While drawing this page, the moment I had been dreading for years finally arrived: I got completely fed up with drawing woods. In my original plan for this chapter I hoped to fend off this situation by drawing a handful of detailed backgrounds that I could reuse as needed, but there were a few downsides to doing that:

1) The varying heights of the characters, from little Scurry to quadrupedal Cass to tall Katsuko, required several different angles.
2) Using the same backgrounds across different sections of the forest would make it feel small, contrary to the vast landscape the story needs it to be.
3) I would have needed to make different versions of the stock images for each time of day.
4) The stock images would have to be oversized so they could be cropped into a variety of panel orientations.

All of those reasons would have probably resulted in about as many drawings of tress as what I’ve ended up making.

Art aside, the biggest challenge on this page was actually the script. I had to depict the scope and method of Katsuko and Jen’s search party and I had given myself just two pages to do it. On top of that, I wanted to give proper attention to their limitations in conducting an improvised search in wintry conditions and unfamiliar terrain, which finally justifies why they are taking so long to find Cass, Flint and Thirteen despite having a GPS lock on them.

The script went through a lot of passes before I settled on how the dialogue would flow. It had to sound both informative for the audience and true to each characters’ natures.

For anyone wondering why this search is not being turned over to the police or some other professional unit, I had an explanation written but there was no room for it in the final script. So here it is: They’re effectively searching for three animals–not humans, which police are typically trained for. The presence of authorities would almost certainly force all of our characters to the sidelines, along with their enhanced animals, inventions, and abilities. Some of the students and their parents are trained hunters, to boot. (Like Student 7 here. He deserves a real name at this point.)