Friday, October 4, 2019

Sunset and Daring Do, scraps and scribbles --or-- shippers, warnings, probably a votive object, and so forth (Equestria Girls)

This is something I pulled off the tiny little hard drive that used to be secondary computer.

Some background.

Sunset Shimmer is a magical unicorn living as a human in the human world.  Daring Do is the title character of a series of popular pulp novels written by A.K. Yearling.  Or, at least, that's what she wants you think.  A.K. Yearling is a fictional character created by Daring Do so she could sell her adventures as fiction.  When Daring isn't pretending to be Yearling, she's basically a modern Indiana Jones.

This is the best picture I could find of Daring/Yearling as a human, but I feel like it undersells the A.K. Yearling costume.  (Of course, we haven't seen either in non-pony form, so there's a lot of wiggle room and interpretation going on.)

When I talked about having seven thousand (or however many I said) ideas based on the Equestria Girls Holiday Special, this was one of them.  The Holiday Special is one of the only times you can realistically have Sunset spending time almost exclusively with a new arrival instead and not with her friends.  (It's also when Sunset is emotionally most vulnerable, but I don't think that comes up here.)

Apart from putting the first two bits at the front, none of these have been placed in any kind of order.

[...] followed the signal.   Part of her worried that it had started to pick up electronics again --why were those so frequently false positives for magic detection?-- and she'd end up in an arcade, but at the same time she felt reasonably sure that the signal was moving, which should be a good sign.

She caught up with the source just in time to see a young woman enter an elevator.  If the magic in the area really were connected to a high school, her age made perfect sense.  Daring joined her in the elevator.

The teen had kept her eyes on the ground, looking up not more than absolutely necessary to hit the button for the next floor, but just as the doors closed she glanced at Daring.  Her eyes opened wide. This could be a good thing, but it could also--

“Oh my God, you're AK Yearling!” the teen shouted.

Bad thing.

“I'm--” the teen stopped.  “Sorry,” she said. Then took a step back and returned looking at the elevator doors.  “Sorry. You're trapped in a metal box with me, and I shouldn't take advantage of that situation.”

Could you please teach that lesson to the rest of my fans?

“I appreciate that,” Daring said.  “I seem to be at a disadvantage. You know my name, but . . .”

“Sunset Shimmer,” the teen said.  She tried to offer her hand, dropped what she'd been holding, dropped into a squat, picked it up, immediately shot back into standing upright, and finally actually offered her hand to Daring.

Daring cautiously shook it.  “So you're a fan?”

I'm like your-- yes, I'm a fan.”

“I didn't see you at the reading,” Daring said.  But I did pick up readings that might have come from you.

Ok, that had made the girl uncomfortable.  Good going.

“I'm sorry,” Daring said, “it's not as though you have to--”

“You don't have to be sorry,” Sunset said.  “It's nothing to do with you. I wanted to come, but . . .”

“You don't have to tell me anything,” Daring said.  Please tell me things.  Even if this is the slowest elevator in the world, it'll let us out soon.

“One of my former friends is also a huge fan,” Sunset said, “and that's exactly the kind of drama I don't need in my life right now.”

“I apologize for bringing it up.”

“I did actually almost go anyway, made it,” the elevator stopped, “right to the bookstore's doors,” bingo, “but--”

The elevator dinged and Sunset stopped talking.

The doors opened and Sunset said, “Um, nice meeting you,” Sunset said.  “I should stop bothering you.”

“Sunset,” Daring said.”

“Yes, Ms Yearling?”

“If you want to finish what you were saying,” Daring pushed the 'door close' button, “I don't have anywhere I need to be.”

Sunset just looked at Daring in shock.

Daring gave an encouraging gesture.

“I was just going to say that I went there hoping I'd find a way to hear without being seen, but in the end, especially with the way the crowd would restrict movement, I couldn't see any reliable way to avoid her.”

“That's unfortunate,” Daring said.

“So, now that I've finished my tale of woe,” Sunset said, “what's going on?”

Daring raised an eyebrow.

