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Page: 106
Issue: Unit-M - Issue 1
Post Date: 18th Dec 2020, 8:46 AM

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5 4 3 2 1

Average Page Rating: 5 (2 votes)






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Here we go. The jig is up and Meteor is pissed.

Did you catch any of the hints that Derringer was the big bad? Let me know if the comments. (If there's interest I'll post a list of the pages that are worth re-reading to help explain how we got here.)

What are you thoughts on where this goes next? Wild speculation is encouraged!

18th Dec 2020, 8:55 AM

Tid

Tid Tid

I wouldn't mind a list of pages worth rereading! I know I didn't really see it coming. Thought Derringer was a little weird, but I figured the conversations were just a storytelling way to learn more about Meteor.

18th Dec 2020, 10:15 AM

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Yeah, sure.

This part of the story is serving the narrative in multiple ways. As you say, it's giving us some backstory, but it's also establishing a relationship between Meteor and Derringer while providing a few hints that there's something weird going on.

Hints

I don't want to go super in-depth here as the next few pages deal with the fallout of this revelation and add further context.

Page 15
and Page 16 - Blackout (Isabella) says that Derringer is a piece of shit. She's a loose cannon, so her concerns are not really taken seriously by her teammates. But she hates this guy enough that she doesn't even want to see or interact with him on the mission.

Page 20 - Derringer reveals privately that The Blacksmith is on the island. Not damning in and of itself, but he's changing the stakes of the mission. For Meteor, this isn't just a rescue mission, now he might have to confront the person responsible for doing this to him.

Page 23 and Page 24 - Derringer is creating conflict between Meteor and Hawk.

Page 25 - Derringer is planting the seed that leading Unit-M may not be the best thing for Meteor.

Page 26
- We see The Blacksmith but only through Meteor's display. Also, Derringer is touching something on his wrist.

Page 27 - And then The Blacksmith immediately disappears when Meteor tries to go after him.

Page 33 - Derringer is pressing something on his wrist again.

Page 34 and Page 35 - Flashbacks. Background goes to black. Something isn't right here. Also, Derringer is talking about cleansing and crushing vulnerabilities, and how much better Meteor would be if he left Unit-M and came and worked for him. In the last panel he's tempting him on the mound (and also inadvertently tipping his hand).

Also, compare these two pages with pages 12 and 13. Notice anything?

Page 36 - Black background is gone. Derringer is touching his wrist again. Meteor knows something is up. He knows Derringer had something to do with his creation (how else would he have known about the display problems). Meteor is accusing Derringer of being a "mass murderer."

Page 37 - There's The Blacksmith again. Only in visible in Meteor's display.

Derringer is pressing something on his wrist again...

18th Dec 2020, 11:57 AM

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Shit. I just lost a long comment to stupidity... trying to check something on the previous page.

The gist of it was that I read all these pages rather differently.

The end of it was the prediction that Derringer can and will switch Meteor off. Derringer is the Blacksmith.

(Less than one day until holidays and me being away from CF for about 3 weeks.)

18th Dec 2020, 10:34 PM

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What was your reading?

I purposely set this up so it wasn’t obvious that Derringer was the bad guy. It seems like that was successful. Perhaps too successful, which is funny because I was worried that it was too obvious that he was the bad guy.

19th Dec 2020, 7:23 AM

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OK, trying again :)

Pages 15 & 16: An ex-employee saying her ex-boss is a piece of shit has not much value and they really had a fall-out as it seems. So I didn't take that into account. Also, Blackout gives in (with half a smile) at the end, so (I thought) it can't be that bad, even though she mentioned his "schemes".

Page 20: Without the hindsight this has no meaning. What if the Blacksmith were on the island and Derringer didn't tell about it during the meeting? In hindsight, it was a careful preparation. (But a f'ing BOLD move to ask Unit-M for help with such a lie on top. <- That was the reason I believed it to 99,9%, even though I mentioned having trust issues, too.)

