The Beam is a BIG story.
We just realized last week how big it actually is. I’ve always thought of Unicorn Western as being our big giant story with all the words. It’s not. Unicorn Western has a quarter million words in the Full Saga, another hundred-thousand for Genesis, and 5,000 for The Outlaw Hassle Stone. Yes, that’s a lot of words.
The Beam hits that in just its first and second season, not including Plugged (another 50,000 words) and The Future of Sex (another 80,000).
And big just keeps getting bigger.
When we started writing the second season it was important (essential) that we understand everything that happened in the S1. Yes, we wrote the story, but so did our characters. We had them react naturally to their world, and what happened happened. We simply recorded it as it did. So we had to remind ourselves a half-year later when it was time to tell the next part of our story.
You’ve either read The Beam already, or are curious about a world we often, discuss and always with such undiluted affection. But you probably don’t want to read an entire season over again. If you haven’t read The Beam, this will hopefully stoke your desire to read what is probably Realm & Sands’ best work so far.
Think of this as one of those “Last year on …” reels that starts a TV show’s new season.
You really shouldn’t read this if you haven’t read The Beam S1… though fortunately, you can remedy that issue by buying it here while it’s on sale for 20% off.
This story is really great, and well paced. You’re missing nuance and wonder with only the highlights.
Last Season on The Beam
NATASHA AND ISAAC RYAN
NAU sensation Natasha Ryan is performing for a blended class audience, elite citizens and some lottery winning Directorate. The performance ends to a sound that Natasha’s never heard. Boos and catcalls. The cacophony turns into chaos as tomatoes, balls and even shoes replace roses onstage. She’s yanked away and taken home.
After her husband, Isaac, makes a post-riot speech defending The Directorate, he’s hit with a powerful rebuttal from Enterprise, the opposing party. Isaac desperately tries to get a hold of his speechwriter, Nicolai, but Nicolai isn’t responding. Isaac calls the police captain, Dominic Long, who says that Nicolai last registered at the home of one Thomas Stahl, but that both men are now off-grid.
While Isaac juggles politics, Natasha throws a tantrum, demanding attention from Isaac. He chastises her about being self-consumed while The Directorate faces calamity, potential Senate defections, and a missing speechwriter. She accuses him of caring about work more than her, then storms into her office to summon her lover in The Viazo — a perfectly realized immersive simulation spot available only to the NAU’s most elite citizens.
Isaac goes to the Viazo to book a virtual vacation for him and Natasha in an effort to make up for lost time. While discussing options, the agent mentions the possibility of condensing actual time spent away. Excited by this option, Isaac inquires about the charge to condense a weeklong trip into an eight-hour immersion. The agent apologetically informs Isaac that he cannot afford such an immersion. Isaac learns that nearly his entire fifteen million-credit limit has already been spent, presumably by Natasha. Enraged, Isaac storms out to confront his wife. In the living room, Natasha is unfazed by Isaac’s anger and blames him for making her shift, ignoring her needs, and preventing her from living the life she could as Enterprise. Unable to calm himself, Isaac returns to his office – him against the world.
Isaac prepares for his upcoming speech by taunting then assaulting his reflection. Keyed up with adrenaline and nanobots working on his end of the fight with the mirror, Isaac delivers an impassioned cry for The Directorate cause, listing the several flaws of the Enterprise agenda. Later, he delivers the speech live, only to realize it misfired in every way.
Things continue to worsen between Isaac and Natasha. She threatens to shift to Enterprise and Isaac calls her bluff, accusing her of selling out. She spins on him, calling her husband’s bluff, delighting in her plan to use the upcoming time prior to Shift to create a media buzz; one that will prep society for her return, while at the same time pointing enough focus on the hole it will tear in Isaac’s political persona. He caves and begs Natasha to reconsider. She refuses.
Isaac calls Nicolai Costa in a panic – ranting about how Natasha was terrorized. Nicolai rewrites Isaac’s speech, but gets angry with himself, frustrated that he’s repeatedly writing the same rhetoric. Later, Nicolai is forced to listen to Isaac recite a speech that he hates, playing on the Directorate’s safety and ensured equality. The speech ends and Nicolai performs his perfunctory duties in place, then rushes to his add-on dealer Doc’s, hoping to pick up his newest upgrade. Nicolai is ambushed by intruders upon arrival.
