The Approaching Light is a short story set in the Insane Cafe universe. It was written by LettuceBacon&Tomato from March 13 to March 19, 2019 and can be read here. It includes characters from the Into the Black and Darwin's Soldiers universes but was explicitly mentioned to be non-canon to both.
The story takes place concurrently with the current events in the ongoing Insane Cafe 4 role-play. Aimee and Shakila recently emerged from a wormhole nearby the RIMSC Spire of Winter and were reintegrated into the crew. However, neither of them have any memories of the events that led to their initial disappearance, and Aimee convinces Shakila to accompany her on a trip to explore where they disappeared; an empty patch of space just off the Nouveau Monde system.
The two are joined by Eric Theodore, a happy-go-lucky junior engineer, and the trio fly a shuttlecraft to the location of their initial disappearance. While there, they find themselves sucked into the black hole, and everyone but Eric (who was wearing a space suit) pass out.
Aimee regains consciousness later, to find they've arrived on Earth, over the metropolitan city of Lanthae. Leaving the ship cloaked on the roof of a skyscraper, the three mingle with the populace, hoping to purchase supplies and perhaps discover why Aimee and Shakila came here last time. They're ambushed by police officers at a Goodwill, who mention that the two girls are wanted criminals for kidnapping, theft, and resisting arrest.
Aimee escapes the Goodwill but loses contact with her allies. She rescues an exotic dancer named Rose who was being abused by a gang of lowlifes in an alleyway, and Rose repays her by helping her bypass the police roadblocks so she can reach the shuttle. At the shuttle, Aimee reunites with Eric and Shakila, and they all witness a news report that explains that last time Aimee and Shakila kidnapped an orphan and stole 600 pounds of radioactive waste from the Lanthae power plant. While neither can figure out what they possibly could have wanted with an orphan, Aimee deduces that the waste was used to activate the jump drive so they could leave. The three break into the plant, steal exactly 600 pounds, and follow their previous selves' path through jumpspace.
The jump lands them in 1989 Santa Camila, a small town on the Spanish coastline. Eric begins altering the jump drive so they could contact the Spire of Winter for help, while Aimee and Shakila head into town for supplies. At a pescaría, they meet Lúcia, a 15-year old cook, and her mother Emi who owns the store. Emi reacts very negatively to their presence, revealing that she was the orphan who, unbeknownst to them, had stowed away on their ship in order to escape Lanthae. Shakila is very distressed to learn from Emi that her and Aimee's primary motivation for leaving the Spire was to escape their responsibilities, complaining to Aimee that she would much rather have not learned she was a deserter.
Then Emi's husband arrives home, and both are surprised to see he's a young Rudyard Shelton. He explains that he dropped out of college after meeting Emi while studying abroad, something that didn't happen in the original timeline where the two eventually meet him in 2009 while fighting Dragonstorm. They don't realize the significance of this alteration until returning to Eric and contacting the Spire and the helmsman on the other end has never heard of either of them. Using news reports and internet histories from Lanthae's internet archives, Shakila and Aimee realize that both of them now die fighting Dragonstorm in 2009 due to Shelton not being present. Eric receives a message that intergalactic law enforcement has traced their call and in 24 hours will arrive to arrest Aimee and Shakila for 'unauthorized use of official channels and impersonation of military personnel.'
The two convince Eric to help them kill Emi, rationalizing that Shelton will likely return to college (thus resetting the timeline) if his life in Santa Camila is irreparably destroyed. The three eat dinner at the Sheltons' restaurant and, after Shelton and Lúcia fall asleep and are drugged unconscious, ambush Emi in the kitchen. However, Emi proves to be difficult to kill and manages to knock Aimee and Shakila unconscious in a desperate close-range fight.
Aimee and Shakila regain consciousness restrained in Shelton's basement, where he demands to know why they tried to kill his wife. He refuses to believe they're time travelers, declines to help them repair the timeline, and leaves to get the cops. They are then visited by Eric, who had fled the house after the failed murder. He severs his friendship with them and leaves, saying he plans to remain in the past and use his knowledge of the future stock market to become rich. Their last visitor is Lúcia, who heard they came from space and promises to free them if they take her along.
Lúcia, Aimee, and Shakila return to the shuttlecraft and wait for the intergalactic law enforcement to arrive. Lúcia hides, intending to sneak aboard as her mom once did. The shuttle arrives, commanded by Corporal Coltfosters and three policemen. Coltfosters learns that Eric has abandoned his post and takes two of his men to find him, leaving Aimee and Shakila tied up with one guard. Lúcia incapacitates the guard and Aimee assumes control of the police cruiser, but Shakila refuses to leave with them, stating that she wishes to be tried for her crimes in a court of law. Despite Aimee's protests, Shakila insists on waiting for the police to return, and Aimee flies the ship with Lúcia through jumpspace back to the present, establishing orbit around the planet near the Spire of Winter. Aimee receives a transmission from a long-dead Eric, who explains that he evaded the police, became very wealthy, and invested in Trinity Facility and Texas Base in order to ensure Aimee and Shakila didn't die during the situations where Shelton wasn't present to save them.
The story ends with Hailey ambushing them in another cruiser, forcibly gaining entry, and taking the two hostage, not expecting such valuable occupants but delighted at the coincidence.
- Shakila Brennan
- Rudyard Shelton
- Aydin (mentioned only)
- Trinity (mentioned only)
- Wiley Babcock (mentioned only)
Into the BlackEdit
- Chief Broadstreet
- Electric Sheep bouncer
- Eric Theodore
- Spire of Winter helmsman
- Captain Carson (mentioned only)
- Stripetail (mentoned only)
- Darwin (mentioned only)
- Lúcia Shelton
- Corporal Coltfosters and his officers:
- Chance Leslie (mentioned only)
- This is the first (and so far, only) short story in the Insane Cafe canon.
- This is the only piece of media where Darwin's Soldiers characters and Into the Black characters interact. Characters from both franchises appeared in Gang of Five Holidays 2k13!!, but they never interacted.
- Emi is known as Emilena Echo in the main Into the Black continuity. Like Shelton, the events of the story significantly change her from her canon personality.
- LettuceBacon&Tomato has stated that his primary motivation in writing the story was to remove Shakila and Eric from the ongoing roleplay, as he'd grown tired of playing them.
- The name of the story refers to Lúcia (whose name means 'light') as she became a character in the roleplay after her introduction in this story.
- Several Into the Black cameos and references to Stripetail were added at nick22's request. Rose, Marie and Chief Broadstreet (the officer leading the police at the Goodwill) are nick's characters in the main Into the Black continuity.
- Shelton later confirmed in Ask the Characters that several elements of his history from this story were true; namely, Santa Camila, Chance Leslie, and growing up on his father's naval bases.
- Shelton sings a song about Glencoe during the dinner party. Canonically, he retires (and eventually dies) there.