We're on Earth, at least to start. But soon we seem that it is not what it seems; we're in a hypothetical future otherworld, one where dragons roaming the skies is just as common as airplanes. These titanic beasts can speak, and fly, and breathe fire; they're dangerous and smart, perhaps more so of both than us. We learn about The Cords, the earth-based military base where our two main characters are stationed. It's dirty and dark but the technology there is remarkable. It sets up the creepy atmosphere that will persist throughout the book.
It's not a particularly dangerous station, given how entrenched it is. The most dangerous part of it is navigating through, and avoiding being attacked by some of the monsters who live there.
First Act Edit
1% - This opening moment is your opening scene; the first thing that happens in your story, possibly even the first line.
Voltaire "Volts" Donegue and Mantissa "Issa" Argona are on a surveillance mission, riding Stevius. This is supposed to just be a simple reconnaissance mission, not a dangerous one. But Oz has intervened, by paying off a single commander, and had them sent over to one of her Project Spartan bases. They're not aware of this, however, and they are shot down as soon as they're in range. Stevius falls on top of Volts, crushing her legs and her right hand.
1% to 12% - Readers learn about your characters, their goals, and the stakes.
The hook is the prologue; now we're in chapter one. Issa and Volts are desk jockeys in The Cords while they finish healing from their injuries, and it's been several months since the event. We get the sense that Volts and Issa are close, but their relationship is strained by the event and by the secret Issa hides. We generally get a sense of the scale of the COG armies, and they're set up as the good guys. Most of the development for this faction happens here.
Inciting Event Edit
12% - A turning point occurs halfway through the First Act
Right before Issa and Volts are scheduled to go back to active duty, their base is attacked by an unusually large and well-informed group of Oz's men. Their attack is quick, and ruthless, and few of the COG soldiers actually die in the process. Volts and Issa are abducted, and taken from the camp by force. This is also Volts' first time riding in a SAC, and she finds it very traumatizing.
12% to 25% - The final pieces necessary for the main conflict are moved into position, while ramping up the tension.
They are taken to Extigo, Callisto, Jupiter, one of Oz's main racing hubs. Volts is upset, scared, and mad at Oz. Issa is cryptic and cold, but insisting that this isn't a bad thing. She does her best to convince Volts that this is for the better, that they're getting to better serve dragons out here and Volts is getting to work closer to the dragons she so loves. Volts hears this, but takes it with a grain of salt. She would have preferred to work with dragons without being kidnapped.
Neurodonors are introduced here, and most of the exposition about Oz's Candyshop faction is done here. We get to see a lot of racing, and Volts slowly becomes closer to a lot of the racing dragons and begins to change her mind and sympathize more with Oz. Some of the dragons are expressing genuine sympathies, some are feeding her lines straight from Oz, so she keeps her suspisions high.
She also grows closer to Issa during this time, the two of them working together in the racing rings and saving each other's lives several times. Volts is overjoyed that her best friend is back.
This is also where we meet Astergore, Oz's oldest and most faithful transport dragon. She takes a liking to Volts, seeing the industrious strength within her. We get the feeling that Astergore doesn't work for Oz, but is rather a tempermental ally assisting Oz because it suits her.
Astergore arranges for Volts to actually meet Oz, deciding that she's been immersed into the culture enough that she can be trusted around their great leader. Issa is extremely jealous of Volts over this, and continues to act cold towards her, much to Volts' distress.
Meeting Oz Edit
Oz is very charismatic and draws Volts in almost instantly. She tries to remind herself of the suspisions she's had, of the terrible things she's seen in the races, but it doesn't matter. Oz has almost a hypnotic quality about her, all the pomp and circumstance surrounding her existence pressuring Volts to agree with her. Volts is also alone, without Issa's backup that she's come to depend on. Oz offers her a high-ranking position in her army, as long as she promises to be loyal. She will be fed, cared for, and Oz will love her as one of her own.
