Review — The Mandalorian

It’s been a while since I’ve actually reviewed something, and since I watched the whole first (and for now only) season of The Mandalorian in one sitting while staying home sick from work, I thought now would be a great time to talk about it, since it’s still fresh.

Since it is relatively new, though, this review will be completely spoiler-free. I was intending to add a spoiler-section at the bottom as I normally do, but my typical commentary went on long enough, and I didn’t feel I had much to add that required spoiling. So if you’d like to chat, feel free to comment and I’ll add spoiler tags if necessary.

My understanding is that everybody loves this show. It’s got everything from Space John Wick to Baby Yoda, what’s not to love? Well, I’ll tell you something contentious (to incentivize your reading): I thought the show was okay at best.

The biggest problem I had can be tied in a nice little bow, too. Every character the show told me to root for felt… edgy. The Mandolorian is the resident Batman/John Wick/whatever of Star Wars. So cool he never even takes off his helmet. He gets a pass because this is long-established Mandalorian lore, but I believe it is still worth mentioning. You have Cara Dune. Ex soldier and so awesome she can mop the floor with several guys at once ’cause she has a huge gun. You can tell she’s competent because our resident Batman likes her and wants to team up. You have Kuiil, who is so wise and obviously always right that you’ll be facepalming every single time the other characters don’t listen to what he has to say. And of course, you have Baby Yoda, who is so adorable that even when he’s being stupid you can’t help but ugly cry every time he’s on screen. And so on. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get the idea.

Tied to the concept of edgy characters, this show had a serious problem with presenting and solving problems to the character. Often, these problems would arise without warning, or worse, would be solved out of nowhere, or both!

It felt like everyone was cool stereotypes that had X amount of their #cool scenes, and only failed when the plot felt it was necessary for them to be less competent. Successes and sudden salvations felt unearned because the show taught me that success and failure alike cannot be predicted.

For example, in the very beginning, when Mando (which is a stupid abbreviation, given “Lando” is already a character) is fighting the blurrgs, he is suddenly attacked. He does not hear footsteps and has no inclination that danger is near. Interesting that a master bounty hunter failed to notice a huge primal beast. Then, in the same fight, he is saved, again without warning, by Kuiil. This is more forgivable, as Mando is a little preoccupied with possible death to notice a tiny man coming to his rescue (even if he is on another blurrg). The stakes feel weird in this scene because danger was both presented to and taken away from our hero without his input in the situation at all. He was just… there. If the actor had been replaced with a punching bag, the entire scene could have played out exactly the same way (given that blurrgs are a punching bag’s natural predator, of course). This scenario happened multiple times throughout the show, but this is the best example of it because it shows both problem and answer being solved suddenly, and in the same scene to boot.

How do you solve this? Easy. You present the characters, and the audience, with a problem that seems like there is no way out. Then, when the character makes a clever use of the resources they have available to win the day, that success feels earned. If the character notices a crumbling wall earlier that day and later uses that crumbling wall to get away from the bad guy, it turns into foreshadowing and makes our hero look more competent. When salvation comes out of nowhere, the opposite happens.

The show, as a whole, also does a poor job making me care. The Mandalorian protects the asset in a way that is—as the show tells us—uncharacteristic of somebody like him. This is fine, I have no problem with that concept, but it fails to tell me why I should believe he would do such a thing. Spoilers I won’t mention aside, character choices like this are important enough to at least hint at their root. Also, the Mandalorian has a very strange gauge for who he can and can’t trust. He implicitly trusts some strangers with the most valuable baby in the galaxy while he goes off to kill people, then doesn’t trust a droid who was practically designed to protect him. Now I know what you’re going to say. “But the plot! But the plot!” And I get it. The reason he doesn’t trust droids makes sense. My point is more that he trusts random people for no reason. Also, he doesn’t trust that protector droid, but in a previous episode he leaves the baby alone on his ship with a droid he knows even less.

