Cheeseburger Gothic

Caitlin Monroe character bio

Posted November 24, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

I was organizing my work files when I came across a series of character work ups for The Disappearance series. Tusk Musso was in there, still carrying all of the baggage we loaded him up with in that 'Build Me a Marine' entry back at JSpace.

And Caitlin. My beloved Caitlin. It was fascinating to read the bio I wrote her before I wrote even a single word of Without Warning. Before I got anywhere near that first line:

The killer awoke, surrounded by strangers.

In my early planning she was more of a 'bionic woman' type, loaded up with inserts and biomods. I stripped all that out, along with a lot of the family history you see here. Her father and siblings, you might remember were much more conventional. Nonetheless, whenever I needed to understand how she might respond to an extreme situation, such as her imprisonment and sexual assault by al Banna, I would return to this document and read it through.

Reading it now makes me want to go back to that series:

Caitlyn awakes in a hospital bed in Paris. She has been taken there along with other protesters who were set up. She sustained a head injury and was scanned. A lesion appears to have formed on her hippocampus, leading to memory problems. The lesion is not related to her head injury.

Name: Caitlyn Monroe

DOB: Sept 1. 1976

Current Appearance: Blonde hair. Grey/green eyes. 5"9. 71kg. Surfer's physique. Long, well muscled legs, unusually powerful arms and shoulders. Calloused hands and sides of feet. Some scarring on left upper thigh. Lower back. Old entry and exit wound right shoulder. Some faded, old defensive scarring on her forearms. Small chip set scar within larger scar tissue mass. She moves with a low centre of gravity and a noticeably feline flow of her limbs. Her resting state is still, almost unnaturally so.

Parents: Father Unknown. Mother. Tamsyn Ozorio. Monroe's mother, a Honolulu hotel cleaner died during childbirth. Turned out by her Brethren family for having sex as a teenager, she won a trip to Hawaii in a Wal-Mart store promotion and stayed there. With no known relatives willing to claim the baby, Monroe became a ward of the state. She was fostered out to a series of homes, staying in none longer than six months. She was a problem child and many of the homes were themselves problematic. At the age of six she was 'adopted' by Echelon and raised by them to become a weapon. She had carers and tutors rather than parents, but the Echelon staff were kind and, with four other Echelon babies, they became her family.

The Echelon Parents, Monroe Cohort: Mary Jane Monroe. 'Mother'. DOB Jul 25, 1970. US Army Lt-Colonel. Psychologist. 'Father' Dave Monroe. US Navy Commander. Psychologist.

Echelon children, Monroe Cohort: Michael, born Aug 2 1996(actual); James. born Feb 3 1998 (actual). Trish. born March 12 1997 (actual). Julianne. born October 3 2000 (actual).

The Echelon Program.

First mooted in the late 1990s, but not activated until late 2002, the Echelon Program took a small number of state wards from a young age and 'adopted' them into Echelon families. They were to be raised, as the children of Sparta were once raised, to be weapons. In their early years the Monroe Family were 'home schooled' near two military bases where Dave Monroe worked as an Army psyops specialist. The Monroe children grew up around the children of other military personnel, forming friendships with them, playing with them, leading otherwise normal lives. They were told from an early age that they were adopted, explaining their age cross overs and physical dissimilarities. James and Julianne, for instance were olive skinned and dark haired, where Caitlyn blonde and fair.

In addition to their normal schooling however, they received much additional tuition. Firstly in foreign languages. After school, five days a week, tutors would train them in Arabic (Mondays), Chinese (Tuesdays), Spanish (Wednesdays), Russian (Thursdays), French (Fridays). On Saturdays all conversation took place in one of those languages, on a rotating basis. When the children started high school, German and Japanese were added to their curriculum.

They also received intense physical training, although it was never sold to them as 'training'. They were simply raised to believe that everyone should play a lot of sport. Their sports included swimming, cross country orienteering, martial arts, gymnastics, pistol and rifle shooting. From as early as they could recall, their father and his army friends would take all of the children hunting. They were encouraged to stalk, kill, and butcher their prey. Occasionally they even traveled overseas to hunt. Foxes in England. Wild boar in Australia. Bears in Canada. One these trips they would occasionally meet other Echelon children, often described as 'cousins' with very similar backgrounds and skills to their own. Caitlyn had a winter hat made out of white seal fur from a pup she had clubbed and stripped herself on one such trip.