“You don't interact with the public,” Sunset said.  “When the first book became a bestseller you used the money to buy a house in The Middle of Nowhere, which happens to be located outside Vanhoover, just so you wouldn't have to deal with people.

“You never do public appearances, yet you showed up to do a book reading here.  You avoid fans like the plague, and you're encouraging me to keep talking to me after my introduction was incoherent fangirl squeeing.”

Have you met my other fans?   Daring thought.  That was not what incoherent squeeing sounded like.

“I suppose it does look quite odd,” Daring said.

Sunset raised one of her eyebrows.

“I'm here doing research.”

“There aren't any ancient ruins around here,” Sunset said.

True, but you might be surprised by some of the places that do have them.

“Before the aquifer was tapped,” Sunset continued, “this area couldn't support permanent settlements.”

Or not.

“That's what makes it so interesting,” Daring said.  “Usually reports of large scale magical events,” Sunset's eyes widened ever so slightly; Daring continued as if she hadn't noticed, “come from places with a certain atmosphere.  Places steeped in folklore and tradition. Old places.

“Claims of magic in modern industrialized cities usually have a different flavor to them.  Secrets and shadows and hidden things.

“Yet, here in Canterlot, there have been stories of two major magical happenings,” Daring said.  “That piqued my curiosity. Would you happen to know anything about that?”

“Are you asking me if I know anything about magic?” Sunset asked.  It was smooth and easy and with a natural feel.  If not for the barest hints of guilt in her eyes and her posture, Daring might really believe that Sunset didn't know anything.

It was clear that Sunset was a practiced liar, but it seemed she didn't want to lie.  That was something Daring could work with.

The question had been asked in a way that indicated the only reasonable answer was 'no'.  Daring said, “Yes.”

Sunset looked a little bit too surprised by that.  She wasn't taken aback; she was trying to look taken aback and overshooting.

Trying too hard, kid.

Sunset said, “I know there's no such thing as magic.”

It was too practiced, and the twinges of guilt were still there.  Still, if Daring hadn't been specifically looking for the signs, Sunset's oblivious act would have fooled her.

Daring glanced at her compass.  It was pointing at Sunset.

“Sunset,” she asked, “may I share a secret with you?”

This time Sunset's surprise was genuine.

“I . . . I guess.”

“It's something I'd have to show you,” Daring said.  “And I'd prefer a place where it takes more than the push of a button for someone else to open the doors.”

Daring pushed the door open button.

Should have done that when I said, 'push of a button'.

“We're in a mall,” Sunset said, “there aren’t a lot of private rooms.”

Daring walked out.

“That's where you're wrong,” she said.  “There are plenty of private rooms, if you're willing to be a bit dishonest.”

“Dishonest how?” Sunset asked.

“As but one example,” Daring said, “dressing rooms are intended to be places where potential customers try on clothes, not private meeting rooms for people with no intention of changing.”

Sunset followed A.K. Yearling into the changing room, holding clothes that would almost certainly fit if not for the fact that neither of them intended actually try anything on.

By the time Sunset had deposited the clothes on the room's bench, Yearling had closed the latch.

“So . . .” Yearling said.  Obviously Sunset didn't have a lot to base the assessment on, but the way Yearling said that sounded uncharacteristically awkward.

Yearling blinked, then said, “I suppose the first thing I that I don't need glasses.  Yearling set her glasses on the bench. She took off her hat, let loose her hair, and shook her head.  When her hair stopped moving, the result looked uncomfortably like Rainbow Dash to Sunset. It was all shades of gray, but it had the same style and pattern as Rainbow's hair.

At the back of her mind, though, was the niggling feeling that Sunset should recognize the hair from somewhere else.

Yearling shed her shawl, and Sunset's mind shut down.

Sunset was looking at Daring Do.  Daring Do was a fictional character.  There was no way that Daring Do could be standing in front of Sunset.  Sunset was looking at Daring do.

She wasn't in her trademark outfit, but the fact that she was wearing a short sleeved shirt meant that Sunset could see some notable scars.  Very definitely real scars. The remains of long healed wounds.

