X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, Chapter 3

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 3 of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, wherein we get to meet the baddies by actual meeting and by inference. And of course, it’s time for a background bit of dundundunnnnn to be audible, by now.

In personal news, we had the Spring 2018 concert, and it was glorious, and now we’ll get to take a break hahahahaha no of course not. Rehearsals started right back up this week, because we’re recording an album over the summer and that is insanity we haven’t attempted before. Let’s see where it goes.

will: Meantime, as you read this (assuming you read this when it goes up), I’ll soon be on my way to Chicago for FuMPFest, and I hope everybody has a good Memorial Day holiday, assuming everybody is in the US where we have that holiday.

z: Confession: The first two words of the chapter are our antagonist’s name (“Kirtan Loor…”) and I don’t like that name. Don’t ask me why. There, that’s out of the way.

will: Well, you’re hardly supposed to like him…

z: The first paragraph also puts us into his head, and tells us most of what we need to know of his personality:

Kirtan Loor struggled to keep a self-satisfied smirk from ruining the stern expression he had worked hard to cultivate. He wanted to appear implacable. He needed to be merciless.

So: Small scaredy fish trying to pretend to be Big Bad Mean Fish and not likely to succeed. In fact, he thinks he’s likely to fail, because he’s too eager to confront “an old nemesis” finally captured, but apparently said nemesis can always get under his skin. (Spoiler: He will.) He also has some “this will clean my ledger and I will show those who doubted me” type of thoughts, and it’s a little bit of too much, maybe?

will: If this guy were actually the major antagonist, I might agree–as it is, I sort of like the fact that he’s frankly not as good as he needs to be.

z: At any rate, he’s marching down the corridors of a light cruiser, the Expeditious, and he’s actually uncomfortable because the corridors are a bit too low-ceilinged for him. He’s supposed to look like a “taller, younger Grand Moff Tarkin” and tries to use the resemblance to his advantage in how people perceive him. Especially in the Imperial navy: He’s complaining inwardly that as a member of the Intelligence, the military resents him, because currently the government is under the control of “The Emperor’s former Intelligence chief,” and the military doesn’t like that, and that reflects on how they act towards “the least of her servants.”

Her, huh?

This would be the “inferred” baddie I was referring to.

will: Whom, of course, we will meet in time. And the fact that there are other baddies out there, as I said, lessens the blow of seeing all the ways that Kirtan Loor himself is frankly not as good as an antagonist should be.

There is something to be said for Stackpole giving us a bad guy who is plagued with doubts and impostor syndrome, as we usually associate those with heroes, though.

z: Also, even though it’s a bit telly-not-showy, this is intriguing: The Intelligence arm of the Imperial government (or at least the civilian Intelligence arm, I guess? It’s a bit confusing, taking this with what comes after but was written before) has seized power, and the military resents it, and we know that by the time of the Thrawn Trilogy, three years from now, the military is in control, so… let’s find out what happened, shall we?

will: Indeed. Though I think there’s an element of “in the Empire, it all comes down to power.” Military and civilian don’t have as clear meaning as they would in a less, well, Imperial government.

z: Loor arrives at the brig, exchanges information in the form of barely-disguised snarls of contempt with the Lieutenant on duty on both their parts, and is directed to the cell of the prisoner, whom we’re told was taken from a ship called Starwind and whose medical scan results show something that he himself may not know about. The Lieutenant wants to give him an escort because the prisoner has been ranked high on the Hostility Index. Loor says he gave that rating himself and he doesn’t want an escort. Lieutenant basically says, on your head be it, and Loor enters the cell.

It’s an “older, heavyset man” who meets Loor’s appearance with no surprise. Loor is surprised at said no surprise, but tries to hide it, and the prisoner just says he counted on it being Loor to capture him, in fact, and welp, within three lines this is already not going according to Loor’s plan. (Not that we knew what Loor’s plan is, but it probably involved gloating copiously, and nope, not happening.)

will: Nope. The prisoner basically says “I left you a blazing trail, moron, congratulations on following it.”

z: He tries to capture the upper hand (and introduces us to the prisoner) by saying “You, Gil Bastra, are going to die.” At his “duh, your fighters were shooting at me,” he spills something that other people might have built up to: Bastra has a terminal illness, which the medical scan found because they were looking for (and also found) the elevated levels of an anti-interrogation-drug-drug in his bloodstream. Loor had them scan for that drug because apparently they used to work together in law enforcement on Corellia; and Bastra himself mocked (read: taught) Loor about using (read: relying too much on) said interrogation drug because the counter exists. The dialogue about this tells us that Bastra was in Corellian Security, and Loor was in the Imperial Intelligence unit attached to the office.

will: Stackpole continues to over-italicize. The interrogation drug is skirtopanol, the anti-skirtopanol drug is lotiramine, and it turns out that lotiramine makes it hard to detect:

z: Loor says that said terminal illness, “blastonecrosis,” which sounds properly medically unpleasant I’ll add, can be cured.

will: Blastonecrosis (which I for a long time read as “bla-stone-crosis” before I realized it should be “blasto-necrosis”) is also italicized.

z: The implication is clear to Bastra: “And all I have to do to be cured is to turn in my friends?” Loor looks at the old, sick man and has one of those “to think I ever feared him” moments, through which we get a glimpse of their working relationship: Loor wasn’t very good at his job (implied) and Bastra did not respect him (stated) and criticized him (stated), which Loor used to fear (also stated, and oh, spare me from petty mediocre men). Then he cautions himself not to be undercut by Bastra again and tells the prisoner that there’s more fight in him, Bastra, than he shows. Bastra fashioned very good alternate identities for his “confederates,” and only made mistakes in his own. (“Oh, really?” alert.) But Loor knew the kind of moves Bastra was likely to make, so he’s caught Bastra, he says, and he is good at interrogation, and Bastra will give him “Corran Horn, Iella Wessiri, and her husband” at the end, muahahaha.