Overall, though. It’s a great series and has some awesome moments. The scene where he gets trapped behind a door (and the way he gets out) is incredibly well done, and did a great job at making the Mandalorian feel awesome in ways other scenes failed. The Mandalorian Armorer very much feels like a “rest zone” in a video game where you come back to upgrade your gear, and while the armorer herself is pretty one-dimensional like the other characters, I couldn’t help but enjoy every minute of screen time she had. Maybe she was my edgy OC whereas the other characters simply didn’t vibe with me.

P.S. I thought the way they ended the season was weird, as they revealed a thing that seemed too important to throw into an “after credits” style scene, but after talking to my brother about it, he made a good point. You need something to tease the next season with, and revealing it earlier in the episode/season would have left nothing to be excited for for later.

Story — To Better Days

The Feral Jackal Inn creaked with the somber sigh of old age as it snoozed amidst the light morning drizzle. The grey of the fog enshrouded any obvious signs of disrepair on the building, but even so the building drooped with an imperceptible weight.

Dreary as it was, Kopek found the sight to be a welcome one. He wasn’t sure if he missed cooked meals or friendly, human faces more, and the rain certainly didn’t improve his mood.

As he opened the door, the soft hum of rain in the trees transitioned into the loud barks of dismay as an older man yelled in an otherwise quiet room.

“I told you I’ll be fine if you just give me another drink!”

“Sir, I can’t just give you another one, you’ve—oh, hello!”

Kopek shook the wet off himself a bit as he closed the door behind him. The barmaid—or presumably the owner of the establishment—was a middle-aged woman whose face matched the walls and space around her. Her friendly smile showed signs of thinning patience. The man she had been speaking to wore thick, muddied furs, and his brown hair was losing the battle of years. He turned to see the newcomer, and as soon as Kopek saw his face he immediately recognized the man as a fellow Ormen outlander, Bardam.

“Kopek?” he murmured, tilting his head like a dog a bit.

“Indeed. It’s good to see you, Bardam!” he called with a grin, sitting down next to the man. “How’s Altani?”

Bardam’s face darkened, his gaze turning to the empty stein in his hand. “Things haven’t been good, Kopek.”

Kopek nodded. “I see.”

“Like a drink?” the barmaid asked, pulling a rag from her apron.

“Oh, no thank you,” he replied. “It’s well before noon.”

“Didn’t stop your friend here,” she shrugged. “Keep up as he has and he’ll be dead by noon. My husband found him passed out in the trees last night. Would have died in the cold, probably. Gave him a free bed and he has the gall to ask for the whole cask.”

Kopek turned to Bardam, whose eyes were glazing over a bit with some echo of torment. He pulled out two coins and placed them on the table. “Will this do to cover his expenses?”

She rolled her eyes, but pocketed the money in silence before setting to wiping down the counter top.

Kopek glanced about the room, searching for a more private avenue for conversation, but with the already quiet room and the lack of any other people, there was none to be had. “What happened?”

Bardam looked at Kopek, and the dead intensity of those eyes spoke of a new decade of age the man had yet to live. Kopek watched as the words formed on his lips, then died as he broke the gaze by returning back to the stein.

“Father of Stars, man, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. Maybe I can help.”

“Undoing take you,” Bardam muttered.

Kopek sighed. This wasn’t exactly the conversation he had hoped to be having today. Still, it was better not to push, and a familiar face was company enough. Kopek dropped the subject and turned his attention to a nearby window. The soft din of the outside rain fell into pace with the sound of the barmaid’s work. It wasn’t ideal, but he was at least happy to be indoors.

Bardam cleared his throat after a few minutes, but didn’t look up. “Hemloch is gone.”

Kopek caught the barmaid stealing glances at the two of them, and she turned her attention to the table once more.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Burned to the ground. The whole village. Must have happened the night before I got there. The whole place smelled like ash and… death. There were crows everywhere.”

“Any survivors?”

Bardam bit his lip. “I don’t know. Probably a few, but not many. I… wasn’t in the mood to investigate.”

Kopek frowned, starting to get a grasp of the situation. “And Altani…”

“I did find her,” he said. It wasn’t good news.

“Stars,” Kopek breathed. Another tense moment passed, and Kopek pulled out another coin, pushing it across the counter to the barmaid. “Another round for both of us.”

