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Author Topic: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky  (Read 2279 times)

Grey

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I'll admit I'm not entirely happy with this one, another large character and I think I'm missing things but I also feel I need to put this one to bed now or else keep tweeking and perfecting forever. So there's an obvious lesson or two in this one, probably others, but for now I'll hide behind "creating debate" and apologise later. :)

(Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
Who: Nicholas Kerensky
What: Assorted Officer Ranks in the Star League in Exile
   IlKhan of the Clans
When: May 4, 2764 – October 7, 2834
Weapon of Choice: AS7-D-H Atlas II, later personalised
         Politics

Famous as the creator of the Clans and the son of the publicly regarded greatest military mind ever, Nicholas Kerensky was an unknown to the Inner Sphere for his entire life and for an additional two centuries after due to the isolation of the factions he created. Once they burst on to the scene his name went down in infamy for what he, indirectly, caused.

Born during his father’s regency just before the Amaris Coup Nicholas grew up without his father, under the nose of a man who would have captured, ransomed, tortured and killed him in no specific order had he known of his existence. Utter anonymity marked his early existence.

This situation largely continued when reunited with his father, by which point Nicholas was almost a grown man with his own personality and ideas. ‘Public’ knowledge of his existence and lineage only came about during the Exodus, however this was not enough to win him wider political support when his father died in the Pentagon, as his youth and the ambitions of others thwarted more conventional plans and led Nicholas to found the Clans and retake the Pentagon worlds by force.

Like his father Aleksandr, Nicholas is a plot device more than a character, unlike his father he is a faction founder in addition to being an intricate piece of the background history, a ways and means for the Clans to come into being. And as their founder and, well, messiah for lack of a better term, he is also the cause for Operation Revival, his writings taken as evidence that invasion of the Inner Sphere by the Clans was not simply inevitable but also a moral imperative.

At least that was one interpretation. Nicholas is an example of how one person’s actions can lead to multiple different interpretations once lensed through time and politics.

Cynical political characters like Elias Critchell, or even pragmatic fanatics like Leo Showers show that they can find a way to interpret Nicholas’ words to their advantage. And why not? He’s not around to correct them.

Coupled with Aleksandr’s Hidden Hope Doctrine, most likely intended as a long term salve, a way of giving an open ended, noncommittal, and not necessarily achievable goal to the otherwise aimless Star League in Exile, invasion can seem somewhat natural, particularly to a martially focused culture, even if both Kerenskys intended a more peaceful return to the Inner Sphere. Indeed both Crusader and Warden philosophy proposes that any return of the Clans will involve peace somehow.

Given the nature of the Clans he created is this realistic? Could Nicholas have intended the Clans to return as teachers and guides (which both philosophies propose in their own ways) rather than brutal overlords? Is that even realistic?

From within the setting it may have made sense to Nicholas, the man who grew up in hiding on a brutalised Terra under a mad dictator with an army of war criminals as his father waged a war of liberation. The strong teach the weak to stand, the powerful bring the wayward into line.

From outside the setting it doesn’t really matter. All that’s needed of Nicholas, particularly when the invasion began, is for him to say X that others can use to cause Y. The psychological gymnastics of a man like this is a large blank that has only been filled in relatively recently as the founding years of the Clans have begun to open up to us through historical sourcebooks.

And keep in mind that we the players and readers were quite happy with this situation for a considerable amount of time. Plot device characters do not need a lot of immediate fleshing out, they are there to trigger interesting events, if they themselves are too interesting at introduction then they risk overshadowing these events.

This means that upon introduction the basic information given from the Clans that he was a great man for creating them countered by the Inner Sphere response that he was a monster for creating them was enough to establish a faction as existing. The flavour of the faction would be provided by more contemporary characters and they would in turn splinter the single faction, The Clans, into the Clans.

But what about the other political direction? The Wardens were no better, they too picked up the parts they liked or found suited their needs, that it was in aid of opposing an invasion paints them in a better light but still requires the same cynicism and pragmatism. This can also paint Nicholas in a better light, humanising him, no easy task.

Because Nicholas is introduced after the fact of the Clans it is very hard to see him outside of a highly aggressive, conquering faction, something that tags him as an aggressor and antagonist.

Matters are not nearly so clear cut. Realistically he fought two wars in his lifetime: Operation Klondike, the war to pacify, reunify and after a fashion save the Pentagon worlds, and the Annihilation of the Wolverines.

The first was debatably necessary as the Pentagon had fallen into chaos, constant warfare and petty warlords. Nicholas brought order, stability, safety, basic necessities of life, none of which were guaranteed by anyone else.

Yes he had the goal of building his utopia, but it beat the pants off of any other goals floating about.

The second was initially painted as necessary for similar reasons, the Wolverines were a threat, throwing nukes about even, he dealt with them.

