips. With it, the roc begins to glide gently down.

“After all we’ve been through you’d think to remember that I’m the Juan man you can’t count out of a fight.”

“You will fall!” Elena suddenly stops her vicious assault to realize that the tide of battle had suddenly shifted. She looks around to realize that the man she had almost cut in half was now standing there smiling and that her ravenous mount was now docile. “How did you…?”

“You mean the old, pretend to be dead, drink some healing potions, and then cast charm animal on the humongous beast? It’s one of my preferred tactics. Someone remind me to send Elena my manual/biography to her grave later.” Juan whistled once again. The roc now floats close to the bridge and gingerly lets go of Inamoca. It then flies out into the bay at full speed. “Oh, and I sent your pet out to sea for a vacation, figured she earned a break after carrying around your fat ass for so long.”

“I don’t care how many tricks you use, none of you will escape my wrath!” The once invincible opponent screamed.

“We’ll see about that. Team, focus fire on the target.”  The trio’s leader deftly maneuvers to place himself in front of Elena whenever she tries to go for his friends as he shifts towards defensive tactics.

“With pleasure.” Inamoca rubbed her heavily bruised ribs, still hurting from the talon’s previous death grip. “I’m glad you are going down fighting. I hate to argue with Miku again as to whether or not enemies who surrender deserve some mercy.” She sends another volley of arrows towards her quarry.

“Your armor may block a bunch of things but can it deal with a barrage of magic missiles until I become bored of zapping you? Spoiler alert: it can’t and this is really fun.” Juan almost cackled as spheres of forces are evoked from his fingertips and hit Elena point blank every time.

The combination of the ancient skill of baira and the tried and true method of spamming unmissable attacks takes its toll and less than a half a minute later their giant enemy collapses and returns to normal size. Her wounds are numerous and too many for even this fierce warrior to survive. The trio turns their attention to the Lieutenant Governor and his elderly associate. The venerable man chuckles, applauds his hands, pulls out an envelope, waves goodbye, and then disappears to the surprise of all.

In utter disbelief, Mikufu cries. “What just happened? Did he turn invisible or something?”

“No, we still have this weird confetti on us. It’s impossible to hide with this stuff on you.” Inamoca knew about all stealth related things and was still confused.

“I think he teleported.” Juan responded with an uncharacteristically sobering voice.

“You told me that involved a lot of arcane power, the kind the world hasn’t seen in millennia.” Mikufu’s understanding of magic was limited but his eyes still widened at the thought.

“True. Maybe he had a scroll; they are rare but not unheard of. Regardless, whoever he was he probably had some spell power and could have handpicked the winner easily.” Said a still serious Juan.

“But he just stayed there, as if we were here to entertain him.” Inamoca felt even more fear now than before.

Mikufu took the reins of the situation once again. “Well, that’s a mystery for another day. For now, we need to speak with you Pepe. We are going to be surrounded by an army in a couple of minutes and it’s in everyone’s best interest if we just had a nice chat together instead. Deal?”

“Please don’t hurt me.” The middle aged man had already been sweating from being under the Caribbean sun for so long. Witnessing the intensity of the battle had let him drenched from head to toe and all those fancy clothes in between. He stumbles back upon realizing that his elderly companion really had left him alone. Being now surrounded by a fighter, an archer, and a sorcerer, his proud shoulders and chin of aristocratic origin fall. “I’ll do anything.”

“Good. Because we’ve got soldiers coming on both sides that need those orders to kill us to be rescinded.” Juan’s anxiety was audible.

“Exactly. There has to be at least a hundred infantry and dozens of elite warriors closing in on us. Not to mention the glass cannons, they could incinerate all of us before we even got a good look at them.” Inamoca quickly surveyed the incoming threats.

“You know, I really hate when you people use that term. They are just nerdy guys and girls who developed some magical talent and where pretty much chained to libraries. When they are not forced to throw fireballs at potential enemies, they make them craft magic items. A wizard is only allowed to sleep eight hours a day because his magic would get all screwed up if he didn’t.”

Mikufu and Inamoca almost simultaneously respond to Juan. “What do you mean, you people?

“Non magical folk. You think it’s really easy for us to be around being able to reshape the building blocks of the universe but it’s really hard work. And a lot of us, not me because as you know I’m awesome incarnate, but other mages get treated like lepers or something.”

“It’s because you blew it up. Pepe’s voice had found some confidence, but his quivering body still betrays his frightened state. “That whole continent, and who knows what more of the world is gone because of you.”

Juan shakes his head in disbelief. “What is he blathering on about now?”

