Counterfeit Monkey — 92 of 292

Emily Short

Release 5

Section 10 - Goodbye

[Writing the end of this game was insanely hard and went through many revisions and even arguments. Originally the game was quite a bit shorter, didn't include the Atlantida confrontation, and did end with the characters returning to the yacht and successfully gelling themselves into two people. But that felt wrong and disappointing, because it meant that the characters winning the game were neither of them the person you'd played.

Then I tried a variation where you only realize Alexandra is fused at the very end, when trying to put on the gel and having it not work. That solved one problem, but introduced another. There was no fictive explanation for what had happened; and it felt like a cliff-hanger, like it was setting up for one or more sequels in which Alexandra runs around the Mediterranean stealing stuff and looking for a tool that can de-synthesize her. Very briefly I was even delusional enough to think such sequels could happen. Then I considered the fate of every series ever, and discarded that idea. I needed this game to work on its own.

Next up I added the choice where the player had to gel Brock or betray Alex's father, and that provided a fictive explanation for the fusion, but it was still weird having the results of the fusion explained only in the last move of the game. When the Atlantida scene came in, though, I realized I could incorporate that discovery into the action of her scene. Much better.

But we were not home free even when the endgame took on its current form. Graham argued that it should have an essentially happy ending: this is mostly an upbeat game, and the player has come through a lot and deserves a reward. I mostly agreed with this, especially when replaying it after some period away from the game. And Sam thought the rest of the game didn't really provide enough Alex v. Andra conflict to make that a major point of the ending. One of my testers, and I fear I can't remember who, said, 'look, this whole thing is basically a superhero origin story.' And at the end of a superhero origin story, the superhero is supposed to fire up her jet boots and fly off to the next world-saving adventure, right? So that made a lot of votes for putting a big smily face on the epilogue.

And yet. And yet. There are so many things that I felt were emotional loose ends, and it would be untruthful to just pretend they were fine. Alex and Andra are stuck with one another now, and while they may eventually work that out, it's got to be incredibly confusing and traumatic, especially given that they have different goals in life and that Alex, having been a straight cis-gendered male all his life, is not going to feel sexually at home in Alexandra's body. There's some possibility that they might be able to use linguistic tools to alter their gender back and forth if need be, but they're still going to be time-sharing in different bodies, rather than each having the one he or she would prefer.

What about Brock? Can he and Andra continue their relationship in some format, or is it just too weird now? Isn't any sexual experience involving Alexandra going to be effectively a threesome, and are all three of them okay with that?

Then there's the question of what's just happened. Brock and Andra successfully pulled off a big heist; do we morally approve? And Alex's utopian linguistic plans are very optimistic but full of issues when it comes to real-world application.

Finally what about Atlantida's replacement (assuming the player went that way)? Even if there's a new system that allows more frequent referenda, direct democracy of that kind tends to be pretty conservative. Most likely more major change is still needed.

So that's all a lot to worry about, some of it far too complex to wrap in a single scene. And then on top of that I wanted to do something that honored the choices that the player had made in the last portion of the game: it should matter to the ending whether we did or did not leave Brock behind, did or did not kiss him in the room with the T-inserter, did or did not replace Atlantida.

Finally, I knew that I did *not* want this to be an epilogue with puzzles. The puzzles should be over when the player finally reaches the yacht.

So then we had several drafts where the epilogue is that Brock effectively breaks up with Andra and Alex and Andra muse on how they're stuck with each other. These were gloomy! Then there was a try where Brock and Alexandra have a fairly enigmatic, truce-forming sort of conversation and then drive off into the waves. This was not very satisfying either.

Ultimately, I decided to back-load as ruthlessly as I could. Wherever possible, I took hints of future ambiguities or problems (how workable is Alex's plan? can it be afforded? would it wipe out or replace local cultures? would it be remotely welcomed by the people there? etc.) and moved them back into the main body of the game somewhere. Likewise, I dealt more extensively with Andra's sexual memories of Brock in order to set up that Alex is a bit uncomfortable with them, while trying to establish that Brock is a fairly patient guy who has already stuck with Andra through some sexual weirdness and might be willing to do so again, under the right circumstances.]

