Group Reading: Freedom Flight 2022

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
In 2010, a very good activity was started here - Group Reading of Wing Commander series of novels. The activity lasted for several months, finished reading the first three chapters of Freedom Flight and then pausing.

Now, most of the Wing Commander novels are available in electronic format, making it even easier to read. So, in 2022, I hope we will have the opportunity to continue this awesome activity.


You could purchase the DRM Free version of Freedom Flight at baen.com with the link above, and the first three chapters are available for online trial reading there.

Now, please let me start this thread with the quotation of the original post.

GOOD MORNING, GHORAH KHAR!

Welcome to the first-ever Wing Commander Combat Information Center Wing Commander novel read-along (try saying that three times fast)! We will be conducting a ‘group read’ of the entire Wing Commander series of books, starting with Freedom Flight. Anyone is welcome to join in, and there’s no requirement that you all read every book. Join in when you can and have fun!

I will provide an introduction, a reading assignment and some materials each week and will then join in the discussion myself. We’re going to start very slow in order to get the hang of the process—with a single chapter or two. As we get into the swing of things, we can choose to do longer portions of the books depending on how we feel it’s going.

This isn’t just fun and games, though! We’re also hoping to use the experience to ‘finish’ the portions of the Wingkipedia which relate to the novels as we move along.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

• Find any references to time. When does this chapter take place? What other events are mentioned? Even without a chapter heading specifying the date, we can construct a timeline using internal references to the amount of time that passes.
• Where does the chapter take place and what does the text tell us about a particular ‘set’? For example, the first chapter of Freedom Flight includes a conversation between Ralgha and Kirha as they travel from the bridge to the flight deck of a Fralthi. What do we learn about the layout of the cruiser, as a result?
• Can you find any references to real historical events? Is the story an allusion to something that actually happened in military history (this is common in Dr. Forstchen’s books)?
• Are there any references to the events of Wing Commander games? Are there any ‘in jokes’, references to Origin or Baen?
• Did you enjoy this chapter? Why or why not? Be honest!
• When did you first read this book? Why was it important to you? Lets learn your ‘personal history’ in addition to that of the Wing Commander universe!
• Can you find any portions of the book which are setting up for future stories, either in game or book form?

THINK ABOUT…

Think about what you have read from three different perspectives:

• As a stand-alone story. Does the book work on its own, or does it require a greater knowledge of the Wing Commander universe? Is it a good story, taken on its own merits, or just a visit to a familiar world?
• Its connection to previously published Wing Commander material. Try to imagine you are reading the book when it first came out and that you know only the games and stories which have been written to date. How is the story affecting the direction of the franchise? How is it similar to or different from what has come before?
• Its connection to the entire Wing Commander canon. What does this material introduce to the Wing Commander universe? Can you think of an impact it has on later stories, or of later material that references it in some way? Does it introduce or set the stage for ‘continuity errors’? Does it answer any outstanding questions?

BOOK INTRODUCTION

Freedom Flight is the first Wing Commander novel. It is often overlooked, as it has a distinctly different tone and connection to the Wing Commander games. In fact, it is probably more like a real Wing Commander game than any other book, since it is written by the same woman and in the same style as Wing Commander II itself.

It is also often written off as a novelization of Secret Missions 2. The two stories overlap, but I would argue this is a narrative device rather than the whole of the book. Freedom Flight ends up telling a very different story, which goes well beyond the bounds of Crusade.

It’s also an enormously important look at Kilrathi culture and general life in the Wing Commander universe. While few of you consider Freedom Flight your favorite, it probably impacted later stories in ways you don’t yet appreciate.

The initial ‘package’ of three Wing Commander novels was arranged by Bill Fawcett, a science fiction author and editor. Bigger names (like Mercedes Lackey) were to write the outlines or introductory stories with others writing the meat of the books. The result is a “famous” name on the cover.

Freedom Flight came out roughly a year after Wing Commander II (not the same time as Secret Missions 2, as many believe), dead in the middle of the drought that ran from Special Operations 2 to Academy/Privateer in 1992.

Ellen Guon was a former Origin writer who was responsible for a great deal of work on Secret Missions 2 and Wing Commander II—hence the very similar tones. By the time Freedom Flight was published she had left OSI and already co-authored two other fantasy books with Mercedes Lackey.

Mercedes Lackey was (and is) an established fantasy author. Although her fanbase doesn’t usually overlap with Wing Commander, she remains the ‘biggest name’ ever printed on a Wing Commander book.