Alone, abandoned, and hated by everyone she used to love, Volts finds no real option but to accept Oz's offer. She comes to terms with it, rationalizing it as her best option, her true calling. She was drafted at 16 by COG, she was literally a child. But Oz gave her a choice; Oz saved her from their clutches and gave her an honest job and pay, and a cause to believe in. At this time, Volts is unaware of the fact that she's part of The Spartan Project.
1st Plot Point Edit
25% - The doorway between the end of the First Act and the beginning of the Second. Also likely to be the Key Event.
The Confession Edit
To test her commitment, Oz gives Volts an unrealistically difficult mission for her first encounter. They ride back to Earth on Lasvanter, and it's just Volts and Issa. On the ride there, Issa wakes Volts up and brings her up to the dragon's mouth, where the sedative effects of the dragon dust don't reach. She then confesses everything, that she's an Adam/Eve User, that she was awake during the surgeries they underwent during the Spartan Project, just generally that Oz has been lying out of her ass the whole time to get them to work for her.
Volts is stunned, and Issa is crying, huddled up on herself and trying to look as small as possible. She tearfully mutters that she can hear Stevius' voice in her head all the time, that he's constantly whispering about how amazing Oz is and how she should be loyal to her, and it's killing her. Oz didn't bring her into the throne room because she knew Issa wouldn't be impressed by her wealth, by her displays of vanity.
Volts just hugs Issa, not saying anything as she reels. She doesn't know who needs the support more; her or Issa. They can't back out of the attack though, they're in space in a dragon they hardly know. Volts asks Issa which group she would support; her complaints against Oz are not things that COG is innocent of.
Issa tells her they should run away together, they should start their own faction. Issa tells her that Astergore spoke highly of her, that she would have many draconic followers if she chose to break off. Volts counters that no matter what she did, she would be an idiot to make herself both an enemy of COG and Oz. Issa is quiet, just leaning against Volts, and the entire moment is silent and tender as they watch space fly by. They conclude that there is no conclusion, but Oz seems like the lesser of two evils. Issa thinks to herself that working for Oz gives them the chance to start building their faction.
Second Act Edit
25% to 37% - After the First Plot Point, the protagonist scrambles to understand obstacles thrown in his way by the antagonist.
Volts is already uncertain and nervous about the attack, her originally solid certainty having been shaken to the core by the implications of what Issa said. They land far away, and Volts and Issa switch to the back of the dragon and finish attaching attack gear. Volts finds the process soothing, and uses it to quiet her fears. She goes to a strong place inside of herself, drawing upon that inner peace that got her through so many battles back when she was much younger.
Volts is at the front of the dragon, crouched between his wings with a rifle against her shoulder. Issa is at his flanks, with a sub-machine gun and a sword. Both of them have harnesses on, clipped to the dragon. The dragon lifts off, and they head towards camp Viatol, Earth.
They attack. The fight is brief, and bloody. Volts is just as good with a rifle as she's always been, picking off the enemy fighters long before their dragons can get anywhere near. Lasvanter tears the roof off the COG base, and breathes a great gout of fire inside. After they've circled for a couple minutes and no new enemies come to attack, Volts and Issa cautiously dismount and head inside the base.
This isn't the first time they've smelled burning human flesh, it's a necessary hazard of dragon-fighting. But as they pick through the rubble, looking for documents or anything that could be considered useful to Oz, they come across the burned body of people they knew, some of their friends before they got captured. They both realize what they've done, that they've become the very people they were fighting against. Volts breaks down into tears clutching the still-hot dog tags of one of her best friends, Jessica Hart.
Issa gets angry, unreasonably angry, and punches a hole into the wall of the building. She repeats what she told Volts in the dragon, but with more force this time. There's a way to end this without violence, without the senseless death of their friends. And if they do have to fight, they should do it under their own terms, not as the useless pawns of yet another despot.