Daring-- Yearling-- whoever, looked the slightest bit uncomfortable Sunset's attention, but Sunset couldn't help appraising each, soaking in every detail.  She recognized some of them. For example the arrow that hit Daring in chapter four of--

“That can't be . . .” Sunset said.

Daring smiled.

“That's not . . . That's not possible,” Sunset said.

“Kid, you'd be surprised at how much is possible,” Daring said.  She smiled. Then she said, “And thanks for skipping the part where you accuse me of cosplaying as my author insert.”

Sunset still wasn't at a point where she could really process new input in any detail, so she said the first thing that came to mind:

“You're not in costume.”

“True,” Daring said.  She picked up a shirt Sunset had brought in, took it off its hanger, and shook it, and dropped it.  It landed back on the bench in a crumpled heap. “Now, I've just revealed my greatest secret to you,” she repeated the process with another shirt, then turned to Sunset, “are you still going to tell me that there's no such thing as magic?”

“I . . . um,” Sunset said.

Daring picked up a skirt this time and repeated the crumplification process.

“We should . . .” Sunset said.

Daring crumpled a pair of pants.

“. . . go to my apartment and talk there?” Sunset finished, the sentence having somehow turned into a question.

Daring nodded.

“That sounds good,” she said while fiddling with her hair.

Sunset just stared.

Something seemed to occur to Daring and she said, “. . . unless you're propositioning me, because then the answer is definitely, 'No.'”

Sunset shook her head.

Daring looked Sunset over, picked up one of the shirts from the store, and held it in front of her so that it would give Sunset some idea of what Daring would look like in it.

“What do you think?” she asked.

Sunset looked on blankly for a couple of sentences.  Then she realized that she had, in fact, been asked a question.  She said, “Oh, uh . . . great.” A moment later she added, “You'd look good in anything.” 

“In anything, huh?” Daring asked.  She dropped the shirt and put on her hat, “I must not be dressing frumpy enough.”

Sunset laughed.

“So you are still capable of experiencing human emotion,” Daring said playfully.  “That's good.” Daring put on her glasses, then looked at the bench. “You think we've tried on enough clothes to be realistic?” she asked.

“I think the people who work here would probably prefer it if you just put the rest back,” Sunset said, “since, you know, none of them have been worn.”

Daring put on her shawl, and she was A.K. Yearling again.

“So, about you and Rosetta . . .” Sunset said.

Daring blushed and Sunset clapped her hands over her mouth to stifle a giggle.

“The shippers are right,” Daring said.  After a moment she added an annoyed, “The publishers just won't let me write that.”  After another pause, still annoyed, she said, “Apparently being in a stable relationship would undermine my roguish adventurer mystique.”

“They can force that kind of rewrite?” Sunset asked.

“I may, possibly, have been terrible at contract negotiation when I first started,” Daring said.  “Mind you that shouldn't matter, because it's completely obvious that the stories are better if the relationship is acknowledged.  The first chapter of book seven seems painfully contrived and makes no sense, because I'm not allowed to call the date we were on a date.”

“Thematically jumbled too,” Sunset mumbled.

“If I could just say that I spend most of my downtime with Rosetta, so of course I'd get that news while I was with her, then it wouldn't seem like the only reason we were having milkshakes in the first place was because the story demanded that an expert be on hand.”

“So, I'm guessing the anti-shippers annoy you,” Sunset said, “what with them saying that you and your girlfriend couldn't work as a relationship.”

“You have no idea.”

“Like how they say you're too different--”

“We share plenty of interests.”

“--and you've never taken her on one of your adventures--”

“How many people bring their girlfriend to work with them?”

“--or that she couldn't keep up with you--”

“I happen to like coming home to a supportive girlfriend who is content with a peaceful life, if I didn't--” Daring noticed Sunset's expression.  “You're enjoying this.”

“Maybe a little.”

“Maybe a lot,” Daring said.

Sunset snickered.

“Not cool.”