Inamoca responds immediately. “The arcane apocalypse. Most of the life on the planet died that day.”

“Not to mention that the lands over Asia are now over linked with the Shadow Plane, the Indian and Pacific Oceans are a colossal maelstrom, and no one even knows what happened to Australia.” Mikufu added.

“How is that relevant?” Juan rolled his eyes. “It happened thousands of years ago. Besides, I thought pagans and whatnot were the ones responsible for that.”

“Please!” Inamoca scoffs with disgust. “Everyone knows it was the gypsies that took us over the cliff. They kept using magic even when there was a moratorium right after the catastrophe.”

“Calm down, all of you.” Mikufu once again refocused their attention. “Wizards, clerics, sorcerers, druids, warlocks, and every other type of mage from every race and country back then were part of the group that started the disaster. They got power hungry and the world paid the price. So, Pepe you see what happens when multiracial groups band together against powerful ignorant bigots. Care to enact some changes to the local government?”

With his lips trembling, the Lieutenant Governor struggles to form an answer. Before he can say anything. A magically enhanced voice coming from the Western side of the bridge orders everyone to surrender before lethal force is used against them. The trio gives each other a nod as they drop their weapons and raise their arms.

“The soldiers hear you now, but the people are tired of listening.” Inamoca said with insight.

“Plus we are pretty much the local heroes of just about everywhere. Friend of a friend, and all that.” Juan winked.

The armed guards rush over and quickly bind the hands of the attacker’s behind their respective backs and Juan is gagged to avoid any possible spellcasting. Crossbows are aimed at their faces with the invitation to give them a reason to be fired. They are shoved away until a voice of authority commands them to stop.

“By the powers of my office as acting governor of the island, I declare that these three be released from custody and all charges against them dropped.”(The air of leadership is once again clear in Pepe’s voice and mannerisms. Several cries of doubt and resignation are heard amongst the soldiers. “Are you questioning a direct order?! These people are hereby pardoned from any so called crimes that have been attested by baseless claims and unjust laws.” A few grumbles of disdain are heard throughout the now disempowered military force. They put away their blades and crossbows as they give their former prisoners some space. “Untie them at once.”

“Actually, we’ve got that covered.” With a loud grunt, Mikufu breaks the binding ropes with a burst of strength. The show of force is only matched by the dexterous expertise of Inamoca slipping her hands out as if they were covered in grease. Juan takes a deep breath and summons some kind of spirit, to whom he gestures to undo the knot and remove the dirty handkerchief from his mouth.

“That will be all, Jeeves.” The unseen servant bows and then disappears. “And you guys said figuring out how to do cantrips without verbal or somatic components was a waste of time. So I assume we will be having afternoon tea at your place then, Pepe.”

“Yes. You are all my guests. We have much to talk about.”

“Guys, I think we’re forgetting about something. She walks over to the almost forsaken envelope left by the old man. She picks it up and hands it to Mikufu. Care to read it for us o’ fearless leader.

“Okay, there’s some really fancy parchment here. This is some really elegant handwriting and wait is that the King’s seal and signet?”

“Let me see that.” Juan grabs the paper away. “It’s a royal proclamation, signed directly to us? Huh, it says that we are officially the new ‘Defenders of the Colony of Puerto Rico’. He’s relegating the entire island’s defense to us and that if we do a good job he will grant us a personal audience with him next month to discuss its political future. Guess your prayers have been answered, Miku, we just got a promotion in the hero business.”

“More like a death sentence. Take a look at this.” Mikufu pulls something else from the envelope, a note on fairly crude paper that read as follows: “Thanks for the show kiddies. Let’s see if your luck holds out. As you may know, a hurricane is coming for the island in less than a week, and it’s a big one. What you may not know is that an English upstart commodore is sailing behind it with the purpose of capturing the island after it’s been thrown into a state of chaos. Stop him, and the King will be happy to hear your pleas. Fail and you will pray for Spanish rule after some time under British occupation.”

“Please tell me this is a joke. There is no way that can be true.” Juan said throwing his hands in the air in frustration.

“That is a risk we can’t take. We need to check with some diviners, now.” Inamoca and the rest had no time to celebrate.

A few days later, Inamoca and Mikufu are at port loading provisions into Captain Correa’s galley. Familiar and unfamiliar faces help them, as former teammates of previous adventures, a score of imperial soldiers, and another score of taíno archers are preparing the vessel. This new enemy is only bringing a small elite fleet and they will answer with the same, hoping to stop him at sea, hoping to catch him by surprise. After all, no one would be crazy enough to cut through a hurricane to engage in naval combat. They all stop what they are doing once they notice that Juan is walking towards them with what can only be dozens of zombies and skeletons shambling behind him.

