X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, Chapter 7

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 7 of Rogue Squadron, wherein you find detailed instructions on the care and maintenance of your X-wing, which I bet you needed to know.

will: When I mentioned to Z that this was her week to take the lead, all she could say was “do I hafta…”

z: In personal news, rehearsals for our small ensemble showcase concerts in August are starting today, because we are all out of our rockers and recording an album wasn’t enough work for the summer. Or something. Details are fuzzy and likely to get fuzzier, even though we’re all cheerful still.

will: Things are quiet here, and really, it looks like they will remain so for most of the summer, Force willing and the creek don’t rise.

z: Wedge walks up to his X-wing to do an inspection, trying not to show that he’s actually proud and pleased with it, and, one presumes, the newly-formed squadron, before he’s done the inspection. At first no one is in earshot, but he theatrically murmurs and nods to himself as he goes over parts, so that the watching techs see and get the message. The squad is already out with their X-wings, waiting for him on the dark side of the moon Folor (yes, that was intentional tyvm), of the planet Commenor, which is where this base is. But he’s doing this inspection to send a message on top of, you know, actually properly inspecting his starfighter. He’s intending to set a good example for Rogue Squadron, in particular, “to fight the belief that because they were elite pilots they were above the mundane sort of duties all other pilots had to endure.” He doesn’t really think that most of his people are like that, but just in case there’s one of them with that attitude, he effectively wants to inoculate the whole squadron against it.

What jumps out to me in this sequence is Wedge already explicitly thinking of the members of Rogue Squadron as “his people.” That is a big character beat for him, and an attitude I have tried to adopt, in my own analogous situations, from him among others.

He knows that the techs gossip so a description of his inspection will make it back to the pilots. And, he thinks, if he does it right the pilots will be sorry they missed the show.

I’m… not so sure about that, because he then proceeds to seriously ham it up. I don’t think Stackpole was thinking about those few scenes in the Thrawn Trilogy where Zahn established that Wedge is a terrible horrible no good very bad actor, but if he was and the hamming is therefore intentional, that gets a salute.

will: Well, part of the whole point is that he hams up his inspection, and word gets around. It’s not exactly that Wedge is a celebrity, but he definitely has a reputation among Starfighter Corps.

z: When he looks at the part of the fuselage with the kill marks, all manner of Imperial ships and some Ssi-ruuk ones bracketed by, heh, two Death Stars–

will: Yeah, because that.

z: –one “Master Zraii,” the insectoid Verpine mechanic that has started to follow him along, apologizes in his own language about not being able to fit all Wedge’s kills in, so he has painted some in red, denoting a squadron, that is to say, a dozen. There’s some in my opinion unnecessary banter about how Wedge has trouble dealing with the extra-information-helpfulness of the 3PO units wrapped around a nice nugget about how the mechanically very gifted Verpine can see in UV, and think in base six, and therefore there might be some cultural assumptions of Master Zraii that Wedge may not have been aware of.

will: Also, the note that Wedge has a head for math, inasmuch as he quickly multiplies 4 by 12 in his head. Which…I don’t know, that doesn’t seem all that impressive to me, but I think I’m biased.

I like the note about Verpine counting in base six, but…if “four fists” is 12, then that sounds more like base three, where a “fist” is the wrapaound of the base. Except that “four” in base 3 is itself a fist and one, so maybe they even more explicitly than we do call out half-base.

Also, the name of the term indicates that Verpine use base 6 for the same reason we use base 10.

(In one of Stackpole’s other series, the characters, who are human, don’t exactly use base 9, but they tend to think more in terms of nines than tens.)

z: …and we’re definitely not overthinking this, folks, nothing to see here, move along.

There follows two and a half pages of tech specs, pretty much, as Wedge inspects cooling wanes, the centrifugal debris extractor (…the what now), the deflector shield generators (insert mini-treatise about X-wings-are-shielded-and-have-advantage-over-TIEs), and the laser cannons (zeroed at, i.e. the point where the beams cross each other are set to, 250 meters away from the nose–close ranges are good for dogfights).

will: In dogfights in Star Wars, Space Is Never Big.