The truth of the matter corrupts Nicholas again as he appears to have manipulated the entire situation to further unify the Clans, tightening his control, scaring them with the threat of what disunity could bring; annihilation, certainly, but also a return to anarchy.

These are not humanising events, nor do they fully negate the image of Nicholas as an aggressor or villain. Far from redeeming he comes across as driven, manipulative, uncaring, however they do show Nicholas as someone operating towards a greater good that was beyond himself. His own glory may have been a factor and his methods brutal, but it was as a motive not a goal, unlike many characters.

So what humanises Nicholas? Honestly, very little. His perception of warfare is blinkered, he has an ideal in the MechWarrior Knight but is forced by reality to use infantry and air power, barely hiding his distaste. He encourages competition among his followers but cannot see the consequences of doing so. And he is downright sociopathic when it comes to people, who are less individuals and more tools to accomplish his goals.
The reality is that Nicholas is not humanised, mostly because we never see his doubts, fears, hopes, we can only guess at what he considers successes and failures in the founding of the Clans. The fiction is thin in depicting him, Nicholas truly is a plot device who exists so Y follows X but is not fully fleshed out as a character.

Again, compare his father, while we have far more written from Aleksandr’s perspective than Nicholas’ even without that we see through other characters far more diverse reactions to situations from Aleksandr than Nicholas. Operation: Klondike has the most written about Nicholas from those who would be his followers, but direct references to him are limited to his earlier years and do not go into particular depth.

This too is a function of what he becomes, these people would become his followers and given their diverse backgrounds if they truly knew him they would not all so quickly follow him. Easier to present a cold, driven individual in this case, considering what he creates, than, say, a man we see occasionally enjoying apples and cheese with his wife on warm afternoons.

Additionally there has been little fiction involving Nicholas, and to my knowledge nothing from his perspective, further making him unknowable to us, unlike his father who has been presented several times in fiction.

Just as they were starkly different as characters this very different presentation of the two men furthers to widen the gulf between them. While Aleksandr was an integral piece of the setting background whose history has been slowly unwound in the context of events Nicholas is a founder and revealed character. This has affected how we have learned about him and thus affects what we learn about him. While the father has been slowly revealed over time Nicholas has really only just begun to grow as a character.

Oddly enough this follows through in the ‘Mech he pilots. Initially he was presented as an Atlas driver, and fair enough too, it was the biggest, meanest thing known to be around during the 3050 era that used Inner Sphere tech. Given the comparatively anaemic Star League ‘Mechs presented to us in the Real World when the Clans invaded it still made sense.

The Atlas II solves something of a problem for Nicholas Kerensky, namely why the leader of the Clans would pilot a Level 1 machine.

Admittedly compared to most Star League ‘Mechs the 7-D Atlas is still a devastating monster, and as a prestige ride it makes sense. It is also, when you get down to essentials, an Assault version of the Orion his father piloted prior to customisation. Read into that what you will.

However time went on and more advanced and deadly machines were revealed to have existed at the time, the Pillager for example, or even the Shootist as a command unit, though none had the reputation of an Atlas, all the more reason to stick with it, especially since the Clans Nicholas created were not the sort to have a commander, leader and tactician as a founder, but someone who would inevitably come across as a blunt weapon. Can anyone think of something more appropriate than an Atlas?

Then out comes TRO 3075 and we find out that there was a more advanced version built during the Star League era. While lacking any head chopping weapons the Atlas II is far more potent and versatile while still being a brute force weapon, perfect for the first IlKhan.

Not that it was left there. As technology developed Nicholas naturally availed himself of the finest weapons available, effectively creating an Atlas IIC (or Atlas II C, or II IIC, or . . . I don’t know, play with the nomenclature all you want), adding an additional SRM launcher, Artemis systems and more heat sinks. Powerful, immensely, horribly powerful, but not innovative or different, a simple upgunning of the original which Nicholas probably used prior to the development of advanced technology.

I have listed his other weapon of choice is politics, and boy did he wield that, given the setting that as much as anything marks him as an antagonistic character.

Unlike his father a key difference is that Nicholas deliberately built up a cult of personality around himself, it was his key tool for creating the society he wanted.

He was also unafraid of manipulating and playing people off each other. The Wolverine situation, while not manufactured by Nicholas, was exacerbated and used by him to further unify the Clans by showing what could happen without unity.

Whether this, the destruction (probably through absorption rather than annihilation) of one of the Clans, was a part of a long term plan or a contingency is open for debate. The Falcons came close to being the ones targeted, there were rumblings in other Clans for more freedoms but control freaky Nicholas wanted to clamp down on it.