“You're just so . . . teasable,” Sunset said.  When Daring blushed, Sunset added, “And you can't tell me you don't get far worse from your girlfriend.”

“Which is different, because she's my girlfriend.  … What happened to being awestruck by me?”

[if she hadn’t ]

“I probably shouldn't have used Dr. Caballeron's real name,” Daring said, “but it's hilarious every time someone, fan or otherwise, thinks he stole the name from my books.”

Sunset smiled.  Then let out a giggle.  Then a snort.

“Given that you can't see his face,” Daring said, “That's getting way too much of a reaction.”

“I'm just imagining him in doing his evil villain shtick and being utterly shut down by someone repeatedly asking variations on, 'No, really, what's your name?'”

That made Daring laugh.  “No matter how funny it is in your head,” she said, “I assure you that it's better in person.”

There is nothing of value here.
It is not a tomb or a temple or a storehouse.
What lies inside is worse than worthless
It brings sickness and death.
It is not alive, and so it cannot die.
In your time, as in ours, it is lethal.
If you can read this, carve it in your own language.
Warn those who are yet to come of the danger.

Written under it were various notes.

If the reader can't translate “nothing” then the first line reads “There is --- of value here.”  Exactly the message one doesn't want to send. Likewise for “not” in the second. You don't want to say that it is a combination tomb/temple/storehouse.

“worse than worthless” is a potentially problematic construction when one doesn't know intricacies of the reader's linguistic framework.  Could end up being:

“It is [negation] of not-worth” == “It is worth something”

“sickness and death” is only an effective warning if the discoverer doesn't have a use for those things.

“not alive, and ...” making it sound like zombies.  Not helpful.

“in ...” whole line is clunky

Last two lines:
“future generations” instead of “those who are yet to come”?
“Add your own warning” ?

How long does it take for effects to become apparent?  “Wait a week, and you will see the effects” is probably going to be heeded more easily than “You're totally going to die.”  While one doesn't want people going in at all, what one
definitely doesn't want is someone taking what's inside and shipping it around the world.

Kind of crap for a first draft.

Other things we might add:
This place was built to house a danger.

No knowledge, no history, no treasure, no . . . anything worthwhile.
No one is buried here.  There is no history here.  There are no texts save this one.

“Are you snooping?” Daring asked Sunset.

“I read the beginning without even trying,” Sunset said, “it grabbed my attention.  What is it?”

“If you had to bury something deadly,” Daring said, “and you needed to leave a warning to future generations, or even future species, to stay away, how would you do it?”

“Is that something that comes up a lot?” Sunset asked.

“Nuclear waste,” Daring said.

Sunset nodded.

“Someone suggested making a forest of spikes around the entrance,” Daring said in a way that made her disapproval clear, “because, they said, that spikes would signal danger.”  She paused a beat. “Do you know what we'd we do if we found a forest of obviously artificial spikes?”

“Probably a votive object?” Sunset said.

Daring snorted, then said, “It's not an object.  You're looking for 'probably a ritual site'.”

“Well,” Sunset said, “the important thing is that it's probably of religious significance.”

“Keep giving meaningless descriptions like that,” Daring said, “and you'll be a professional archaeologist in no time.”

“So,” Sunset said, “you don't approve of the temple of spikes and radiation sickness . . .”

“Of course not,” Daring said.  “A forest of metal spikes doesn't shout 'Danger', it shouts 'There must be something of value here.  Please come and dig it up!' The more someone tries to keep people out, the more everyone thinks there's a reason to go in.

“Someone else suggested putting 'ominous black stones' around it,” Daring paused.  “Ominous. As if they'd never seen a cathedral.”

“Any structures one erected would necessarily produce interest and attention,” Sunset said.

“Exactly!” Daring said.  “Any message needs to be encoded as a message, because symbolism isn't going to work.  And it has to be in language.  Pictograms of people dying of radiation sickness after opening the containment vessel might as well show the Ark of the Covenant.”

Sunset snorted.

“We might be able to help things along with a picture here, or an example there,” Daring said, “but in the end, if whoever finds it can't read our language, they're basically screwed.”