I’ve been rereading David Weber’s Honor Harrington series of late, and they spend a lot of time discussing distances; fleet actions take place over distances of light-minutes by later in the series, thanks to long-ranged missiles, and even the fighter-equivalents engage at a distance of a light-second (3,000,000 meters). But the Lucas model is cinematic aerial dogfighting, after all.

z: Wedge continues with a detailed inspection of the cannons, which gives us a parts list within the cannons themselves. Frankly, some if not all of this may become plot points–I don’t exactly recall–and the zeroing distance thing is going to come into play, but you know what, if and when they do, I’ll mention that they were mentioned in this inspection.

I will mention one thing: Those four “wings” are called “stabilization foils,” “S-foils” for short, as in “Lock S-foils in attack positions.” And now you know.

(And tangentially, that is my favorite cue in the soundtrack of Return of the Jedi. And now you also know.)

will: It’s a really good cue.

z: Happy, Wedge thanks Master Zraii, saying that the ship looks as good as new and is probably better than new.

will: We get more semi-comedy out of M-3PO’s (Emtrey, or Trey) translation of same into Verpine.

z: Then he climbs the ladder up to the cockpit and looks over to his astromech unit. This is an R5 unit, with a “flowerpot head,” which you can no doubt visualize from the movies, and it’s a new droid for him. He first thinks to himself that he prefers the dome-headed R2 units since they offer a lower target profile, then speaks out loud to the R5 unit, whose first words from his pilot therefore are “Then again, if they’re close enough to hit you, you’ll take the shots before they hit the cockpit, won’t you?”

Uh–

The R5 unit reacts just as I would have, to wit, by “panicked hooting,” which makes Wedge smile. Um, I’m really not happy with the human-cyborg relations displayed in the chapter so far? But he was joking–I guess–and he tries to soothe the R5 unit by saying that the shooting is not going to start yet, which, er, isn’t exactly soothing. Wedge enters the cockpit and finds that the Verpine head mechanic has added some extra comfy padding to the seat. That’s nice. He brings the systems up, sees green lights all over, and calls over to Folor Traffic Control and gets clearance for departure.

will: Yeah, Wedge is a little more callous about the droid here than, say, Artoo with Luke or Whistler with Corran. Due, in no small part I’m sure, to the fact that it’s a new droid.

z: We are then given a pedal-press-by-switch-flick description of him taking off, although the reasoning for that is that he’s still putting on a show to anyone who might be watching, demonstrating how much precision control he has over his craft. That, I can actually appreciate. He goes out to the “airless exterior,” i.e. Folor has no atmosphere; and kicks the Incom 4L4 Fusial Thrust Engines, in as many words, to full power to head towards the moon’s horizon. I don’t think that’ll be in the quiz though, don’t worry.

will: No promises though.

z: He notices that the engine efficiency is very slick, probably thanks to Verpine tinkering, sets the S-foils in attack position, and notes from his display that his R5 unit is called Mynock. Reasonably, he asks if this is because the R5 draws a lot of power; Mynock answers that no, a previous pilot of his nicknamed him that because said pilot thought R5 screams like a mynock in combat. “A slander, Commander.” Aww. Wedge shows some droid empathy by saying that no one likes to be thought of as a space rat. (But, spoiler, he’s going to keep the name, sigh.)

will: For a while. And on the other hand, Mynock would hardly be the first “given in scorn, adopted in pride” name in the fighter corps. Bet half the pilot nicknames have a history like that.

z: Then he asks for Mynock to dial back the acceleration compensator down a bit; he should still feel 5% gravity. We’ll… just go with “it’s mental shorthand for ‘I should be feeling 5% of the acceleration force, which is indistinguishable from gravity in a given frame of reference, insert special relativity here and move on.'”

will: As discussed, this universe is not one where you want to try to apply physics to it.

z: At any rate, Wedge likes feeling a bit of the acceleration because it connects him more to his craft and makes him more aware of what’s going on while he’s in motion, even the chaotic motion of space combat. Which all makes a lot of sense. Although I could have done without slandering Jek Porkins’ memory, when Wedge thinks that full compensation cutting out most of the kinesthetic sensations can kill pilots (sensible) and that was what killed Porkins because he couldn’t feel that he was not pulling out of his dive fast enough (potentially possible) and he liked full compensation because he was heavy-set (…yeah we didn’t have to mention that and make the connection explicit).

However that may be, Wedge is keenly aware that he needs to instill in “these kids” the habit of flying without full compensation as well. Then he’s amused at himself for thinking about the Rogue Squadron pilots as “kids,” since with the exception of Gavin Darklighter, they are all close to his age. They just haven’t been through as much or seen as much.

