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Jul 30

Running the Gauntlet – Story Review and Discussion 1

Inspired by the blog posts of Mdg, jespah and TemplarSora’s I thought to offer up a story review reflection for one of my most recent stories to the site and a brand new series. From the Watchtower, we take a closer look at the opening Osprey story, ‘Running the Gauntlet’.

Run the gauntlet
gauntlet 2  (ˈɡɔːntlɪt) — n
1.            a punishment in which the victim is forced to run between two rows of men who strike at him as he passes: formerly a military punishment
2.            run the gauntlet
                a. to suffer this punishment
                b. to endure an onslaught or ordeal, as of criticism
3.            a testing ordeal; trial
4.           and run the gauntlet of something Fig. to endure a series of problems, threats, or criticism.

Story Intentions

Spiessgasse_Frundsberger_Kriegsbuch_Jost_Ammann_1525

Spiessgasse Frundsberger Kriegsbuch Jost Ammann (1525) Wiki Commons

In my introducing the Osprey post a quick introduction was given to the characters and setting of the border cutter. The story served as an introduction to the crew though as a vehicle mostly served to present the ship’s captain Mercy Faraday and new executive officer, Gareth Hayes.

The story also serves as an introduction to the more regular Trek side of my Watchtower Universe as stories from a civilian perspective with the bounty hunter Beks Knight and the cargo trader Tabatha Chase have largely dominated the scene to date. Ushering in the Osprey we get our first big welcome to the Watchtower’s ‘Sassy’ Sixth Cutter Squadron and it hints at the larger world of the Watchtower sector, particularly in the later chapter: The Bigger Picture.

The purpose of the story is to introduce these characters and give them all a shout out but of course give particular focus to the dynamic between the captain and XO. It also had the purpose of setting up some of the problems for this region of space.

‘The Gauntlet’
Shared Federation, Tzenkethi, Breen, Cardassian border
USS Osprey, Deep Space Border Cutter, Gryffon class, Sixth Cutter Squadron
Captain Mercy Faraday Thatcher, Commanding

Osprey Cover Running the GauntletFrom the location blurb heading the first chapter the reader hopefully realises that this cutter is patrolling some rough seas, with a number of contentious parties on their border stretch. Breen, Tzenkethi and Cardassians are all going to provide plenty of drama and trouble surely in a post Dominion War setting (which is exactly what they are going to do). As the story progresses, we learn however the problems are not solely these parties alone. There are Kzinti clans, Orions, rogue smugglers and pirates, terrorists and a group called the Ashers. All of these threats are seeded for future stories involving any of the series in the Watchtower Universe.

With Osprey, the intention is yes to tell stand alone stories but in the feel and guise of Deep Space Nine, we are going to see continuity and ramifications because the ship is not Voyager flying away in search of the way home, nor is it the Enterprise in any of its guises flying ever onward in search of discovery or running to the next crisis. If Osprey creates a problem or is unable to solve it, that problem is going to be around for their next patrol.

Part of that approach then, is to create certain landmarks that will play a role in the Osprey tales. These will range from Star Stations, relay stations and out posts to regions of space, such as the one mentioned in the location blurb starting the story – ‘The Gauntlet’. ‘The Gauntlet’ we are to learn is a troubled region of space in other ways too, presenting rough – indeed dangerous – passage to any who travel through it. Think of the Black Nebula or the Badlands, The Briar Patch, etc and you can get an idea of the sort of Trekian type of fare we are dealing with. A nasty spot to cause trouble for ships and opportunities for criminals and warring parties. Yup, don’t expect any postcards reading: The Gauntlet ‘Wish you were here’.

Briar Patch

Briar Patch – it ain’t got a patch on ‘The Gauntlet’

The region of space gives rise to the story title but as the definition of running the gauntlet reveals, the characters are going to endure a series or onslaught of ordeals, threats and trials. For the stories inception, I wanted to throw a lot of stuff at the characters and to try to do at the one time. This would help to bring themes of trust to the fore in the story as everyone is faced with a challenge and to work with one another.

And we of course know that the class of ship is not canon and is a Deep Space Border Cutter, meaning that perhaps this will differentiate the story from other Starfleet regular stories. For the reader, they might wonder if this means anything different for the characters or the story to be told. I think it does in its own way but you the reader can judge better for yourselves.

The choice of ship was talked about in the Introduction blog but suffice to say, the ship looks like an Intrepid class only it has no variable warp geometry warp nacelles and has a forward shuttle deck (where the mess on VOY was) and an underside shuttle bay. The design reasoning being the rapid launch and retrieval of the Border Patrol’s specialised craft the Star Stallions (think beefed up shuttles crossed with a Runabout).

Chapter 1

‘Welcome to the Dogs’ kicks things off with a jolt as we jump straight into the fray with our Border Dog heroes. The ship is readying for an interdiction assault on an Orion slaver ship.