After his friends Doc and Kai Dreyfuss are tortured, Nicolai wakes up in his own apartment, safe, with no memory of anything that happened, or knowledge that he is now missing days from his memory. He sees many (many) messages from Isaac, and goes to speak with him in person. Their exchange sours. Isaac is worried only about himself. This bothers Nicolai enough that he feels he must leave the Directorate party. Frustrated, he informs Isaac that he will be shifting to Enterprise.
Later, Nicolai is alone at the park, mulling a return to Isaac, defecting to Micah, or even ending up in the gutters as an Enterprise washout before Shift when Kai calls, relieved to hear his voice. Kai subtly confirms that his mind has been wiped, and suggests that they meet in person. She says she needs to get inside the Ryans’ penthouse where Doc and Whitlock are waiting nearby. On the ride over, Kai details the capture, torture, and escape to Nicolai.
Nicolai calls Micah Ryan and tells him that he’ll shift to Enterprise. Micah is happy, and tells Nicolai that based on his lineage, the move to The Enterprise is meant to be. Nicolai can’t understand how Micah knows his past, but Micah continues with details about Nicolai’s father that have never been shared, details that tell Nicolai just how much he has meant to the NAU, helping to create a world that couldn’t exist without him, without even knowing it.
Kai Dreyfuss is an always escort, and a sometimes assassin. After discovering a secret that she should not know, Doc shows up from nowhere and takes Kai on a sudden flight from her apartment. She takes Doc to her scumbag contact Stanford, a man who can maybe help him out of a jam. Inside she is ambushed by Beamers and must fight her way out with brute force, escaping the trio of men in black. Searching for Doc she’s found by another three Beamers. Kai doesn’t stand a chance.
Kai finds herself in a cell with Doc and Nicolai, her favorite client. The two men circle one another like dogs, until a man named Alex Kane enters with a Beamer crew to interrogate Doc about his stolen access to Xenia. Kane switches his line of questioning to Nicolai, intimating that the two men worked in concert after Nicolai learned of the Ryans’ special access. Nicolai admits to seeing some unique items, and suspecting more, but swears that he never shared these suspicions with Doc, or anyone. Kane brings a strange table into the room, then explains that it’s an upgraded version of an outlawed torture device. Doc pleads for Kane not to use it on him, and Kane tells the men that the torture will start with Kai.
Kai is submerged into a catastrophic simulation, tortured in ways that a conscious body shouldn’t be able to tolerate. Kane finally releases her from the simulation and Doc screams for the torture to stop: she knows nothing. Unsatisfied, Kane initiates another round of virtual mutilation. Kai surfaces from the pain long enough to babble falsehoods that she led Doc towards espionage. Doc pleads for her release and offers himself in her place. Kane summons a Beamer who unstraps Kai, and instructs the Beamer to prepare Doc and eliminate Kai. She’s barely conscious as the men carry her to a disposal room. Before finishing her off, one of the men wants to take a look at her tits (and maybe more). As he struggles with her clothes, Kai is rebooting, using a possum enhancement. Still not at full strength, she’s able to bite into the would-be rapist’s nose while the lesser attendant flees the scene. She struggles to free herself, but is eventually able to escape the disposal room and then the grounds. Exhausted, Kai releases a device within her fingernail in hopes of rescue, slumps into an abandoned cottage and finds the fetal position to welcome death properly.
Kai is rescued by two of Micah’s armored men, just moments from her certain death. Micah makes her repay the favor by promising to murder Doc, a friend. Unable to do what must be done, Kai thinks up something better.
Thomas “Doc” Stahl is mistaken for a different salesman while at Xenia Labs, and sees some next generation tech and bio-enhancements that he should never have seen. Security discovers that Doc isn’t who they believed him to be, and attempt to lock him down and wipe his memory. Later in his penthouse Doc tries to make sense of the impossible. As he tries to fall asleep, Doc hears an intruder, moves to investigate, and manages to fell his attacker and escape.
