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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee  (Read 2221 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« on: 10 October 2015, 04:25:14 »
Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
Who: Belle Lee
What: Officer, rank(s) unspecified New Syrtis Planetary Militia
   Mercenary Officer, rank(s) and unit(s)
   Colonel, Stone’s Lament
   General, Coalition Forces
   Commanding General, Republic of the Sphere
When: 3041 – 31??
Weapon of Choice: 9K(D) Victor

How to sum up the most military character of the early Republic of the Sphere? Aggressive, stubborn, loyal, capable, frustrating, contradictory, all of the above, to everyone around and even herself.

Belle Lee is a character with little established background in the setting until she comes into her own in a situation so out of context for existing characters that only a new generation of individuals can be counted on to cope, and shape future events.

From a family of modest means, using a scholarship to attend NAIS and train as a MechWarrior Belle Lee entered the AFFC, into a militia position, and exited during the Civil War, disgusted with the partisan politics.

From there she became a mercenary, learned and demonstrated leadership skills, until she was captured by the Blakists, interred on Kittery and fell in with Devlin Stone.

After this her rise was meteoric, while Stone was a more than capable military commander he was also political, and among his circle there were few close to him with the necessary military skills and experience to act as his second in command, a position Belle was more than ably qualified.

That being said she never demonstrated political, or even media skills, routinely stepping on toes as she considered politics and PR to be wastes of time. Regardless she would occasionally try to work within those systems, though dreaded reaching the rank where these would become commonplace activities for her.

Regardless she became Commanding General of the Republic of the Sphere, and unlike certain other characters seems to have retired, had a family and even lived long enough to see at least one grandchild.

That’s her background and history, and one that manages to be fairly typical of action oriented fiction, and contains many common elements of other Battletech characters, but makes for a somewhat unusual character.

While early details are thin this is to be expected, Belle Lee is a character of a certain time, and while she is a Republic character her time is the Jihad. It’s the time where she is most active, shines really, and consequently is most written about.

Bookending things is the fact that later details of her life are currently thin to non-existent, the best source of information so far, funnily enough, is the first piece of Dark Age fiction, a short story focusing on her grandson, showing us that she retired and managed to have a family.

The time where details are available show a mass of contradictions. She is a superb warrior and leader with no time or patience for politics thrust into a political crux, she is a soldier in a nominally pacifistic nation, she has all the classic Battletech ‘good’ character traits but ends her life in a distinctly unusual manner for Battletech.

Call her an oddity, perhaps not to her face.

Her ‘Mech is probably the most mundane aspect of Belle, as far as we are told it is a fairly stock Victor, 9K or D, depending on which side of the border you’re on, and one of TRO 3050’s least hobbled designs. Sure the single heat sinks are a design flaw because it’s tonnage that could be put to better use, but as things go it’s a minor design flaw.

Focusing on capabilities it’s a reasonably good command ‘Mech, a role it has fulfilled with the Federated armed forces for centuries, and since it’s something of a sniper it fits for a unit commander, letting them throw a potentially decapitating shot down long range with enough short range firepower and versatility to defend themselves if caught by enemy forces in a trap.

It doesn’t really fit with Belle Lee, a firebrand personality. Perhaps her combat style is different or the Gauss Rifle is put to use in covering her approach, both entirely possible, but she seems much more likely to be piloting one of the later variants, with big, up close guns, the temper and temperament of the pilot would seem to favour those tactics, according to traditional Battletech themes.

The thing is we don’t actually have anything of Lee in combat, while she is a Republican character all we have of her to date comes from the Jihad era, limited to sourcebooks, where we see her handling media, allies, politicians and, well, not being a people person really. She is a military character we have yet to see in military action.

As I said earlier Belle is something of a contradiction. On the one hand she is a confrontational personality, something she recognises, but she is in a position where she must be diplomatic, something she also recognises as a necessity even as it is a personal weakness.

