Thursday, April 23, 2009

Comics/Novels I'd Write For Free: The Cylon War.

Lately I've been on something of a Battlestar Galactica kick. I've purcased the new Caprica Direct-to-DVD film and the first season of the reimagined series, and I've been reading and re-reading my copy of the Battlestar Galactica Roleplaying game with a feverish intensity. It can only mean that once again my tastes have shifted and are now firmly in BSG territory.

With that in mind, I've been thinking about what I'd do if I ever recieved the oppurtunity to write anything set in the BSG universe. To me, there's really only one story that I'd want to tell, be it via a comicbook or in prose, and that's the story of the Galactica and the First Cylon War. I understand that Dynamite Entertainment is already publishing their take on the events that sparked the first war with the walking chrome toasters, but I haven't read it yet. This is my take on a potential comics series or a novel.

It would complete the trinity of the Battlestar saga, with Caprica as the beginning and Battlestar Galactica the ending, The Cylon War would be the middle of the story. It doesn't have the Pride Before The Fall of Caprica, nor the Grim Determination to Survive/Is Humanity Worth Saving of BSG. No, this series would be something entirely its own animal. If I had to boil it down to a pitch statement it'd be simply this: 'Band of Brothers versus Killer Robots.'

I'm too young to have caught the original Battlestar Galactica on the airwaves (I saw a cut of the pilot movie on VHS at my cousin's house in Ostrea Lake, Nova Scotia many a moon ago) but I do have a fondness for the series ultimate theme; that no matter what the opposition humanity's spirit proves indomitable against the implacable aggression of the machine. This would be a story of heroism, though maybe not with the same theatrical trappings of the original series but definitely with a nod toward a grander, more epic style of storytelling. This is the 'good war' of the BSG universe in much the same way World War II is considered to be in our history. This is the war where the Twelve Colonies of Kobol united in a way they never had before against a foe that was not interested in power or principality but in the complete annihilation of their civilization and the extermination of its peoples.

The First Cylon War lasted just over twelve years (4,571 days) and ravaged the system containing the Colonies. Our story would start approximately 3 years into the conflict, with the war going very, very badly for the Colonial Fleet. The Cylons are unlike any foe the recently combined militaries of the twelve planets have ever faced before. They never tire. They never stop. They don't surrender and they don't retreat(at least at first). The initial Cylon uprising caught each of the Colonies completely by surprise, blindsiding them with an ambush from within their very ranks. The machines that had been entrusted to serve man and fight their battles rose up in a single night of blood and fire and killed damn near everything in their path. The how and the why of the uprising would be a mystery (after all, what's on screen is canon and I don't want to step on toes) but the Colonies now live in the aftermath and nearly three years of sheer and utter hell. Through a massive effort the Cylons were driven from most of the colonies, but they have holdings in several key sectors of the system. Worse, they stole a great deal of military ordnance, schematics, and the technical data for the new Colonial Rangers (later to be known as Raiders) and the plans for the proposed series of Basestars to be constructed on the Scorpia shipyards.

Worse, the richer colonies found their technology turned against them. The machines could make computers sit up, roll over, play dead. Passenger liners found their computers infected by Cylon viruses that made the airlocks open to hard vacuum midway through voyages, far past the point of any return and disabling emergency backups. Military vessels found their power systems cycling into overload and their sublight engines firing at random, automated turrets turning on friendlies as well as their own hulls and blasting them to scrap. Computers became the enemy, high technology became the enemy, anything that was too advanced and networked was too great a risk. Thus the step back to simpler systems, simpler technologies to keep colonial assets safe.

The ink was barely dry on the Articles of Colonization when the first twelve battlestars were shipped off the line; Atlantia, Galatea, Pacifica, Pegasus, Prometheus, Daedalus, Herakles, Athena, Icarus, Argo, Achilles. . . and the Galactica. Each ship represented one of the newly unified Colonies, with Galactica represnting Caprica, the capital world of this bold new alliance. Each ship was meant to be crewed entirely by men and women of the services of their respective worlds, an exemplar of their commitment to the new alliance and the hope of the ultimate defeat of the Cylon menace.