Doc flies through traffic, ditching his tail and making it to Kai’s. Outside Stanford’s apartment he’s ambushed and captured. He wakes up in a transport being taken to god knows where, then finds himself imprisoned with Kai and another of his customers, Nicolai. After some bickering and posturing between the men, Doc is threatened with torture but still swears that his mistaken identity was not premeditated. Kane shifts gears and questions Doc about a man named Omar. Doc tries to avoid exposing Omar as a runner, but after many trips into hell, relents and tells Kane that he was working to give him a tapeworm that would allow undetected smuggling. Kane still refuses to believe that Doc’s trip to Xenia was accidental and continues the torture.
Moments from death, Doc is saved by Kai, who has returned to rescue him with two armored men. After much debate, Kai convinces Doc to go with them so he can get treatment. Doc agrees, but escapes at his first opportunity, then flees to meet Omar at a Starbucks. Omar tells Doc about something called Mindbender and Micah Ryan’s involvement. Omar then shows Doc his bogus Micah ID and proposes a partnership to lobby Micah. Finally, Omar points an accusation towards Kai, telling Doc that she fits the description of Micah’s hit girl.
Kai meets Doc and she tells him that he’s going to have to be part of a simulated murder to keep them both alive. He agrees, but the immersion is worse than he could ever imagine.
Isaac’s brother congratulates his team of planted rioters after their return from the riot, then meets (virtually) with Killian from Xenia Labs. Micah learns of the salesman mix up at Xenia, the subsequent capture, and the presumed accomplices. When he hears that Kane is involved, he shows some apprehension to Killian before collecting himself and dismissing the man.
Following the call, Micah coordinates for Jason Whitlock to gather surveillance on Killian and communicate anything out of the ordinary, then, during his injected breakfast, gets a distress call from his assassin, Kai, who sounds near death. Micah works with his canvas to locate the signal far off in Manhattan, just close enough to reach in 20 minutes by bending a few laws.
He calls for the closest bike to be sent to the beacon. Micah directs his men to Kai and impatiently waits for a response. Whitlock calls Micah to apprise him of the situation. Micah blows a gasket when he learns that Doc has been let go. After belittling Whitlock for his many missteps and fuck ups, Micah directs him to about face and to instruct Kai to execute Doc. He disavows the conversation and warns Whitlock that if both Kai and Doc are alive by day’s end, he soon won’t be.
Dominic is called into DZPD to look into a nabbed hacker, trying to break into Quark, a hippie Organa he must pretend he doesn’t know. Dom lets Leah go after her interrogation, and tells her to be more careful. Dominic sits in his disconnected office, when Leo calls via an outdated video feed. On a call, Leo thanks him for freeing Leah. Leo asks Dominic to smuggle more moondust to him, the Organa inventory is dangerously low. Dominic tells Leo that there have been issues, but promises that the next run will be successful.
After a rough day at PD, Dominic wakes from the worst moon dust hangover of his life. He returns to the office to discover that there’s been a security breach, lasting a minute. It seems that paperwork related to his past indiscretions (Crumb, Chrissy, and Respero) might have been obtained during the rudimentary hacking — the last thing he needs with so much on his mind.
Dominic leaves the station and goes to meet his dealer, Omar in a secluded warehouse, trying to convince himself that he’s not dirty, but altruistic. It’s a setup, and Dominic is taken down by a nano-swarm then dragged into an interrogation room where he’s questioned by special agent, Austin. The cop realizes that without giving a little of himself, he won’t be able to crack Dominic, so he uses a bot to cover the feed and tells a story indicting himself as a good cop that has done some wrong for the right reasons. Dominic reciprocates with a little color around his courier work for the Organas, but insists that he doesn’t feel that they are in any way violent or planning any widespread revolt. Austin tells Dominic that if he flips on Leo, the arrest, the headache, all of it can go away. He explains that Leo is ancient, enhanced, and was once a powerful enemy of the State.
Leah travels from District Zero to the Organa Compound in the Appalachian Mountains. Outside the compound she chats with Crumb, the old man who has rambled in front of the compound for her entire life, then goes to see Leo, the man who raised her like a father. Leo tells Leah that Crumb has been saying strange things. he wants him to look into Crumb’s mind. He’s more peculiar than ever, and keeps spouting off about Noah West — the man who created The Beam.