The cover is by Paul Alexander, a prolific science fiction artist. Mr. Alexander would go on to paint several Wing Commander covers. He is responsible for many familiar covers, including many of David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammer’s books and most of Frank Herbert’s non-Dune novels. A list is available online here: http://www.paperbackfantasies.jjelmquist.com/alexander_cover_art.htm

The art itself is supposed to mimic the Wing Commander I box, but with different ships. Since Freedom Flight doesn’t specifically introduce any new ship classes, it’s unclear exactly what is being shown. Try and pick a scene to go with the cover as we go along! The ‘Dralthi replacement’ seen here is done in Mr. Alexander’s distinct spaceship style. Check out his unauthorized treatment of a Star Trek ship from Best of Trek: http://www.paperbackfantasies.jjelmquist.com/images/alexander/Trek06.JPG

Freedom Flight was heavily promoted by Origin in 1992, with inserts advertising it alongside Wing Commander games and manuals included in several releases. Most notably, Wing Commander II itself included an excerpt from the book. You can view an electronic copy online here: http://blacklance.org/WC2/ The excerpt includes portions of Chapter One and Chapter Two of the book.

Initially, a direct sequel to Freedom Flight was planned as the third book in the package. A 1992 Point of Origin mentions that it was to have been written by Ellen Guon and Jerry Pournelle and would tell the story of the Tiger’s Claw’s destruction. An early online FAQ claims it would have continued Hunter’s story. Mercedes Lackey’s newsgroup claimed at the time that she was co-authoring a sequel called ‘Freedom Run’. We contacted Ellen Guon about this project, who said it was cancelled because of a contract dispute. Jerry Pournelle had no knowledge of the book.

Freedom Flight has been published in two languages: English and German. If you have a German copy, let us know what’s different! It is the only book not translated into Czechoslovakian. There were at least two English printings by Baen.

It’s also the only book known to have any special merchandise. Baen solicited Freedom Flight by giving out posters of the book cover.

ASSIGNMENT FOR WEEK ONE: Freedom Flight, Chapter 1 (pp.1-22)

DISCUSSION POINTS

• Are there any changes between the excerpt included in Wing Commander II and the finished book?
• How do we look at this chapter in the light of Hobbes’ betrayal in Wing Commander III? Is the interrogation a blatant continuity error or is it something much more intentional?
• Where’s Downtown?

WINGKIPEDIA ASSIGNMENTS

• Write a ‘timeline’ entry for the events of this chapter and for any other events mentioned.
• Create a list of additions to the ‘Kilrathi Culture’ entry necessary because of this chapter.
• Fill out the following characters and terms and be sure to add anything I’ve missed!
• CHARACTERS:
o {burly guards}
o Ralgha nar Hhallas
o Jahkai
o Thrakhath nar Kiranka
o {unconscious Kilra’hra}
o {shopkeepers and carters}
o {group of slaves}
o Hassa
o Esther
o {squad of soldiers}
o Kirha
o {Ordnance Officer}
o {under-officers}
o Drakj’khai nar Ghorah Khar
• TERMS:
o Kilrah
o Hhallas
o Kalrahr
o Imperial Intelligence Headquarters
o Ghorah Khar
o Ras Nik’hra
o Lord
o Kilrathi
o Fralthi
o Emperor of Kilrah
o lerkrath
o kalkrath
o Thrak’hra
o Kilra’hra
o Kalrahr of Imperial Security
o Vega Sector
o Leningrad
o Waterloo
o Sivar
o Throne of Kilrah
o K’Tithrak Mang
o N’Tanya
o Old City
o arakh
o Priestesses of the Warrior-God
o Kilrathi (language)
o Imperial Intelligence
o Temple of Sivar
o Priestess of Sivar
o The Council
o merdha
o Firekka
o Imperial Security
o Heat-Seeking Missiles
o Ordnance Officer
o Pilot Officer
o Navigation Officer
o Under-officers
o Khantahr
o Rakti
o comlink
o Deneb Sector
o hrai
o liege lord
o Jalthi
o Dralthi

RESOURCES

How to do a Close Reading (Harvard University)
http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~wricntr/documents/CloseReading.html

Freedom Flight Excerpt
http://blacklance.org/WC2/
 
Last edited:

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
The discussion of Chapter 1 started here:

 
Last edited:

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
The discusstion of Chapter 2 started here:

 
Last edited:

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
The discussion of Chapter 3 started here:

 
Last edited:

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
Now we have truly travelled into unknown space.

- Ralgha nar Hhallas


From this floor, we start to get to the new content that really belongs to 2022. So, please allow me to raise a few discussion points first.