That was the plan. The simple fact of the matter is the Cylons are killing Colonial personnel with a frightening degree of efficiency, and more often than not personnel from other colonies are ending up sharing space with soldiers from other worlds. This was the long-term goal of Fleet brass, but the plan was to bring everyone together gradually. Sagittarons and Capricans having some severe issues, to say nothing of Picon, Scorpia, and Tauron. Simply put, there's hate between people as much as there is hate of the toasters. Its only the shared hatred of the walking chrome monsters that keeps the soldiers of the Colonial forces in check. Just.

In the meantime, the reorganized fleet has ground to cover and long struggles ahead. Aerilon and Tauron are being occupied by Cylon forces, with Canceron and Gemenon just barely hanging on. The Cylons are an implacable foe, armed to the teeth and far stronger and tougher than any human. Not to mention their sheer force of numbers (a long-term goal for Colonial forces is to eliminate Cylon production facilities wherever they're found. No easy task, as the Cylons have become increasingly adept at hiding their facilities). The odds are stacked against humanity, but if it's one thing the machines have underestimated it's human tenacity, the sheer damned stubborness of people with their backs to the wall and damned little to lose.

Our cast of characters is a bit nebulous, but I have a few ideas in mind:

Commander Michael Nash: Nash was the first commander of the Battlestar Galactica, mentioned only in passing by Aaron Doral in the BSG miniseries. A native Caprican and product of its military academy, at the rank of major aboard the destroyer Righteous he took command when the CO and XO were killed in the Cylon uprising, managing to rout the machines and save the ship from being taken. His heroism and the Righteous' protection of civillian vessels during the uprising were noted by command, and when the Colonial Fleet unveiled the battlestars Nash was promoted to Commander and assigned to Galactica. A young man at 35 years of age, he realizes his appointment was more about politics and propoganda than it was about merit. Still, he possesses a rare gift for tactics and a manner that endears him to the men and women under his command.

Executive Officer Colonel Valerie Bayrin: Valerie was initially in line for command of Galactica until Nash came along. She's not happy with the way things are, but the fact that Nash made her posting as XO of the ship a condition of his acceptance of Galactica's command has gone a long way toward cementing a solid working relationship. A devout believer in the gods, the war has tested her faith but its held , even in the face of an enemy that seems to be the wrath of Hades incaranate. She's an older woman, in her mid-to-late 40s, having worked hard to attain her rank amidst the slight chauvinism of the Caprican military.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Tanner: has been given the unenviable task of being the Galactica's officer of the deck. A man who brooks no fools and is a little too quick to speak his mind before his (slight) sense of tact can catch up, he nevertheless is respected by the men and women under his command. His people are the front line of Galactica's repair crews and damage control teams, his mechanics work to repair and get the bugs out of the new Viper Mark IIs that have just rolled off the assembly line. There are some who resent him for his Sagittaron heritage(and Tanner's not overly fond of his more vocally overbearing Caprican crewmates) but when circuit boards are bursting into flame and you need your Viper working yesterday there's no better man for the job. And he knows it.

Major Darius Ravig: is top kick of the Colonial Marines on Galactica. In his eyes there's him, the XO, the CO, and the gods in that exact order and nobody better forget it. His division 'the Ravagers' have seen combat in some of the worst skirmishes of the war to date, on the ground and in the black. He's a veteran of some of the worst of the fighting between Caprica and Sagittaron and his feelings for 'those people' are short and sour. Nevertheless he tables his opinions and keeps them close, working with his men to ensure that every human under their protection makes it back alive and every toaster in their path gets slagged.

