X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, Chapter 8

will: Welcome to another short chapter, folks, for similar reasons. At some point we might just say “[PILOTING],” the way old Next Generation scripts would just say [TECH] for every “bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish.” But the rest of the chapter is a very familiar lesson, one I wish I wasn’t all that familiar with…

In other news, how in the name of all that is have we gotten halfway through 2018? That seems all kinds of wrong.

z: Uh, I. Um. The thing. The thing with the recording an album with a symphony orchestra thing. That thing. That thing that is happening on this weekend, thing. Like, in another sixty hours or so, kind of thing.

Don’t tell me any thing about how we are at any point in time, in other words, because I’ve currently got a Thing about Things.


will: Corran levels off his dive at the pig trough, tells Ooryl to balance his shields (could be there’s an attack from behind), and asks Whistler to boost his forward sensors–yes, fine, deal with your comm link first.

z: Foreshadowing alert!

will: We get told how Corran’s sensors work–Z, do you recall if this is how it was in the original X-Wing game?–and learn that these “targets” Corran is going after will be shooting back, and Corran and Ooryl accelerate into the trench proper.

z: Confession time: Z didn’t play the original X-wing game! Or any flight simulator game in any setting, except Rogue Squadron on the Nintendo 64. Which didn’t have that much in the way of sensors, and I don’t even remember what the HUD was like, but I can’t imagine it was any more complicated than whatever you got on Starfox.

will: Yeah, probably not. We also get told that this canyon wasn’t eroded by water, since it’s on a moon, though I don’t know what we’re supposed to think it was made from. Stellar object impact?

z: Almost would have to be, since no atmosphere also implies no wind. Either that, or mining operations.

will: Corran takes out one of the first two targets, and Ooryl takes the second. Corran authorizes Ooryl to free-fire anything Corran leaves behind, and then takes out the next two.

z: Foreshadowing alert! Kinda.

Corran is also strategizing (well, developing tactics not strategy, but “tacticizing” isn’t a word that I can ever forgive myself for using WILL NO) while taking into account his wing, throughout the run. (“I can come from this angle to these targets then Ooryl can come from that angle and get those ones” kind of thing).

will: They split the pair after that, and then Corran almost gets hit from behind before he vectors out of the way (and in what would probably be a pretty cool move visually, uses his repulsorlifts to bounce off a canyon wall, not unlike Tony Stark’s hand repulsors).

z: Self-quote from just last night, when I was playing the first session of a brand new Star Wars-themed tabletop RPG with my regular tabletop group: “So if we bar the door with the floater pallet on its side laid across the door with the repulsorlifts at the bottom pointing outside, when the animals with the waytoomany sharp pointy teeth charge, we can turn on the pallet and that should push them away…”

We didn’t get to implement my cunning plan. The party went for the regular old boring “hide in the inner rooms and shoot the animals one by one as they venture inside” option instead. Spoilsports. See if I try being the mad MacGyver again.

will: I’m definitely going to be asking more questions about that game…later.

Corran realizes that the reason he missed the aft target was that he was too cautious when he took a glancing shot, so the next time the two of them face a similar situation a ways down the trench, Corran has Ooryl hang a bit behind and pick up any surprise targets like that–and it works.

z: Strategizing with his partner, case in point.

will: At the end, Corran pulls one of the standard tricks, the narrow-gap sideways crossing you’ve seen in far too many movies–but instead he goes perpendicular and passes through a crevasse that gives him cover from a set of targets, then pops out and gets three of the four, with Ooryl picking up the last. They finish in a loop, line up, and return to the squadron.

z: There’s something intriguing there in that threading-the-needle sequence though, and I’ll quote:

The choke point closed with him. Easy, easy. He drifted to port for half a meter and suddenly the tight spot was behind him without his having left any paint on either side of it. The walls streaked by, black and grey blurred together. Corran found himself steering the ship almost effortlessly. He knew he could have handled the run at full throttle and not had a problem.

It almost feels as if I have kilometers off each S-foil, not a meter or two.

He isn’t boasting; he’s thinking to himself through all this. The point is, of course, that he isn’t actually, like, thinking. He’s just performing, and at peak. I’ve had the sensation sometimes in the throes of some of my best musical performances when I was at my readiest and peak, so it’s not an unfamiliar frame of mind, but… the alternative explanation here is: Foreshadowing alert!

(Unlike the previous two instances, this one isn’t foreshadowing for something that will be resolved in this chapter. Or for quite a while. So much so that I noticed it only in this reread.)

will: Well spotted, indeed. I wonder if that was intentional for that?

Wedge tells Corran that he scored 3250 out of 5000, “quite good,” and he should go back to base and consider himself at liberty. He does so.

Later, Corran is pissed. He wanted to get congratulated, and I quote:

but not in the egotistical way Bror Jace would have been.

z: Someone has to say it, so I will: Yeah, right.

will: He just wanted to know that his fellow pilots think he’s good, is all!

*deeeeeep sigh*

It didn’t turn out that way. The first to return after Corran were Andoorni Hui and Lujayne Forge, both of whom Corran knows he’s better than. But Lujayne, almost apologetically, told him that she scored 3300, and Hui got 3750. Corran was very confused, and Lujayne said that he inspired them, then asked him to come for food, her tone of voice saying he really should. But, of course, he didn’t, and the numbers kept rolling in. Peshk, a Bothan, scored 4200, and Ooryl told him:

“Qrygg scored 4050.”