“So this is you trying to come up with what to write?” Sunset asked.

“It's an unsolved problem,” Daring said, “What warning can you possibly write that doesn't read like 'You should definitely come here to loot and/or study me'?”

“Interesting way to spend your free time.”

“Eh,” Daring said, “it's a hobby.”

[Other things I had written for the above scene, but not used]

If the seal is broken, it must be restored with lead.

“lead” is the easiest thing to explain.  Just carve the word onto a lead block, and there's at least some chance the meaning will be understood.

One could try to indicate the meaning of “death” by showing simplistic images of people alive on one side and dead on the other.  Red blood around the bodies to show they're not sleeping. Of course, whoever reads it might not
have red blood.

No.  That's a terrible idea.  If one reads it in the wrong direction “death” would be interpreted as “resurrection”

[Looks like I have two vastly different versions of the beginning of this scene.  First:]

Daring took in the sight of Sunset in her ponied up form, thought about it for a moment, and asked, “Are you part cat?”

Sunset pinched the bridge of her nose. [hooves can't pinch, this a rookie mistake, Sunset could, however, attempt this, given that she's accustomed to being in a human body]

“So that's a no.”

Sunset concentrated on listening to non-existent sounds in the corner of the room.  She felt her nearest ear swivel to better hear the fictitious noise.

“So . . . bunny then?”

“Sure, why not?” Sunset said.

“In my defense,” Daring said, I can only see the tips of your ears through your hair.

“That should still be enough to tell they're not cat ears.”

“Well, cat girls are way more common in both folklore and pop culture than bunny people.”

“Is bunny seriously what you think when you see my ears?”

“Well, I mean, they're too pointy to be llama ears.”

[more stuff was supposed to be put here]

“So what are you supposed to be?”

“I'm not rewarding your behavior with a response.”

[second version]

“It's easier if you stand on four hooves,” Daring heard Sunset say.

She did so, but was still having trouble processing the fact she suddenly had hooves.  She looked at her front right hoof. Didn't sink in. She decided to say it out loud, since there was a chance, however slim, that it would help.

“I have hooves.”

Didn't help.

“That's not all you have,” Sunset said, “look at your side.”

Daring did.  Were those . . .

“I have wings!” They were obviously far too small to actually work, but she tried to flap them anyway.

And then she left the ground.

Afraid she'd land flat on her face if she came back down now, she instinctively kept flapping.  That kept her in the air, which made no sense.

“How is this possible?” she asked no one in particular.  “They're not nearly large enough--”

“Magic,” two voices said.

As carefully as she could, which was actually quite fitfully, Daring lowered herself to the ground.  Once she was safely back on her hooves, she reoriented herself and took a look at what must have been Sunset Shimmer, and a purple creature that seemed strangely familiar.

As she took in Sunset's form, an idea formed in her head.

“So you're . . . a small pudgy deer?” Daring asked.

Sunset sputtered.  The purple creature said, “What?” as though it were a statement.

“An impala?”  Daring asked.

It looked as though the purple creature's brain had shut down.  Meanwhile, Sunset had recovered enough to glare. Daring figured she'd only get one more in before Sunset found her voice again.  She went with:

“Some kind of goat?”

“Daring . . .” Sunset said in a sort of 'Stop or I'll kill you' way.  Daring took it as a gift, because it meant she got an extra try.

“A mutant horned donkey?”

“Would you stop already?” was Sunset's angry response.

“Hey,” Daring said, “who used anti-shipper arguments to tease me about my relationship with Rosetta?”

Sunset looked like she was going to concede the point, but before she could, the purple creature shouted, “You're in a relationship with Rosetta‽”

“I was unaware people in other worlds were familiar with my books,” Daring said.

The purple creature gave a “Huh?”

Sunset said, “Wha-- oh, right.  No.” Sunset paused. “This is one of those 'everyone has a duplicate' alternate worlds.”

One of those what?

“So there's another you, another Rosetta, and another book series,” Sunset explained.

“Oh,” Daring said.

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