Page 23 & 24: Creating a conflict ? I'd rather say, the conflict was already there, we've seen how Hawk thinks about Meteor before, and Derringer's comment about wrangling a free spirit... back then it seemed like an observation, but in hindsight: If Derringer can make Meteor susceptible to psychological influence, he might have done that on page 23. His suggestion about Shield really helped. (This seems the most "conflicting" incident between Hawk and Meteor so far. In hindsight: Such a perfect timing that one might even suspect that Hawk is secretly working for Derringer.)

Page 25: Yes he does. But (as he makes clear later on), he wants Meteor for himself. So I considered this as headhunting behavior. (Once I personally experienced something worse than that. Should have clued me in for whom I was going to work but back then it didn't.) So I took it as not unusually ulterior (given the situation) at all.

Page 26: I missed him touching his wrist. And... if touching some otherwise invisible controls is enough to send a believably real-looking image to someone's visual cortex, that is super fancy technology.

Page 27: The disappearing was strange, but even given that: At that point I didn't realize that only Meteor saw the Blacksmith. And even if I had that idea, I wouldn't have thought that Derringer was directly responsible for that, any disturbance could potentially compromise the mission (saving the hostages and the vault). Why would Derringer possibly do that?? Alas, now, in hindsight... the vault was never in danger and the hostages... well, either there are none or they are already dead. Probably the latter, Derringer probably doesn't like open ends...

Page 33: Yeah he did and I didn't notice it. But also: That middle panel! Back then I thought that Meteor took a second to think about an answer, but that face could also have been Meteor thinking "how the heck does he know that much about it?" Only in hindsight, of course, back then I thought that Derringer, being friends with Simon Molina, knew everything Simon knew, including the issue about the tactical display. Meteor was not very secretive about it. What I really wondered a little bit on that page: Why was Meteor so open about these deeply private things, towards someone who is not really a friend of him, even in the light of Derringer being friends with Simon. Now I suspect that that touch on the wrist might have something to do with it.

Page 34 - Flashbacks. Background goes to black: Did that really happen? Meteor didn't react to the black background, so I thought it just indicated the flashback, a recall Meteor had on his own account. Was it a forced flashback? Meteor didn't react as if there was something out of the ordinary, so didn't think there was.
Page 35: Again, why was Meteor so open about his thoughts, but then again, Derringer had already seen Meteor's insecurities in the conflict with Hawk, so (I thought) this is less astonishing.
And yes, this is quite similar to the conversation Meteor and Simon had, yet very differently handled. But Simon is a friend and was there when Meteor tried to hack his own programming, Derringer was not there and is (so I still thought) much less of a friend to Meteor. (But maybe being friend with Simon would be enough for Meteor to trust Derringer that much?) Clearly, Simon and Derringer have rather different personalities, I'd expect them to handle practically the same issue quite differently. They must, the single fact that Simon was with Meteor and Derringer was not during the self-hacking enforced this to go differently. (But in the back of my head... the similarity felt a little bit odd. Just a tiny little bit. Why was Meteor so open towards Derringer? Tbh, I dismissed this as an imperfection in the writing :P - it bothered me (much) less than the ending of the "Copycat Calamity" story. So yeah, I didn't get the hint even though I kinda felt... something?)

Page 36 - Black background is gone: Yes but the black background comes back at the bottom of the page - and Meteor doesn't react to it!

>> Meteor knows something is up. He knows Derringer had something to do with his creation (how else would he have known about the display problems).
Simply from Simon. So I thought. Given that, I didn't think that Derringer had something to do with Meteor's creation, much less that Meteor would think he had.
Also! Back at the meeting, when Derringer mentioned that the Blacksmith was on the island, he clearly knew that the Blacksmith was responsible for Meteor's creation - would it be likely that he knew that, but not about Meteor's tactical display? (<- that was my general thinking but I consciously realized it only now.)

>> Meteor is accusing Derringer of being a "mass murderer."
No, Meteor is accusing the Blacksmith (whom I didn't think to be Derringer, back then) to be a mass murderer.