And again he shows a lack of foresight as to what he was doing, specifically setting a precedent. Whether annihilation, absorption, exile or something else was the original goal he added to the Clan political tool box the ability to legally destroy another Clan if the political momentum could be built. The more immediate results were felt by the Widowmaker and Mongoose Clans, but the full effects hit during the Wars of Reaving.

Nicholas’ death was always going to be problematic. For one thing he was the founder of a warrior culture, from a writing perspective that meant he had to fall in combat in order to satisfy the internal mythology of the Clans. Dying of old age like his father would cause logical questions to arise, and it is a bit much for two Kerenskys in a row to die like that.

Unfortunately the Clans were isolated from outside threats and serious internal threats had been removed by Nicholas himself. What was left? A fatal accident, without quotation marks. Well, when originally written there were no quotation marks, over time they have grown and some wonder if the accident was really an ‘accident’, but that is a matter for another time.

This provided Nicholas the fiery death fitting of a warrior, even accidental death in combat satisfies the most blood thirsty, honour driven Clansman of the Thirty-First century and beyond.

Which leads to the question of whether or not the Clans that invaded were the Clans he intended.

In all likelihood no, there have been indications that Nicholas considered the Clans a work in progress even at the time of his death, hints that some of what he started and became standard among the Clans was originally intended to be temporary.

While no one plans to die the speculation on what exactly Nicholas intended to be a fully realised Clan society is difficult to extrapolate. What’s more as we have seen such a society would have continued to evolve without him anyway.

But it does feed into the controlling, manipulative nature of the man, something that has been fairly subtle until further details about the Wolverines came about.

And here’s a word I’ve kept using, ‘until’, all throughout the article. It’s easy to write this off as happening because Nicholas is a historical character, with traits, actions and motives slowly revealed to us over time, with more to come as a distinct possibility.

In the meantime what we have of Nicholas Kerensky is a ruthless, driven sociopath who basically built a cult that turned into a conqueror’s society, something that fits in perfectly with the setting.

Col.Hengist

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #1 on: 19 February 2015, 15:14:05 »
Good story. It brings it all together.
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Wrangler

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #2 on: 19 February 2015, 23:28:47 »
Nice round up, covering basis aspect of the character while not getting stuck on aspects/flaws Nicholas had.

He didn't even believe in Star League in Exile could had work, but he rigged it so it would fall i guess sooner so he could create means to bring the Clans together.  Again with Wolverines.   I do wonder, though, I've not read novelette with the Wolverines in it.  So i don't know if Nicholas had his own Watch playing games to angle things towards an example of what happens with someone who breaks Clan laws.

I can imagine that Nicholas never intended the Clans return to Inner Sphere, but to have "idea" a another political idea to rally the clansman for good or ill.   His father, on the other hand i could believe he wanted to return, but not as the Clans.
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Mendrugo

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #3 on: 19 February 2015, 23:54:20 »
In terms of his end-goal, my belief is that he wanted to unify Clan society under one banner - Clan Wolf - and then rewrite the histories to retroactively justify everything he did in good vs. evil terms.  The Jade Falcons were nearly test case #1, and the Wolverines became the actual testbed for his policies (though it appears he'd wanted to Absorb them, rather than Annihilate them). 

Nicholas could have remained aloof - been the ilKhan of all the Clans, but part of none.  He could have split his Bloodname equally among all the Clans.  Instead, he played favorites, and then used Wolf Watch assets to stir up unrest in Clan Widowmaker.  We also know he ordered the Jade Falcons to make trouble for the Wolverines on Circe, and probably gave similar commands to other Clans, resulting in the clash over the Tiki Cache and, eventually, the Wolverine Annihilation. 

My guess is that he'd planned to continue manipulating the remaining Clans in a galactic game of Survivor - pitting the "in crowd" Clans against the next selected "outcast" Clan, and engineering their Absorption.  Notably, the Wolves took almost all the Widowmaker assets, and didn't share with the Jade Falcons or Burrocks.  (The Goliath Scorpions got Spiderholm because they saved the life of a Wolf commander).  Eventually, the power of the Wolves would have allowed them to challenge and Absorb the other Clans and become the ilClan (by dint of being the last one standing) - probably within Nicholas' lifetime. 
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Frabby

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #4 on: 20 February 2015, 02:29:35 »
The one thing not mentioned in this writeup is Nichols' other half: Jennifer/Jen/Jes/Jill Cameron"Winson". His wife who grew up on Terra in his neighborhood is portrayed as his muse, sounding board, accomplice, high priest, and elite covert operative. I think much of the sociopathic stuff that is (rightfully) said about Nicholas was actually thought up by them as a couple. Nicholas was their combined public face, Jennifer the hidden power.
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Grey

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #5 on: 20 February 2015, 03:32:41 »
The one thing not mentioned in this writeup is Nichols' other half: Jennifer/Jen/Jes/Jill Cameron"Winson". His wife who grew up on Terra in his neighborhood is portrayed as his muse, sounding board, accomplice, high priest, and elite covert operative. I think much of the sociopathic stuff that is (rightfully) said about Nicholas was actually thought up by them as a couple. Nicholas was their combined public face, Jennifer the hidden power.

