X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, Chapter 6

will: Welcome back, readers, to the Moment After the Shocking Statement, which…kind of underwhelms.

z: Not the “onoez the point-of-view protagonist is a murderer” aspect, but the explanation and the resolution… one is a bit baroque and the other is a bit “oh, okay,” indeed. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In personal news, with an approximately once-per-hour frequency, I keep getting hit by the thought “in about three weeks we’ll be trying to get an entire symphony orchestra into a professional studio and record an actual album and there are like five professional musicians among us and three of them are music teachers” and then everything shorts out for a few heartbeats. I’ll be okay. {bzzzt}

will: Corran cracks up, saying he’d forgotten about that, and it’s nothing. He actually almost falls over laughing.

Ooryl is nonplussed, Nawara is concerned, and Rhysati backs away, and Corran has a moment of clarity that he may be blowing up all the work he did to build friendships again. He jumps back to his feet, saying he can explain, really.

z: Ooryl even gets a “confused alien culture” line: “Ooryl was not aware that murder was seen as mirthful.”

I like the use of the word “mirthful” because I like that word, but.

will: Nawara, who is here explicitly called “the Twi’lek lawyer,” says he’s heard that one before, and Corran says, “yeah, but unlike your clients, this is the truth,” reminding us that this was the ’90s, and Corran was a cop.

z: Heh. And Nawara doesn’t object, mind.

will: Anyway. Corran has Emtrey pull up the records for the six smugglers he’s wanted for killing, and do some data-review, while explaining that there was this Imperial Liaison Officer with his CorSec unit, who got lots of support when the Empire reinforced Corellia in the wake of the Emperor’s death (apparently a number of Imperial forces “fled” to the system), and who was bearing down hard on him and his people, so his boss Gil Bastra decided to get them out with fake identities.

z: “His people” explicitly being his partner Iella Wessiri, her husband Diric, and Corran himself. Pay attention, there’ll be a quiz later. Although of course, the names are a repeat from Kirtan Loor’s conversation with Bastra himself.

will: Seems Gil invented those smugglers to fake an argument between him and Corran–the one that Loor remembered three chapters ago, the reason he “knew” that Corran would chafe at any identity that Gil made for him–and pretend there was bad blood between them, to make it easier for them to flee.

Apparently, Corran says, Loor put the death mark on Corran after Corran survived an active assassination attempt Loor set up.

z: I might have missed something, but I just realized that I’m not quite clear on why Loor is murderous towards Corran or the others. Force them out of CorSec, sure. They were being too conscientious and not enough Imperial-interests-above-all, so he made life and work unbearable enough until they quit, fine. But what’s with the they must also die?

This may be me forgetting things, by the way. Even things that had come up in the Loor chapter a couple of weeks ago, because {bzzzt}

will: Emtrey has the records, and Corran has him confirm that there’s a pattern in the dates and times of their birth, one that almost completely wraps around if you add Corran’s information. Plus, says Corran, the place they were born doesn’t exist.

So yeah, this was basically a long Stackpole Cliffhanger. It’s resolved a little… desultorily, but it serves. The reveal it’s a bit of a letdown in execution, inasmuch as we just have Emtrey say “there’s a pattern,” but there’s no “this can’t be chance, so it proves the story is fake.” And Corran just says the birthplace is fake.

That said, the pattern is well disguised enough that it isn’t the sort that would be spotted on accident, which is nice.

z: I actually hadn’t thought it necessary to explicitly state that the perfect pattern was very unlikely to be chance, but it would have been nice to have Emtrey calculate the odds and say something like “the chances of these being real birthdates of real people that fit together precisely this way is 29384379floatingpointerror928304 to 1.” Appositely droidish.

…but now that I think about it, on the other hand, if Mike had thought about that and put in an exact number, he’d be getting approximately 29384379floatingpointerror928304 comments from readers who really had nothing better to do and who did the calculation and came up with different numbers. Which, by the way, isn’t a trivial calculation; since once you start thinking about the assumptions you need to make, you can come up with about 29384379floatingpointerror928304 variations of the calculation itself. So maybe it’s best to leave well enough alone.

will: Rhysati, relieved Corran isn’t a cold-blooded murderer, asks, why use fictional brutal deaths to create that argument, it’s a bit ghoulish? Corran points out that gallows humor is part and parcel of being a cop.

z: No lies detected, there.

will: Emtrey, who has a droid’s eye view, says that Gil Bastra’s death might fit that too, and Corran is dumbstruck.

Emtrey explains that Gil’s death report was part of an Imperial holonet transmission, and Nawara asks how reliable the report is. Emtrey doesn’t answer–information source security–but Corran is sure it’s true.

Nawara, though, dealt in proof for a living. He points out that the report of a death could be a fake by Gil, a fake by Loor as a lure, or something else entirely.

