5 Apr 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 1 Chapter 6 Commentary

Dusty's façade broke and Miyami's started to fail, in Chapter 5.

Now that the characters are established, it's time to expand the setting beyond the Academy.  Everyone has a backstory, even if it's not as mysterious as Dusty's.  Lars is from Tamar, the world the Academy is on, so he gets to be the tour guide.  Some of what he mentions will return, but for now, it's local colour.  I got to show that the planet is more than just the Academy and the starport.  There's a farming town a few hours away.  The world is out there, beyond the Academy's compound.

Dusty finally shows a bit of emotion.  She keeps her feelings bottled up.  On first seeing Rhiannon, she didn't let anything slip, not even after being hit back in Chapter 2.  Her history, as shown so far, does give her reason for not wanting to be the tall poppy,  But at some point, she needs to let her emotions out.  Dusty isn't an automaton, as much as she might wish she was one.  At the same time, she doesn't feel safe letting herself express herself openly.  This isn't a good situation for her.

Back in Chapter 1, I established Miyami as being underaged and getting in after hacking her personal information to change her birthdate.  I returned to that idea in part because Miyami needed more screen time and in part because hacking isn't that simple.  Even today, she would have to go after several databases to make the one change.  With a global computer network, getting all the sources is difficult but doable.  Across several worlds where faster-than-light communications isn't instantaneous?  That's going to require constant maintenance.  Not every network is going to be vulnerable.  Not every system is going to crack under a hack.

That leads to another issue I had to work out.  Lag exists on today's Internet, either because of old equipment, poor wiring, or sheer congestion.  The Mecha Academy setting does not have near-instantaneous faster-than-light communications.  Colonies and backwater worlds receive data packets on inbound starships.  Core worlds maintain shunt gates that allow for communications between worlds; transmission times are still measured in hours.  The Empire does maintain a fleet of communications ships to ensure that colonies and backwaters don't go months without data service.

Of course, with shunt gates, it may be time to discuss how faster-than-light works in the setting.  In short, it doesn't.  Ships cannot exceed the speed of light.  What they do instead is open a singularity to let them bypass the normal universe.  Not quite warping space; closer it artificial wormholes.  Major worlds maintain shunt gates, allowing ships to other worlds without needing a shunt drive.  Tamar, though, isn't a major world.  Shunts are one-way, no way back, so ships wanting to leave Tamar need a shunt drive to open a gate to another planet.  The safest way to travel is for two shunt gates to align and connect, giving ships stable endpoints.  Using a shunt drive at the beginning and end is the most dangerous; navigators need to keep an eye on the ship's relative position.

The scene with Dusty and Lars harkens back to the original concepts I had for the story.  In them, Lars had a crush on Dusty; she didn't return his affections mostly because she didn't feel worthy and didn't want him to get tainted with her history.  Right now, that idea is long gone.  Dusty is keeping to herself because she's been identified.  Lars, though, might still have the crush.  Why isn't he acting?  Well, Susanna.  And, as Lars reveals, Vesta.  Which had me wondering if maybe, culturally, high school girls on Tamar are the ones expected to take the initiative to ask someone out.  Ideally, gender shouldn't matter in the far future; everyone should feel able to ask someone else out with the only risk being told no.  Somehow, though, high school on Tamar seems to expect the girls to be the aggressor.  Go fig.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "Roommates" Chapter 7, "Happy Birthday".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Arrow.

1 comment:

  1. The Tamar backstory worked with Lars as a conduit, reinforcing the fair as being something happening in the future. Of course, it also does seem to stretch the request Ric had of Lars into actual romantic interest on Lars' part. Seemingly unrequited, which sort of sets up a Lars-Dusty-Susanna triangle.

    Will Susanna go after Dusty as a rival? I kind of hope so, because it will start to get tedious otherwise, all the "ha ha, look at her fawning over Lars who is awkward", that seems to be the only thing the squad can talk about.

    Incidentally, Ric's chuckling over Lars and Susanna rings false, particularly with him as the squad's moral core. The guy has to know Lars is looking for an out, and is obviously not the same personality as him. His referencing of Lars stressing out when talking to the commander rang a lot truer to things -- and that was a good scene last part.

    The other thing is fact that Tamar IS the setting comes across more than it being one world in the setting, with the shunt gates and all, probably because everything's taking place here at the Academy. Unless there's news reports, one can kind of shrug off the rest, at least for now.

    As for Miyami, it was good to give the call-back and something for her to do (and wonder about, what with the notes thing - can she send herself notes back in time?), but she still seems hypocritical, what with having this huge secret while shrugging off Dusty, not to mention worrying about how stuff would impact her, rather than the whole squad.

    I enjoyed the scene more than talking about assembling rifles last time though, since it felt like something more than just a lecture was taking place. Probably says more about me. And I'd have pegged Dusty for sending the file, except after her breakdown, she probably wasn't too focussed either. Maybe there's more characters yet to come, like the rest of Iota.