Mercy Faraday Thatcher

Mercy Faraday-Thatcher strides onto the scene suited and booted and gives the heads up to the four teams who are about to step into danger’s way. Mercy’s obviously a seasoned hand at this as she tells her crew what is what and outlines the plan of attack. With the wizardry of the holo-tech tactical table, Faraday offers a play-by-play plan and lays down her expectations. Clearly she has a tactical mindset and expects her crew to follow her orders without complaint. This demonstrates her faith and trust in her crew, and apparently they in her.

However, we soon see that there is one figure amongst the number whom Faraday seems to have a slight troubling issue with: her executive officer, Gareth Hayes. Hayes is new to the ship and worse than that (in Mercy’s eyes) he’s not a Border Dog, he’s a Fleeter. Is her uncertainty with Hayes down to his being a Starfleeter alone or is there something more to it?

I wanted a strong figure obviously for my captain and from the off, Mercy shows her experience and commanding presence with her rather blunt presentation. However, her approach does not appear to invite any discussion or input. We don’t see what’s happened prior to this as it is all happening on the fly as they respond quickly to intel and sensor find of the slaver. Mercy tells as much but for new XO Hayes it has to be a little disconcerting. Might he even have justifiable umbrage about the entire situation? Part of the character conception for Faraday is based on one of my own writing traits of writing characters who are not always entirely likeable. Or certainly, not always likeable. Faraday fits this mould in lots of ways – there’s tons to like about her but there’s plenty to have issue with. And, in my own opinion, Mercy makes for a good Border Patrol captain but I have my doubts that she could actually pass muster in Starfleet (in fact she pretty much wouldn’t – certainly not as a Starfleet captain).

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]“No Battle Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy.”

(German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke)[/pullquote]

The op preview helps to give us a run down of what should happen and what to expect when the action goes down. In one way, it serves to assist the writing of the action later as the presentation helps to explain much of that narrative allowing the story to focus on the reactions of the characters. It also lends the opportunity to deviate from the plan as things potentially go south. After all, the best laid plans and all of that, especially in light of the words “No Battle Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy” (German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke). We do learn however that Mercy is a real take charge and hands on captain and is not about to be left out of any fire-fight. She’s going to direct things from the bridge before beaming aboard the slaver herself. As Trek fans, that immediately raises the warning bells.

Holographic tactical displays - Battleships come to life!

Holographic tactical displays – Battleships come to life! Screencap from Promethesus

The op plan serves also to highlight some other features. Firstly, despite the normal depiction of the Border Dogs being on older vessels and the hand-me-downs of Starfleet, the Osprey appears to be quite techy with the fancy holo-tactical table display and a forward launch bay. There’s also mention of new weapons and weapons designed by and for the Border Patrol Service. The ‘rat-trap’ 22s torpedoes are an invention by TheLoneRedShirt but are a common toy used by the Border Dogs to zap their enemy. Essentially, they create an electromagnetic pulse on contact with the enemy that causes them to drop out of warp. Since the work of the Border Patrol often requires them to conduct interdiction assaults they need a powerful weapon in their arsenal but one that does not necessarily cause too much damage to the enemy.

Additionally, the Border Dog have their own specialised weapons. Again, much of the inspiration for these are owed to the works of TheLoneRedShirt (or Granddaddy of the Dogs as I like to call him – though he might not like that name). The carbines are like the phaser rifles seen in canon, just bulkier and with shorter butts to allow for movement in tight confines as they conduct interdiction missions. Likewise, other weapons such as the ARC and the CPR being sported by corps man Ryuu, are weapons akin to the rat traps designed to stop an enemy or hostile group in crowd control but without causing irreparable harm.

Mitch Duncannon

Hugh Dillion in Flashpoint aka ,Mitch Duncannon’ Chief of the Boat.

The teams are clad in black armour. Honestly, the whole walking into a hostile situation in the future wearing pyjamas is just insane so it made perfect sense for the characters and the Dogs especially to suit up in advanced like armour suits. Give them a cape and they can be Batman. Maybe not – but it is the future so you could expect as much and many other fan fictions also choose this more grounded (read sensible) approach to this story telling.

We get a quick introduction to a few of these guys. Quick brush strokes in a fast and furious run through. We meet The CoB – Chief of the Boat Mitch Duncannon. He seems rather taciturn and monosyllabic. He is. Well we discover he is plenty able to voice his opinion and one gets the impression he’s the person on the boat with the ear of the captain. This is a little pairing we will learn more about as the story progresses. What we hopefully glean here though is that he is tough and can finish Mercy’s sentences, implying they’ve a long standing relationship. Mitch is in his black armour – but he’s the type of character you always expect to be in such armour – in fact it may even serve as his pyjamas!

There’s an introduction to Leann Mbeke, a flirty and fun Halian figure who appears to treat the situation lightly until she takes umbrage at possibly letting the culprit get away. Mercy’s focus is on rescuing the slaves however and this serves to mollify Mbeke.