Page 37 - Derringer: "Indeed."
WHAT?! "Indeed." - that's all? Dammit!!! That's not the reaction there should be! But then, Meteor: "You've given me a lot to consider." followed by "I think we've arrived." - this kinda defused my creeping-up suspicion again. In hindsight... Provided that Meteor discovered the charade and decided to play along: He held Derringer at arm's length (<- can I say that, does it make sense?)
And there's the Blacksmith again...
Also - Huldrekall: "The Blacksmith is going to open your head. Set you straight." - this tells us that Huldrekall knows:
- about the Blacksmith and that he created Meteor,
- who the Blacksmith is - this makes clear that the Blacksmith is a real person,
- also that Meteor broke free from the Blacksmith and that the Blacksmith wants Meteor back,
Please note that I nearly had it, at the end of my 2nd comment on page 38. But it was just a guess, I didn't manage to put all the hints correctly together. Maybe because Derringer feigning his own vault getting hacked seemed to make no sense. Unless the whole operation had no other purpose but to get Meteor in his hands. Sacrificing the FMA included.

But how the heck can he expect to get away with that?
Simon will not stop at anything until he gets Meteor back or sees Meteor's dead body, in person, both are not an option for Derringer. Well, killing Meteor is less impossible, but apparently not what Derringer wants. Even then, how could he explain Meteor's death in a way that Simon would believe?

The "best" outcome would be that Meteor goes back to Derringer (the Blacksmith) but herein lies another major problem: IF Meteor goes to Derringer, Derringer must let him go to Simon to convince Simon that he does it on his own account and I'm sure that the only way to convince Simon would be if it was true. But then Meteor would tell Simon that Derringer is the Blacksmith, I can't see how that can be avoided. (*) And that's the moment where Derringer's whole scheme crumbles to ashes. Then it would be Derringer and Meteor and maybe the FMA against Unit-M (and the rest of the world?) and all monsters they can recruit. Derringer would be an outlaw - would he really go this path?

(*) - Edit: Here I missed some subtlety: If Derringer shouldn't know about the tactical display because neither Meteor nor Simon told him, then it can be assumed that he is the only outsider (apart from a small circle of persons within Unit-M) who knows about it. How could he theoretically know about it, then? The only possible answer is that Derringer is the Blacksmith himself. So once Meteor recognized Derringer as the Blacksmith, Meteor would know that Derringer wants him "back" as a slave. Given that, there is no way Meteor could let the Blacksmith near him, so Derringer's job offer and that about saving his soul is nothing but a lie and Meteor knows it - and Derringer should know that Meteor knows it.
But on page 39 Derringer says that the job offer was genuine (can't be true as Meteor knows) and that he is the only one who can save Meteor's soul, whatever that may mean (might be true, but Meteor knows that the Blacksmith won't have the intention to do that). Doesn't Derringer realize that his scheme regarding Meteor has already gone up in smoke?

The only other outcome I can imagine (theoretically) would be that Meteor kills or incapacitates Derringer and the scheme fails. But given that Derringer can still send images to Meteor's visual cortex, I don't see this happening either.

So... I have absolutely zero idea about what might come next.


Oh by the way: What happened to Huldrekall between page 38 and this one? Yes, I said "this fight is over" but Huldrekall was still conscious and I expected him to try something.



And - that's it. It was fun to write it all together (again), kinda similar to a game of Mastermind (Code breaker), that's why I did it (again). This one is better than the one I lost, so thank you very much for asking for it :)

19th Dec 2020, 4:06 PM

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Disclaimer

Some of my answers are going to be cryptic, vague, and incomplete. I’m not trying to be frustrating, but we still have 30-or-so pages to go in this issue.

I’ll comment on what I can, unless I think it detracts from the story or spoils something.

As I said earlier, calling these “clues” was inaccurate, as that suggests there is a mystery here that can be solved. There isn’t.

Now, one could make inferences that Derringer is the bad guy based on some of these breadcrumbs, but there’s no absolute proof, which is the way it’s supposed to be.

I don’t want the reader guessing right off the bat that Derringer is the bad guy, and, on a character level, Derringer certainly doesn’t want to tip his hand.

Pages 15 and 16 - Blackout (Isabella)

Exactly.

You’re discounting her for the same reason her teammates are. From what we’ve seen, she’s a hot head. A loose cannon that just blurts out whatever comes to mind.

That she’d have problems with an ex-employer almost feels like a given.

