X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, Chapter 9, Part 1

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 9 of Rogue Squadron, which is another chapter comprised of two dialogues.

In personal news, last weekend we had two seven-hour recording sessions in two eight-plus-hour days, and everyone was amazing, and everyone is exhausted, and I got to experience and do new things that I had never done before, and my heavens it was tough but exhilarating.

Two done, five to go.

will: In the words of my cowriter: eeeeeeeeee.

z: We’d ended Chapter 8 with Tycho telling Corran that he seemed to have gotten off easy from Wedge’s dressing-down about teamwork; we open Chapter 9 with Corran objecting that it wasn’t easy. Tycho immediately apologizes, saying that his line didn’t come out as intended. It must have been hard for Corran, he meant, because Corran’s background indicated to Tycho that he’s a loner, who may mislike it when told to be a team player. Corran internally objects to that characterization, then wonders if he is in fact a loner.

will: And if water is wet, and if space is a vacuum…

z: (…there’s a reason why everyone from Whistler on down keeps saying this to you, dude.)

Then he repeats essentially the same defense to Tycho: I can only rely on myself through hard times because that’s kept me alive through hard times.

(…there’s a reason why people are starting to not accept that as an excuse, dude. Also, you’re the protagonist of a book with the word “Squadron” in its name.)

will: The thing is, I actually believe that Corran isn’t a loner. After all, this also fits the archetype here: He used to be a team player. Then, his team was gone. And not only did he have to go undercover, but re-forming those bonds of trust with new people can be difficult.

It’s not that he’s naturally a loner; he’s a loser.

As in, someone who has lost stuff. Lost his family.

(Literally, as we’ll find out later, and figuratively, in that his old crew was his family.)

z: They start walking deeper into the base as Tycho points out that that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t rely on others it’s harder for them to be helpful. Not to mention, it makes them wonder if they can trust you when the chips are down. Corran, naturally, objects, saying that he’d never leave “a buddy” in the lurch, but Tycho correctly says that that doesn’t help as much when it’s Corran who gets to define “buddy” in this scenario, and others may not realize they are being defined as Corran’s friends in Corran’s eyes.

will: One thing that I feel slightly undercuts this is the fact that we opened with Corran having three friends: Rhysati, Nawara, and (to some extent, anyway) Ooryl. It was necessary for that first scene, but Corran never properly read to me as the loner we’re supposed to have seen. And then having Rhysati worry about him for a half second over that “murder charge” doesn’t help either.

z: Tycho theorizes that it must be hard for Corran to be “here,” from the context, the Rebellion. Corran asks why Tycho thinks that. It’s the “You were in a security force, hunting down people, now those people are your allies” thing. Corran comes back with how it can’t have been easy for Tycho either: After all, he was an Imperial pilot.

Will knows why I’m wincing.

will: We do know that he’s a “human male from Alderaan,” of course, so everybody can guess…some of it. Speaking of losers…yeah.

z: Tycho becomes closed and only says that his circumstances and situation were very different. Corran feels the honesty in his words, as closed as they are, and the pain; that helps pull down some of his own automatic defenses and he becomes more honest about analyzing his own reactions. He admits that the place reminds him very strongly of smugglers’ hideouts that he used to clean out with his dad. In fact, it probably was a hideout. They wonder if knowing about this back then would have made Corran even less sympathetic towards the Rebellion at that time, and talk a little about Han Solo and whether his fall-from-… um, not grace, not the right side either, let’s call it the right side of the law–bugs Corran more because he’s Corellian and Corran didn’t fall when his life fell apart, so Han shouldn’t have either. Or something. Dude, wow, that there is like six pounds of judgey-ness in a four-pound box… but I guess that’s what Tycho is trying to make him realize.

will: The interplay between justice, order, and law is always a good topic for drama, especially in this setting.

z: At any rate, Tycho points out that where Solo went right was in realizing that honor could and did exist outside Imperial service, then gives a speech that even he himself calls a speech, saying that he has had a long time to think about these things:

…but what’s important is that [Han Solo] knows honor exists inside you and can only radiate out. What goes on outside can’t change it or kill it unless you abandon your honor. Too many folks give it up too easily, then do whatever they can to fill the void in their hearts.

If I don’t quote this next bit from A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, Will no doubt, um, will, so I might as well. This is a father advising his son:

Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself…. The friction tends to arise when the two are not the same….There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That’s soul destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating.

Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.

So yeah, that.

But it’s not a trivial, “given” thing to realize about one’s self, especially for the mid-twenties Corran (or Bujold’s then early-thirties Miles, even), so I love both those snippets.

will: Agreed. And Tycho is the right person to talk to Corran, both because he outranks Corran (and is one of the only ones who does), and because, well, that’s his job as the XO.

z: The conversation is interrupted by Alliance Security officers who come to escort Tycho to his quarters, and are a little bit too insistent to Corran’s trained ear. Corran wonders. Tycho can’t be a threat, they would never have him training recruits otherwise, but he does fly a pared-down Headhunter… It’s something that will obviously stick in his mind. As he’s thinking about that further, he’s interrupted by a woman calling out “There you are” to him.