I considered it, along with a brief analysis of how Andery also played a role in balancing Nicholas and rightly or wrongly decided that such things would be best left to their articles.

Admittedly a chunk of my decision was just how thin information on Jennifer is and how aside from speculation on that tidbit the article would mostly be about her possible influence on Nicholas.

And I also thought that if I went into that then I'd have to cover the influence Jerome Winson, Absolom Truscott and other founders had on him. And quite frankly I had to draw a line somewhere because there's a lot of speculation room there.

In hindsight I think I could have included something, particularly on Jennifer and Andery, so call it a poorly drawn line, but one I'm going to be more aware of.

E. Icaza

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #6 on: 23 February 2015, 22:22:06 »
The Founder was a genius who realized one of the basic truths of the human condition.

There will always be bullies.

The society that he created was intended to channel the aggression of those bullies into endlessly fighting one another while leaving the rest of humanity to get on with the vitally important business of keeping the lights on and everyone fed. 
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Caedis Animus

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #7 on: 25 February 2015, 21:04:15 »
The Founder was a genius who realized one of the basic truths of the human condition.

There will always be bullies.

The society that he created was intended to channel the aggression of those bullies into endlessly fighting one another while leaving the rest of humanity to get on with the vitally important business of keeping the lights on and everyone fed.
And I think that said Society failed miserably, seeing as said bullies then decided to bully (Err:Wholesale slaughter) once again anyways. Much like A. Kerensky's self-imposed exile, his plan did not go to plan.
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E. Icaza

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #8 on: 25 February 2015, 21:10:45 »
And I think that said Society failed miserably, seeing as said bullies then decided to bully (Err:Wholesale slaughter) once again anyways. Much like A. Kerensky's self-imposed exile, his plan did not go to plan.

Actually, things worked about as well as the Successor States worked out.  Better in the technological arena, since the bullies were off fighting one another (with the occasional slaughter) and generally ignored the rest of the castes.  It was really only on contact with the IS that things began to fall apart. 
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Grey

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #9 on: 26 February 2015, 04:13:14 »
I think success depends on how you look at it. Yes, there will always be bullies and the Clans are effectively a society of bullies with a controlled outlet. But task them to operate outside of that environment (say one where bullies are stood up to) and they can't really cope in a constructive manner.

Frighteningly enough this makes IlKhan Andrews right to a degree, contact with the Inner Sphere did taint the Clans because it showed that they were vulnerable to outside cultural ideas.

And call me biased by my own past but bullies are ultimately cowards, insecure and fearful, the idea of a society with that sort in power paints a more disturbing picture than was probably intended.

Vehrec

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #10 on: 26 February 2015, 12:59:25 »
The Founder was a genius who realized one of the basic truths of the human condition.

There will always be bullies.

The society that he created was intended to channel the aggression of those bullies into endlessly fighting one another while leaving the rest of humanity to get on with the vitally important business of keeping the lights on and everyone fed.
I have to contend that this is a highly dubious conclusion.  The Clans are a society where, rather than limiting the powers of the 'bullies' their power is instead practically unlimited!  If you encourage them to fight each other constantly, then they will not limit their aggression and violence merely within their own caste.  The resulting incidents will be more a slow burn than a wiping out of cities, but it will have an effect, mark my words.  Like the Spartans, the Clans maintain control of their civilian castes through fear and absolute power-they can at a whim freeze out any organizers, unionizers, revolutionaries or other 'troublemakers' who might advocate for things like increased rations for civilians or even an advisory role in the Clan Council.  And the Warrior caste produces wash-outs who must have immense hatered for both themselves and the caste they are flushed into-that's a recipie for violent crime if I ever heard of one.  And despite what the Clans seem to think, I don't think that violent punishment actually is a very good deterrent for violent crime-indeed, deterrence is the only purpose of most Clan criminal justice.
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rebs

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Re: (Provisional) Character Study of the Week: Nicholas Kerensky
« Reply #11 on: 26 February 2015, 21:17:17 »
Agreed with Vehrec; iniquity (by spheroid standards, which is somewhat dubious and differs from House to House) is a central feature of Clan life, despite any intentions by the Founder to make a system that was fair and based on merit.  One could not say bullying is also then based on merit, that's obviously absurd. 

But, this is a good article!  He's a tough character to nail down, lots of different sources on him.  Nice over-view and character critique, though.
« Last Edit: 26 February 2015, 21:19:20 by rebs »

 

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