As the children grew they came to socialise increasingly with their 'cousins' and less and less frequently with anyone else. Their training became harder and more dangerous. Their academic lessons more challenging. From the age of ten, they began formal instruction in civics, with an emphasis on the idea of public service. At fifteen they were told the meaning of their lives and what was intended for them. They were shown a video of the Twin Towers attack, and later atrocities. They were asked if they wanted to help stop that sort of thing ever happening again. Of course they did. Their conditioning was akin to that of a suicide bomber, but it was life long and conducted with the full resources of a hyper power, and under the tutelage of psyops experts. From the age of sixteen to nineteen the Echelon children undertook the equivalent of an undergrad degree in espionage. They were assessed and their various strengths analysed by the programs administrators. In spite of their unusual upbringing the children, or young adults by now, were not automatons. They were individuals with their own foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Their controllers gradually came to assign them different roles based on their individual talents and inclinations.

Caitlyn Monroe stood out for a number of reasons. She was unusually intelligent, with a tendency to grow bored if not continually challenged. She had been accelerated at least eighteen months ahead of her age cohort in the Echelon academic program because of this. Program controllers speculated that her unknown father may have been the source of her academic abilities. She had a natural acuity for languages beyond even the norm in the Echelon cohort, which was itself a statistical outlier because of the way the children had been trained so intensively in languages from an early age.

She was off the scale in a number of physical indicators. Again, the Echelon children were stronger, faster and had much grater endurance than the norm, because of their life long training. But within this group, Caitlyn also stood out. Her strength, her fast twitch musculature, her cardio vascular health, her eye hand coordination, pain thresholds etc were all significantly greater than her peers. She could have competed for a men's gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon.

Psychologically she returned high scores along both empathic and competitive axes of personality matrices from an early age. In sports and games she exhibited high drives towards dominating opponents, but without objectifying them. Indeed, as she grew older, her ability to empathise with opponents became an advantage she deployed with great effect. Whether playing chess, paintball or judo, she was better able to 'read' an opponent than anyone else in the progam. In later role playing exercises, she demonstrated a unusual willingness and ability to blend into any group, to establish trust, and to betray it, without a qualm if necessary.

She was emotionally self-contained, not nearly as giving as her 'bothers and sisters', and not needing physical or emotional contact to the same extent. Nevertheless, her empathic nature allowed her to understand others needs in this regard, and although she was naturally happiest with her own company, she was able to 'swtich on' with friends, family members, targets etc.

At the end of her 'undergrad' period she was allocated to a specialist training cadre for assassins.

Job: Killer. Caitlyn Monroe is an employee of the Office of Special Clearances and Research (OSCAR), an executive unit of the Echelon Program. Her pay and conditions are equivalent to a US Ambassador. She specialises in deep penetration and multiple target preperation. Rather than individual targets, she is assigned to target clusters, such as independent cells or leadership cadres. She penetrates the target group, gains their trust, and sets them up for sanction by OSCAR. Her operations are deniable. She sets up cells to be wiped out by rival factions. Money handlers can be sold out to criminal interests. Recruiters from radical mosques set upon by neofascist street thugs. Sometimes however, she is required to take direct action herself, and on those occasions she will simply 'disappear' entire clusters. Killing them all and organising for disposal.

Home: Her only home is in the Echelon reserve, five thousand acres of woodland in northern California, at the centre of which is a small compound a little like Camp David where the Echelon cohorts can gather for family events. Other than that she moves from one safe house to the next, or lives wherever her 'cover' might take her.

Interests: Caitlyn surfs, a legacy of her time in California. She keeps three short boards at the compound and when on vacation (six weeks a year) travels to surf breaks with her brother Michael. She has an extensive memorystick library of surfing videos, going right back to Endless Summer and OSCAR subscribes to three surfing magazines on her behalf. She wants desperately to take on the big wave riders at Mavericks etc, but is restrained from doing so by OSCAR, because very few women have ever ridden those breaks, and she would quickly find herself on the cover of half the surfing mags in the world if she did.

She cooks. As part of her language training, she was frequently exposed to the cuisines of the country's whose languages she was learning. She took French cooking lessons in French. She worked as a kitchen hand in an Italian restaurant. Through learning about the cuisines she also learned about the histories and culture of the subject countries. She can relax when cooking and at family gatherings she has become the kitchen boss, taking over from her father, Dave. Mary-Jane was a woeful cook. The children's meals were often prepared by their language tutors, as part of the training.