That also told Corran something strange was going on, because why would Ooryl be ashamed (and thus lower his name) for that sort of score?

z: Corran believes that this indicates that whatever Ooryl is ashamed of, it has something to do with Corran.

He’s right, of course.

will: It turned out that everybody outscored Corran, mostly by at least 1000 points, and Corran, thinking it over, doesn’t understand. Maybe he could have scored that high on a second run…


He rushes over to Whistler and confirms that Whistler had set up a comm link with Wedge at the very beginning of the route; Whistler defensively says Corran didn’t prohibit it, and even said it was okay, so Corran only says not to do it again without explicit permission, and that’s when Whistler gives his version of a “boss is approaching” whistle–the same one he used to use when Loom was looring. I mean, Loor was looming.

z: Okay, I laughed.

will: Corran turns around to see Wedge and Tycho land, and shakes off Whistler’s attempt to physically restrain him with the droid’s pincer arm:

“You betrayed me once here, Whistler. Don’t compound the problem.”

Harsh, dude.

z: No, really. Also, um, I’m reeeeeally going to not get into the details of it, but Corran may want to think a little bit about Whistler’s position in the squadron vis-a-vis orders from the commanding officer of the squadron, whether he’s the personal property of Corran or not (and probably he’s not, because he’s a CorSec droid (and also let’s not get into the whole “droids as property” thing here anyway)). Corran’s “permission” or lack thereof was singularly beside the point, is what I’m getting at.

Luckily, Whistler can occasionally be more of three pounds of sass in a half-liter bottle than even Artoo is sometimes, for instance right now, as–

will: –Whistler sings a funeral dirge as Corran walks to Wedge’s X-Wing. He holds a salute until Wedge returns it, and inevitably (and appropriately), asks for permission to speak freely. He does, and tells Wedge what he did–he sent the rest of the pilots Corran’s data on the run.

Wedge doesn’t deny it, of course. All he says is, in effect, “so what?”

z: Leeeet’s also skirt right past the “my data” thing not making any sense in this context, because of course that’s going to be one of the main aspects of the dressing-down that’s bearing down on us.

will: Corran says it isn’t fair, it looks like he’s one of the worst pilots in the squadron, and he’s been robbed.

z: <bites lips fingers>

will: Wedge asks if Corran is done–he isn’t, but Wedge says he should be, and Corran’s sense of self-preservation overrules his frustration.

And Wedge tears into him.

Wedge tells him it doesn’t matter one iota who the best pilot in the squadron is. The squadron is only as good as the worst pilot, and there were multiple lessons here: everyone else learned to integrate surveillance data from a recon flight, and Corran damn well better have learned that he’s not the most important pilot, and especially not to care that he scored the lowest on a training exercise.

And Corran feels about the same way I have felt whenever I got that sort of lecture: Mortified. His stomach feels like it’s turning inside out, and he thinks how much of an idiot he is. He tells Wedge that he’s happy to have learned that lesson, and thank you.

z: I didn’t want to interrupt, because I’ve never been quite on that size of that situation myself, but: You and Corran also both have the “right” reaction, for what it’s worth, and as much as that word can be applied to reactions. The ability to admit to one’s self that one’s been an idiot and may stand to change approaches and points of view is a rare gift, frankly, and that I do have personal experience with plenty.

will: And Wedge, to his credit, loosens up a bit. He tells Corran that Corran is unquestionably skilled, and “has the makings of a superior pilot,” but there’s more to being a Rogue than flying well, and so Corran might be in for a few different lessons than the others.

z: I always thought that should be a sop to Corran’s self-perceived specialness in an inside-out way.

will: No, I actually believe it. Some of the pilots need to be taught to be better at flying. Corran needs to be taught to be better at squadroning.

Wedge even tells Corran he’s right to be angry. But anger in battle gets you killed, and neither of them wants that. So there’s another lesson.

z: And there, I disagree with Wedge. Once again, I’ll point out that Whistler was obeying the commands of his unit commander, too, about combat data which really, really isn’t the pilot’s property in any reasonable sense of the word. So… But I can accept that as part of Wedge’s pedagogical approach.

will: Corran being angry at Whistler is unfair, I agree. But being angry at Wedge, being upset at being ranked the lowest, is valid, and Wedge knows it. He dismisses Corran, who exits, avoiding Whistler (who’s developed an “I told you so” whistle, which Corran realizes he’s been hearing a lot ever since his father died), but encountering Tycho.

Tycho returns Corran’s salute and tells Corran that he’s obviously made of stern stuff, if he survived that dressing-down. And that’s where the chapter ends. Not really a cliffhanger, but clearly a transition point, even though we’re going to pick up with Corran’s response.

As I said, this was half generic pilotry, and half vicarious embarrassment at being called out. You can see it coming, especially when Corran is waiting in the hangar to be told how great he is, and it still hurts–not that Corran was outmatched, but Wedge’s cut to the quick of how Corran may be right to be angry, but he’s also very, very wrong.

Also we start a tradition, which we’ll revisit later.


z: I said most of what I wanted to say in-line, and then there’s also that whole thing with we’re going into the studio for the first orchestral recording session in three days–

–we’re completely around the bend aren’t we {bzzzzzt}–

–but I’ll add briefly: The [PILOTING] bits aren’t that boring to read, actually, especially when they are as well-written as they are here so that you can follow the action in your mind’s eye. They would just be completely stultifying to even attempt to recap. So we of necessity touch on the points that pertain to character development and let the rest go.

Next week, we get hearts-not-quite-open-hour with Tycho. Until then, may the Force be with you.


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