ASSIGNMENT FOR Freedom Flight, Chapter 4

DISCUSSION POINTS

* Routinely, what is the first thing a warship needs to do after entering a system that is not fully controlled?
* What does chewing arakh leaves do for Kilrathi people?
* By this time, how many Kilrathi on the Ras Nik'hra cruiser could speak Terran language?
* Why we say Maniac is a *******?
* Did the human convert the coordinates of Ras Nik'hra in time?
* What does the name Tiger's Claw mean for Kilrathi fleet?
* How does Ralgha feel about the crew of the ship?
* What does "with weapons" mean to Kilrathi? What does weapons mean here?
* "Soldiers of the Empire, you are sworn to me as my vassal warriors in the Emperor’s service." What does this statement reveal about the relationship between Ralgha and the crew of the ship? What is it based on? Is this different from the relationship between Ralgha and Kirha? How is it different?
* What is the gesture of submission for a Kilrathi?

EXTENDED DISCUSSION

* In Action Stations, there was a conversation between Baron Vakka and Admiral Nargth:

"The change in battle doctrine to the use of carriers as the first strike force has been discussed for years," Vakka continued after a short pause. "Ever since the war with the Varni we've considered it. Development of a shield-penetrating torpedo now makes it logical."

"It will still be the heavy ships, though, that will carry the day," Nargth replied defensively. "I've given my life to the fleet. Only ships with staying power will finally decide it. As to the overall plan, there is a flaw to it."


Which two naval operational concepts does this reflect? From the descriptions in Freedom Flight, which do you think became mainstream more than 20 years later?

* If this defection of Ralgha is considered to be an agent implantation orchestrated by Thrakhath, what do you see as the problem with it? If not, what do you think was really going on?

* You may notice that the fight between the crew and Ralgha was just a battle of claws, teeth and fists (paws). What is your explanation for this phenomenon?
 
Last edited:

Pedro

Admiral
Argh the timing. I’ve recently been reading the books in timeline order, so action stations, wcmovie trilogy but I’ve only just started pilgrim truth, freedom flight was next up. Hopefully I’ll catch up
 

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
Argh the timing. I’ve recently been reading the books in timeline order, so action stations, wcmovie trilogy but I’ve only just started pilgrim truth, freedom flight was next up. Hopefully I’ll catch up
How about 10 days for now? Until March 1st it is the main discussion period for Chapter 4.

I have another idea. Could we not to strictly limit the time? Feel free to give your thoughts on any chapter at any time, as long as the information is clearly written. I will index the relevant information to the relevant floor.

Haven't read the books in like forever. I think I'll boot up Kindle and give them a read.
Looking forward to comments from a veteran.
 
Last edited:

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
My feelings:

First, please allow me to talk about plant-based food and drink in Kilrathi's diet.

Although the general impression and the subsequent narrative in Chapter 9 suggest that the Kilrathi certainly eat meat as their main meal, plant based, plant products have an important place in their dietary consumption.

From Freedom Flight, we kown arakh leaves are a very common consumer product for Kilrathi. It is enjoyed from Thrak‘hra, nobles, to Kilra‘hra, commoners. Chewing these leaves and drinking the juice can calm Kilrathi from anxiety, but having too much of this catnip-like plant could intoxicate a Kilrathi into unconsciousness.

As for whether enjoying arakh leaves can be harmful to a Kilrathi's health, at least the normal dosage is not significantly harmful. Judging from Ralgha's use of it to calm down before the official start of the action, it does not have the side effect of disrupting thoughtful judgment when used in moderation. And long term normal use should not lead to physical weakness, because Kirha, a young Kilrathi who insists on physical exercise to serve his lord, also uses it, according to Chapter 9.

From WC2, we know there is also an alcoholic beverage, Sukhar May'ya. I don't think an alcoholic beverage is made from animal products. So, another plant product.





Extended discussion.

According to Action Stations, there is an other kind of herb tea named Jirak.

Judging from surprise and anger of Baron's son young Jukaga when he saw a slave daring to drink this ceremonial herbal brew, this drink is of very high grade.

In Voices of War, we can also learn that there is also an special beverage called Vak'qu. This is a special drink used in the marching ceremony which can give Kilrathi people hallucinations. Common sense suggests that this stuff should also come from plants, or at least contain parts that come from plants, and it is dangerous.

“The drink's name itself is a bit of a warning - va = not / no + ak = drink / water / taste / liquid / fluid + qu = but / or / unless / except / aside / yet (but), with the glottal stop breaking up a particularly hard k at the end of the first syllable and the beginning of the second. The general idea becomes vak'qu = 'drink not unless'. Finish the sentence however you see fit...”

Thanks to @capi3101 for the professional Kilrathi language knowledge.


From Voices of War, we know the Kilrathi soldier who drank it would be going to his last mission of his life, so the long-term health hazards of this drink are very worrying.




In summary, although eating harakh, roots and berries, is considered to be something of the prey species, Kilrathi do consume plant-based food and drink as apart of their diet.
 
