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Conics Unfortunately: 69

by Ventomology


After the first week, which Ellipse spent sore with the effort of readjusting, the days blurred together, turning first to weeks, then to a few months. Even the occasional blips, like updates from the boys or jam sessions with Andra, were buried under the monotony of preparing for her debut. She wrote music, learned dances, got coached in stage presence, and fell asleep every night buzzing with achy muscles, a wrung-out brain, and a growling stomach.

She was halfway through her morning composition time, lips numb from playing descant after descant, when Andra slipped in. It was a stud day, though Ellipse could hardly tell. Andra wore his hair down that day, to showcase how the bright red dye bled neatly into black roots.

“Hey.” Andra interrupted, “have I heard this one before?”

No. The trumpet piece was not for Andra’s next album.

“I thought you were scheduled for tomorrow,” Ellipse said, trying not to sound accusatory. They still had not reconciled over their clashing plans. Jam sessions were only that—professional music making.

“I had some free time, so I thought I would check in with you. Am I going to learn whatever you were just playing?”

The music studio was too small. Its walls, covered in acoustic panelling, squeezed in every time someone else walked into the room. With the keyboard on one end and a series of music stands and instruments scattered around the floor around the keyboard bench, there was hardly enough room for a second person.

“Did you want to check in about something other than music?” Ellipse asked.

Andra wrinkled his brow and pursed his lips. He took a moment to sigh, perhaps lamenting his younger sister’s petulance or finding the right words. Ellipse just stared him down.

“Yes,” he finally admitted, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Look, I get that I should have included you from the start. Trying to keep you safe was no excuse for keeping you in the dark.”

At least Andra understood that part now, Ellipse thought. She allowed herself to relax and readjusted her grip on her trumpet.

“Do you really have to stay here though?” His face drooped, the corners of his mouth pulling down into a frown both pleading and worried. “Did you think I would not notice what this place is doing to you?”

Ellipse almost missed the raggedness in his voice. Andra had been trained to sound clear and open at all times, just as she had, but now the truth of his worry slipped through. He sounded hoarse, more like Tejal than Andra.

Suddenly feeling a little silly, Ellipse looked down at her lap and fiddled with the trumpet keys. “I can handle it for a while. I know what else is out there now, remember?”

“Still.” Andra paused. “I worry. You can at least let me do that, right?”

Ellipse bit her lip. Of course she could not ban worrying. If anything, hearing Andra say out loud that he worried gave her the same warm fuzzies that she got every time Tejal and Focci closed their update messages with little notes about missing her.

She shook her head. “You can worry. Just try not to let it get in the way of things.”

“About that.” Andra bent over to move a tenor saxophone and its stand out of the center of the room. “I will continue my plan. With you writing again, the stock jump will be huge after the release next month, and I intend to capitalize on it. I mean it when I say I want to get us out of here.”

Ellipse felt her face scrunch.

“Look, you know that no matter what, Andra-Media is going to fall. People will get hurt by that, whether it comes from my way or doing things or yours. But I promise not to get in your way, okay? Consider my plan a kind of backup.” Crossing his arms, Andra tilted his head and offered a smile. “I am sorry for letting you think you were all alone. Let me be your big sib again?”

A tiny quirk of a smile found its way onto Ellipse’s face. “Sure. I guess.” She glanced at the trumpet still sitting in her hands and then sent Andra a scowl. “Now get out. I am working.”

With a stuttering laugh, he backpeddaled out of the studio and closed the door quietly. The moment the handle clicked, Ellipse brought up her trumpet and let out a long, deep sigh. The break had been nice. She had been getting stuck on what siren words would fit into the chord progression she had already matched to the melody.

Tapping on the keys, she racked her brain for every possible word that fit. Maybe she had gone too long without hearing Trade Siren used in conversation. “Ugh stupid sevenths,” she muttered. “Too limited.” But she needed the seventh chord for the main melody. It created tension and resolution, drama and emotion. Earthlings, avians, and saur all used it as a strong component of music.

She let out a grumble and buzzed out a fart noise through the trumpet. The boys’ last report had said they were preparing to place the last prototype near the tyran home planet. She needed to finish writing this darn song so she could record and edit and write her statement by the time they were ready to tell the universe her story.

