So while the last two blogs on this topic have been about topics relevant to my National Novel Writing Month project, this one is about the characters.
I decided to go with a variety of focus characters, and stick to their traits and points of view. No omniscient third person. Three of them actually military personnel - two commissioned officers and one enlisted soldier. An actuary, who runs numbers for military purposes. Finally, a scientist, whose invention literally gives the title to the book: the Bridge.
Lieutenant Colonel Amber Cadenza is a living legend. A defensive genius and a strategist without compare - behind her back, they call her The Line, because you don't cross it - what she lacks in raw magnetism, she makes up for in reputation alone. Tall, a little stooped, grey hair, sallow and gaunt - her left eye is a cybernetic replacement. She could have had one that looked just like her natural right, but instead decided to go for a very obvious augmetic, so everyone would know it was there. She is not given over to displays of emotion, but those that are closest to her know that it is a deliberate, professional decision, not a flaw of psyche. Nobody really knows where she is from, but if asked, she'd reveal that her place of birth was a small orbital station right on the border between the Republic of the Empty Throne and their aggressors, the Empire Sanguine.
Captain Forenza Drake talks loud and acts louder. Strong in every sense, she is a born soldier, who thrived on every step of the ladder all the way from boot camp to Captain. Broad shouldered, tautly muscled and solidly jawed, she has a ready smile, grey-blue eyes and dark hair almost always razored short. Her enthusiasm and fearlessness is infectious, and nobody who has gone to battle by her side is left without a strong impression. War runs in her blood, and she listens to it closely at all times. She's the daughter of a very influential council member, something she'd far rather forget; as such she's spent a lot of her life moving around the Republic, seeing a lot of the worlds that she fights upon.
Private Alejandra "Chex" Lachesca is a career soldier, who signed up because she knew that somebody had to, and is making the best of it. Her sense of humour has been described as sick and dark, and her tight friendship with Private Roscoe Gunnarsen - whose own tastes verge on the morbid - only helps to reinforce the image. Her large family is heavily involved in the military. They hail from the world of Vayete, a stunning planet of natural beauty and breathtaking architecture. Most citizens of Vayete - Chex and Roscoe included - are bedecked with tattoos, in a tradition that goes back to the Emptying of the Throne.
Strategic Actuary Emway Callista-Raus knows people, and she knows numbers. She's an expert on the application of statistical analysis to warfare, and utilising the facts and figures that result to provide insight into proper strategy. Numbers make sense; everything fits together, even the more esoteric elements. It all makes sense. Certainly, a lot more sense than people - who frustrate Emway eternally. She has an air of anger, simply due to her frustrations at social convention. She is an Orbiter, pale, well-used to microgravity, and thrives under the strictures of hierarchy and order.
Professor Sandovar "Sandy" Marsh has a gift of her own. Her work on the mechanical and chemical operation of the brain has led to her development of the Marsh Bridge - or as she prefers to call it, the Bridge - which was initially an attempt to grant human beings senses and capabilities that didn't so much replace or augment those they already possessed, but added to the already sizable inload. Socially shy but confident with familiarity, she hails from the Throneworld; previously the core world of the Totality that the Republic had emerged from, it was the Republic's capital, the jewel in the crown of a government built on egalitarian ideals.
All of them are joined in an endeavour, along with a short-strength battalion of troops, an equivalent number of scientists, engineers and medical personnel, and the ship's crew of the Rex-class cruiser Strong Right - the endavour: to make the Bipedal Personal Tank Unit a reality.
As such, they all know each other.
The Lieutenant Colonel has a significant respect for Captain Drake. Forenza reminds Amber of her when she was in the officer's academy. She even likes her, though she finds her headstrong attitude a cause for concern. Chex is one of her soldiers, and she has a great many of those to command, but she does her best; knowing their full names and where most of them come from, in her opinion, is a basic sign of respect for soldiers ready to die on her word. She finds Emway to be reliable, if not a touch alien - though she sympathises with the lack of warmth, she wonders if it might not actually impede her work at times. As for Sandy...how to balance the paradox of the inventor and co-developer of a war machine without peer, who balks at the sight of blood? If Drake is Amber fresh out of the academy, then Sandy is Amber from childhood, wherein bloodshed was a refusable notion.
Drake worships the Lieutenant Colonel. A true legend. She is everything Drake could ever hope to become, though she does take issue at how prosaic the commanding officer can be. Having spent time around Chex and the other members of her platoon, she enjoys their dark sense of humour - Captain Drake was never adverse to mixing it up with the troops. She almost has a reputation for doing so. At first, Emway grated on Drake's nerves, if only due to her apparent influence over a military operation after never having fought a single battle, but having to work together smoothed out that particular relationship. Sandy confuses Dake. How could someone have the guts to invent the coolest piece of equipment ever, but be afraid to say boo to a goose?
Chex sees Amber Cadenza as some immovable monolith, the fixed point in the galaxy around which her personal universe is beginning to spin - and if the Lieutenant Colonel is the fixed point, then Drake is the shining star. Very fond of her fellow soldiers, Chex can't help but love the Captain. She hasn't had a lot of contact with Emway, but would probably find her cold and surprisingly trusting of her mathematics in the face of real trouble. Sandy is almost like a younger sister to her. She's done a great thing but is scared of it, and Chex wants her to take pride rather than feel doubt.
Emway has a distinct respect for Lieutenant Colonel Cadenza, as much for her composure and her dedication to the solution of military problems as for her reputation. There is a humility and sobriety there that simply doesn't exist in Captain Drake - who exhausts her by virtue of her boundless extroversion. Chex is a soldier - and her job is to make sure that soldiers do THEIR jobs effectively. As for Sandovar Marsh, she hopes that the scientist has the fortitude to see her creation to its greatest potential conclusion.
Out of all of the scientific staff aboard the Strong Right, Sandy has the most contact with the upper echelons of the military. She is confused and humbled by Amber Cadenza's praise and belief in her work, and puzzled yet enthused by Captain Drake's infectious spirit - though the weight of what her work has done to the former troubles her. The simple respect of the soldiery is appreciated, though, and Chex has been one of the many that have expressed as such. Emway is the reason why her work could happen at all - but the distance created by a mathematical solution handing her the tools to do the job means she sees the Strat-Act as working on a different level to her entirely.
They are of course not the only players in the game. The war isn't ever fought solo. They are surrounded by friends, colleagues, rivals and supporters, even in the little sealed universe that is the Strong Right.
But they are the core, and I kind of love all of them.