Fears: Abandonment. Does this gel with her self contained lonesomeness? Or does it explain it? Perhaps she cuts herself off as an insulation against abandonment.

In her early years in the program both tendencies were noted. Caitlyn was content to be on her own, and spent much of her free time reading or playing by herself. But twice, when she thought she had been lost by the family she displayed neither fear, nor paralysis, but rage. Observed by program analysts, she was later questioned about the incidents, one at shopping mall, the other at a fair ground. They concluded that in fact she had suffered an intense fear reaction to being 'lost', but had referred the emotion into a furious rage. All of the Echelon children display understandable sensitivity to abandonment issues, but when tested most of them exhibited normal 'fear' responses, rather than intense anger.

Prejudices: No known prejudices. The Echelon children were raised to judge people and situations on the merits.

Desires: Autonomy. Like all of the Echelon cohort, Caitlyn has a strong desire to please her adoptive mother and father, a programmed urge which was later transferred to her controllers, without lessening any attachment he felt to her parents. Unlike her siblings and other Echelon cohorts in both the US and partner countries, Caitlyn displayed a notable desire for personal autonomy from her earliest days in the program. Translated into adult behavior this manifested itself in such mundane ways as a stated preference for living alone during her college years, and individual leisure activities such as surfing. More significantly she tested high for an ability to work alone, under extreme duress, as long as she had confidence in her controllers.

Attitudes: Caitlyn consider 99% of men to be undate-able, but acknowledges that she herself falls into this category. She has an almost naïve faith in the idea of one true love, but a realistic appraisal of the chances of meeting him. About three billion to one.

She hates commercial television, but loves romantic comedies and maintains a large collection of them on stick.

She reads cookbooks, popular histories and biography.

She hates exercise classes but loves training on her own in a gym.

Her favorite city is Florence.

Her favorite season is autumn.

She loves airport lounges because there’s nothing to do but relax and wait.

Her favorite snack is coffee and a Spanish donut, which she indulges in once a month.

Otherwise she tries to eat only organic foods when not on a job.

She has a contraceptive subdermal insert.

She hates cigarette smoke, but quite likes the smell of pipe tobacco.

She does not vote.

When at home with her family she likes to play board games and cards.

She describes her religion as frisbeetarian, but she is quietly Catholic, mostly non-practicing.

Her room at the compound still contains many of her childhood toys and she is prone to tantrums if it is disturbed while she is away.

Friends: Caitlyn has no friends outside of Echelon. She surfs with an Australian girl, from another Ecehlon cohort. And when in London she always catches up with a financial analyst, another woman, from the UK program. She has no close male friends among her contemporaries, but her unarmed combat instructor, a former marine, is something akin to a favorite uncle. Now retired, he lives in Florida, and she sends him emails and cards via Echelon. He is a friend of her fathers and sometimes travels out to the compound for holidays. A football fan, she has taken him to a couple of games, including a rugby world cup in France in which the American team was beaten 113 to 6 by Scotland.

Enemies: Her enemies are mostly dead.

26 Responses to ‘Caitlin Monroe character bio’

Drew from OZ asserts...

Posted November 24, 2014
"Her enemies are mostly dead." lol.

Respond to this comment

Sparty mutters...

Posted November 24, 2014
Hits home on what Echelon was really about, which to some degree had to play second fiddle to the main MacGuffin - I'd be interested to read a pre - disappearance novel.

Respond to this comment

DarrenBloomfield mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
So, now we can explain Jacqui Lambie.

Respond to this comment

Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 24, 2014
Wiki entries on Birmoverses. Birmopedia sideline. What this sort of detail shows is what sits behind the books, and that's just one character. A great example for those who want to make a series work.

Respond to this comment

sibeen has opinions thus...

Posted November 24, 2014
She could have competed for a men's gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon.

I suspect you're jumping the shark with that one a tad, even for a novel.

Respond to this comment

Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted November 24, 2014
Wife and friend just returned from a talk from Robin Hobb which included some technique. Interesting points of similarity - detailed bios of characters, chapters to clarify characters etc. Apparently Fitz (if anyone reads Hobb) has a whole life story, far beyond what will ever appear in the books. The stories are something that happens to him during a part of that life. Odd coincidence with this topic tonight but innerstring.

Respond to this comment

Murphy mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
I can see them having an apartment near Monterey, California where the Defense Language Institute is set up. That would account for Caitlin's language training. I wouldn't be surprised if some of her swimming and mil grade skills actually come from the Navy SEAL community, they'd be better suited for some of that work.