Volts says nothing, but puts Jessica's dog tags around her neck. She's never killed anyone she knew, she just saw the enemy soldiers as animals when she had to fight them before. And even then, she was never involved in any high-risk missions, she was still too young. This is her first real encounter with the horrors of war. She cries, her tears wiping soot off the dog tags.
She feels like everyone except Issa has lied to her. COG lied to her, Oz lied to her, her parents lied to her. No one has been by her side, no one has supported her except Issa. She expresses the sentiment that she wishes she'd been able to learn this without such violence, but Issa assures her that the best lessons are the hardest to learn.
They return to Lasvanter.
Attack on Ysvere, Io, Jupiter Edit
They convince Lasvanter to drop them off at one of Oz's smaller bases, telling him that they'll catch another dragon back to Extigo. He shrugs, and leaves them there. It's not his job what they do, once they successfully destroyed the COG base.
Issa has filled Volts with the crazed rage she's been harboring for so long, and they attack Oz's base for supplies to start their new faction. Volts is taken aback when a large number of COG men show up to help them attack, and she wonders and what Issa has done.
It's a short battle, with no casualties, and they're quickly subdued by Oz's men and the dragons there. They realize that without draconic allies, they're powerless.
1st Pinch Point Edit
37% - A reminder of the antagonist's power, which provides new clues about the nature of the conflict.
Oz herself shows up quickly, and Volts and Issa are brought before her, handcuffed and on their knees. They stare at her with anger, that bottomless anger only felt by rebels and revolutionaries. Oz tuts, disappointed with them. Oz calls them children, points out how young they both are. She makes a lot of good points, that they're wishy-washy wannabe-martyrs just looking for a grenade to jump on. They're young and brash and stupid. She gave them a chance, she gave them a home and a calling, and they threw it away. Oz gives them both a chance to rejoin her, provided they apoligize and submit to appropriate punishment.
Volts says never, she's sick of regimes.
Oz laughs, and responds that there's always a regime.
Here Comes The Surgeon Edit
Oz sighs, saying there could have been an easy end to this. Volts made this difficult, it didn't have to be. And she waves in a man who was standing just out of view.
As soon as the hunched man steps into view, Issa lets out a blood-curdling scream. She thrashes and fights against the guards holding her, breaking his nose before one of them punches her in the jaw and knocks her out. The scream is imprinted in Volts head, and all she can hear is a roaring in her ears and Issa screaming "surgeon! the spartan surgeon! oh god, oh god." as her blood runs cold and a feeling of deja vu hits her.
The surgeon smiles, stroking Volts' face and smiling. "You looked prettier when you were sedated, but you're still one of my better works. Your friend there too, but the sedative didn't work very well on her." he says, laughing to himself. "I'm sure she's told you about my work, she was awake when I fixed her. Poor thing, couldn't even scream."
He gestures to the guards, and they're brought into an operating theater. He apologizes for not letting her remember his work the last time, and promises to not make the same mistake. He laments that they'll have to wait until Issa wakes up to make improvements to her.
He then takes a cleaver to her left hand, chopping it clean off. Volts screams with all her might, thrashing around on the operating table. The Surgeon advises her that she'd better sit still, or he'll attach the new part wrong. She whimpers, but complies. The new hand is made of crystal, like Oz's horse-body. It's a permanent reminder of Oz's control over her.
37% to 50% - Protagonist's realization grows and his reactions become more informed.
The Fall of The Ego
As soon as the new hand is attached, Volts disconnects her thumb on her left hand, which is robotic, and punches the surgeon across the face. He stumbles back, and she uses that opportunity to rip the shackle off her other hand. She wasn't tied down more than this as a show of strength; she's one of the strongest Spartans and still they only need to barely tie down her hands. It's the fatal flaw of hubris that characterizes Oz's entire regime. She tackles the surgeon, holding her new left hand around his throat. It's already separating, several of the stitches popped, and the crystal is covered in blood. Volts demands answers, demands to know if what Issa said about the spartan project was true. He spits in her face and says it is, says that they're nothing more than disposable soldiers created to sow chaos in the COG lines. That they were a necessary sacrifice in the pursuit of freedom. He tells her that she's nothing, just another pathetic half breed hoping for something better. Volts smacks his head against the ground in anger, knocking him out and potentially killing him. She doesn't know, and she doesn't care. She unties Issa, who is openly crying at this point. She stitches the new hand back on with shaking hands, wrapping a bandage around the connecting point. They escape out the air duct to find Astergore waiting for them. She swallows them, and they escape to one of Mars' moons.