Page 20 - Derringer Brings Up The Blacksmith

Again, exactly.

Derringer has a plan and has told us that he’s a good planner. He wants Meteor off-balance and he wants Meteor to trust him. He’s getting two birds with one stone here. The lie that The Blacksmith is on the island makes him seem more trustworthy (this is self-incriminating information he didn’t have to offer up) and forces Meteor to revisit the trauma of his creation.

Pages 23 and 24 - Hawk

Yes, we’ve seen conflict before between Meteor and Hawk in this issue. Derringer is exacerbating that conflict.

It doesn’t take much prodding. As you say, Hawk is doing a good enough job fanning the flames on his own.

Page 25 - Headhunter

His attempt to recruit Meteor isn’t bad behaviour per se, but it is suspicious. You’re headhunting in the middle of a crisis by disparaging this guy’s teammates and bringing up past traumas?

Page 26 - Wrist Computer

This is tough.

I wanted to show that Derringer was up to something. The question is how obvious do I make it?

If he’s whipping out a computer or a control panel, that’s going to be super obvious and the reader is going to catch on that he’s up to no good.

I could just show nothing, but I wanted to show Derringer doing something before each appearance of The Blacksmith/confrontation with Huldrekall/trippy Meteor sequence.

So, yes, this requires some suspension of disbelief. It’s plausible that he has just a few inconspicuous buttons on his wrist that have been pre-programmed to:

- call Huldrekall to his location
- project an image of The Blacksmith to Meteor
- ratchet up whatever ability he has to influence Meteor’s thoughts/feelings.

Page 27 - The Blacksmith Vanishes

It’s a suspicious occurrence and hints that something odd is going on, but, as you say, it’s not evidence against Derringer.

Page 33 - The Wrist Again

Well, he’s not touching his wrist until the final panel, so, it might be safe to assume that everything else on this page is a genuine, if not freely given response (or maybe not as heavily influenced).

Pages 34 and 35- Flashbacks and Black Backgrounds

>>Was it a forced flashback?

Good question. Let’s say it’s influenced.

Would you even realize if some outside force was manipulating your thoughts, having you relive or recall things?

It’s not as if these flashbacks are completely at odds with the conversation either.

>>And yes, this is quite similar to the conversation Meteor and Simon had, yet very differently handled.

Very, very similar. Try looking at them side by side.

Page 36 - Black Background Gone

You have a point here.

The script originally called for the bottom panels to be red to convey rage. Making them black might have been a mistake. I tried using red, as called for in the script, but it didn’t look very good.

Meteor’s world hasn’t turned to black in these panels (at least not literally). The decision to drop the background was more about setting the tone and his state of mind.

>>No, Meteor is accusing the Blacksmith (whom I didn't think to be Derringer, back then) to be a mass murderer.

Meteor has pieced it together by this point.

The reader hasn’t gotten explicit confirmation, but Meteor knows that Derringer must have been involved in his creation at a high-ish level.

This comment is directed at Derringer.

Page 37 - Who Knows What

Who knows what at this point?

Meteor knows Derringer had a hand in his creation (likely at the highest levels).

Meteor hasn’t completely tipped his hand, but his final comment about mass murder on the previous page got awfully close.

Now Derringer suspects that the jig may be up.

So what does he do? He taps his wrist-thingy and calls in Huldrekall to test to see if the situation is still salvageable.

Meteor’s comment, “I think we’ve arrived,” has two meanings. Or at least it’s intended to.

1. They’ve arrived at their destination, the main IronGate Complex.
2. They’ve arrived at the end of this charade.

How Can Derringer Get Away With This?

If Derringer successfully recruits Meteor, without tipping his hand, why is Simon a problem?

Maybe Simon is suspicious or worried about his friend/colleague, but he doesn’t know that Derringer is behind Meteor’s creation or that this whole mission was a farce. All he knows is that this guy was able to help a friend when he couldn’t.

That plan is out the window now though. So what is Derringer up to now?

Remember, Derringer has told us that he’s “a good planner with many plates in the air.” It stands to reason that he may have contingencies.

20th Dec 2020, 8:53 AM

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Wow - I didn't expect getting all of this answered, thank you!