Slumping over in her chair, Ellipse squeezed her eyes shut and hummed out a few possibilities. The abundance of colloquialisms in Trade Siren made for endless poetic metaphors, which helped with making equivalent statements between languages, but nothing felt quite right this time.

Ellipse’s fingers ran through the fingerings of an old Beatle’s descant, probably “Penny Lane” or something, entirely of their own accord, and Ellipse tried to shove the tune out of her head. “Just focus!” she hissed at herself. “Come on!”

Her watch dinged, and Ellipse almost cursed the boys for interrupting her thoughts. But she held back; they could hardly know what she was up to at the moment.

She tapped the screen to navigate to their message and skimmed over the words. They had just finished setting up the last generator prototype and would conduct a few tests and time trials next. They hoped she was alright, and they loved her, and-

Wait. Sirens had all kinds of words for love, rather like the Greeks with their agape and storge and what-have-you, but their most straightforward, all-encompassing term was one stolen from Focci’s native language. It was a staccato series of notes, all close together, which sat right around the seventh note of the key. She had forgotten that she could just say things plainly.

That section of the descant needed a bit of reworking now, but syntax always rested around the more common notes. She had this in the bag now.


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Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:14 am
BlueAfrica wrote a review...



@BiscuitsLeGuin wouldn't Trade Siren just be written as, like, music
special phones that let you text in musical notes instead of letters
or they might have their own alphabet that signifies either sounds/tempo/volume or meanings


*hem hem*

After the first week, which Ellipse spent sore with the effort of readjusting, the days blurred together, turning first to weeks, then to a few months. Even the occasional blips, like updates from the boys or jam sessions with Andra, were buried under the monotony of preparing for her debut. She wrote music, learned dances, got coached in stage presence, and fell asleep every night buzzing with achy muscles, a wrung-out brain, and a growling stomach.


This is a really tops bit of telling. It's a great time skip that gives us the general feeling of being back with Andra-Media without feeling rushed or leaving us wanting more information/more dramatization of this time period.

They hoped she was alright, and they loved her, and-

Wait. Sirens had all kinds of words for love, rather like the Greeks with their agape and storge and what-have-you, but their most straightforward, all-encompassing term was one stolen from Focci’s native language. It was a staccato series of notes, all close together, which sat right around the seventh note of the key. She had forgotten that she could just say things plainly.


I'm not crying you're crying

At first when reading this chapter, I wasn't clear on what the plan was. I wondered if maybe Ellipse's new song told, in Trade Siren (which it sounds like maybe Andra-Media doesn't really know, or else Andra might have had greater success after she left), the story of her abuse. Which maybe it does. But after reading the next chapter I realize the real point is not only to tell the story of her abuse but to screw Andra-Media out of the probably massive profits they'd gain from her first release since her return.

(I assume it's her first release.)

Obviously the sirens were all massively disappointed in Andra's solo work, because it was gibberish to them.

Man, who knew when we set out that Ellipse's fluency in Trade Siren would actually be a fairly major plot point?

I don't know if Andra-Media has actually announced her triumphant return or not - I have to assume so, because that really makes her plan even better, because everyone will jump on her free, pre-released song - but regardless, this is really going to mess them up. Also it's totally going to throw Andra's plan out the window, because the stocks are probably going to crash instead of climb.

Although I guess Andra's plan was to eventually make the stocks crash. So maybe not.






good thinking, Blue!



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Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:54 am
TheSilverFox wrote a review...



She had this in the bag now.


man I wanted this chapter to be longer, it's so good. ;-;

Grammar and spelling stuff first:

People will get hurt by that, whether it comes from my way or doing things or yours.


*of doing things

With a stuttering laugh, he backpeddaled out of the studio and closed the door quietly.


*backpedaled

She needed to finish writing this darn song so she could record and edit and write her statement by the time they were ready to tell the universe her story.


I feel like "record and edit and write" should be in the opposite order? But I might just be naive, so use your discretion here.