How to Emote
Once the shock wears off, Volts is badly shaken. She leans into Issa's arms, crying and cradling her hand. She stares at the crystal, and she's utterly broken and horrified by it. It is a tangible mark of Oz's dominion over her; she has no control over even her most intimate possession, her body. The fact that she's not alone, even though they haven't met any other Spartans, is slightly reassuring. She has to wonder, though, what happened to all the others. A tear drops onto the crystal hand, creating a clear point through the otherwise thick blood coating it. Volts looks to Issa, and asks her how she's feeling. Issa laughs sarcastically, and says that for the first time since the incident, Stevius is on her side. Volts nods, and agrees that they really don't have a choice but to start their own regime. Issa is quotes Nietzsche at her, warning her that "Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster." Volts finishes the quote by saying "for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." as they stare out across space. She shakes her head though, and says that the only way to fight monsters is with a bigger monster. "I don't want you to become a monster." Issa says, "I already am one." Volts responds, clenching the crystal fist.
Rebuild yourself, Rebuild the Revolution
They land on Mars' moon, and there's already a group waiting for them. Volts is nervous, stepping out of Astergore, but she soon sees they are friendly. She notices the crowd is mostly neurodonors and axioms, along with a few wingless dragons and other military chaff. The general sense of the group is that these people are the rejects of society, the living dead of war. One of the horse neurodonors has a makeshift flag tied to its chest, with a clenched half-robotic fist covered in rose-thorns emblazoned on it. Volts recognizes it as her own hand, and it slowly dawns on her that this is her resistance. The only word she can get out of her mouth is "why" and the group responds that she was kind to all of them during her time with Oz, and her time with COG. She became known for her mercy and understanding, for her lack of prejudice and cruelty. When Astergore spread the word that you were forming your own faction, that we would finally have a leader motivated not by money or power, but by love, we left our respective factions to support you. Volts then notices the other flags in the crowd, belonging to New Draconism and The Cartographers. The people holding those flags explain that she has their support, as long as she should agree to their terms. Volts is massively overwhelmed, and Issa picks up on this and excuses them, telling the group that they'll need a bit to talk over their plans, but thanks them for coming out. The group understands, and disperses. The base is VERY makeshift, but her people are dedicated and radicalized and they've begun building what they can. The presence of neurodonors makes everything easier as well, because they are the beasts of burden. Now it's time for Volts to figure out how she's going to bring down Oz and COG.
50% - The Moment of Truth when the protagonists realizes the central truth about the nature of the conflict.
50% to 62% - Thanks to his new understanding, the protagonist makes headway against the antagonist.
2nd Pinch Point Edit
62% - Foreshadows the Third Plot Point, and serves to remind the protagonist what is at stake.
Renewed Push Edit
62% to 75% - Protagonist renews attack upon the antagonist. He reaches a seeming victory.
Third Act Edit
3rd Plot Point Edit
75% - A dark moment for the character. After the victory at the end of the Second Act, he experiences a reversal.
75% to 88% - Protagonist reels as he questions his choices, his commitment to his goal, and his own worth and ability.
Climax Begins Edit
88% - This turning point forces the protagonist to finally face each other.
88% to 98% - Duel to the death. What occurs here ensures the protagonist and antagonist cannot both walk away.
Climactic Moment Edit
98% - The moment the protagonist's goal is met. It becomes a physical impossibility for the conflict to continue.
98% to 100% - Ease readers out of the excitement of the climax and into the final emotion.