That… is a question with Corran, isn’t it. Given that his life experience has been more limited in a sense than Wedge, because he was a cop in a single planetary system for the majority of his adult life, he was a cop, and that doesn’t always mesh with “hasn’t seen much of the world.” I realize that I don’t remember if Corran ever has that thought, however, or Wedge as the Grand Old Man Who’s Seen Too Much (…which, don’t get me wrong, he definitely has seen a lot) is the mental image that remains unchallenged for Corran. I do remember that he will get over that same with Luke right fast, when spoilers.

will: Yeah, Corran has definitely seen a lot, but he hasn’t seen warfare the way Wedge has. We’ll see, a long time from now, that Wedge has his own limitations from same.

z: Wedge flies over the terminator line, and there they are–eleven X-wings and one Z-95XT Trainer with no weapons and, as we recall, remotely-detonated bombs aboard. Yep, it’s the squadron with their XO, Tycho. Wedge first calls only him only over a private channel, to check that everyone is green. Tycho reports that they are all doing well, but complaining about “feeding at the pig trough,” which Wedge finds unsurprising. Shifting over to the squadron channel, he catches the tail end of a speech by Rogue Nine, Corran: “…blind, wallowing pigs, and slow.”

The subsequent dialogue and text explains what’s with all this pig-talk all of a sudden: This is a Y-wing bombing practice range they are at, and they’ll fly a targeting pattern through that. Y-wings are old ships that are slowly being replaced by B-wings, but the production of that doesn’t meet demand, so there are still a lot of Y-wings around. These hotshot X-wing pilots feel that it’s beneath them to fly a test pattern set at where Y-wings practice. Wedge isn’t entirely amused, though, and responds to Corran (and announces his presence on the channel) by saying that the Y-wing pilots probably wouldn’t appreciate what the Rogues think of their ships. Yeah, like the Y-wing pilots wouldn’t have heard it all before, Commander.

will: But that doesn’t make it all right for Corran to fan the flames of interservice rivalries. And honestly, it’s a mark of Corran backsliding on his improvement to be doing so, even though it’s also arguably him loosening up.

z: In the gunnery range, laser targets have been set up, and the Rogues will fly runs in pairs, trying to hit the targets while avoiding being hit themselves, and be graded. If there are any equipment failures, pull out and retry after repairs, we don’t want to lose ships or people so “try not to do anything stupid.” Any questions? Corran pipes up again and says–doesn’t ask anything, instead states–that the lasers are all zeroed at 250 meters and that’s a little short for

ground attacks. You can basically hear the smirk in Wedge’s voice as he responds “I guess, then, you’ll have to be very good and very quick in shooting, won’t you, Mr. Horn?” The question mark is there in the text, but I bet it wasn’t in Wedge’s enunciation. Wedge then sends Corran to fly the run first, with Qrygg as his wing.

Then he goes off-channel, has Mynock pull the sensor feed from Corran’s X-wing and copy Tycho in on it, and shifts back to the private channel with Tycho. Tycho’s comment is that it’ll be interesting to watch, and that Corran is going in hot. Wedge concurs, remarking that Corran wants to set a record that the others won’t be able to match, but “I think he needs to get a different lesson today. Here’s what we’ll do…”

And scene.

Well, the next chapter will be interesting–even if I can tell that it’s going to be full of loooots of starfighter combat action, at least we’ll get to see the pedagogical chops of Messrs. Antilles and Celchu for the first time, and what lessons Corran can derive from it. So I’m looking forward to that. This chapter… I think the ideas and the raisons d’etres for the scenes are solid, and maybe it could not have been written without looking so much like a tech manual and still given the sense that Wedge was doing a very thorough inspection, but I bet I can also be excused for some eyes-glazing-over occasionally.

Will?

will: Yeah, we knew this was going to be a short week, not least because we were going to be skimming some of the tech specs. This would definitely play better as a visual scene, reminiscent of so many “checklist and montage” sequences. On the page it just reads as busywork.

That said, there is some characterization in how Wedge goes about his duties. I just wonder which parts were intended and which are things we’re reading in further. Not that that invalidates any of our conclusions, of course.

Not much more to say beyond that. This feels among the shortest reviews for a chapter that isn’t, say, the final four pages of Dark Force Rising or something, but we did exhaust what we had to look at.

Next week, we see Corran’s run, and Wedge’s plan. Until then, may the Force be with you.

 

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