Needless to say, we are into spoiler territory.
With two major rewrites, there were some alterations to the story and characters – some major, most quite small but important. John Helfers is a master at working with writers on a project this big to make the story sizzle.
So what got changed over time? Tracking all of the changes would be exhausting. Some of the things that changed from the beginning to the end:
- Originally, the plan was that the Kell Hounds were coming to Terra as well to fight the Jade Falcons. Anastasia’s mission was going to be not only to find the Wolves in Exile, but the surviving Kell Hounds. 1. It made some things more complicated to do that. 2. Mike made a good case for them not coming at the Writer’s Summit. In the end, removing them was the right thing to do because it would have been too busy and they wouldn’t have gotten a proper amount of air time. There is a small bit of fiction I wrote of Calamity Kell coming out of the DropShips that ended up on the cutting room floor. I am hoping some other author picks up on the Anastasia-mission and does that story at some point because I foresee some neat stuff there.
Because it will never see the light of day otherwise, here it is, unedited:
Eight Kilometers Away…
Callandre “Calamity” Kell had been in battles before, but nothing like this. The air was alive with lasers, missiles and flashes from PPC – as far and eye could see. Copses of pine trees roared with flames, their smoke mingling with the carnage of battle. The air rumbled, like a thunderstorm, continuous, shaking her SM1 tank destroyer.
She had come to Terra because Anastasia Kerensky had made her an offer she could not refuse. The Kell Hounds that followed her were a thin shadow of their former selves. One lone company was all that was left, nearly obliterated by Jade Falcons. I could be the last Kell to lead the unit into battle if I am not careful.
Now, on Terra, was long overdue payback to the Falcons that had decimated her once illustrious unit. And salvage rights…a chance to rebuild the unit.
An artillery round went off in front of her SM1, throwing dirt on her cockpit as she spotted a target – a fast moving Shrike. This one was different, the warbook display painted it as a -44a modification. Two type-9 Ultra-Autocannons and LRM’s! It rose into the air, coming down in front of Thomas Owen’s Wolfhound. (Before Brent has a seizure, this is the variant from the MechWarrior Click-game – pilot Ichiba Pryde. I thought it appropriate to include another tip of the hat to the Dark Ages characters.)
“Cowboy!” she called as she brought the massive ultra autocannon targeting reticle onto the landing Shrike. It was too late though. Owen squeezed off a blast with his ER large laser, but the pilot of the Shrike came down right beside him, landing a devastating punch with its sharp-clawed right arm. Owen’s Wolfhound staggered back and she could see where the punch had cratered in the armor just below the cockpit.
Calamity heard the weapons lock tone and fired. The ultra autocannon roared next to her cockpit as the shells blew off one of the wing-like projections that rose from the back of the Shrike, while the shells cratered the already damaged BattleMech’s torso. As she rushed at it she could see it was a patchwork of armor and those plates not-replaced were burned or battered. The hits did the trick, the Shrike broke off from the Kilted Cowboy Owen and turned towards her.
She anticipated the incoming missiles and autocannon rounds, but there were none. Instead there was a blast with the Shrike’s two medium extended range lasers, both of which hit her SM1, melting ugly gashes on the front and side. Banking hard to get to its rear, the Jade Falcon followed her move keeping itself locked on.
As her autocannon reload cycle completed it fired again, missing with one shot, hitting her left side with a laser that tore off armor she knew she was going to need, especially on a day like this. Calamity halted her arc and bore straight in on the Shrike – her ultra autocannon thundering in her ears. The shots hit the already damaged right hip and opened up the actuator there, spraying lubricant and green coolant from a blasted line along the leg of the ‘Mech. It started to topple and tried to avoid the fall with a blast of its jump jets.
The Jade Falcon rose into the air and skirted towards her, coming down right in her path. The ultra autocannon hadn’t reloaded, but her machineguns were and she blazed away. Flashes from dozens of tiny hit peppered the cockpit canopy and upper torso of the ‘Mech. The damaged leg on the Shrike was barely holding on as it tried to shift position. Juking hard to the right, Kell sought to put some distance between them, then swing around for another attack. For three seconds she lost sight of her foe as she felt the SM1 toss her hard against the restraining straps.
As she came around the Jade Falcon warrior fired its lasers again, both missing her as her autocannon reload finished. She raced the targeting reticle over the enemy but the war-weary Shrike suddenly seemed to rattle and quake, hit from behind. It fell over on its side, hard, gouging the soft black soil. She fired another burst into it as it lay on the ground, savaging its torso even more. Her sensors told her its reactor went off-line. Angling her SM1 next to the Shrike, she could see on battered and charred armor plate with the stenciled words, “Shark Hunter” barely visible. Not any more…
Through the haze of the battle she was the Kilted Cowboy standing behind the fallen Jade Falcon. “Nice shooting Cowboy,” she said as she angled close to the fallen ‘Mech.
“It was a cheap shot,” Owen replied. “But hard to pass up. He didn’t fire his autocannon or missiles. Did you notice?”
“Out of ammo I guess,” she replied. Maybe they have supply issues…
“I hope the rest of them are out too,” Owen said, turning toward the battle to the south. Other Kell Hound ‘Mechs and vehicles were starting to converge on their position.