Yessss this chapter is so good. It's very reassuring, right when I needed it. Granted, Ellipse is still stuck in this miserable little prison; she's been for months (a time shift that nicely accommodates the nature of her work and sets the stage for her grand plan, might I add). Given the diet and exercise program...oof. However, she's able to reconcile with Andra, even if to a small extent. Yeah, Andra being remorseful is one of the most rewarding things I've read in this novel. He's finally acknowledged how badly he screwed up, particularly regarding Ellipse's loneliness. He's clearly stubborn as heck, considering he still wants to go ahead with his plan, but I love how he works to rebuild bridges with Ellipse and reconnect as a sibling, rather than as a musical partner. She has every right to be hesitant and a tad passive-aggressive, but yessss to that little smile at the end. Not to mention the part where Ellipse comments how she's reminded of the nerds - that makes me feel like everything's going to turn out all right. And hey, the nerds are keeping in touch, installing more pinpoint generators, and getting things working on their end. Seems like the money was worth it, which is so gratifying.

I wonder what's the point of the song? It seems to be different from the written statement that Ellipse wants to release, so I dunno how directly related it is to her escape plans. Then again, it isn't for the new album either, and Ellipse's discussions on finding the right emotional word suggests that this is something deeply personal (also, her ultimately realizing she could use a simple word is the best part of the chapter - it's funny and heartwarming, since she gets the inspiration from the nerds). The amount of time and effort she's spent also tells me that it's important for something. Haha she had better use it to kickstart her independent career and flip off Andra-Media. And, on a related note, I like seeing Ellipse's musical skills in the spotlight again, after such a long (but justified) time. That led me to thinking about earlier chapters, and now I'm so impressed with how this story has changed. Ellipse has become more nuanced and sympathetic with time, Andra has shifted from a vague and possibly threatening force to a tragic and friendlier one, and the ties between Ellipse and the nerds have grown so much stronger. It's all coming to a head here, where two plans to crush Andra-Media are in motion and gaining traction. Either of them could work, though I'd rather Ellipse's does. I'm not sure what Andra means when he claims that Ellipse's plan could cause damage too - for the most part, her plot seems more viable and safer. But hey, I guess I'll find out soon enough.

I'm so close to the end now, and I'm almost afraid to keep reviewing. It's been a heck of an experience, and I don't know what I'll do when it ends. But, it wouldn't be right to stop now, so I'll charge on ahead. Once again, this is another fantastic chapter - great job!




Ventomology says...


Let us say I was inspired by Kesha and leave it there.



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Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:09 am
BiscuitsLeGuin wrote a review...



Alrighty, Team Tortoise is a-go!

I have literally one nit-pick and it's a typo:

whether it comes from my way or doing things or yours.


And here's my favourite nice moment:
Ellipse bit her lip. Of course she could not ban worrying. If anything, hearing Andra say out loud that he worried gave her the same warm fuzzies that she got every time Tejal and Focci closed their update messages with little notes about missing her.


However, I guess this kind of does count as a nit-pick because it's a logical thing. I don't really understand the Siren language stuff. First of all, you can text in Siren? Literally had never occurred to me that Siren language would ever be written down xD Second, it just seems like the setup of Tejal and Focci means that Tejal would be the one texting her, so this seems a bit engineered.

Even despite that, though, I don't understand her revelation. Why does a simpler siren word work better than other siren words? Much confuse.

Overall (though I'm pretty much done at this point):

I really liked Andra here. Firstly OH MY GOD YOU HAVE A FUNCTIONAL GENDERFLUID CHARACTER WHO CLEARLY ISN'T HERE AS TOKENISM I LOVE YOU, YOU GOD. Ahem. I really like that he was taking on the role of older sibling in this really weird situation, so he did it in a weird way but you could feel the protectiveness shining through. Very very good character development.

Unsure about plot advancement but shrug, character development was worth it.

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)




Ventomology says...


Ahh, yeah. I really wanted Andra to finish this story as a positive force in Ellipse's life, so even if it doesn't help the plot a lot, I wanted this scene in there. I'll have to find a better way to talk about the music stuff though...



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Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:16 pm
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Ventomology says...



@BlueAfrica, @TheSilverFox, and @BiscuitsLeGuin. I promise all chapters will be up before I leave town. ; )






ahhhhhh yay!




These were autumn mornings, the time of year when kings of old went forth to conquest; and I, never stirring from my little corner in Calcutta, would let my mind wander over the whole world.
— Rabindranath Tagore, The Cabuliwallah