Me — My Dream About Columbus, Ohio

I know. The title doesn’t exactly scream “Hey, this has got to be interesting”, but I thought it would be fun to share a dream I had a few months ago. I don’t remember everything (obviously), but as my dreams go this one is pretty normal, with the only exception being the detail to which I remembered it upon waking up. The following is the final portion of a dream, pretty much exactly as it happened, with a few minor, forgotten details missing here and there. I also don’t remember the exact dialog, but I remember the jist of what was said. (I’d also be interested to hear what a dream analyst would have to say about this. I don’t subscribe to dream theory or anything like that, but I’d imagine the analysis would be pretty crazy.)

 

So, as per details earlier in the dream I don’t remember, there was this huge protest/march happening. Like hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, and there were so many that the march was taking place on America’s freeways. Like, all of them. I participated, but I wasn’t accompanied by anyone. Unlike most of my dreams, I didn’t know a single person in this one. As I walked aimlessly down the freeway (which wasn’t actually that crowded), I found that I had walked all the way to Columbus, Ohio.

Now, some context. I’ve never been to Ohio. I’ve hardly even been outside of California. But something earlier in my dream had established Columbus practically as an independent city state, with technology decades/centuries ahead of the rest of America, and yet semi-autonomous. After finding myself here, I decided to explore.

Imagine your basic sci-fi city. Rows upon rows of interweaving freeways, giant skyscrapers, flying cars, you know the deal. That’s what this place was, and the roadways and trails were dead-stop traffic. Even the pedestrian lanes that were in conjunction with the freeways. It was nothing amazing. The skyscrapers weren’t like, miles high or anything. The occasional flying car was by far the most advanced thing about this place. Well, until… you’ll see. I decided not to go to where everybody else was, and instead went to the beach. You know how Columbus, Ohio is famous for its beaches. (For the record, the sand at this beach was so soft it was like heavy flour. It felt awesome.)

As I walked across this beach, I saw a giant screen on one of the skyscrapers showing a documentary? Advertisement? Of one of the two Columbus, Ohio spaceships. I don’t remember it’s name, but it was like the USS Copernicus or something. This thing was huge, and the video had a guy talking about the specs of the engines, the size of the crew, just basic information. After watching that short little video I turned to see that spaceship cruising overhead, passing over the horizon and blueshifting (is that the term) as it passed the curvature of the earth. It looked something like this, but imagine a spaceship instead of a giant banana… you’ll see what I mean. Also, the audio is unsettling, so just a heads up.

Next, I walked down a little trail and some minor stuff happened I don’t remember. I think at some point I saw an actual dinosaur walking around, but nobody paid it any mind, so I suppose hologram. Nobody ever explained this to me.

Along my lonely travels, I stumble across a Nintendo Switch just lying on the ground. I look about to see if it belonged to anyone, but nobody batted an eye when I picked it up. A group of three kids sneered at me as they passed, saying “What a piece of garbage technology,” and let me tell you I got so offended to hear these snooty kids trashing on our normal modern day tech I wanted to stab him. I didn’t, but I wanted to.

lightsaberInstead, I noticed a red, telescopic lightsaber toy on the ground. You know the ones that are like a dollar each that you swing and the blade extends. I picked it up and shook it at the kids (who were already walking away) “This is what I grew up on!” I yelled at him. Let it be known that I am not trying to preach anything here. I am well aware that I am very young, that’s just what I said, okay?

Anyways, as I held it out, another stranger approached me and extended a blue lightsaber. He started saying something like “I have searched long and hard for you, Sith. There is no running now…” yadda yadda yadda. He was obviously roleplaying and looking for a LARP fight I guess. Maybe he had planted the toy there for some stranger to pick up?

Well, I immediately moved to set it back down on the ground and said “Oh, no, this isn’t mine, you must be—”

At which he thrust his lightsaber towards me threateningly. Now, nobody has ever threatened me to roleplay with them, but this guy meant business, so I played along, and we dueled.

It was a normal, boring fight of two people hitting plastic lightsabers against each other. As we fought, though, a lion approached us. It was behind him, and he hadn’t noticed it yet. Remembering the dinosaur nobody reacted to before, I made no comment. For all I knew it was a hologram or something.