As for Northern California, I bet in addition to surfing Caitlin probably enjoys skiing, particularly on Mount Shasta. Having spent some time there with Cindy I have to say there is some pretty interesting terrain there.

I gotta say, I think her martial arts training in Japan, which we saw in Angels of Vengeance, was far more brutal than anything the military could have doled out. As a reader, I have to say it was a breath of fresh air to find that some of her killing skills came from a place other than a standard military organization.

That might also be down to the fact that aside from a month of Tae Kwon Doe and another month of Karate, I don't know martial arts.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2014
Funny thing is, that detail about her having studied old school Aikido in Japan isn't in the character profile. It came to me later after I read Damon Young's Philosophy and the Martial Arts.

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted November 25, 2014
And the best part is that your bio didn't become a strait jacket.

I definitely think there is something to be said for improvisation.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Respond to this thread

Chicom Mick asserts...

Posted November 25, 2014
A very interesting read JB. It gives her character even more depth just reading the above details. It's a bio worth revisiting.

Respond to this comment

JohnT swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
That was really insightful JB. Man expands Echelon in a way I never suspected and really gives insight into Caitlyn. I also like this idea of fleshing out characters for stories. Thanks for the behind the scenes look.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
Damn, that was fun.

Respond to this comment

Dirk ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2014
Well Murph try googling Sambo or KravMaga and you get a taste.

So three Hoopers and 2 Hooper ebooks in the pipeline and a Hammer.
Wanna do a releasedate agenda for those, JB?

sibeen reckons...

Posted November 25, 2014
Dirk, could you please do the same for when your next Night Beast is out.

Murphy would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2014
Yeah, Dirk. I was taking that Karate class about the same time John got his forearm split in two. He has better medical care so at the end of the day he got better.

I, on the other hand, had a bit of ankle trouble during that class and decided that forty was not the time to be trying out Karate. They tend to amputate first and ask questions later at the VA.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Respond to this thread

Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted November 25, 2014


A nice dose of nostalgia - thanks John. I think I now know what to re-read over the Christmas break (after Dave volume 1 of course ...)

Respond to this comment

Peter Bradley mutters...

Posted November 25, 2014
Excellent! But more interesting for me was the contrast between what was there and the back story I had in my head built from what we found out in the books.

Respond to this comment

Blake swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
Ive often wondered if Frank Herbert (Dune) did the same thing, it always felt to me like he'd invested considerable effort to build this amazing sandbox full of intricately detailed support characters, most of whom are dead or sidelined by half way through the book.

I was never a huge fan of the next few books because i didnt really get into the narrative without the depth the original cast gave. Eventually he does bring them back and tell some stories i engaged more with so i wonder if he too felt invested in the charecters enough that he had writers guilt for killing them.



Respond to this comment

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2014
You know what we need next?

Milosz!

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

spankee puts forth...

Posted November 25, 2014
Milosz's bio read by Milosz:
"I am always interesting in hear myself talk.."

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2014
Yes to Milosz! He rocks :)

tqft mutters...

Posted November 26, 2014
Yes Polish

Respond to this thread

Chaz swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
Spanish doughnut? oh you mean a churro!!!!!

Respond to this comment

pilgrim3 is gonna tell you...

Posted November 25, 2014
Thank you,just ordered Without Warning at my library.

Respond to this comment

tarl is gonna tell you...

Posted November 27, 2014
Minor comment about the "parents". Specifying a rank for a U.S. officer (Lt. Col., CMDR) which lasts for the duration of a childhood isn't viable - an officer gets promoted every 4 years or so, or leaves the service. For something like Echelon, if you were going to use officers, they'd start 3-4 ranks below what they would be when the child graduated. Assuming they didn't get squeezed out as the promotion tree grew narrower.

It's also unlikely you'd have command-line officers in what is basically a technical M.O.S. Maybe warrant officers, who actually will have a rank which stays with the job for a decade at a time. Or retired officers who are working as civilian contractors.

Respond to this comment

balri has opinions thus...

Posted June 24, 2016
Interesting. I was just read Soul Full of Guns and saw the name Caitlin Montoe mentioned in passing. Hmm. Why does that name sound familiar? A quick Google and here I am. Now I'm pondering the deeper implications of Dave vs the Monsters sharing a universe with the Disappearance and wondering how the timelines mesh. Or maybe I'm over thinking it. Either way, nice Easter Egg

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Caitlin Monroe character bio'

Follow along with RSS