Doctor Alyssa Muverro: is the Galactica's CMO and resident angel of mercy. She's acerbic, occasionally a bit too criticial of her patients and their complete disregard for their health and safety in time of war, but she and her team of doctors and nurses are the best in the Fleet. There's no question in her mind that the Cylons are monsters; she's seen enough of their handiwork to know with complete certainty that they need to be destroyed to the last clanker. An attractive woman in her early thirties, she has no lack of potential suitors on Galactica. Sadly she's all too committed to her wife Rebecca, and frequently worries about her safety as the battles lines inexorably push closer and closer to Caprica. . .

Captain Robert 'Ares' Wendell: is Galactica's CAG (Commander, Air Group) and leader of a squadron well on its way to becoming a legend. Ares is one of Caprica's finest pilots, almost without peer behind the stick of his Viper. He flies with a cool precision that belies his more rambunctious personality when off-duty. The four squadrons under his command have come to call themselves 'Wendell's Warriors', and each of them would fly into the mouth of hell if either Nash or Ares gave the word.

Professor Neville Pryce: is a civillian advisor to the military, one of its foemost minds on the applications of robotics and one of the programmers on the Cylon project. While the President's first impulse was to round up every last mind who had anything to do with the creation of the Cylons and have them imprisoned or executed, the fact of the matter is the creators of these metal monsters have information on their capabilities, their tactics, and their weaknesses that could be useful. As such, each battlestar has at least one of these men and women aboard, tasked with providing intelligence on the Cylon threat and devising new ways to defeat them. The fact that each of these people get a front-row seat to the carnage their rampaging creations have wrought isn't lost on Fleet Command either. Pryce lives as a virtual prisoner, a pariah amongst the crew. He smokes like a chimney, his nerves are shot to hell. His actions may have led to the deaths of millions, perhaps even the doom of the entire human race. The guilt is threatening to swallow him whole. . .and more, a budding resentment that could well blossom into a full-on hatred for the humanity that has burdened him with their collective guilt and rage. His viewpoint is boiling down to a survival of the fittest mentality, and what better survivors are there than 'his' Cylons? Galactica's crew may have a valued resource at their disposal. . .or they may have embraced a viper to their chest. Time will tell.

The Cylons: The most terrifying thing about the Cylons is just how damned close they came to wiping out humanity in one fell swoop. The uprising was just barely defeated by the reeling militaries of the twelve colonies, and even as a unified force the Colonial Fleet is hard pressed in space or on the ground. Cylon Raiders execute manuevers at speeds that could snap human vertebrae, basestars have ample power reserves to spare (not needing such human necessities as life support), and the Model 0005 Centurion is one of the deadliest soldiers to ever grace the field of battle. The Cylons move in near-total silence; they don't grunt, don't scream, they don't make a sound. The last thing a Colonial soldier might hear as the enemy closes in is the soft whooshing of their eye-sensor palatte and the click of a cocking trigger.

Worse, the Cylons are learning. Their tactics morph and change, adapting to the advances of the Colonial Fleet with startling speed. They've learned how to detect and create ambushes, how to hold humans in bondage and use them as labor behind enemy lines. They've even learned to conserve their resources by retreating. This last they rarely implement, as their factory bases remain secure at this time, but its still an eerie reminder that the toasters aren't mindless. Rumors abound in military intelligence of a newer model, the IL series, designed to coordinate Cylon forces and act as command units. They were only in the design stages when the Cylons revolted. . .could they be a reality?

The Cylons are an implacable foe at this time, united and driven by a single goal: to kill their former masters and ascend to their rightful place as the dominant species in the galaxy. There's no moral ambiguity here: its kill or be killed.

A war comic in space. A space opera with a taste of gritty realism. A heroic humanity struggling valiantly against a nigh-unstoppable mechanistic foe. Humans versus Robots. All these and more would be found within the pages of The Cylon War.

And I'd do it all for free(or for a modest fee. ~.^)


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