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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Kai Allard-Liao  (Read 1983 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Kai Allard-Liao
« on: 21 December 2016, 20:30:23 »
Character Study of the Week: Kai Allard-Liao
Who: Kai Allard-Liao
What: Leftenant, 10th Lyran Guards, Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth
   Champion of Solaris
   Duke of St Ives
   Lord Governor, Prefecture V, Republic of the Sphere
When: 3030 - 3113
Weapon of Choice: 3F Hatchetman
         CN9 – YLW Centurion, Yen-Lo-Wang
         CN9 – YLW2 Centurion, Yen-Lo-Wang
CN9 – YLW2 Centurion, Yen-Lo-Wang
         4D Penetrator
         Ryoken B (Stormcrow)
         Daishi (Dire Wolf)

This is the Christmas Special Request, and quite a monumental one to end the year on.

First born to former AFFS MechWarrior/Solaris Champion/turncoat/former Maskirova bigshot/double agent/AFFC spymaster Justin Allard and Duchess of St Ives/former heir to the Capellan Confederation Candice Liao, Kai came into the world with enough baggage and background to smother two characters.

Kai’s history is so intensively intertwined with the major conflicts of the setting that trying to do it justice would just derail the whole article, so let’s jump right to it and analyse Kai the character.

He is a protagonist ****** support character, the focus of quite a few stories but slowly side-lined as his involvement in the greater story arc becomes more peripheral. More on that later.

This does mean his main consistent role is that of best friend to Victor Steiner-Davion, one of a handful of true friends who can reach him, and thus a vital support to who, is for better or worse, the main protagonist for much of the series.

It’s a vital role, no man is an island and Victor is isolated as it is, so having actual friends supports the character and humanises him. However that is Victor, and honestly while Kai may be his best, and quite possibly longest lasting friend, it speaks more about Victor than Kai.

The core of the character is, for better or worse, a pulp science fiction uber able protagonist.

We’ve seen them before, basically any military or combat task they set their minds to they accomplish.

This is not to say that there’s no conflict or cakewalks, or some elements of his life that are less than smooth.

Romantically Kai faces difficulties, and this extends to his family at large, his children becoming increasingly distant over time, though the specifics are not elaborated on.

Similarly his leadership of St Ives, regardless of its status as a nation or Commonality, is divisive at best due to politics clashing with his personal views.

The trouble is that most of this conflict, the problems resulting from personality if you will, occur off screen. That is, aside from the relationship issues with Deidre Lear, which is a necessary element of conflict in Kai’s narrative given that little else challenges him, all of the issues, most resulting from his views and personality, happen after he has been unceremoniously dropped as a main character.

This is because, as I say, Kai is an unapologetic pulp sci-fi hero, and the setting changed. Becoming more of a military pulp setting was hardly smooth, and because of his reputation and abilities Kai couldn’t just be killed, that would be as jarring as continuing to have him run around in a customized Medium Murder Mayhem ‘Mech.

So side-lined. Made duke. Given responsibilities outside of his established abilities and while showing he’s still ethically good, and driven and focused on duty twist these responsibilities just enough that he can’t stay.

And of course top this off with physical degradation that reduces his ability to take the field without reducing his capabilities.

Why? Wouldn’t it be simpler to give him some equivalent of Parkinson’s or full blown dementia? Well, that baggage, really.

In as much as the setting changed from one form of pulp to another it was still founded on a more fantastical science fiction element and Kai was a core part of it for too long to be eliminated out of hand. Even in a harsher setting he is a character of destiny, too much has been invested in him not to give him an ending of considerable weight.

Which is why he dies taking down the elite and most ethically questionable foes possible after a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that almost single handedly stalls the Liao advance during the Capellan Crusades. It’s as awesome an end as there can be aside from taking out the Blakist Flagship solo using nothing but Yen-Lo-Wang, manoeuvring by firing weapons because he lacks a jump pack.

Does any of this make Kai a bad character?

I’ve stated before that as long as they serve the purpose they were designed for then a character is good for the work they are in. Kai is a little more complicated due to longevity, naturally.

In the beginning he was one of Stackpole’s stock heroic characters, that is he had one or more of the basic Stackpole heroic character traits for pulp fiction, which means short, left handed, green eyed and some sort of complicated father relationship without being daddy issues. Kai filled the latter while Victor, Shin Yodama and Phelan filled the other three in that order.

This may sound like bad writing but it’s more of a shortcut. Break the hero down into a few characteristics, even physical ones, and it becomes easier to hang other traits and events from that. This isn’t a bad plan, though it doesn’t guarantee good characters either, that’s a matter of writing skill.

Regardless Kai fulfils his role. He’s intended to be that generation’s uber warrior and he is that generation’s uber warrior.

On the one hand it breaks reality, survival of impossible events can seem contrived and many will call author fiat or something like that, but realistically it’s a fictional setting, everything on the page is contrived and author driven. The key is that Kai remains entertaining within the bounds of the genre.

And that’s why he fell away as a main character, the genre shifted, and to be totally honest it is harder and harder to involve him in events as the focus shifts more towards the Clans and the FedCom Civil War, which were much more Victor’s fights, as well as being external rather than internal conflicts.

True, Kai pops up in both events, but never as a focus character.

Those father issues I mentioned? These make the character one driven by internal conflict more than external. Yes, St Ives is reabsorbed into the Confederation, there’s a bunch of wars on, Kai’s all over it, but none present the kind of personal conflict for him as they do for Victor and others. Even the Capellan Civil War was more his mother’s conflict than his, Kai only turned up to fight.