“Good news everybody! I convinced the Spirits of San Juan to come help us.”

 

Episode 93: Why It’s Important that DeLorean’s Get to 88mph

I was originally planning this post to be the special #100 post, a feat that should have been accomplished about a year ago should my consistency for daily writings be able to endure the fatigue of a wandering mind. I have written about various movie trilogies before and how some are better serials than others but one has a special place in my heart. Today, as I travel in planes, trains, and automobiles for a temporary stay back home I will be writing about Back to the Future. On this post I will talk about seriality but over at The Satin Bag blog I will have a guest blog post on some of the science fiction and fantasy elements of time travel and how they are done in these films Link to come soon.

 

The first things you notice about these films are the titles. It’s simple, no extra stuff as a subtitle in any of them. Just Back to the Future and an additional roman numeral for the appropriate sequel. The second thing once you see all of them in a row is that even with all the crazy time travel stuff, everything takes place over two or three weeks of actual perceived time while the very beginning of the first film and the end of the third one are technically about 36 hours apart, tops. Maybe a summary of the trilogy will help in understanding this whole temporal confusion.

 

On a regular day in 1985, Marty McFly wakes up and goes to his friend’s house. Dr. Emmett Brown is a local eccentric inventor and genius. “Doc” is still on a trip and he has charged Marty with feeding his dog, Einstein, while he is away. While there, the good doctor calls and informs that he will return that night, requires Marty’s assistance with an experiment, and that he had successfully synchronized all the clocks in his house to be 20 minutes late, thus making Marty late for school. In this scene we already see the desire and ability to manipulate time and how it can have negative consequences, which is pretty much the entire theme of the trilogy.

 

Fast forward to that evening and we get Doc Brown making his first foray into time travel. He had the science and knowledge to make the necessary flux capacitor; he just needed the power of 1.21 gigawatts to make it a reality. Of course to get that much power you need something rare. At the beginning of the film, it’s plutonium, which is why they are wearing radioactive suits, just in case but near the end a perfectly placed lightning bolt can do it. Much like in space travel, they decide to send the dog in first. Einstein is sent one minute into the future and we know the experiment is a success because the watch they put in with him is one minute slow. Here we see a difference between time elapsed and time perceived, which is kind of a big deal for me.

 

From out of nowhere, the Libyans come for revenge. Remember, Doc’s trip and where he got plutonium? Yeah, turns out he promised them a bomb and now they want him to pay in blood. I wonder how NSA or Homeland security today would get him before he even got the car loan for the DeLorean. In a moment that actually shocked me as a kid and still a little bit today, the terrorists shoot and kill Doc. Marty tries to escape in the Time Machine and activates it, allowing him to escape into the past of 1955 and thus the adventure begins. From there on out the film revolves around Marty, going under the alias of Calvin Klein, accidentally screwing up the timeline, and then trying to fix it. His interference makes it so that his parents never got together, which prevents his birth and the effect is visible thanks to a family picture with his elder siblings blurring out of existence. Weirdly enough, he still remembers them even as they are erased from history, something I’ll explain further in the pseudoscientific sister post to this one.

Marty is able to warn Doc about his death and how it should be prevented, something that would screw up the timeline because paradoxes. He ripped the note to shreds but fixed it later on, and on that night he wore a bulletproof vest, because not dealing with Libyans means no time machine, he is saved and our young hero returns to find that the world he left is now much better. Biff the tormentor is now almost a lackey to George McFly and everyone’s financial situation is now a lot better. Marty is about to go out to the lake with his girlfriend Jennifer but they are stopped by Doc Brown who requires their assistance towards solving a problem in the comparatively not so far future of 2015 regarding their eventual children. The film ends with the classic “To Be Continued…” tag as the DeLorean takes flight.