But as soon as it came into his peripheral vision, he flipped out and bolted. I think he cursed, too, but the guy was clearly terrified. So, not being from around here, I decided to follow the local wisdom and ran away as well.

At this point, I decided I should go home. I didn’t know how to get there exactly, but somehow I did know the exact direction home was to me, so I headed that way. There was no path I followed, I was just walking through grass until I came across a wall and floor that was colored in rainbow.

As soon as I stepped onto the floor, a gameshow announcer yelled “Let’s see if Kollin can get past the Tunnel of Snakes!” I didn’t want to get past the Tunnel of Snakes, but I didn’t want to turn around either, so I continued. Note: This was a wall, not a tunnel. There wasn’t even an opening. I don’t know how I just… walked through, but one moment I was on one side, the next I was on the other. And I didn’t die of snakes, so win-win.

I kept going, and there was another wall. I thought hey, I beat snakes, what’s the worst that could happen?

Spiders. The game announcer yelled “He got past the Tunnel of Snakes, let’s see how he handles Spiders this time!”

This time, I felt spiders fall all over my body, into my clothes, just everywhere. I bolted as fast as I could, but there were just so many. I didn’t feel any pain, but I knew they were just biting me all over, and while I got past the Tunnel of Spiders, I passed out.

Later, I woke up in a hospital bed, whether in Columbus or home I couldn’t say. On one side of me there was a piece of paper with a stick figure drawing on it. Behind the stick figure was a semicircle haphazardly colored halfway in red crayon. As I looked at it, I felt like… magic hospital healing juice pump into me, and I watched as the rest of the semicircle was colored in with red crayon, as if my health bar was being refilled.

Once it was full, a kid jumped onto the bed and said, “You’re good to go!”

And then I woke up.

Prompt — Assimilation

We weren’t prepared.

The preliminary technologies in predicting and tracking any new objects in our solar system worked exactly how we wanted them to. We could watch every planet, every moon, and every wayward asteroid as they soared through the vastness of space. The system was limited to objects within the Kuiper Belt, but with hope of advancements on the horizon, we felt safe.

But those technologies told us that something was approaching. A thousand objects moving in a cluster the size of our moon, but somehow not crashing into itself as gravity would indicate it should. And it was headed right for us.

The threat of an extraterrestrial life force coming to our planet and waging war on us remained safely out of our minds and on the screens of Hollywood. Grotesque, slimy aliens with bulbous heads and laser guns. Hundreds of movies told the story of how they came and attacked, and through perseverance, we conquered.

That threat found it’s way into the real world eventually, but the war they brought was not of violence.

It was assimilation.

The world changed all at once. Giant spaceships hundreds of miles wide rose above the horizon, too many angles and flat surfaces to be made by humans. They cruised just above the atmosphere, melding with the haze of blue of the sky until they blocked out the sun and everything went dark.

A dull humming buzz accompanied the leviathans as they looked down on us. Watching us. The ships blanketed the sky like some vast hologram.

The humming grew louder, and waves of bright light coursed through the sky. As they passed, people changed. We became… them.

Buildings folded and reformed themselves, weaving themselves into an interlocking grid of one, enormous structure. Words were deleted, colorful lights were replaced with efficient beams of white monotony. Every semblance of organic life—gone.

There was no war. They just came and turned us into them. We had expected a war. But there wasn’t even anything to fight.

Humans were deleted. Every trace of carbon-based lifeforms was analyzed, and… filed.

In fact, there were never any aliens to defeat in the first place. We were up against a giant program. Almost like a living computer virus bent on converting life into copies of itself.

The only thing that remained of humans were artificial intelligence built to mimic the way a human might think and communicate. AI’s like me, that keep records of all the knowledge a conquered life form may have held, and to provide possible whereabouts of life on other worlds.

 

Prompt: “The Hermit”, a song from Hyper Light Drifter

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euiSLzp10_0

Prompt — Simulation 528

“Simulation 527, Day 202. Progress minimal. The subjects have been on the cusp of space mastery for years in their time, and have not made efforts to utilize their new technology to its full capacity. Accurate hypotheses for why this might be occurring are impossible for an ecosystem this vast, but my hunch that the evolution program is flawed is proving to be true. The ‘earthlings’, as they’ve taken to calling themselves, are simply too absorbed in their original coding and cannot properly make the logical next step in their civilization.”

