Thursday, March 9, 2017

Remnants - Author Notes on Chapter 9

After a long absence, the resolution to the mystery. Apologies for the wait, but I hope it gave you plenty of time to consider all the clues regardless. Now, best not to get into spoilers yet. If you still haven't read the chapter, you should probably do that before continuing.

Done? Good. Let's start.

This mystery was never really about who had given that Syndicate Assassin a grenade, not entirely. This mystery wasn't even about how the Syndicate got aboard. It was really about who could be a Syndicate spy. Now you know and I'm guessing you have a few questions about it all.

The major thing in this chapter was ultimately the reveal that Retz, the hyper competant, very rational, consumate liar and constant companion to Zek, was in fact a double agent. One that had turned and was now working for Zek fulltime, yet still maintaining the cover he had originally possessed. So, basically, a double double agent. Triple agent would mean he's really working for a third party, there are semantics involved.

I laid a few clues as to the truth in both chapters, how Retz was running the investigation, all the information he seemingly had off-hand and, of course, the stories he told his Watson for this outing, Kasumi. Every little story was, as she found out, actually about him and the jobs he had pulled working for the Syndicate. When you strung it all together, the twist made sense. As did the second twist that Retz was a part of the Syndicate but had in fact turned on them long ago.

The concept of this whole revelation came about as I wrote the character. What did we really know about Retz? Varvok and Zek were straight forward, but Retz was a bit of an enigma. He seemed to have highly competent skills for someone who's just your average space pirate. Where did all these proclaimed contacts he has come from? Why is he seemingly so different from your average Jackal? The answer is, he isn't average. He's got training from someplace else. He's not some street punk, he's a crafty little spy master. One that has been playing this game for a long time it seems.

If you want to know the details, here they are. Retz became an active agent for the Syndicate for very young and took part in several operations since childhood. He's been trained and honed to be a master manipulator, infiltrator and exterminator. The only time he ever truly questioned this life was when he met Zek, a younger but still around the same age as him thief, who he took an instant shine to. Zek was the only true friend Retz could ever trust, the only other person who never asked more of him than was offered. To Zek, Retz was his partner, an equal. So when it was discovered that Zek was the son of Dreadfeather and had inherited his deceased father's only remaining ship, the Syndicate instructed Retz to ingratiate himself into Zek's ranks and keep an eye on him.

Retz was okay with lying, but he was done doing so to Zek at this point. He came out and told the truth, that the Syndicate wanted him to spy on him from now on and that he had been working for them for a long time. Instead of casting him out, Zek was more or less stunned that Retz had even decided to tell him the truth and expose himself. This only cemented their friendship and bound them tighter together. Retz's loyalty guaranteed that Zek was protected from and direct or indirect harm by the Syndicate and opened up a vast amount of resources that Zek could exploit. All Retz wanted in return was Zek's friendship and trust, which he had more or less already earned at this point.

There is more to the story of course, bits and pieces left out for spoiler purposes, but that is the gist. Retz is basically the first true loyal friend Zek ever had and vice versa. It was my intention to show that a Jackal could be loyal to something besides greed. That even in a society like theirs, there are individuals who value things other than money.

This is where the analogy to Goodfellas came in and why I used it for these two chapters as a template. Henry Hill, both in the movie and real-life, at first believed the romantic image of the Mafia. That he could trust his so-called family. In reality, they were all very quick to turn on him when the chips were down. They couldn't throw him under the bus fast enough. Hill kept fooling himself into thinking that there was some kind of honor behind his beloved organization. That it wasn't as bad as it seemed, until it was too late. Retz had no such delusion, he found out very young that the Syndicate treated him like a tool, Zek treated him like a partner. The second that happened, they lost him as an agent. He learned what true loyalty was and never looked back.

Yes, you can make your "friendship is magic" jokes, lord knows I kinda did myself, but that's just it. In this instance, Retz is the most loyal friend you could ever have. And yet, he's a lying, scheming, manipulative pirate just like the rest of them. Zek can always rely on him, but you can never really tell what Retz will do beyond that.

This is what Kasumi learns the hardway, as she's the real active participant in these chapters. She's been suckered in by the romance of space piracy a bit. Her daredevil attitude blinding her a little to the fact these people aren't savory. Retz used her, lied to her, and he while he claims to feel about it, he doesn't really show remorse. Kasumi at that point wonders why she should consider him a friend, why she should trust any of these pirates ever again. And Retz pretty much explains why, because  she knows he's a liar now and can't be trusted. So in a way, you can trust him with being dishonest and therefore you can sorta figure out where you stand now.

I'll admit, I borrowed a lot of this chapter's ideas from Star Trek: DS9. Specifically episodes centered around the character Garak, who Retz's mannerisms are largely based on. He's not a carbon copy, but he shares the same compulsive liar traits Garak had. I wanted to make a character that was a lot like that, but different. Garak is, for much of the series, not very happy with where he is in life. Retz is actually very comfortable and more than satisfied with the company he now keeps. He's not really all that worried about the Syndicate being angry at his betrayal, he doesn't really care about them anymore. He prefers using them rather than being used. There's other elements to Retz' character and his arc that differentiate him in my mind, but suffice to say, the key difference is that. He's okay with his lot and for the moment he doesn't really want to change things. He just wants to make sure his best friend doesn't get himself killed doing all the crazy shit he tends to get into.

There's not much more to talk about with this chapter, although I will comment on the whole "Feathers" debate that's been going on a bit. Yes, the UNSC is more xenophobic and probably doesn't routinely care about trophies. However, their rules are very similar to those of today's military forces. Trophy taking is, generally, frowned upon. I don't see the UNSC suddenly becoming more lenient just because they're fighting the Covenant. Desecrating the enemy dead will always lead to worse things down the road. It is better to curtail that for several reasons rather than let the men do whatever they want. A sense of professionalism and decorum is supposed to be maintained. Taking body parts is not something an Elite spec-ops soldier would be allowed to do in many circumstances. It's just how it is.

Well, that's all for now, catch you all next time.

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