With The Devil You Know still being completed, the regular fiction was replaced with a sneak peek my 2017 NaNoWriMo project. When there's more done with it, it'll be posted here in its entirety, or as much of it that's done given it's a serial.
MechaAcademy began as a concept in 2002, with brief scenes written out but nothing complete. The problem I ran into then was that I was trying to turn it into a novel when it didn't fit that format at all. It works as a serial or a series of novellas. There are elements of soap operas in it, same as Unruly and, to be honest, Subject 13. The story crept into the list of ideas for NaNo2017 and became a front runner when I realized that I could do what I want with it without worrying about stomping over someone else's intellectual property the way the Shadowrun story would. I also wanted to have a story done to adapt to another format, whatever that format would be. At one point, Mecha Academy was planned to be a web comic; that's still a possibility once I either find an artist to work with or learn to draw.
The first chapter introduces the main characters. I could have started with them meeting in their dorm, but then a key conflict starts and there isn't time to show who they are when they're relaxed. Each gets a scene of their own, to set them up. That way, the cliffhanger isn't completely out of the blue.
Rhiannon got the first scene. Her concept that she is fulfilling the role her brother would have had if he hadn't been killed. Rhiannon believes in her duty as the heir to the Duchy, and her parents weren't going to stop her. She's also a little sheltered, thanks to her parents being protective. That doesn't mean she's naive; Rhiannon isn't going to fall for a simple con.
Miyami has her own secret - she's hacked the system to create a false ID to hide that she's underage. She has a reason; her parents' business has run into a slow spot, so Miyami applied to the academy. Miyami is also a royal watcher. She recognized Rhiannon right away when no one else mentioned anything to the young noble.
Ric's intro went a direction I wasn't expecting. He's the first to interact with anyone instead of being lost in his own thoughts. He also didn't exactly hit on Abby, but he was charming. This sets his personality up in ways I hadn't expected. The original plan was to have Ric and Rhiannon become an item. Right now, that's not looking likely, and that's fine. The story will go where it wants. Abby wasn't planned on. She's not going to be a Mara, but now that she's named, she will return.
Dusty was the first to arrive at the academy. Unlike Rhiannon, Miyami, and Ric, she didn't arrive on planet that day through the spaceport. She's also more reserved than the rest. Her scene also explores the setting a bit more, with one of the main sets being detailed. The dorm has three rooms with bunks, allowing two to a room. The standard squad is six; Dusty's is down one. Commander Haag, Dusty's mentor, has a recurring role; he was planned from the start.
Lars is the local boy of the squad. His family lives not far, a five hour drive away, so his parents dropped him off. Lars may be the one character in the main cast that can talk to his family without too many problems like faster-than-light restrictions. He can also call them when he needs help. The scene also let me put in one of the mecha. Say hello to it; it'll be some time before it returns.
With the characters established, time to bring them together. Rhiannon and Miyami were first; they were on the same bus, the one Ric missed and Lars saw unloading. Miyami is using protocol; Rhiannon's full title is "The Most Honourable Rhiannon Tudor, the Countess of Filton, the Baroness Curren". The title is a courtesy, taking on a secondary title of both her father, the Duke of Bourgon and her mother, who has her own title of Countess of the Flat Hills along with being the Duchess. She doesn't want to use it, though. Lars, being the third to arrive, catches up. Dusty's already in the room, leading to the cliffhanger. Seems like Rhiannon and Dusty have a history.
The presence of dukes and duchesses sets up the government of the setting, too. Thanks to Rhiannon, the Poulos Nova Empire exists. The core setting is the Colonel KL Terin Academy; everything else got built as I needed to expand from there. The Empire is loosely based on ideas in the Traveller RPG, but not the Third Imperium. Rhiannon's father is the Duke of Bourgon, a border region that includes Tamar, the world with the academy. The means of governing may never come up, but it helps to have it in mind when writing, just in case. At the planetary level, the planets are more or less self-governing, though they all provide taxes to the Empire as well as locally. The Empire tries to provide a minimum standard of living, and it's not autocratic. I loosely based the Empire off the British Commonwealth, so there's a parliament with a House of Lords and a House of Commons at each level, from Empire-wide to planetary and even planetary provinces. Planets become baronies when they hit a certain population level; below that, they're considered colonies. Tamar is technically a colony, though getting close to being a full member of the Empire.
The structure of the Royal Guard was needed before I started. The Guard is split into three main foci - the Foot Guard, or the ground forces, the Sea Guard, the planet-based wet navy, and the Star Guard, the space navy. The Colonel Terin Academy prepares students to become part of the Foot Guard, and most of the characters at the school will be in that branch. Commander Haag, though, is Star Guard. The Foot Guard then was broken down to the different elements, infantry, cavalry, support, military police, and artillery. The mecha troops fall under infantry, which I've broken down as mechanized infantry, powered infantry, and armoured infantry. Mechanized infantry is the standard soldier seen even today, the boots on the ground to take and hold territory. Powered infantry wears powered armour, a step up from cargo exoskeletons. Armoured infantry covers the mecha troops. Instead of being twenty to fifty metre tall behemoths, the mecha in the story are two to three metres tall, filling a role between infantry and armour. The mecha are a force multiplier and can hold territory that armour can't.
Mecha Academy is more space opera than hard science fiction. The mecha aren't the only advanced vehicles around. The Thorensen family van uses turbo fans, a higher tech personal hovercraft. Ric was originally going to arrive on a fanbike - a motorcycle with fans where the wheels would be - but he talked to Abby instead. There is FTL travel through the use of singularity gates connecting worlds and gate drives for ships that have reason to not want to use the existing connections. There's even FTL communications that tap into the singularity gates. But tech shouldn't be the way problems are solved in the story. No particle of the week story here.
Everything is set up now. Once the story starts, we get to see why Rhiannon assaulted Dusty and where Ric is.
Friday, a sneak peak of dba LTV Paranormalists while I get the rest of The Devil You Know written.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be determined.