It’s Erisi Dlarit, who has been mentioned as the second Thyferran in the squad. Quick recap: Thyferra is where they make bacta, the Miracle Cure of the Star Wars universe; there are major companies, called cartels in context, that have a monopoly about bacta distribution; and Erisi (and Bror Jace) are members/representatives of the two most important of those, with there being more than a whiff of politicking in their inclusion both in Rogue Squadron, although they are both supposed to be great pilots, of course. I am recapping this, because there will be a quiz later. (The fourth book is called Bacta War, for starters.)

will: “Cartel” isn’t quite accurate only because the existence of the duopoly of two major companies (each of which gets a pilot) means they aren’t colluding to keep prices high, exactly. But it works well enough, and when you remember that the association most of the readers would have with that word would be drug dealing, the attitude actually fits. And Stackpole isn’t an economist.

z: Erisi has come to invite Corran to DownTime, the tapcafe/bar, for post-mission drinks with the rest of the Rogues. In the text of the ensuing conversation as they walk there, there’s a lot of physical description snippets, with references to Erisi’s long legs, dark hair curling up against her long neck, so on. This would have been extremely irritating, except it made me realize that there wasn’t that much about how Lujayne or Rhysati looked in previous conversations Corran had with them even though both were Corran point-of-view conversations as well. It’s how Mike is getting across the idea that Corran is more aware of Erisi’s physicality than he was of the other two human females in the squadron, i.e. there’s some subconscious attraction there. Put that way, it’s not that irritating, actually.

will: Good catch.

z: Something else is irritating, and that’s Corran’s immediate reaction:

“I was sent to find you. The rest of us are in DownTime, going over what happened out there.”

“Not enough laughs, so you wanted me to join you?”

I would have smacked him one on the back of the neck had I been there. Dude you literally just finished talking to Tycho about this. And Wedge. And Whistler. And and and.

will: Well…I dunno. As much as Corran may have appreciated getting his head shrunk and perspective spun by those three, it’s different when we’re talking about the other pilots, the ones who basically got a leg up on Corran. Especially Bror. It’s possible for Corran to get the good lesson from his superiors but still be in pain over the perspective of his peers.

z: No, Erisi explains patiently, they want to apologize. They weren’t told what was happening either (of course); Wedge told them that the point of the exercise was to learn how to use someone else’s data like that (duh); then he ordered them not to tell Corran anything except their scores (that was by way of extra training for Corran, as we know); so now they feel bad. Erisi volunteered to go get Corran, while Nawara and Rhysati are trying to “talk some sense into Bror.” Corran tweaks her nose about abandoning the other Thyferran to the tender mercies of a Twi’lek lawyer, and she laughs and points out that their families own rival companies so whatever.

will: Specifically, she says that Zaltin (Bror’s company) are known to be “haughty and obstreperous.” Corran says “I hadn’t noticed,” and you could probably use his voice to dehydrate a lake.

z: She also says that Bror has identified Corran as “his chief rival for supremacy in the squadron.”

will: Also, that Bror has basically figured he can’t compete with Wedge or Tycho, they’re legends already, so he wants to be the best of the new school.

z: Corran wonders why she’s talking so much smack about a friend and Erisi reasonably asks what made him think she was friends with Bror. Corran says they spend a lot of time together? Erisi gives some line about “better the Moff you know than the Emperor’s new Envoy,” which is fishy at best, especially since she immediately continues with how she could never become friends with someone who “grew up in the Zaltin corporate culture.” Oooooh boy, Wedge has a lot more squadron-forging to do than he realizes, doesn’t he.

will: Maybe. Or maybe he knows how much.

z: Erisi’s people, she says, are “with Xucphra, the true leader in bacta production and refinement.” Corran, inexplicably, does not ask her to cut down on the advertising. He cannot hide the fact that his eyes are glazing over when she starts talking about how their family is the ones who discovered some adulterants were something something something zzzzzzzzzzzzzz, and she explains that sorry, she knows bacta politics are boring to outsiders but it’s in her blood. There’s more stuff on which there will be a quiz later:

“Though there are thousands of Vratix who actually grow alazhi and refine bacta, the ten thousand humans who run the corporations are really the people who make bacta available to the galaxy.”

Exploitation alert in Aisle 5, all hands, alert in Aisle 5.

will: Yeah, it’s almost impressive how blatant that is. Also note that the themes of legends, putting stock in accomplishments, and the like continues. Because the humans of Thyferra are basically all overseers and executives, they put a lot of stock in family achievements, as a way of getting a leg up on each other (that last part is unspoken).

z: Erisi also says that more representatives from Thyferran families could have been sent to try out for the Rogues, but it seems that not all of Thyferra is on board with the Alliance, and there is “fierce debate” (read: cut-throat politicking, probably) on the subject.

“Benign neutrality seems to be the course our leaders are choosing.”

Before I can even begin my “ooooh, boy,” Corran mentally translates that to “Playing both ends against the middle means big profits for the Bacta Cartel,” though not out loud. Thank you, Corran. He asks if she felt strongly enough about the Rebellion that she volunteered, and she says that there are times one must place higher ideals over personal safety.

I wish I had time right now to dive into this and point out that it actually almost never works that way, that that is a useful mental or conversational shorthand but is never the thing and the whole of the thing; that the personal is political and that means the political is always personal; and people who only go into it for service to the Higher Ideals™ are the kind of people who end up not seeing other people as people… but I don’t, so.

will: That’s okay. We’ll have other chances. Lots of ’em.

On those summarized notes of the point of it all, we’re going to cut this chapter off here, because Z had to run out, making another “eeeeeee” noise as she went by fast enough to cause a Doppler effect.

z: (Mixing sessions for those first two days’ crop of recordings tomorrow; had to go help finalize which takes to pick for which bits.)

will: We’ll pick up with the end of this chapter, and probably the next one if I can swing it, next week.

Until then, may the Force be with you.

 

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