And so there we have it, after long last the second Century23 story is out there in the big, wide internets. To say it took longer than I had originally intended is an understatement. Two years and about a month is how long it’s been since the first scraps of notes hit the page, possibly longer still since the initial inception of the piece. Not that I’ve been idle in the mean time, since I’ve gotten a job and started blogging in the intervening time, among other things, but still. However, now it’s finally out there and making me paranoid as all hell in the wild, it’s now high time for me to share my thoughts about the whole thing, I reckon, and elaborate on where else this setting can go.
But It Pours is intended to follow on from the previous piece Ricochet and both are meant to be something of an extended introduction to the characters and universe of Century23. Both pieces should really be seen as complimentary, and if I ever do anything else with the setting, these would be essentially a prologue. Once again the nameless Englishman returns as a main character, though this time showing him in is normal day-to-day activities as a future mob enforcer.
In this case, him and a sniper are on a steak-out to try and kill a hacker (“Datashark” in the obligatory future-slang) that had screwed over their boss, Gerhard Weißmann, previously seen not being murdered in Ricochet. This set up is meant to imply that while the Englishman is in a job that is brought with danger, sometimes it can just boil down to waiting for the right situation to occur. It also shows how the Englishman is not the criminal enterprise alone, specialists, like the sniper and the now-turncoat hacker, are often needed to actually achieve something beyond just being threatening and deadly. Its also there to at least try to imply there’s far more than just the few affiliated characters currently presented to Weißmann’s empire, if that wasn’t obvious enough.
Then, of course, the job goes sour and action ensues. Turns out the Datashark has hired muscle from the rival mob, and A chase ensues through the city. As well as being an action packed sequence, the whole chase was an opportunity to show off some of the more sci-fi elements of the setting, with the sniper’s bionic shoulder and the fuel-cell powered, colour changing car. There’s also more detail of the world, as the action heads into the abandoned industrial area, wreckage of a once-prosperous past for the the un-named sector the story takes place in. With the Datashark and his muscle cornered, the Englishman firmly grasps the overconfident-idiot-ball and goes in alone, only to get cold-cocked for his troubles. Upon awaking he’s confronted by the hired muscle, and we have a sequence that’s meant to build his character up as a rival for our main anti-hero. The piece ends with the rival character killing the Datashark since he can’t be trusted and taking off with one of the Englishman’s pistols to act as a plot point in any future stories in the setting.
But It Pours has only 4 speaking characters in it, and two of them are essentially “disposable” characters that get introduced in this piece and don’t survive it (a character type I always feel slightly guilty about creating) namely the Sniper and Paul Quine. While both are throwaways, both have allowed me to expand the setting in subtle ways. Paul Quine, named after McCoy Pauley and Bobby Quine from the backstory of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, introduces an old Cyberpunk classic to the setting, the criminal hacker archetype, called Datashark as a pretentious bit of slang. While Quine certainly won’t be returning ever again, he has established a few points about his profession, such as them all being slightly arrogant freelancers with money to throw around. Whatever I do with Century23 in future, I can guarantee more Datasharks will appear. The Sniper is significant in a different way, as he allowed me to reveal some world building, which I’ll go into later. I did go back and forth on whether or not he had a name, since having three nameless characters in a piece could have been confusing, however eventually decided against it around the same time I decided he wouldn’t make it out of the story alive (which came relatively late in planning).
The Texan, who I’ve also referred to as the Rival in my notes, was the one character I introduced here that will become a larger part of the Century23 setting. Everything about him is meant to be a dark reflection of the Englishman. Both are professional hitmen working as enforcers for rival mobs and both are foreigners to the American mega-city but there ends their similarities. Whereas I’ve tried to portray the Englishman as a calm professional who only tries to involve the target in his work, the Rival is more hotheaded and less discerning with who he drags into the fray, almost to the point of psychopathy. He also has a more theatrical streak, as evidenced by his whole plan at the end. Nevertheless the professional admiration he has for the Englishman kind of colours his opinion of the main character, especially after the chaos that ensues after the current job goes south. The rivalry will probably continue in any further stories focusing on the Englishman, especially with the plot device of the stolen pistol.
I took the opportunity in this piece to deliver a couple of world-building info dumps woven into the narrative. The sniper’s recounting of how he got his artificial shoulder was a brilliant opportunity to offer hints of the state of the world beyond the Atlantia mega-city, much like the news report at the start of Ricochet. There was also a few opportunities to flesh out Atlantia itself, with the characters talking briefly about the local Megacorporations using secure apartments on level with police witness protection to keep it’s employees from being head-hunted, and the state of the city after a recent recession leaving rotting industrial ruins. Hopefully these didn’t break immersion too much, and felt like natural additions to the narrative. There is a fair bit of world building notes I’ve done on the Century23 setting, and it’s always nice to show it off a bit.
So now that But It Pours is done, where now for Century23? Well, I do want to keep it going, that’s for sure. Now I’ve introduced The Texan as a rival to our anti-hero, I certainly want to expand upon it. I’ve certainly got the beginnings of a character arc planned for the Englishman, though whether that is a multi-part thing or maybe a single longer piece remains to be seen. I certainly want to return to the Twenty-Third century in future, especially beyond the boundaries of Atlantia city established in what I’ve put up already, so maybe something with a different viewpoint character. Of course, the original idea behind the setting was, way back when, going to be a comic strip, so would be interesting to try going back to that in future.
–Dom “Ndro” Barlow