After Leo tells Leah to dig into Crumb’s mind, she takes him to an old abandoned estate in the outskirts with a hardline into The Beam. She links his mind, hoping to see what makes the old man tick.
Under a moondust-enhanced trip inside Crumb’s mind, Leah is unable to apply her traditional approaches to access his thoughts, memories, or even identity. She disengages from the mind link, but Crumb seems to want her to dig deeper. When she returns, Leah sees the smallest of openings in his heavily firewalled mindscape. Accessing it, Leach sees a brief flash of a journal and the name Stephen York, then Crumb is unconscious on the floor. Leah scrambles to get him to a hospital.
Leah calls Leo and gets Crumb to the hospital. After he disappears she heads into District Zero looking for clues, and has dreams that don’t belong to her. She panics, thinking that her implant is malfunctioning, but rather than seeking an upgrade dealer or doctor, she finds herself heading to the restaurant, following her “memories.” At the restaurant, Leah is given access to the building, which amazes her because she has no ID. In the room, she finds York’s journal. Inside, there are several comments about Noah West and even a photograph of West with a young Crumb (who must be York). She has the journal, and more questions than ever.
The journal shows highlights of the 30 years Stephen York spent working, and to some extent living, with Noah West. The journal details America’s fall, the rise of the NAU, the formation of The Enterprise and Directorate parties, and the development of Crossbrace before its evolution to The Beam. Leah calls Leo and lets him know of her treasured find.
Leah and Leo continue tracking Crumb and end up at what appears to be a school. Inside, a young boy greets the pair and leads them through the most realistic simulation either has ever seen, belittling them when they claim it isn’t reality. The boy takes them into a room and they see Crumb sleeping. SerenityBlue approaches Leah. They go back and forth about Crumb, York, The Beam, and the reality that it is and is not. Crumb awakes and tries to let Leah know that he is okay and that SerenityBlue is helping him. She has a unique element within her that Crumb and Leah find comfort in her presence, even though they see her as two different people. When Leo returns a third, equally powerful, point of view of SerenityBlue is created. Leo sees her as Leah’s twin.
Leo rushes to the hospital to meet Leah and Crumb. At the hospital she tells him that Crumb is in a coma and should be out for a few more hours. Outside of the hospital Leo tries to meditate, but Leah is fascinated with his age. She presses and probes Leo about life before The Beam, Crossbrace, and even the Internet. After their history lesson, Leo and Leah return to Crumb’s room and find the once comatose man now missing.
Leo desperately tries to get any information he can about Crumb. But the man has disappeared. Sensing an unusually high level of angst, Leah presses Leo about his moondust withdrawals, and Leo admits that he has begun to ration their dwindling supply. Back at the Compound, Organa citizen Scooter barges in and tells Leo of a drug related fight. He says that the new supply seems different and is making users paranoid. He wonders if there is or soon will be a new supply to mellow his harsh. Leo dodges the direct line of question and dismisses Scooter.
Leah calls and tells Leo that she’s found York’s diary. She explains how she’s confident that she can find Crumb because of some unexplainable connectivity with him, and with The Beam itself. Leo worries that Leah is losing touch with the realism on which he relies from her. He asks is she can find Crumb and Leah claims that not only can she find him, but it’s as if she’s returning home.
Stephen York is trapped within his own mind, trying to calm himself the only way he can, by reciting prime numbers. He is taken by the Organa girl Leah to a place where she swims through his brain. It’s too much and makes his mind crumble.
When he wakes, Crumb finds himself bathed beneath the bright light of a beautiful young woman. As they talk in circles, memories (or false thoughts) slowly fire inside his mind. The woman reveals herself to be SerenityBlue, and Crumb correctly declares her a cleric.
She tells him that he has been highly sought after. Crumb admits that he knew Noah West and that he needs a journal to help him remember, but that he cannot retrieve it himself. SerenityBlue suggests that he send in Leah to retrieves the book: it will tell him who he is, and what he might have done to the world.
Want to explore the world of The Beam before Season Two launches on May 1st? Get Season One now while it’s on sale for 20% off… or try it for free!