Why is she there? Inside the setting she is one of Devlin Stone’s closest people, and unlike many of them is militarily skilled, thus she has to take a major leadership position in the Coalition, effectively representing the future Republic’s contribution. Devlin Stone can’t fulfil this role, he is overall commander of the Coalition, if he’s representative of a faction, even one that doesn’t exist yet and that he will found, then that diminishes him as a unifying leader for the Coalition, reduces his ability to be all encompassing.

Given the nature of the nation he will forge it’s a contradiction and not necessarily one that is easy to understand. Essentially he has to, in the setting, be seen as neutral, and one way to do that is to point to place a subordinate in a position equal to other factional commanders within the Coalition to represent his contribution, even as he takes charge. That subordinate has to be Belle Lee, and this strengthens her ability to represent the Republic.

Couldn’t there be someone better? Or couldn’t the character have been different, even just a little more comfortable with politics? No, we already have David Lear, who’s behind the scene actions are hinted at and seem to range from benevolent manipulation to borderline chess master behaviour complete with pragmatic detachment.

From an external perspective it’s because this sort of bluff, blunt talking character is the archetypical ‘good’ character, one who has no time for politics and just wants to bull forward and get the job done.

Remember, the Battletech short hand is that political characters are villainous while military characters are valorous. Or another way to put it is that politicians start problems and soldiers end them.

Not that it’s ever that simple, but that’s what Belle Lee is, representing the Republic she’s painted with the generic ‘good’ brush of the setting even though the position she’s in makes for a lot of headaches for all concerned.

Note, however, that this is not glossed over. Blunt, bluff and ‘good’ though she may be the source materials show that her style causes a number of problems and she herself clearly does not enjoy her job, but she knows her duty.

Of course there is the inevitable clash, noted upon once or twice by David Lear, between Belle’s nature and the eventual drawdown of the militaries that are a part of his and Stone’s social agenda for the Inner Sphere. Belle is a fighter, and someone who has come through a couple of wars, and while welcoming of peace is not the sort of character or personality to come out of those experiences with the opinion of downsizing a military as a good thing.

We have not yet seen that clash, it is implied, and since the downsizing happened, that Lee managed to go with it, again out of loyalty or duty, or perhaps stood aside, any of which would have been taxing for such an individual.

This is probably why, rather than dying in the cockpit, she actually manages to retire and have a family, not the sort of thing normally associated with this sort of character.

For although Belle could easily be the product of lazy writing the reality is that she isn’t, there is a realistic arc to her life that matches both her personality and her abilities, contradicted with her situation and contrasted with the realities that creates.

Lazy, unrealistic writing would have had Belle become Commanding General and carrying on as that despite the inherent conflict her personality brings to the role and still having the Republic and RAF growing as an entity while drawing down in size as a result.

Instead it appears that she struggles through out of duty and loyalty until she can’t take it anymore and then, shockingly, changes her circumstances, possibly going on to live a satisfied life.

Strange thing for the Battletech universe.

However it is a fairly logical progression, and one that fits in with her Republican leanings in that she essentially gives up war for a life of peace, despite being one of the least likely of characters to do so.

This is something of a metaphor for the changing times, the Republican era is supposed to be a new and different time in the Battletech universe, one in which large armies, (which from a game perspective are new concepts), disappear in favour of small unit actions (which is actually the old Battletech paradigm).

You’ll notice I’ve made a lot of conditional statements there, I’ve stated in other articles that the game itself is geared towards small unit actions, that’s what it was founded on and it has never really lost that feel just because while the rules have changed they haven’t changed that much. Large unit actions required largely whole new game systems. The Dark Age was intended as a return to the roots of Battletech.

Which makes it all the more odd that Belle Lee be the metaphor for that. Ordinarily as an angry, scrappy, energetic character she would be in the thick of things for life, like Kai a perfect small unit battle character, instead she winds up leading armies.

All the same it would appear she could well have achieved the one thing no other major Battletech character has; an end to all her battles.