Corran says that Nawara must have been one excellent lawyer, and I can only say, that really sounds more like a first-year associate question. Hearsay is an entire unit in Evidence class.

z: oh heavens I just realized that this is the equivalent of me reading about someone trying to do circuit design in fiction. Sorry.

will: It could be worse. At least here there’s an element of “yeah, but it’s not like this is a Grisham novel.” I have a soft spot for Law & Order but a lot of the others…eugh.

Nawara asks Emtrey for corroboration, which there isn’t, and Corran says that Gil has fake identity skillz, so there wouldn’t be.

Rhysati asks the obvious followup: is Corran Horn even your real name?

Corran says yes, and basically admits what he admitted to Lujayne Forge already: the persona-jumping is why he had a hard time opening up. Rhysati offers a comforting hand.

Corran finishes the story with how he got out: he checked out an X-Wing from the pool of CorSec craft in order to pull a surprise investigation on some small-time smugglers, but instead found two flights of TIE fighters when he got there.

z: He’d already had Whistler calculate jumps away from the local space, and store all the fake identity files etc. in its memory, since when he split he’d always intended to take Whistler along.

will:

“I illuminated a couple with my lasers, then jumped out.”

Mike, so help me, I will take your italic key away.

z: …this is going to be a looooong five books, then :D.

Out of curiosity, how did you deal with Elayne in The Wheel of Time? Her speech patterns use italics a lot. It’s part of how Jordan gave his Wundergirls distinct voices, I think.

will: It’s the weird arbitrariness, and the times where it’s not even character voice.

Anyway. Emtrey asks if Corran has Gil’s fake identity files, and Corran only has his own, in Whistler. Emtrey says he’ll coordinate with Whistler to see if they can use Corran’s fakes to get more data on Gil’s fakes.

Before he leaves, though, Emtrey passes out the new room assignments: Corran’s with Ooryl, Nawara’s with Bror, and Rhysati is with Erisi Dlarit.

Corran is just relieved that Ooryl doesn’t snore, and internally, thinks he doesn’t even know if Ooryl breathes. Ooryl, by contrast, finds Corran’s “occasional production of rhythmic nocturnal sound” to be “somewhat soothing.”

z: I giggled.

will: Unfortunately, Corran says, Nawara isn’t so lucky, but Nawara says nah: he isn’t worried either, he won’t be competing for “mirror space to preen.” Rhysati’s least lucky of all, says Nawara. But she says, she isn’t worried about that sort of thing either. She’s here to be the best, not for romance.

(I guess she won’t have to lose that loving feeling.)

Corran flirts with her, she shoots him down metaphorically by saying she’ll shoot him down literally, Emtrey doesn’t follow the difference, and that’s Emtrey’s departure cue.

z: I giggled at that too.

will: Corran watches Emtrey go with a smirk, and asks if Nawara dealt with protocol droids much. Apparently they were sometimes paralegals, but not for Nawara, who was not what we would call well respected in the court.

z: He flat-out says “I was not a welcome sight in Imperial courts,” actually. Obvious anti-alien bias reason is obvious.

will: Rhysati points out that that isn’t just, in a moment that makes me ask what part of “totalitarian regime” did she not get.

z: And I actually laughed at that. At Will’s comment, I mean. The line in the story sounds too do-goody and too-naive at the same time.

{bzzzzt}

Sorry. Carry on.

will: And Nawara gives her the lecture that every Criminal Law professor gives about law versus justice, and therefore Stackpole starts lecturing us. The rest of this chapter is basically a lecture about the politics of the Galaxy Far Far Away at this juncture, and it’s a bit heavy on the hand. Nawara points out that justice, not law, is what brought everyone here.

z: It is a bit heavy on the hand, but I did actually appreciate the big picture insertion here. Thrawn Trilogy did the “this is where we are now” thing more organically by the council meeting early on in the book, and The Truce at Bakura didn’t need to give a reference since it opens six hours after Endor. But since we just got informed when we are with respect to Endor, and also since {spoiler} the rest of the book is going to be Galactic Geopolitics to a great degree, some variant of this needed to happen.

will: Ah, here’s the individual-desire speeches I mentioned last time. Rhysati wants justice for her family having to flee Bespin. Nawara wants justice for the clients he couldn’t help. Corran wants “the justice denied to innocent people oppressed by Imperial officials,” which… ’90s, cop.

z: Someone has to speak for the voiceless, etc. Although I’m not going to complain about that line.

…have you read Pratchett’s Feet of Clay, dear reader? You really should. No reason.

will: Nawara asks what Ooryl wants, and Ooryl says, he isn’t sure if it’s something they can understand. But at a start, acceptance here in contrast to the prejudice of the Empire, so that’ll do.