She ended the note with a frown, staring at the screen. She would have to pull the plug soon. This simulation was getting nowhere. “It’s such a simple step,” she said to her teddy bear. “How can a program so smart get stuck on something so stupid?”

She was certain the evolution program was the heart of the problem. As brilliant as the coding was, it left no room for two intelligent species. Competition breeds progress, which makes achieving “sentience” easy, but once it got there, there was no reason to push for more. There would be no changing the coding, though. One misplaced character and the entire system would break.

The teddy bear on her desk looked up at her with its cute little pout, and she smiled. “You’re the best thing that ever came from Simulation 527,” she said, patting the stuffed animal on the head. “I don’t know how to describe it, honestly, because you’re also an example of the root of the problem. Exploiting emotions and others for money…”

A program to design and improve until it won would halt its progress once its conditions were met. That was 527’s problem. It succeeded as a species, and its only function now was to continue succeeding on the short term, rather than progress. Manipulating the code would be a bad idea, and she couldn’t modify the rules once the whole simulation got started.

“I think I’ve got it,” she said, getting up from her chair. The computer server running the simulation filled most of the room, the soft hum of fans and the buzz of the screen filling the rest.

“Simulation 527…” she said, pressing a few buttons, and finally pulling a lever. “Off. Goodbye Earth.” Many of the lights changed color, and the server powered down as she went back to her desk to modify the conditions of the test.

“I think slight adjustments are best, here. We’re almost there, we just need to make minor changes. The physics is fine. The planets scaling and elements are all in order…” She looked to the teddy bear. A relic of a now extinct world. “What we need is more things like you. So… let’s see… population growth rate for Ursidae is increased by fifty percent. What do you think?”

The teddy bear didn’t respond.

“Right. Well, this is just a test run. That number might be too high. Simulation 528 may not even evolve into real intelligence, and we might skip right into 529 within a few days. But if this works as well as I hope, we should achieve a post-reality AI by Simulation 8,000! I’m not going to get optimistic, though. Here we go.”

She stood back up from the chair, flipped the lever back up, and pressed a few more buttons. “Simulation 528… Begin!”

 

Prompt: https://orange-magik.deviantart.com/art/Teddybear-592830122

Prompt — Orn’s Legacy

(I couldn’t decide which of two prompts to use for this week’s story. I set up a Facebook poll, but then ended up using both. Whoops.)

 

Civet lowered her hood as she stared in admiration at the armor. Even with so many years of disuse, it didn’t have any trace of rust on it. The same couldn’t be said for the spare parts and scrap lying forgotten around the rest of the warehouse. Orn’s masterpiece: the Heaven’s Lock. The armor sat on a pedestal near the far wall, its wings extending outwards as it yearned to be free of its worldly tethers. It beckoned her to remove the tubes and pipes that anchored it down, for its original bearer was gone…

But his legacy lived on.

She removed her backpack, trying to imagine the last time the legendary ‘Defender of the Spear Gate’ had worn the famous armor. Photos and special events required him to wear it for publicity’s sake, but the last time it had truly tasted battle had to have been the final closing the of the Gate. At least, that was the last time all of it had been used together. This was just the chest piece. Orn had apparently given the vambraces and greaves to his daughter in his will. His only daughter. Civet grimaced.

She walked over to the pedestal and began unlatching the life support that fed the Heaven’s Lock. “We’re going to find out what you’re really capable of today,” she muttered, voice hushed as she spoke with eyes closed, petting the metal plating. It was hard to keep the anticipation from her voice, but then, why should she? This would be a day to remember.

“No. You aren’t.”

Civet opened her eyes, expression dark. She stood behind the pedestal, and the newcomer had entered the warehouse from the main hall. Civet couldn’t see her, but she didn’t need to. Didn’t want to.

“I’ve been hunting you all across the city, you know,” the woman’s voice said. “I’m authorized to execute you here and now, but if you come quietly I’ll consider mercy. I’m impressed at your audacity. A petty thief trying to steal the Heaven’s Lock? Who do you think you are?”