Another non-com enters the scene – Chief Petty Officer Shelly Logan aka ‘Sparks’. I like my non-com characters and although I’ve never served, I rather imagine these guys, especially the petty officers, are the back bone of making things work within the navy. Also, I don’t like to play with too many top tier officers and like to explore some of the lower deck dimensions in my stories. Whilst a CPO is hardly bottom of the pecking order, Shelly offers a slightly different attitude to proceedings.

Ryuu - Gantz costume

Ryuu – Gantz costume

The character who is a little different is the young Ryuu. He’s different in costume, in rank and in age. Darkly dangerous with an eagerness to enter the fight, he is more motivated about trying out his new toy – that is weapon. Ryuu sports a different kind of armour tactical suit to the others. Partly because I figured him to be this lithe, thin reed of a guy who was young, fast and cocky. However, a heavy armour suit did not seem to fit for him. Then in watching Gantz I came across a young actor who could portray the cocky but youthful thrill seeker. Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) was a perfect fit and actually, he altered the part by changing the character species from Denobulan originally (because they are lithe, fast and good climbers according to canon reference) to being human. (Exclusive reveal: To help him play the part, the character is also going to be part augment but as yet this is not a feature that has come up in story.) In Gantz, the character had to wear these ridiculous alien suits but I figured the design actually could work for a future setting of Trek where thinner fabrics could be designed with strength and durability. In my own mind, said suit is probably not as protective as the armour sported by the others but Ryuu depends on agility and speed so for him the pay offs out weigh the cons.

The hope of course is to show a little sci-fi tech with a Trek flavour but also that has a certain feel to it that makes it feel at home within the Border Patrol Service. Not all of the ships in the Dogs have such fancy toys (McGregor looks on enviously – and thinks how he might procure them not quite through the proper channels) but this hopefully sets up the Osprey as one of the Border Patrol’s ships of the line, which is one reason why it has so many officers of rank on board, which is not the case on other Border Patrol ships. These are all little details that fill my head you see, so the blog gives me the chance to share what might otherwise remain unknown. 😛

You’ll note a few call outs to my stories – Falcon and Kestrel all get a mention as team names and of course all fitting to the ship’s Osprey name. I guess if you’re going to have meme for your hero ship names you may as well embrace and run with it. If you keep a careful eye you’ll note a few other shout outs and hints that link these stories as well. Faraday-Thatcher as a surname hints at Mercy’s ancestry – a certain fiery engineer and a certain rear admiral is one for starters.

Ryuu – The Little Dragon Gotta have a few bad ass characters – look at him wield his Concussive Pulse Rifle (CPR)

The opening chapter comes to an end. The gauntlet is about to be run as the ship moves in to intercept the Orion slaver. There’s a plan but will it pan out. The last words go to Hayes from Mercy. She welcomes him to the Dogs. Despite the fact that he’s been on board for a number of weeks now it seems this is the first real test of whether Gareth is going to measure up.

But Gareth’s not the only one about to face a trial here…

Thoughts and Reflections

To my own mind, I think the opener serves its purpose to give quick broad strokes of some of the main ensemble and the emphasis on Mercy is intended and I think it helps give a better impression of who this woman is. It is different to how the captain characters of McGregor and Cyste Ryaenn made their entrance into their stories. There rumour, speculation and inference all hint to their characters and in their actual ‘onscreen’ introduction you either agree or disagree with some of those conclusions. Here, with Mercy, you are forming opinions based on how she presents herself. It is actually quite a different approach for me. I think it works to show a character with a number of facet and one who is not entirely fitting to a hero mould but someone who could fit that role for the reader for sure.

The remainder of the cast are mere background seemingly and they do indeed appear against a backdrop of setting the scene and some exposition of the ship and region. I don’t think they get short shrift and the story telling devise here requires that things truck along quickly.

If anything, there’s a nagging doubt that some of the characters are on appearance sakes, bad ass for the sake of being bad ass. Mitch and Ryuu in particular are wary suspects in this regard. However, Mitch is an experienced hand so he should come off as fairly bad ass. As for Ryuu, well he’s the possible weak link but we see he gets a focus in the third chapter of the story, Little Dragon, where hopefully he might prove he merits this presentation.

Next time…

Apologies, this review is obviously longer than I intended but that’s just for starters and to offer an overview on the story.

In my next story review and discussion, we will treat chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 at least. Thanks for reading. Obviously, please feel free to share your thoughts.

Did the chapter and story setting fit my intentions in your opinion? What did you think? Were some details too much? Were others too scant? Is Gareth getting a raw deal? Is Ryuu bad ass? Is Mercy a fair captain? These and more, please offer comment.
Meantime, boldly reading, boldly writing, boldly reviewing …cropped-Miranda-Fave-header2.jpg

 

 

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