  1. The “muahahaha” is my addition but it works.
  2. This would be the dundundunnnn, in case that wasn’t clear.

will: And of course the Imperial march as well. But while I would almost expect the chapter to end there, with the name drop of Corran Horn, Stackpole continues.

z: Loor’s got the bit in his teeth now and continues with how he’s going to apply extreme pressure this and he knows Bastra well that, and throws in his inference that Corran Horn in particular will be easier to find because whatever role Bastra crafted for Horn, it’s likely to be too restrictive for Horn and Horn will resent that and be “too volatile to stay.” There’s some confusing history-as-seen-by-Loor in there: Horn’s father was Bastra’s partner, apparently, and Horn hates Bastra for… reasons… and Bastra, as conceived by Loor, would have been likely to make that alternative identity restrictive just because Bastra is petty and vengeful that way.

will: Loor also taps his temple at one point, making a comment that he hasn’t forgotten a “falling-out” that Corran and Bastra had.

z: This whole thing is a big “huh” for me at this point frankly, because up-and-coming-member of the New Republic’s Rock Star X-Wing Squadron is neither particularly restrictive in any sense, nor particularly low-key, so either Loor is wrong, or Loor is very right and when we met Corran, he’d already slipped out of that alternative identity. But we’ll see?

will: We will. It’ll be mentioned here, but I believe it will be expanded on in a Tales story.

z: At any rate, there’s other foreshadowing in the chapter to be fulfilled first. Bastra turns the tables, as we all saw coming: “I am vengeful–vengeful enough to engineer things so a disgraced Intelligence officer would spend the rest of his career dashing around the galaxy trying to capture three people he once worked with.” Who also escaped from under his nose, sorry, his “hooked beak” because said nose was too high up in the air to recognize the mistakes those three did make. I’m paraphrasing the rest:

Loor, predictably: “I caught you, didn’t I?”

Bastra, very predictably: “…yeah, after two years. I let you, idiot. You kept chasing my tail juuuuust a little too way behind and didn’t see where any of those three ran.”

will: Like Bastra said at the start.

z: Loor, so very predictably: “grar argh I will give you the torments of all the torments and you will give them up.”

Bastra, beyond predictably: “Nuh-uh. I laugh in your face.”

Loor, irritated, humiliated, come on do I have to say it: “Uh-huh. You’ll betray them.”

And scene.

What do I think? It’s a mixture. It’s nice to know that there’s a Shadow of the Past over Corran, because that instantly makes things more interesting than just a fighter-jock becoming The Best Fighter-Jock; until this plot point entered the reader could have been more involved in trying to figure out what ever happened and will happen to Tycho than our putative protagonist. (…not that that’s actually changed for some of us. Hi. But at least the interesting-coefficient is more balanced between the point-of-view character and the non-PoV character, now.)

On the other hand, Loor is a bit caricaturish, which isn’t helped by him being a PoV character, since he caricaturizes himself. And some of it is that coming back to this after twenty more years of reading fiction under my belt, the whole bad-guy being bombastically bad thing doesn’t feel all that menacing.

But then, maybe that wasn’t meant to be. Loor is a failure who thinks he isn’t, and maybe that is all there is to him, intentionally; in that case, that’s hardly my favorite kind of character to read about, but that’s a personal point of view and doesn’t mean he’s written badly.

Also, tell me more about this “Intelligence chief,” a woman? Intriguing.

Will?

will: Like I said, I feel like there is something interesting in giving us a flawed antagonist. Up until this point Star Wars has always had a whole “monolithic Empire, obsidian black and facelessly menacing” thing. I mean, yes, C’baoth, but Thrawn and the Emperor and Vader leaned heavily into not being flawed, or more centrally, not knowing their flaws. (Thrawn reliably underestimating the Force, for example.)

Loor is interesting for the same reason he is kind of annoying: he’s a screwup. He knows it, too; but instead of doing the heroic-character thing and working to become better, he tries to just push himself into not screwing up. It’s a very human thing, certainly something I relate to. I’ve lost a lot of time in my life to believing I can just force perfection.

It’s a little infodumpy to have Gil tell-not-show Loor all these things, but what makes it work is the sense that Gil is enjoying it. He has an actual reason to say all of this stuff, not just to tell us, but because he’s enjoying rubbing Loor’s face in his inadequacies.

So, at least Loor will be properly motivated…

That’s all from me this week. Short chapter, after all. Mostly just a word picture of Loor. Next up, we go back to Corran, and we get a nice contrast, where remember what I said about the heroic way to overcome your screwups?

Yeah.

Until then, may the Force be with you.

 

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