They head out of the briefing room, through the former mining complex that became the Rebellion’s base, and now training facility on Folor, Commenor’s largest moon, a central location for shipping and proximity to the Core. Corran asks about justice versus revenge, and Nawara says, they may be the same thing.

z: {insert several thousand words of philosophy here}

will: And then we get data. Half the galaxy is still with the Empire, he says, with 30% in open rebellion and 20% sympathizers, and the dissolution of the Senate and handing direct control to the Moffs served to keep the lines of authority alive after Palpatine’s death. The only reason the Rebellion has kept having any success was that the Moffs are busy infighting.

z: There’s a nice catch on Stackpole’s part there: Nawara says that he doubts the giving of local control to the Moffs was meant by Palpatine as a “hedge against disaster,” but it ended up being exactly that.

will: Corran suggests, and Rhysati agrees, that the Rebellion itself is in a bit of trouble; it’s lost some of its spark, with the Emperor and Vader and the Death Stars gone. It’s a lot of symbolism, and now the great Symbols of Evil are not present. Rogue Squadron’s reorganization is an attempt to create positive symbols to supplement the Alliance’s effort.

We’re told that a month after the Emperor’s death, the Alliance formed the New Republic, and worlds started joining it… and the negotiations are not pretty.

“What you’re saying is that the victory at Endor transformed a military insurgency into a political entity.”

Except for the fact that no one actually talks like that, basically, yes; Nawara does specify that it was a political entity from the beginning, just sublimated. And now, worlds can join politically, not only militarily. That’s why Wedge Antilles was on a goodwill tour, that’s why Luke Skywalker is reestablishing the Jedi Knights.

z: FSVO “reestablishing,” at this point.

will: Rhysati talks about hearing stories about the Jedi and the Clone Wars, and Corran says his grandfather fought in the Clone Wars; he wasn’t a Jedi, he was a CorSec officer, but his best friend was a Jedi who died in the Wars.

(This is, of course, all very pre-prequel. I think there had been some attempts to reconcile the pre-prequel view of Jedi from the prequel view, but. Eh.)

z: (Are we caring about that? I’m fairly certain I’m not caring about that.)

will: Corran also says that the Empire used CorSec resources to hunt down the Jedi, which his grandfather did not appreciate.

Nawara says that sort of resentment is fueling the political and propaganda work, and Corran and Nawara agree (and lecture Rhysati) on the fact that Rogue Squadron is an attempt to push that further: “the diplomats have mined all the ore they can find.” Hence, symbols. Like a squadron with two Thyferrans, in order to tell Thyferra (source of 95% of the galaxy’s bacta) that they’re valued. And a Bothan. And a Corellian. And a “token Twi’lek or a token lawyer.” And a “token refugee.” And a “token Gand.”

Ah, the 90s. When, as Z said, “token” was still something people were okay with.

z: Z is also busy giggling at the equivalence of “lawyer” with an alien species. Sorry. {grinduckrun}

Also, pay attention to the source-of-95%-of-bacta line, there’ll be a quiz later.

will: Corran summarizes by saying that if they’re symbols, they need to be symbolic, and he’s happy to do that while shooting Imperial pilots.

Nawara, though, puts his finger on the button: he says that the Rebellion is going to have to go for the biggest symbol of them all, and the Rogues will be the tip of the sphere: Coruscant.

“The sooner it falls, the sooner the Empire falls apart.”

Corran says he never wanted to go to Coruscant, but he doesn’t mind now.

And we leave.

The thing I’m stuck on is, why did Stackpole take the time to tell us all about symbolism when he’d already done it with Wedge and Ackbar a few chapters ago? Is it important that we know the pilots know too?

z: I think it is; it plays into their engagement and commitment level and shape, after all. Besides, it’s spelled out more explicitly here, with the direct contrast to the “Big Evil Symbols Gone” called out.

will: And why set up a cliffhanger to resolve it so casually? This isn’t a TV show, it’s not like the suspense is going to last more than turning a page.

z: …it’s going to be a really loooong few books.

Stackpole just likes doing that. Sorry.

will: So there’s nothing wrong with this chapter, it’s just…extraneous. A lot of words to say things we either already know or settle a matter we didn’t need to know about in the first place.

I know it feels like we’re harsh on this book, or at least it feels that way to me, but that’s definitely coming from a place of love. The edges will smooth out, promise.

Z?

z: Oh, I don’t know if we’re actually harsh on this book. I don’t feel like it, actually. There are places where we do tweak metaphorical noses, but as Will says, lovingly; five chapters in and I have not had a single whyyyyyy. So that’s a thing.

I did like having this chapter here because we’re still in the learn-the-cast mode; we had the long dialogues with Ooryl and Lujayne in the previous Corran chapter, and in this one we get to know Nawara and Rhysati a bit. It could have been around the dinner table in the mess hall, or at the gym, or whatever, but right after the briefing works just as well.

There could have been more economical ways of giving the details of Corran’s back story though. The dialogue is a bit verbose.

At any rate

{bzzzt}

Aaaaat any rate, next week we’ll be joining Wedge being nice to people and, sadly, not nice to Emtrey. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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