Aha! All is revealed. Or, at least, what happened to Cal.
The funny thing about the Interlude chapters is that they were never part of the original plan. I added Interlude #1 into the first story arc as a way to add some additional intrigue to the growing sense of conspiracy, and to unsettle readers. Interludes 2 and 3 then served to established Wynton Simons as a genuine character, giving the Arc 2 finale more emotional heft than if he’d just been Generic Faceless Might-Be-A-Bad-Guy.
Given the events of the last few chapters, carrying on with Wynton Simons interludes didn’t seem to make much sense. That particular story has run its course – for now. I considered dropping the interludes altogether, until I realised that they could be used to again show a completely separate part of the narrative: events that are concurrent with Kay’s experience, weaving in and out, but from a different perspective. In other words, finding out what happened to Cal and Holt.
It’s also largely from Cal’s perspective, even if it remains in 3rd person, which provides an interesting counterpoint to some of the uncertainy I introduced around his character in the Arc 2 finale.
This chapter was originally intended to be an enormous action sequence spanning multiple dimensions. Quite how that turned into a chapter almost entirely about two men rolling down a hill I’m still not entirely sure, but it’s certainly fun to experiene one of the genoshifts from Cal’s point of view.
So the axolot genotype is based upon salamanders, more—or-less. Remarkably, the seemingly far-fetched ability to protrude one’s ribs through one’s chest in order to use them as toxin-tipped weapons is something the Iberian ribbed newt can do. You can imagine my excitement when I read about that.
Seriously, salamanders are insane. Limb regeneration. Structural skeleton transformations when attacked. Basically, they’re the newt equivalent of the Abomination from the Marvel universe.
By the end of this chapter Cal and Holt are in a curious spot. Combine with Kay and Marv hitting the road at the end of the previous chapter, and we’re left in a position of real uncertainty.
It’s almost like I want you to come back next week.