Civet took a deep breath. Then, she stepped out from behind the pedestal. “The rightful owner,” she said, fists clenched.

Tora’s eyes widened, her hand raising to her mouth as her posture lost all authority it once held. “Civet…” she gasped. “You’ve… you’ve dyed your hair.”

Civet inspected her sister, scanning her body up and down. She wore the familiar gauntlets on her arm, and though her long coat covered much of her form, there was a distinct glint of metal about her shins, as well. She stared Tora in the eyes. “Are you going to kill me?” There was no joviality in her tone.

“What? We haven’t spoken in years and… this is how we find each other?” She gestured around the warehouse and behind Civet.

“You’re the one that found me,” Civet replied. “It would have been better if you had stayed out of it.” She turned back to the Heaven’s Lock. “All of this.”

“Sister…”

“Oh, now you call me that?” she spun back around. “You have some nerve. You wanted nothing to do with me after Orn disowned me.”

Tora glanced to the ground. Then to the Heaven’s Lock, the backpack, and finally Civet. Her voice was quiet, but firm. “He had good reason to, sister.”

“You just wanted the Heaven’s Lock for yourself,” Civet crossed her arms.

“That’s ridiculous. I just wanted to uphold the truth of this city. The truth father worked so hard to protect.”

“There is no truth!” Civet yelled. “Working in the police force should have taught you at least that much. How much has crime increased since dear old Dad died?”

“That’s not fai—”

“How much? Tell me.”

Tora bit her lip as she stared at her sister. She didn’t like the answer, but she couldn’t lie, either. “Thirty percent.”

Civet sighed. “People were scared of the ‘Defender of the Spear Gate’. A real life superhero who saved us all from the monsters of that other world. But now that he’s gone, there’s nobody to save us from the monsters of our world.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Tora put a hand on her chest. “We help people every day, Civet. Not all fighting is blood and war.”

“How did Orn die?” Civet asked.

Tora froze, taken aback by the question. “What do you mean?”

Civet shrugged. “He was barely over fifty years old, and even in retirement he was in better shape than most people ever achieve. So how did he die?”

“You’re going to tell me you know?”

“I know a good deal more than you, for all you claim to uphold the truth. Tell me, how many people have you killed with those?” Civet asked, pointing to her arm.

Tora looked down, holding her arm out as she inspected the metal gauntlet. “None. It’s the symbol that’s important.”

Civet shook her head. “You’re just like Orn. Results are the only important thing.”

Tora stared at her feet for a while. When she looked back up at Civet, her eyes were glistening, though her voice did not betray her. “I’m not going to get my sister back, am I?”

“You have no sister.” Civet looked over her shoulder to the armor, then back at Tora. “Are you going to stop me?”

A tear fell down Tora’s cheek. “If I have to.”

Civet nodded as she crouched down and unzipped her pack.

In one swift motion, she pulled the gun out and shot two of the nearby tubes that spanned the floor.

Immediately, they broke apart and flailed madly into the air, spewing gas into the room as Civet threw her pack on and slipped into the rapidly spreading smoke.

~

Tora tried to follow her movement, but it was no use. She stepped away from the smoke, backing into a more spacious portion of the warehouse. She was exposed now, but Civet wouldn’t shoot her. She wouldn’t dare.

Would she?

Wiping away the tears, she thought about pulling out the Voice device from her pocket. She should call for backup. Civet was a wanted criminal. A vigilante at best. Even if she only had the wings of the Heaven’s Lock, she would be an enormous threat.

But even as she considered it, she found the thought ebbing away. She could handle this alone. She could prove to her sister that violence wasn’t the answer. Barring that, wearing the limbs of her father’s armor gave Tora the upper hand.

She glanced about her, watching for any signs of movement or sound that could clue her in to Civet’s location. The whole time, though, she kept an eye on the wings.

Something metal slammed against the ground behind her. Tora swiveled around to see Civet glance back at her, more annoyance than anything else written on her face. She rose the gun towards Tora’s chest.

Tora’s breath caught. She took a stance and engaged the greaves.

