The original plan for Phase Three had an extra chapter in between “Running Cold” and “Synthesis.” It would have focused completely on Cass in the wild, and would have had absolutely no words. The idea was to tell a visual story with the perspective of being a creature alone in the wilderness, with no one to talk to and no ability to even make human speech.

As I fleshed out the various character arcs for the phase, that chapter became less and less cohesive to the storyline. It began feeling more like a gimmick that stalled the plot. So, it was at that point I finally gave up on my longstanding avoidance of internal monologues. For this new version of “Synthesis” to work, we had to get into Cass’ head. To ease into having thought balloons in UTC, I introduced them three chapters ago, when Flint fought Argo, and used them occasionally ever since, so that their heavy use in this chapter wouldn’t come out of left field.