Farewell is a scene. Farewell begins when Landing ends.

Sanity-check going to the galley during Farewell:

unless the player is wearing something which covers the legs-area:

say "How about we put on some pants first?" instead;

unless the player is wearing something which covers the torso-area:

say "We should really be wearing something on top, don't you think?" instead.

Sanity-check taking off something which covers the legs-area during Farewell:

unless the player is in your bunk or the player is in your head:

say "I'd rather not disrobe in public. And this may not be public to you, but it is to me." instead.

Sanity-check taking off something which covers the torso-area during Farewell:

unless the player is in your bunk or the player is in your head:

say "I'd rather not disrobe in public. And this may not be public to you, but it is to me." instead.

When Farewell begins: remove Brock from play.

A ranking rule for Brock when Farewell is happening:

decrease the description-rank of Brock by 100.

Farewell ends when the newspaper is examined.

When Farewell ends:

if atlantida-refreshed is seen:

if library message person is first person:

say "[betrayed-outcome]";

otherwise:

say "[unbetrayed-outcome]";

else:

say "[no-atlantida-outcome]";

if the new church is not visited:

record "Priscilla Parsons award for winning the game without ever entering the church" as an achievement;

if hardness is true:

record "Andra award for completing the game in hard mode" as an achievement;

else:

record "Alex Rosehip award for completing the game in easy mode" as an achievement;

end the story finally saying "The End";

To say no-atlantida-outcome:

say "Brock comes down and hands us a coffee. You look like you could use this. We've hit Mallorca,' he says. 'Slango's in town resupplying.'

[You] nod.

'And the payment for our exploit is still coming through to the Swiss accounts, but we'll be millionaires.'

'All of us?'

'Well. Each of us, individually and severally.' He tips his head back and considers us. 'That may well be one of the most valuable technical heists in history, and you got a grand tour of the secret Atlantean bunker while you were at it. I'm only sorry I wasn't awake for that part.'

I know, me, that we could have done something more. That we could have left Atlantis with a new leader, one who'd open things up again. This way, there'll just be a bunch of infighting but the Bureau will remain how it always was. I wish—

You've pretty much stopped listening to me entirely, haven't you? And so I'm stuck here, just watching, while you pitch my flash drive and my monocle in a corner, and plot the fastest course to Portofino.

Still. I don't feel as homesick as I thought I would, because the one thing you can give me is this: you know how to put something behind you.".

To say unbetrayed-outcome:

say "Brock comes down and hands us a coffee. 'You look like you could use this. We've hit Mallorca,' he says. 'Slango's in town resupplying. I guess you saw the paper?'

[You] nod.

'One for the history books,' he says, with a crooked smile. 'They're showing satellite clips. Big olive garland on the depluralizing tank. People dancing on cars. Some old guy belting out La Marseillaise in the Bureau Rotunda.'

Brock sits down opposite us. 'In other news,' he remarks, 'it looks like your cut of the T-remover plans, with all the tests we ran, is going to come out to this.' He writes a number. The number has six zeroes.

He leans back and looks at us.

'So. Where do we go from here?'"

To say betrayed-outcome:

say "Slango comes in, with Brock behind him. 'Bad news,' he says. 'We're going to have to split that payout three ways instead of two. The new Atlantida has a perverse sense of humor. She express-mailed Brock to Mallorca for us. In rock form.'

Brock bends down to massage his right thigh. 'Turns out it's not comfortable having spent the night in a cardboard box, even if you were petrified at the time. Things to know and learn.'

[You] study his face. It's the face he wears when he's reserving judgment about whether or not to be incredibly pissed off. You're the one who knows how to read that face, but I'm a little relieved to see it too.

'My father might've been inanimated instead,' I say.

'Slango mentioned,' Brock says.

'He's a lot older. I thought he might have some heart trouble or... or not deal with it well.'

Brock studies us for a moment more. Then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a huge gummy candy shaped like a squid.

'Want one? They used them as packing material in my shipping box. We've got lots.'"