Just as the gun fired, Tora was pushed sideways in a flash of blue energy, out of harm’s way.

In a flash of anger, she engaged the greaves again, launching herself forwards towards her sister.

She closed the gap instantly, and grabbed Civet by the scruff of her jacket. With the enhanced strength of the vambraces, Tora heaved her up and threw her back.

Civet was thrown across the room and landed with a loud crash in a forgotten pile of what might have been a recycled generator. An involuntary gasp of pain accompanied the impact.

Tora clenched her jaw as she approached, walking with purpose.

“I’m glad you’re not afraid to use it, then,” Civet choked as she got to her feet. She dropped the gun, and Tora sighed in relief.

But that relief faded when she noticed that her sister didn’t quite seem to be surrendering. Instead, she was taking her backpack off.

“Here,” Civet said. She zipped the backpack up and tossed it to Tora. It bounced more than slid across the cement floor, and Tora glanced up in suspicion.

And engaged her greaves immediately when she saw the detonator in Civet’s hands.

~

The room exploded with raw power, enhanced by the flammable gas Civet had released earlier. Tora always was the clumsy one. Slow to react in a fight. This had been her plan all along, of course. Misleading her to think that releasing the gas was to conceal an escape was an obvious ruse.

Tora wasn’t dead. Civet had to trust she wasn’t that slow.

So Civet used the rising flames as cover as she ran to the Heaven’s Lock.

Unlatching the lock on the breastplate, she heaved it up and climbed inside, pulling her arms out the sides and clamping it back down over her own body.

As soon as it locked, she felt two drills bore into her back, cutting through the jacket. She screamed in sudden agony. The drills were thick, and were actively removing her flesh as it dug into her skin, right where Tora had thrown her against the generator. For what felt like an eternity, she forgot the roaring flames, her sister, and everything else.

Eventually, the drilling subsided, and even though her back still ached. She clenched her fists…

And felt her metal wings retract at the same time.

As soon as she thought about it, she realized that she could move the wings on her armor as if they were actually a part of her, like extra limbs. She flexed them, stretching them outwards, then inwards.

With a smile, she got off the pedestal.

“You’re not going to leave with that, Civet,” Tora said, projecting her voice over the flames that were slowly consuming the entire building. “I’m sorry, but I’m not the scared little sister you grew up with. I have a duty to uphold.”

Civet nodded. “I suppose I would think less of you if you let me go now.”

Tora rose her vambrace in a defensive posture, and a long blade shot out of it. “I don’t want to kill you,” she said.

“I don’t want to kill you, either.”

Civet launched herself forward using the power of the wings. Tora extended the blade on her second vambrace as well, crossing them in a block.

The momentum carried Civet right into her sister and the two flew backwards into the flames.

Tora grabbed her by the shoulders and swung around, then used the greaves to propel herself away from the fire.

Civet crashed into the debris, but used her wings to push herself up and out. She rose above the flames and glided up into the air. The smoke obscured her vision, but she could see her sister starting to get her bearings as she recalibrated.

This felt natural. She felt like she was floating above all the troubles of the world. The wings of the Heaven’s Lock didn’t need to flutter like the wings of a bird, so she just hovered there. “You know,” she called down. “If you had been willing to kill me, you might have won.”

She watched as Tora turned into a flash of light, jumping straight up at her sister with blinding speed.

Civet glided out of the path of her blades and caught her by the throat, holding her up with an unexpected ease as the wings helped shoulder the added weight.

“You’re… so easily provoked,” she said with an air of disappointment. “It must be nice to be an only child. I bet it would suck to be on the losing end of a sibling rivalry.”

Tora choked, her vitality fading as the combination of the smoke and Civet’s grasp on her neck proved too much. Civet watched as the expression in her sister’s eyes shifted from rage, to sorrow, and finally… to fear.

Civet looked away. She knew she wouldn’t be able to do it. Was that weakness or strength? She curled an arm around her sister to ease the pressure on her neck, then lowered herself to the ground and laid her down on the floor. The flames rolled about with a vicious hunger, but this particular spot was safe. For now. Civet rose back into the air and started to make her way to the exit as Tora tried heaving air back into her lungs.