Part two is when it gets interesting. First the original actress playing Jennifer did not return for the sequel so a few things were refilmed accordingly. Because the sequel came out four years after the original, the change wasn’t too bad but if you were seeing a marathon of the trilogy you might rub your eyes a bit while trying to figure out why something feels odd. Also, George McFly (Marty’s dad) did not sign up again so some scenes needed to be carefully recycled. Doc is now an experienced and still the only time traveler out there from what we know. The future tech upgrades to his vehicle and to himself, that rejuvenation clinic does wonders as he looks exactly like he does in 1955, make Emett Brown potentially a very dangerous figure. Luckily, he knows not to interfere with the timeline, with himself being an exception thanks to Marty, so he decides to return the favor for his young friend’s lineage by identifying the moment when everything went downhill. He saves the future young McFly from being involved with Biff’s cyborg descendant. However, old man Biff decides to go borrow the DeLorean back to 1955 and change his own future with a sports almanac. The alteration makes Biff a legend while ensuring that the town of Hill Valley is now in the gutter. Our protagonists return from a job well done to realize that things had gone horribly wrong. Marty barely escapes a deadly encounter with his now stepfather Biff to learn that to make things right, they must go back to 1955. Recycled scenes from the first film intersect with new scenes as our time travelling duo does everything in their power not to interact with their past selves. In the end, they take back the almanac and burn it, ensuring a proper future. But then, the massive lightning storm responsible for sending Marty back to the future hits the DeLorean, sending Doc somewhere, sometime and leaving a state of confusion that is broken by a mysterious figure. In a torrential downpour, a man from Western Union arrives to send Marty a letter that’s been waiting 70 years to be delivered. Yep, Doc was sent back to 1885 and is alive and well and sends Marty some help for getting him back to his own time. He then runs to find 1955 Doc Brown and asks for his help, cue the ending this time saying “To Be Concluded” which illustrated that the next installment would be end of the story. This was further illustrated by the fact that they showed scenes from the upcoming movie, almost like a trailer to assure people that answers would be given and soon.

The third film is a masterpiece but only if you have part 2 fresh in your memory. They do a few things to show some earlier Chekov Guns so that they are not a complete surprise (like the hoverboard) but there a lot of things that come from left field if your serial memory isn’t up to par. First, 1955 needs to fix DeLorean, which has been severely damaged but repairable with proper materials (at least those form that era). The earlier future tech is gone, presumably completely damaged or Doc not wanting to risk the timeline anymore, but at least the Mr Fusion is still around. During their search, they find that Doc’s tombstone was in the nearby cemetery, so Marty decides to break protocol and go back to save his friend. Of course, the DeLorean breaks down again, this time it’s a punctured fuel line, which strands them yet again. Two obstacles are now in their way. One is Biff’s ancestor, “Mad Dog” Tannen (all of the Biffs are played by the same actor by the way, including super old one, so this guy is damn good) who will/was supposed to kill Doc but has now set his sights on Marty. The other is Clara Clayton, a love interest for Doc who was supposed to have died but Doc had inadvertently saved. The previous movies did not have much of a romantic element, besides getting Marty’s parents together, but this a May December romance that somehow worked and the courtship scenes were not as clichéd as I first assumed they would be. The only way to get the DeLorean to 88mph involves them strapping it to the front of a locomotive, supercharging said train, and hope it gets to the desired speed before crashing to the bottom of a ravine.

The knowledge of the previous films comes when Marty outsmarts Mad Dog by putting on a crude bullet proof vest during their duel. His skill with a gun had been foreshadowed through being really good at an arcade light gun Western game. Still, he can’t beat sharpshooting murderer, and even if he got lucky he might screw up the timeline even more by discontinuing his descendants entirely. Later on, Marty is barely able to make it to the DeLorean as their plan works but the appearance of Clara makes Doc rethink leaving, so they send out the hoverboard to save them both as the young man leaves back to the future alone. The time machine is destroyed immediately after returning to his present. Marty goes back to Jennifer as they try to get their lives back to normal. While driving, Marty is egged on by a local bully (not a Biff) to a race with taunts of being a chicken. This was Marty’s berserk button as his pride was his Achilles’ heel. However, this Marty had learned the true meaning of bravery and decides to only make it look like he was going to race. The decision to not do so prevents the car accident that ruined Marty’s hands and destroyed his potential music career, all events that Jennifer learned about from the future of the previous film. And the fax paper saying “You’re Fired” that she took back was now blank. The future had been changed again but we have no idea what the repercussions are. Marty and Jennifer drive by some train tracks where a time travelling Doc, Claire, and their children come back in a modified train. He states that destiny is what you make of it as he continues moving along, as he has already been back to the future. Oh and the train can fly. This time we get a concluding The End as the film’s theme starts again and the credits start rolling. Elements form every film echo through the different installments, even with direct scenes from the next episode moments. For this and many other reasons, I consider it one of my favorite examples of serialization. If you have not seen it, I have no idea why you read this as I have spoiled the whole story. If you saw them but don’t remember these moments, then try for a trilogy marathon viewing when you get the chance and be extra aware of these details.