One of the most important quasi-questions for me was about the black backgrounds (not literally real for Meteor, good).

>> Would you even realize if some outside force was manipulating your thoughts, having you relive or recall things?

Probably not if it was prepared / aided by an audible question.

>> The script originally called for the bottom panels to be red to convey rage. Making them black might have been a mistake. I tried using red, as called for in the script, but it didn’t look very good.

In hindsight - an idea: A dimmed/darkened (real) background or maybe even better, a black-to-transparent gradient with Meteor's head in the middle, and a dark-red-to-transparent gradient accordingly...

>> Meteor has pieced it together by this point.
>> ...
>> This comment is directed at Derringer.

Did Derringer get that? His "Indeed." is a confirmation - either he wants to tell Meteor that he shares his opinion (implying that he is not such a person), or tell Meteor that he is exactly the person Meteor thinks he is (SO BOLD!!!)

>> Now Derringer suspects that the jig may be up.

So it's the first. But getting caught at lying would be worsen any trust issues.

>> So what does he do? He taps his wrist-thingy and calls in Huldrekall to test to see if the situation is still salvageable.

... which told Meteor that Huldrekall is not at or in the vault and confirmed another suspicion Meteor might have had. This one clearly failed.

>> If Derringer successfully recruits Meteor, without tipping his hand, why is Simon a problem?

It seems like Simon an Meteor are very close friends. Let's assume Meteor calls Simon, being like 'Mission successfully finished, we got the FMA, the vault is safe, the hostages are free. Derringer offered me a job and ...'

>> All he knows is that this guy was able to help a friend when he couldn’t.

But... since Derringer is not supposed to know about Meteor's problems (and the tactical display), Meteor cannot tell Simon that Derringer offered to help with any of that. What other argument would be convincing enough for Simon to let Meteor go without further question and without "Please tell that to my face, and tell me why exactly that job is better!"
Or if Derringer can know about the problems and the tactical display, now, I'd assume that Simon would want to make sure everything is fine, and see Meteor before his departure to the new job.
(I'm trying to forget that Meteor has discovered the charade on page 37. Was there any this could have worked? Maybe if Derringer had known about Meteors problems before the mission, but as-is, I don't think so.)

>> Remember, Derringer has told us that he’s “a good planner with many plates in the air.” It stands to reason that he may have contingencies.

For sure. I was already surprised that calling Huldrekall to his position was one of his options - this means the FMA works with him or for him. This guy must have an ego bigger than earth, or rather: Bigger than earth's orbit around the sun!!
Being affiliated with the FMA is a big can of worms, one that must be carefully juggled on it's own. The implications of it are already too big for my imagination...

So I'm super curious about the next pages to see how this plays out.

22nd Dec 2020, 4:08 PM

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>>In hindsight - an idea: A dimmed/darkened (real) background or maybe even better, a black-to-transparent gradient with Meteor's head in the middle, and a dark-red-to-transparent gradient accordingly...

The gradient idea sounds promising. If I have time I may give it a try.

>>Did Derringer get that? His "Indeed." is a confirmation - either he wants to tell Meteor that he shares his opinion (implying that he is not such a person), or tell Meteor that he is exactly the person Meteor thinks he is (SO BOLD!!!)

It could also be read as speechlessness. He has just heard something horrifying. (From what we know though I doubt Derringer is ever speechless 😉.)

I think his mind is racing in that panel. He suspects something might be off, that the plan is going wrong somehow, but he doesn’t know for sure. Hence his decision to test the situation by bringing in Huldrekall.

>> Was there any this could have worked?

Derringer overplayed his hand.

His recruitment strategy was working until he mentioned the tactical display. It’s a hypothetical, but maybe without that comment and little more “influencing” he’s able to convince Meteor to come work for him (or at the very least accept his help).

If they pull off the mission, the rest of Unit-M is safe, and Derringer’s connection to Huldrekall is never revealed, it sure seems like there’s a path to get Meteor and get off scot free.

That said, Meteor mentions that he had “suspicions” prior to the comment, so maybe the plan was never going to work.

23rd Dec 2020, 12:39 AM

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