History and Background
Mongoose Publishing: Extinction Protocol and the Silverbacks
In Extinction Protocol, I wanted to explore what happens to those who don't quite fit into this futuristic military society. My characters, the Silverbacks, were conceived as something of a reject platoon - made up of cast-offs from other units who were all damaged in some way. Individually, they were all high achievers, but something about each of them didn’t quite fit the approved Mobile Infantry profile. For some, this might be as simple as bad luck. A typical Silverback might have been the last survivor from a mission that SICON denies ever took place, for example. At the other end of the spectrum, we could have Troopers with clear-cut personality or psychological problems, but who were too skilled or motivated to be cast out of military service entirely.
I knew I wanted the story to take place in the shadow of the team’s ultimate demise. With that in mind, I set up a framing device from the very outset, showing a flash-forward to the apparent destruction of the platoon, before we’d even been introduced to them. With that established, I’d have the freedom to tell the story that brought them to that position, and then dovetail it with the framing device and bring it to a conclusion.
Markosia Publications:The Ongoing Series and Vanauken's Vandals
With the move to the Markosia ongoing series, I decided on a whole new set of characters. I wanted to tell a story that was markedly different from Extinction Protocol. Naturally, I’d followed the adventures of Tamari’s (and, later, Tanner’s) Tigers, and they were so much a product of Tony’s style and writing “voice” that it didn’t seem right to take them from him. It would have felt somehow disrespectful. Of course, I also had a voice of my own to establish, and felt that a new set of characters would be the best way to accomplish that.
Having depicted the Silverbacks as the “garbage handlers” of the Mobile Infantry, I figured it was time to see how the other half lived. To me, that meant Pathfinders - the MI’s true elite. Taking a Pathfinder platoon as my character base would present opportunities for missions that regular Troopers could never attempt, and would really open up the Bug War for exploration. Every step of the way, I hoped to be able to show readers things they hadn’t seen before, so a new type of Trooper seemed like a logical start.
Vanauken's Vandals were built as much more of a cohesive whole than the Silverbacks. The missions Pathfinders are typically sent on are extremely harsh, and I reasoned that, for a team to survive for any length of time, there would be little scope for bickering and disrespect within the platoon. Every Pathfinder has earned a position among the elite, and the respect that goes with it. Anything short of complete trust among the Vandals would likely result in fatalities. In turn, this would help ensure that every death would mean something, in both personal and practical terms, to the survivors.
The Vandals are fierce, proud warriors, so they needed a leader who could embody that. At the same time, it was important to me for all these characters to be essentially human. After all, that’s really the point of the war. Enter Lieutenant Nichola Vanauken. A ferocious and dedicated soldier, Vanauken represents the Pathfinder ideal in its purest form. With her two Sergeants, the bearlike Majeski and the cunning, insightful Campanelli, Bad Blood was about to flow.
Since this was the first time we would get to see Pathfinders in action, I set out a story in which I hoped to really demonstrate what these guys were capable of in a crisis. Under the armour, behind the weapons, I needed to establish that Pathfinders were a breed apart from regular Troopers. In Bad Blood, I wanted to set the characters challenges above and beyond anything a normal MI platoon could hope to survive. To walk away with even a hollow victory - to walk away at all - would then be to establish the credentials required of a Pathfinder. That, I figured, would be a cast of characters worth telling stories about
First Contact and Impossible Missions
The groundwork of my first story arc came out of an early discussion with Tony Lee. One of the first story ideas I’d thrown at him had featured a Skinnie character in a supporting role. Since Skinnies hadn’t yet been brought into Markosia’s timeline, Tony tossed back the idea of me introducing them and I leapt at the chance. The Bad Blood story arc I plotted out is essentially a First Contact scenario, with the additional threat of Arachnid involvement.
One of my favourite things about this series is that I get to expand the Troopers universe. Future arcs will continue to explore that freedom, as humanity's finest battle enemies from both outside the Federation - and within it...