the heart of the story

Writing friend Diana Day told me that one of the important – but latent – threads in my novel was the romance thread between Mike and Darcy.

She asked some questions. I generated some answers.

Pace John Cleese on creativity, I shouldn’t grab the first ideas that occur to me. So what follows is, perhaps, not the final word.

Still, I present these ideas for your perusal.


Q: Why is Mike interesting?

He’s a natural leader.

Q: Did he fit in?

Yes. He was smarter than his peers, but he didn’t suffer the nerd disease. He’s got the common touch mixed with just enough arrogance, so he became a leader.

Q: Is he a natural leader distorted by his experience?

Yes. During the CEO trials he was turned in by the building consortium he worked with as a sacrifice. That’s what you get when you work with a team: you open yourself up, expose your weaknesses, and then when the going gets tough, they turn on you. Only Javier stood by him.

Q: A natural introvert?

No. A CREATED introvert who longs, at some level, to be a leader again, but has learned that it’s better to do things by yourself.

Q: What is it about Mike that attracts Darcy?

How much he’s accomplished. How he can’t be stopped.

Q: What is it about Mike ** CURRENTLY ** that attracts Darcy?

He’s The King. He’s exiled himself and refuses to sit in the throne…but no one else is willing – or capable – of sitting in the throne. Darcy knows that he’ll sit in the throne again.

Mike’s arc through the course of the book is to refuse the throne at first. Javier tells him that the CEO factions need a leader to unite them (Ben Franklin: “we’ll hang together or hang separately”). Mike resists this. His core motivation is learned fear of leadership (from the CEO trials), but his STATED motivation is libertarian politics: “we don’t need a leader”. He refuses the crown and tries to work alone. Javier tells him “We don’t need a dictator – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need a figure to rally around. Call yourself a mascot or a cheerleader.” Mike refuses, because it’s not really about leadership, it’s about opening himself up to betrayal.

…but finally takes the crown when it’s the only way to save Aristillus. His fear of losing his city is bigger than his fear of being betrayed.

At the end he loses his firm, takes off the crown, and retires to the fields like Cincinatus. He couldn’t commit to Darcy this whole time for two reasons: 1) he really DIDN’T have time for kids when the revolution was in the offing, 2) he was unconcious of it, but his ego was still suffering the defeat of the CEO trials, and building Aristillus hadn’t fully disipated that. It turned out that taking the crown and leading people – and offering himself up for sacrifice when it was called for – is what dispelled the curse.

He needed to prove to himself that he could still do it, one last time. He had THOUGHT that “it” meant building tunnels, but he was wrong. “It” meant being a leader – using all of the skills God gave him.


Q: Is she afraid of something?

She’s afraid that she’ll be stuck in limbo with Mike – always the girlfriend, never the wife with kids. If she knew for sure, maybe she could walk (but probably not – it would be too hard.)

Q: Why is it MIKE she wants?

He’s a bull who lowers his head and charges. He’s a force of nature. The fact that he was imprisoned for the CEO trials and then ESCAPED blows her away. He didn’t just play his game on the gameboard that someone else created – he refused to play their game, set up his own gameboard, and walked away. He’s competent.

Q: Why does she want kids?

She’s always wanted kids. She’s a libertarian and a reactionary and disagrees with the Zero Population Growth leftists. Also, she’s a woman and she loves kids. She points them out in the tunnels to Mike.

Q: Why does she want HIS kids?

Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s willing to adopt. But she wants Mike.

Q: Why RIGHT NOW does she need the kids?

She’s getting older.

Q: Does she have something to prove to herself about being a woman?

No. She sees herself as a housewife first and foremost. She loves the Little House books. She WANTS to take care of the household while her man is out hunting bears.

There are problems though:

1) Given that she went to Yale, worked at Cato, helped design the software when Mike needed help, etc. she knows that she’s hypercompetent, and very few men live up to her standards. So she can’t be #2 for someone who is not a valid #1.

2) She may or may not be aware of it, but she’s using her work as a navigator as an implicit threat, a bargaining chip. “You want me to stay safe, Mike? Well, be aware that I’m going to keep going out on ships until you make me a housewife. If you’re going to treat me like a potentially replaceable part of your organization, then that’s what I’m going to be. Now how do you like THEM apples?”

Mike does NOT like them apples.

This threat is well designed, and would work…except for the fact that the revolution is brewing.

So Darcy goes out, again and again. The first time she’s taken captive by Tudel. This puts Mike in crisis…but not enough. The second time he almost stops her from going, but he can’t quite commit. So she goes out again, and this time gets taken to a prison camp. Now Mike can’t eat and can’t sleep. Did he make the wrong decision? Probably. But the revolution needs him! When she’s liberated by the rescue mission he knows he can’t let it happen a third time, so he’s going to lock it down…but then he gets captured by the snatch team before he can do anything about it.

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