“Roger that,” she said. “Kell Hounds, form up on me. We are heading west and hopefully the rear of the Jade Falcon lines!”
For the first time in over a year…Calamity Kell felt good.
- In the early drafts, we were going to pump Stone up on drugs and have him fight Alaric in some Circle of Equals near the end. Stone was going to die but Alaric was going to honor him, blah, blah, blah. Apparently this was something that got batted around a while ago before my involvement with the project. I hated the idea, but wrote the scene, loathing every moment of it. To me, if you are ending the Dark Ages, you needed to end the Republic – not drag it out. Also, Stone had to die, for a LOT of reasons. Stone did not deserve a glorious death or worse, a battlefield victory of any sort. I never felt him to be a character worthy of that. John and I spent a lot of time discussing Stone, defining his real role in matters. When I was asked at the summit what I would like to change, this was it. I wasn’t going to put a 106 year old fossil in a ‘Mech cockpit. Killing that whole scene felt great.
- In draft one, I had Haake having a strategy of having the ‘Mechs deploy on the hulls of their DropShips and WarShips for additional close range support and dropping on the hull of Republic WarShips to blow shit up. There were ‘reviewers’ who said that made no sense and argued against it because we have never done it before (apparently ignoring Impetus of War). I have a wealth of material and justification to validate that tactic, including game mechanics. It was argued that they wouldn’t risk their precious ‘Mech resources in such a manner. I believed they would. “Better to die shooting than in the hold of your DropShip.” I was fully prepared like a lawyer going to court to argue against this. John and others pointed out that it was too much like the horrible scenes from the Rise of Skywalker. That was the proverbial trump card. It was hard to argue about doing something that was in that horrible film. While I had written it before that film, but it was too damn close. I told John, “I’m not prepared to die on that hill.” So we changed it to Elementals on the hulls instead. Huzzah to Parac Shaw!
- John asked that I kill Chance in revision two. Note: We need to explore John’s desire to kill characters sometime. He wanted to hurt Alaric badly. The problem was everyone liked her character and I have plans for her in the years to come (her arc is incredible.) So I argued we kill the WarBear. The Ghost Bear fans now wish to lynch me but it was my call and a damn good one.
- Rowland – from Children of Kerensky, had a larger role in the first cut of HotW. Rowland was Alaric and Chance’s sibko instructor. In the first draft, it was he, not Ramiel Bekker, that saves Alaric’s life in the Nighthawk attack, barely surviving. He became the ultimate bodyguard after that. I wanted to show him as a solhama done-good. As it is, Rowland now has, at best, a cameo role, saving Manning after his fighter crashes. What he DOES accomplish is giving us some infantry action. In the end, my editor guided me to the right choice I think.
- Cut from the text was a line I loved. When the Exarch is wondering why they landed in Australia, Tucker said the following: “What, haven’t you ever played Risk?” Phil Lee came up with that. I put it in the text, but John swung his mighty edit axe. We actually debated if Risk would still be around in the 32nd century…if you can believe that.
- Garner Kerensky’s death. It was written out, but for some reason, we cut it. I get it, there was a lot of dying going on in that chapter. I have the text and may send it at some point to Shrapnel.
- A much bigger faceoff with the Hell’s Horses was originally planned. In the first draft, it’s not just an exchange of words with Clan Hell’s Horse and Alaric. They challenge him. He bids the SLDF. They fight in the arctic in a trial where you have the Ghost Bears, Smoke Jags, some Dragoons, Jade Falcons, and Wolves slugging it out. They devastate the Horses, both Khans KIA, thanks to Stephanie Chistu. Okay, that part was a lot of fun. The Hell’s Horses were going to kill General Brubaker in the trial. We later decided that the Horses deserved more story, so that conflict will have to wait…but it IS cool. Brubaker was kept alive because it would make for a much more awesome follow-up story after, well, you know.
I toyed with Shimmer being on the battlefield and opening up a comms like with Brubaker and Devlin Stone. Stone tries to get the Dragoons to turn on Clan Wolf. “General, you will never get a better chance. As soon as the Jade Falcons are finished, you can turn on Clan Wolf and hit them when they are at their weakest. You can destroy two Clans and save Terra from Clan rule!” It was a neat idea, pure Stone-shit, but I thought it might be an unnecessary distraction to an already busy book. The logistics of how he would contact them or even know how the battle was unfolding made the idea implausible. It also would have been an unnecessary distraction at the wrong time for the reader.
There were some positive things in the rewrite that got added. I used it as an opportunity to bring back the Falcon Guard and the Seventh Kommando of Wolf’s Dragoons. I was never a big Aiden Pryde fan, but I liked the Guard. I decided to make them awesome – saving Malvina’s life. It puts the reader in a weird spot. You like them, you admire them, but they are saving Malvina Hazen! The Kommando came about because Aaron Krull put on his Kickstarter that he wanted to be in Wolf’s Dragoons, Special Operations. Well duh, that had to be the Kommando. It wasn’t in the early drafts, but in the last draft, I wanted to give the Dragoons some additional loving.
Next, I will explore my favorite parts.