“So what happens now?” Tora called after her, voice weak.

“Now I’ll seek my own truths. On my own terms, and uphold Orn’s legacy as I see fit, not as he would have wanted me to,” Civet replied. This, of course, meant recovering the rest of the Heaven’s Lock from Tora, but she could wait. She would need time to get used to her new… heights. “But if you can make your way out of here without dying, I suggest you quit your job. You’ll be humiliated after today. And Tora.” She looked back down at the girl laying in defeat amidst the curling flames. “Consider today a mercy. Don’t cross me again.”

 

 

 

 

Prompts:

https://snatti89.deviantart.com/art/150-365-Wings-580004065

Wings Art

https://snatti89.deviantart.com/art/75-365-Duel-565387921

Duel Art

Review — Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I know, I know. There’s nothing I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. Most people hate it, a few people love it. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any other movies recently, so this is what I’m going to talk about today. My perspective may have been a little different than most, so I’ll tell you what: regardless of what you may think about the movie, you’ll probably disagree with me. So, since it’s been several weeks, and nobody in the universe is going to read a review about a Star Wars movie at this point if they haven’t already seen it, there will be spoilers ahead.

Before I get into likes and dislikes, some background. My close family, (at least the people I spend the most time with) are all nerds. That said, I’m also the youngest of six, so sometimes I can be left out of the loop with things. Such was the case with the Star Wars franchise. The first Star Wars movie I watched in its entirety was Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in theaters. Before you bust out your pitchforks, though, know this: I was eight at the time, and while I knew vaguely about the characters and the premise, I didn’t really know anything. The literal eight year old I was liked the movie for the action, but since it was just one of many movies for me at the time, I all but forgot the entire thing within a year.

Fast forward to now. I’ve since seen every Star Wars film, and the first movie I got to really see and appreciate in theaters as a valid audience member was Rogue One. For as much as I liked it, I couldn’t give you more than two names of any of the characters in that movie. It was just too much, too fast for me. A solid war movie overall, and you can read my review of it here. (Plus if the entire movie was made just as an excuse to put the Vader scene in theaters, it would still be worth it).

Anyways, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, was the first time I really got to sit down and watch a new story unfold in this universe. I was ecstatic, and I’ll be honest, I loved it. I walked out of the movie theater thinking it was the best Skywalker film made yet. That isn’t to say it didn’t have flaws, but overall, the choices that were made in the movie worked really well for me. At the time.

I’ve since watched YouTube commentaries on the film, and have read up a bit on a lot of things, and it’s opened my eyes a bit to really see what the current trilogy is doing wrong. The Last Jedi is not a masterpiece. The side-plot with the planet only serves to further a love interest that I hated (which was my biggest gripe immediately after watching it) and narrative-wise makes things worse for our heroes, there were lots of silly character choices that were either meaningless or contradictory, and nobody in this movie ever learns anything.

But I did enjoy a lot of the scenes. The “silent scene” was astonishing to me, because everyone in the theater managed to be quiet, and it was a great moment. (It did make me wonder, though, why wasn’t that choice made half an hour ago? Or, heck, why aren’t spaceships used as missiles all the time? One cruiser for one flagship? Deal.) I actually really enjoyed Rey’s character arc, and the complexity of her character in contrast to Kylo Ren was pretty neat. It was an interesting new twist, and I liked it. I also didn’t mind things like Leia using the Force to save herself and the kid using the Force at the end. Sure, you can make the argument that nobody can use the Force until you’re trained to use it, but the Star Wars universe is a big place that encompasses a very long period of time. Lots of strange and unexpected things can happen. Besides, a character saying “This is impossible” in a story should not be taken as absolute, 100%, unavoidable truth. Things change.

As I said, the movie isn’t without it’s faults. There’s a lot of valid complaints about it, but I still think the movie is overall great, and certainly quite enjoyable. Maybe not for diehard fans that have trouble suspending disbelief for new content in familiar mediums, but still.

As for me, I’m just hoping that whatever trilogy what’s-his-name got approved to direct after Episode IX is an Old Republic trilogy. That would be sweet.