Monday, January 14, 2013

Story Thoughts: The Lance Killer

In order to make this blog work, I need to do more articles on writing Battletech stories. And since I’ve never really discussed my of my stories, I thought that I should....

My first published story was The Lance Killer in March of 2009. The story is about superstition and survival set during the FedCom Civil War.

There is a saying: "There are no atheists in foxholes." There is the extension that soldiers can be superstitious. Some soldiers have a ritual before they go into battle, while others carry an item for good luck. The reverse is also true; any unit, vehicle or person that has a reputation for bad luck, soldiers will avoid if they can. I wanted to write about a soldier that others considered a bad luck charm, someone who people would avoid if they could.

I chose the FedCom War for the general time period and Kathil for the place.. What sold me on this time and place was on page 124 of the FedCom Civil War sourcebook, in the Kathil section of the chapter:

". . . Both concentrated on General Silver’s brigade of Fifth Davion Guards, pushing them out of Firebase Tango-5 and through the Tormad Valley. Silver managed to rally his troops between the towns of Coulman and Fredericksville and stopped the Donegal advance dead in its tracks, through only after suffering heavy losses on his own side.

The two sides took three weeks of much-needed rest in late February, only making the occasional probing attack. The . . . . "

Granted, that wasn’t a lot of go on, but I had a name location (Tormad Valley), a couple of Towns (Coulman and Fredericksville), combatants (Fifth Davion Guards and the Eight Donegal Guards), and an idea that both sides were seriously hurt and scrambling to get every soldier and machine they could into the fight.

Once I had the time, I read everything that was written about the FedCom war on Kathil, and saw it was a meatgrinder of the worse kind, as neither side backed down. Units too badly shattered were merged with ones that were in better shape, only to be shattered in turn and merged with another unit.

From this background, Garmon "Lance-Killer" Haig emerged. Unlike most of the soldiers who were involved in the campaign, Garmon was a native of Kathil and had been in the fight from the beginning. He survives the destruction of the Kathil CMM, the Second NAIS Cadre, and the First Capellan Dragoons before he ends up in the Fifth Davion Guards. The man is a survivor.

In a situation like the fight for Kathil, someone with his experience and abilities should have been a sort-after soldier. But not if he’s the sole survivor of four different lances that were otherwise destroyed. His reputation has become one of soldiers whispering behind his back and avoiding him. In short, no one trusts him, which in any army is serious, even deadly. Even though none of his actions caused the loss of those lances, soldiers still treat him as a pariah.

By the time he is assigned to Captain DeForest, Haig is withdrawn and isolated. Two years of constant war and the loss of friends and comrades has worn him down. Add in the reputation of "Lance-Killer," this is a man who doesn’t care if he lives or dies. He is only assigned to DeForest’s lance because they are so short-handed.

Even though this is Haig’s story, "The Lance Killer" is told from DeForest’s perspective. DeForest is different from Haig; He’s been a member of the Fifth Davion Guards from the start, he still has comrades in Dolinski and Pugh, and is trusted with the command of Beta Company (Which isn’t even a full lance in strength until Haig joins.) He. like everyone else, has reservations about Haig, but unlike others, DeForest is willing to look past the superstition. But is Haig willing to move past his nickname?

The story behind getting this published is a tale of mailing the story off (Before Jason S. took over the editor's position and allowed eletronic submissions) waiting, remailing it, wait and repeat for about 2 1/2 years. Somewhere, there are several manilia envelopes with The Lance Killer story in it....