It also fits the character perfectly. As I said Kai can win any battle by dint of being Kai, he’s just that good a warrior, but present him with personal conflict and he’s in as much trouble as the rest of us. That’s where the character’s true battles are fought. With his eventual wife, his children, his inner demons. Decapitating Assault ‘Mechs at range is easy by comparison.

And with that let’s take a quick look at his weapons of war.

Yen-Lo-Wang, the customized Centurion of his father, is his chosen mount, initially with the same load out of an AC20 replacing the standard cannon and missiles.

We never see Kai pilot this one.

Partly for plot reasons, the Hatchetman was required for facing off against the Falcon Guards because in order for Kai and his for some reason tagging along antagonistic love interest to survive the plot required a ‘Mech with a full head ejection system, and Phelan baggsied the Wolfhound. Realistically though this variant is much more Justin’s than Kai’s.

Still, in a lot of respects the Hatchetman is functionally similar, so not a huge stretch that Kai pilot one.

Of course the next thing we see him in is the Daishi Wolf’s Dragoons have all the heirs in for a sort of Trial of Position as a part of training to face the Clans.

In this Kai faces off and downs six warriors in ‘Mechs from Medium to Assault, including such luminaries as his own father, Hanse Davion and even Jamie Wolf.

It’s an odd duck design because, much like Phelan’s Trial of Position Dire Wolf, it has just about every type of weapon possible packed on to it.

So the reasoning behind the Dire Wolf/Daishi is quite diverse. On the one hand it’s a bit more realistic to have someone, even with Ki’s skills, face off and down six ‘Mechs alone while piloting this machine. It also shows off the new toys available in this era.

Which segues into the Penetrator Kai uses on Solaris VII. Serious case of new toy syndrome. The design needed to be shown off, perfect time. Not to say that the Penetrator is a bad ‘Mech, it’s actually very good, it just doesn’t fit Kai since he’s a Medium with a cannon jockey.

Which makes the Ryoken piloted during the Great Refusal more sensible. Big gun, lasers, swift, in a lot of ways it’s what Justin would have piloted if given Clan tech. And using this Kai manages to blast Vlad out of his Timber Wolf, however it’s also another plot induced design. One arm has all the lasers, the other has an ammo hungry weapon. Guess which arm comes off?

It still serves, triggering the stalemate.

This of course leads to the question of why Yen-Lo-Wang wasn’t being used at the time, given the similarities which would have led to the same problem and thus resolution.

And this is why I left Yen-Lo-Wang till last.

It’s a Gauss Rifle and Medium Pulse Lasers on a swift 50 tonne design with Triple Strength Myomer to begin with, and thus rather different from the original. Later this changes to a Clantech Gauss, LRM 20 and ER Medium Laser combo. Always with a hatchet.

But we don’t hear much from Kai when he’s piloting it.

Oh, he’s seen running around in the thing quite often, but it’s never as straight forward as seeing his perspective from the cockpit during a fight.

Case in point he’s often seen blasting foes away from Victor, as told from Victor’s perspective.

Why?

Good question. Part of it may be that even though he is the inheritor and longest (to date) user of Yen-Lo-Wang it is still very much his father’s ride, that is it’s someone else’s plot device.

And, as I’ve kept saying, Kai doesn’t face much in the way of real challenge on the battlefield. Stories are built on conflict and challenge, so there’s not much point in having large portions of novels focusing on Kai in his personal ‘Mech. There just isn’t much story to it.

So as the uber warrior of his time is Kai a failure? True he achieves amazing things in combat, largely off page though. Does that make him a bad character?

It’s a bit of a trick to think that the best MechWarrior is going to be constantly shown best MechWarrioring in stories. Yes, it would be amazing to see, but it would get very over the top and boring very quickly.

Which may be why that this is how he dies. An epic battle, doing what he does best until utterly overwhelmed in terms of quantity and quality, behaving in such a way that is largely ananthema to how he lived his life. The protagonist fell, thus his death had weight and drama.

Thus in order to succeed as a protagonist Kai can’t be often seen doing what he does best, a character needs to face challenges.

I suppose what I’m trying to say that Kai is technically not a failure as a character, he fits the purpose perfectly, but at the same time he is going to be divisive owing to differing tastes and perspectives.

Like it or love it, Battletech started out as a sort of space opera adventure series, and even changing to a grimmer, military style science fiction always had to keep a foot in the unrealistic side of things.

Kai was always on the more unrealistic side, but at the same time adventure was served by having precisely this sort of character running around, doing his unrealistic, and ultimately entertaining, thing.

Darkwing

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Kai Allard-Liao
« Reply #1 on: 22 December 2016, 13:42:59 »
I often saw his story line as a comparison to the warrior monk line they sort of established with Morgan Kell. The peaceful warrior. The reluctant fighter. This was further emphasized by making his love interest a pacifist doctor, and contrasted by the RAMPAGE (please read in an Archer Sterling voice) that he went on to the bitter end. Personally I found a lot of satisfaction in reading the Wars of the Republic sourcebook and found his end quite fitting. Nice write up on an extensive character!
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mikecj

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Kai Allard-Liao
« Reply #2 on: 22 December 2016, 17:02:52 »
Another great write-up.  Thanks!
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marauder648

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Kai Allard-Liao
« Reply #3 on: 25 December 2016, 08:23:48 »
An excellent write up for...the Han Solo if the B-tech universe, often a main character but often a main supporting character.  He died a warrior's death for sure, and was at pretty much every major event of the age.
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