Been a while, but you can't rush progress. However I promised myself I'd have something new published before the month was out. Lucky me, I managed to finish a chapter that ended up being longer than expected. I'm hoping this doesn't become regular, but you know me. Tend to go overboard.
Anyway, here's what you need to know about the Fourth Chapter and the Hollow
I conceived the idea of the Hollow as a Nassau of space. You can call it Tortuga or Omega Station, the truth is a pirate haven has been a concept as old as piracy itself. Which for those in the history know, that's a long while. However, because it's with Jackals I wanted it to be a little different. Here is a culture that revolved around "Everything for Sale (No Refunds)" in all it's scummy criminal flaire. Kig-yar pirates in my mind are very picky on what they try to steal or sell. They might specialize, but they're named after a scavenger species for a reason. They'll use anything to make money.
Naturally a pirate cove needs more than just shops and random businesses. It needs entertainment, fun and of course infrastructure to support itself. So that fleshed out the inside. As for why it's a hollowed out moon? Well, it just seemed natural to me that Jackals would be totally into strip mining so long as it's not their home. They eat up other people's resources, killing their own would make them, well, like Unggoy. They don't want that.
I had a lot of fun with this chapter as well as the next. You can tell it's very heavy on the comedy because the Jackals themselves have a society that lends itself to this kind of humor. They're greedy, vain and violent people. Essentially every Adultswim Cartoon star ever created in living form. Rick from "Rick and Morty" would probably feel right at home.
Then there's Taq, who you reintroduced to. I know some of you guessed she was Zek's former lover Good on you guys. However, I bet you didn't think the situation was quite like this. I wanted to avoid the annoying cliche of "Bros before Hoes" being the reason for the break-up. Instead, I made it clear it's all Zek's fault. He left her after pursuing her excessively after one night together. You don't get much scummier than that. Zek is genuinely sorry, it's one of his regrets, but sorry sometimes doesn't work. I've had experience with that. Taq opened herself and she got hurt, bad. So why trust him again? I mean, be honest, would any of you trust Zek? Retz though Taq likes, because Retz can be honest... when he wants to.
In comparison to the sad tale of Taq feeling hurt and abandoned, Retz and Zek's first meeting was important to me as it set up several things. Mainly how Retz and Zek's relationship functions, Kasumi's continued temptation in the pirate life and Retz being a very artful liar describing how he found out sugar is a kig-yar narcotic.
I got that idea from the aliens in one of Turtledove's stories being addicted to ginger.
The point is, I really wanted to give more backstory on Retz and Zek, because I feel like a lot of people are curious about them. You'll learn more in due time, rest assured.
It was also important to give Varvok a chance to vent his frustrations, particularly to Shepard's best friend. It was mostly to set up Garrus as a sensible voice of reason in this hectic situation but also to make clear that while Varvok is an ass, he's not unjustified in his feelings. He has a legitimate problem and no idea how to fix is except going along with the current status quo. And he hates that, because he feels at the mercy of Commander Shepard and not nearly as appreciated as he once was as an accomplished field commander. A lot of people felt Shepard was wrong in his blow up at Varvok. My usual response is, no one was really right. Shepard should've given Varvok more credit, but Varvok also should've respected the chain of command. This gives more explanation as to Varvok's state of mind in comparison to Shepard who voiced his opinions earlier. They're both very similar men, with different command styles, but a lot of the same fears and concerns. The tragedy is, they really could be friends, but they're both hung up a little on each other's past and that makes thing s daunting.
But you probably wanna know more about the villain of the piece, Snarlbeak. I created him as the perfect charismatic pirate ideal but with a very dark undertone. He hates blood, but does not shy away from violence in the least. He acts like your best friend, but he's not. He's never your friend, ever. Only few people can claim that for real, everyone else is just a potential mark.
I mostly wanted to show Zek in contrast to how other Pirates act. They have similar styles, but Snarlbeak is clearly more of a chessplayer than Zek. He's always scheming, planning, there's always a new angle. That's how he got as high as he did, by always anticipating everything and he expects the same of all those around him. He won't always execute people for failure, but it's really incompetence that angers him. Most likely, because incompetence was what took his sister from him, basically his own because he wasn't watching her back like he should. Snarlbeak's sister plays a big role in his current ongoing motivations, but you'll learn more in time.
For now, please wait patiently for this cliffhanger to be resolved. I have a few more things to write out. But I hope you've enjoy this brief excursion into Jackal culture and all the insanity it brings.