Frabby

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #1 on: 10 October 2015, 05:23:53 »
She's seen in combat - though not in a prominent role, and it's a Clan-style trial with substantial political undercurrents affecting its execution - in the story Ghost Bear's Lament (Part 2: The Fading Call of Glory).
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Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #2 on: 10 October 2015, 13:53:59 »
I always been fascinated with Belle,  she did appear in the string of short-stories in the ATOW books short-stories.

Is the short story that Michael Stackpole wrote up still considered to be canon?  We don't know what happened to them, it was free download from WizKids site.  I was curious why her grandson was living in FedSuns still.  Why did she leave?

Thanks again for the good write up, Grey!
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Frabby

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #3 on: 10 October 2015, 15:02:35 »
All MWDA stuff - including the entire content of LinkNet - is canon. Most, possibly all of it is now available in the download section of the BT website.
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Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #4 on: 10 October 2015, 18:13:29 »
Doesn't the Belle's Grandson thing pre-date Linknet?
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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #5 on: 10 October 2015, 23:48:50 »
She's seen in combat - though not in a prominent role, and it's a Clan-style trial with substantial political undercurrents affecting its execution - in the story Ghost Bear's Lament (Part 2: The Fading Call of Glory).

Yes, though that was. . . odd. Aside from Stone in his Atlas II no one was in the right 'Mech in his lance. David McKinnon was in a Grasshopper despite a history with Black Knights, John Hopewell, noted Blackjack pilot was in a Celestial of all things, still Medium weight. And Belle was in, I think, a 9-K Atlas. So I'm not sure if that's indicative.

What's more is that she's not the focus, the trial itself isn't even the focus in the story, it's the latest in a list of events going against the character prompting growth, of sorts. So Belle isn't being a supporting character in the story, she's pretty much incidental.

Still, if she turned up in more, even in this capacity, we would learn new and interesting things about her all the same.

SteelRaven

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #6 on: 11 October 2015, 01:19:14 »
We have new novels coming, maybe one writer will be brave enough to tackle the story of Stone's Laments. It's hard to judge characters we know little about by design and while the short stories give us a good idea, it seems to leave allot of people only asking more questions.

Why did Belle leave the RotS? Don't know but I have a few ideas: Her Grandson had no idea she was a Lament, her Victor was hidden away. Could very well be Belle wanted to leave her bloody past behind her (God knows Kai cannot be the only character who suffers from PTSD in the BTU) Belle's clear distant for politics only gives her more reason leave during those early years of nation building. She came from modest means and returned to modest means.

I find it kinda refreshing though it seems many people on the forum want to see name characters meet a plot induced grisly death. Dying in your sleep is boring ;D
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Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #7 on: 12 October 2015, 07:33:20 »
Tell that to character who got gristly Death. I'm sure they'll disagree with you with properly mech-scale weapon.
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False Son

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #8 on: 12 October 2015, 12:05:10 »
Remember, the Battletech short hand is that political characters are villainous while military characters are valorous. Or another way to put it is that politicians start problems and soldiers end them.

Not that it’s ever that simple, but that’s what Belle Lee is, representing the Republic she’s painted with the generic ‘good’ brush of the setting even though the position she’s in makes for a lot of headaches for all concerned.

Lee demonstrates a few of the limitations of the military in Battletech.  Even though she is military first, and politics a distant second, that doesn't entitle her to success in all things military.  She got hung up on the Australia campaign while other, politically appointed commanders got a greater share of glory going after less well defended positions.  Her being appointed to XO of the RAF is limited by the fact that the RAF was formed from Coalition partners.

