Admiral Branden Kel-Paten was the breakout character from Games of Command by science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair. In the author’s words, the angst-ridden Admiral is “a bio-cybe, a man/machine construct, his human familiarity now blurred by the knowledge of his cybernetic augmentations.”
Here’s the story summary from the author’s Web site:
The universe isn’t what it used to be. With the new alliance between the Triad and the United Coalition, Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian finds herself serving under her former nemesis, bio-cybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten—and doing her best to hide a deadly past. But when an injured mercenary falls into their ship’s hands, her efforts may be wasted …
Wanted rebel Jace Serafino has information that could expose all of Sass’ secrets, tear the fragile Alliance apart—and end Sass’s career if Kel-Paten discovers them. But the bio-cybe has something to hide as well, something once thought impossible for his kind to possess: feelings...for Sass. Soon it’s clear that their prisoner could bring down everything they once believed was worth dying for—and everything they now have to live for…
I know: Kel-Paten is technically a bio-cybe, and he probably didn’t cost six billion dollars (along with two box tops and postage & handling), but who’s counting? Frankly, he’s one of the most underappreciated romance heroes of all time. Oh, what the heck, I’ll go for broke: He’s also one of the most underappreciated science fiction heroes of all time (and then some).
How does his excellence add up, you wonder?
Bred from biological donors, Branden Kel-Paten underwent transformative surgeries as an adolescent. Then he was pressed—or brainwashed, more likely—into service for his Triad bosses. Now, a funny thing happened on the way to the bio-cybe laboratories: Kel-Paten was equipped with “emo-inhibitors” that repress tender emotions but allow ones like anger to be expressed. This insidious factor creates a host of interpersonal challenges for Kel-Paten while commanding his huntership the Vaxxar in an ongoing quest to establish peace in the galaxy.
Enter Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian. She’s now under his command, but unbeknownst to Sass, he’s hopelessly in love with her. The captain’s beguiling green eyes and pert bottom give Kel-Paten a case of raging libido (hey, way to channel one’s anger into something positive!). But there’s far more to his character than that.
While reading Games of Command, I was struck by both the endearing and disturbing aspects of Kel-Paten’s background and personality. To begin with, technically he’s an orphan, unless you count a government scientific conglomerate as a parent…? No? Right, I didn’t think so either. Then there are the numerous, unsightly scars crisscrossing his body from the relentless surgeries. Naturally, these perceived flaws took a sledgehammer to an already fragile shell of self-esteem.
Not only that, but Kel-Paten’s tough ’n’ gruff style manages to alienate his colleagues with wince-inducing regularity. Therefore, it should be no surprise that he earned the nickname “Tin Soldier.” Now bear with me, because I’m trying very hard not to gush about this…must stop being so effusive about the rapturous appeal of that phrase…not going to wax geek here…but darn it all, I can’t help myself! “Tin Soldier” is so freakin’ cool!
Now that I’m warmed up, here’s more to feast upon: Kel-Paten’s huntership was built to specification of his unique abilities. Therefore, he can “spike” into the ship’s systems for a variety of tasks. That his eyes gleam crimson during this process is icing on the proverbial cake. Oh…you want to know about that…well of course he’s strong! Handsome, too. Good golly miss molly, the thought of those firm, broad thighs pressing up against my….
Where was I? Oh yes, the sexual tension! What’s fresh about Kel-Paten is that he’s a romantic at heart without being all sloppy about it. His guarded exterior, repressed emotions, and heartbreaking forlornness ensure that he will have to work three times as hard as other heroes to win Sass’ heart.
And I mustn’t fail to mention that Branden Kel-Paten is a virgin hero. All of that pent-up sexual energy, fueled by a cybernetically enhanced body? That’s hot.
Yet, he struggles with basic relationship skills such as flirtation and communicating feelings. How intriguing that instead of love letters/emails, Kel-Paten dictates log entries to express his feelings about Sass. She may read them; she may never. It’s an adorable quirk but also an indication of his maladjustment issues and interpersonal challenges. Deep stuff for an action adventure science fiction romance story, and just one of the reasons I can’t get Kel-Paten out of my head.
All of this adds up to a hero who is deeply vulnerable but also immensely powerful. He’s a puzzle of a dichotomy. In Janine’s review of Games of Command at Dear Author, she noted a “…duality within Kel-Paten, who doesn’t quite know how to reconcile his machine half with his human half.”
Will true love cultivate a positive self-identity shift for Branden Kel-Paten, allowing him to integrate his cyborg and human aspects? Will he overcome the emo-inhibitors? Is there hope for the eventual expression of his true feelings even though they’ve been programmed out of existence? Great questions, I know, but you’ll have to read the book and discover that for yourself.
If you’ve already read Games of Command and want to learn more about Kel-Paten, check out a two-part interview at Alien Romances here and here. I’ve included the new cover to the right, but there’s something to be said about that shot of him on the original cover (above) in all of his bio-cybe glory.
Now, let’s broaden the pool. Maybe you know an underappreciated bio-cybe/cyborg yourself whether he/she fell in love or not. Give that character a shout-out in the comment section. Prove to Admiral Branden Kel-Paten he’s in good company—he’d sure appreciate the validation.