Space: Above and Beyond – The Dark Side of the Sun

This episode’s focal character is Captain Vansen. I don’t think that I’ve even mentioned her yet, but she’s the leader of the unit we’re following on this show (the Wild Cards, apparently) and her deal is that she lost her family during the AI Wars and she’s understandably upset about it. It’s worth noting that a woman in command is another commonality with Earth 2. We’re lucky the Internet in those days wasn’t what it was now or we’d have had a frothing horde of men who claim this was oppression.

Because this is Vansen’s episode and we’re delving into her past, we learn a lot more about the AIs. There’s a whole thing about their creation that I didn’t commit to memory because I doubt it’s important, but what we do know is that they’re called Silicates. If that came up in earlier episodes, I missed it. What is definitely new is that we learn a bit about their culture: they worship risk and chance and gambling as if it was their religion. After the AI Wars, they left Earth and, at least the group we see here, are living as space pirates. When this group tries to hijack some mining operation, the Wild Cards assume they are going to sell it to the Chigs. I don’t know if that’s entirely a guess on their part or if such an economy actually exists. If it does, I have to assume first contact between the Chigs and the Silicates happened before that with the rest of humanity, because humanity didn’t know the Chigs existed until a few months ago. I find their worship of chance to be an interesting choice, though it did lead to one of them saying “Fate’s a bitch!” in a way that was probably meant to sound cool or threatening, but was instead goofy. But they’re gonna be goofy because we’re told they are completely taught on existing material and can’t come up with ideas of their own, which is actually pretty prescient given the current state of things that the news continue to call “AI” in spite of the fact it is closer to predictive text.

Anyway, Vansen wants to know why the Silicates killed her family. Because the AI are able to access the memories of each other or whatever, she learns her family was picked by a coin flip. I’m someone who likes to see the randomness of the universe in the fiction I deal with, so I like that. Vansen then goes on a killing spree of Silicates and saves her allies, who were pinned down. She doesn’t exactly get closure, but in the militaristic genre, getting kills is proof of your worth, so that’s good for her.

By the way, the episode opens with the unit being assigned guard duty of this mine and they are unhappy with it. This unit of idiot children want to be assigned at the front lines, where they get to see action. You’d think that people in the military would understand the idea of strategic value and such, but these guys just want to bang their ships against the Chig ships to prove how tough they are. Idiot children, I say. We don’t actually see their space planes in this one. We get the Saratoga battleship-style turret fighting in space and then the rest of the battle is ground fighting. These kids can do it all.

Also, when on a planet with a third Earth’s gravity, the first thing that Wang does is throw a football into orbit. So good for him.

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