If it wasn't for someone like Stone who was able to walk the line of being a military strongman and able to nod when David Lear was talking, Belle wouldn't have amounted to much.  Just being competent at your job doesn't get much done.  You have to be able to make friends and work well with others.  Thankfully, she was matched with Stone, who was able to recognize the value of different friends with different talents.  Belle Lee helps to moderate the perception that military equals good and military competence should take priority over politics and public policy.  It takes both skill sets.
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SteelRaven

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #9 on: 12 October 2015, 13:26:15 »
Tell that to character who got gristly Death. I'm sure they'll disagree with you with properly mech-scale weapon.
I was joking considering it's rare a name character doesn't die in combat (Natasha Kerensky, Jamie Wolf, Kai Allard-Liao) from assassination (Victor Steiner Davion,  Donner Bombing victims) or something equally dramatic. I know a few time forum members have been surprised when a character dies of natural causes (Hanse Davion of a hart attack, Grayson Carlyle of cancer, Anastasius Focht and Morgan Kell of old age)

Part of it is due to the advance medical technology in BTU allows characters to stay active for a very long time so they are given allot of opportunities to run into dangerous situations. Belle simple stopped running into battles to live a normal life, not unheard of but usually reserved for less prominent characters.       
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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #10 on: 13 October 2015, 00:49:07 »
Lee demonstrates a few of the limitations of the military in Battletech.  Even though she is military first, and politics a distant second, that doesn't entitle her to success in all things military.  She got hung up on the Australia campaign while other, politically appointed commanders got a greater share of glory going after less well defended positions.  Her being appointed to XO of the RAF is limited by the fact that the RAF was formed from Coalition partners.

If it wasn't for someone like Stone who was able to walk the line of being a military strongman and able to nod when David Lear was talking, Belle wouldn't have amounted to much.  Just being competent at your job doesn't get much done.  You have to be able to make friends and work well with others.  Thankfully, she was matched with Stone, who was able to recognize the value of different friends with different talents.  Belle Lee helps to moderate the perception that military equals good and military competence should take priority over politics and public policy.  It takes both skill sets.

Overall I'd tend to agree, her history is, well, somewhat mediocre, or perhaps just calling it average would be best. She has skills and talent but without an opportunity being given to her she wouldn't shine, unlike a lot of other characters who have to just exist to get sunlight (I'm looking mainly at Kai, Natasha, Phelan and even Paul Masters).

The moderating of military equalling good I agree with, but I'm not sure of it's overall effectiveness, but that's more to do with the comments coming from David Lear in some of the books than with Belle. I'm not sure if it's deliberate or not, or even just my own perception (which could be the result of the Battletech filter) but he can't help but come across as sinister, even though he may just be conspiratorial, and nothing started in Battletech without a little bit of conspiracy.

But, I do like the limitations she shows, it's another sign of moving from a pulp sci fi to a military sci fi setting. In the old days she would have been the undisputed military hero of events. I'm not sure I'm thankful of the change considering the sorts of people who did come out of Terra covered in glory.

False Son

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #11 on: 13 October 2015, 10:52:05 »
The moderating of military equalling good I agree with, but I'm not sure of it's overall effectiveness, but that's more to do with the comments coming from David Lear in some of the books than with Belle. I'm not sure if it's deliberate or not, or even just my own perception (which could be the result of the Battletech filter) but he can't help but come across as sinister, even though he may just be conspiratorial, and nothing started in Battletech without a little bit of conspiracy.

To be fair, David Lear sought to remake society along his idealogical lines.  There shouldn't be a question in anyone's mind whether or not he was a shifty fellow.  The Inner Sphere was not about to become the Republic through the natural course of history.

Quote
But, I do like the limitations she shows, it's another sign of moving from a pulp sci fi to a military sci fi setting. In the old days she would have been the undisputed military hero of events. I'm not sure I'm thankful of the change considering the sorts of people who did come out of Terra covered in glory.

I look at Belle Lee in a light similar to, but in more forgiving terms than Aleksandr Kerensky.  Both were military minds who despised politics.  The difference lies in their surrounding circumstances.  Kerensky had the ability to be a naysayer of politicians with the benefit of a pre established state and benefited from the outrage over Amaris destroying that state.  Lee's challenge was in forming the Coalition and the Republic, a set of tasks her attitudes would have been poorly suited. 
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Hellraiser

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Belle Lee
« Reply #12 on: 24 October 2015, 22:18:29 »
I like her, She kind of reminds of early Alexander Kerensky in a way, but with less strategic/political skills & an attitude problem.
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