Last edited:

Crimsonstar

Spaceman
I remembered those harakh leaves being mentioned when Kirha was locked up in a cell. He sure didn't like the meager meals he was getting and monologued that he wouldn't serve it to a Terran slave. Rather humorous that Paladin had to tell him what a "John" is and had to show Kirha how to operate it. Retroactively speaking, I like to imagine Kirha's voice being that of Jess Harnell's Ironhide voice from the Transformer movies. I try to imagine the late Trevor Goddard as Hunter. It's very hard for me to not picture John Rhys-Davies as Paladin and the voice of Thrakhath. Of course John Schuck as the voice of Hobbes er.... Ralgha nar Hhallas.
 

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
Retroactively speaking, I like to imagine Kirha's voice being that of Jess Harnell's Ironhide voice from the Transformer movies. I try to imagine the late Trevor Goddard as Hunter. It's very hard for me to not picture John Rhys-Davies as Paladin and the voice of Thrakhath. Of course John Schuck as the voice of Hobbes er.... Ralgha nar Hhallas.
Speaking of which, are you familiar with the Japanese version of Wing Commander 2's dubbing?

Hobbes is casted by Tomomichi NISHIMURA (Do you remember Akuma and M.Bison of Street Fighter series of 1990s?). I think he would be extremely suitable for the WC2 Ralgha. Regrettably, Hobbes only has dubbed flight lines in WC2.

When it comes to Thrakhath, I always feel that this character had changed more significantly in WC3. WC2 era he was more gloomy, in WC3 this character was more crazy.
 
Last edited:

Crimsonstar

Spaceman
Speaking of which, are you familiar with the Japanese version of Wing Commander 2's dubbing?

Hobbes is casted by Tomomichi NISHIMURA (Do you remember Akuma and M.Bison of Street Fighter series of 1990s?). I think he would be extremely suitable for the WC2 Ralgha. Unfortunately, Hobbes only has dubbed flight lines in WC2.
No. That is interesting. When reading the dialogue in WC1,2 and the books, I stick with the voices from the FMV games. Since Angel barely spoke in WC3, I imagine Saffron Burrows' delivery. But I stick with John Schuck in both the novels and WC2 for Hobbes.
 

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
No. That is interesting. When reading the dialogue in WC1,2 and the books, I stick with the voices from the FMV games. Since Angel barely spoke in WC3, I imagine Saffron Burrows' delivery. But I stick with John Schuck in both the novels and WC2 for Hobbes.
My feeling is that Ralgha is a character of father and teacher in WC2 series works. His voice should be somewhat old and profound.

(I have no idea why he was said to be younger than 30 in WC3, thus he was just about 15 in FF, much younger than Thrakhath. I would talk about this issue later.)
 
Last edited:

capi3101

Admiral
When it comes to Thrakhath, I always feel that this character had changed more significantly in WC3. WC2 era he was more gloomy, in WC3 this character was more crazy.
Probably more desperate, I would say. The events of End Run and Fleet Action both had made Thrakhath look incompetent - especially the failure to achieve final victory over Earth - plus you have to remember what happened to Gilkarg and why. I imagine the Emperor was under great pressure from the Clan Barons by that point to have Thrakhath executed. Had another (male?*) blood descendent existed, he probably would've been.

(*I discount Zukara; we don't really know what happened to her nor whether a female would've been allowed to become Emperor in that society. In either case, I'm pretty sure she became a character in the Academy cartoon after WC3 was released, certainly after the novels).
 

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
Probably more desperate, I would say. The events of End Run and Fleet Action both had made Thrakhath look incompetent - especially the failure to achieve final victory over Earth - plus you have to remember what happened to Gilkarg and why. I imagine the Emperor was under great pressure from the Clan Barons by that point to have Thrakhath executed. Had another (male?*) blood descendent existed, he probably would've been.
Thrakhath botched Sivar-Eshrad as soon as he took the place of Crown Prince, which could have been quite a problem. Although he later regained some of his reputation by sending his latest cloaking fighters to sink Tiger's Claw, he then had to blow up the fighter development base because of the Ghorah Khar uprising. However, the emperor seemed satisfied that Thrakhath had successfully framed Blair. I sometimes get the impression that the focus of the emperor's intrigue tended to be on specific threatening individuals than on the larger picture of the war.

But judging from the emperor's performance he might not really want to abolish Thrakhath to calm down the situation, at least that was not a preferred option, although he had warned Thrakhath.

As for letting the priestess as the successor, this might violate some political taboos or unspoken rules of the empire. If the emperor had the authority of both secular and faith at the same time, it would be a major problem for the safety of other clans.
 
Last edited:

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
About the Kilrathi speak Terran language.

Ras Nik'hra had two Kilrathi crew members who can speak Terran language, Kirha and new Pilot Officer Drakj'khai. Considering that this is only one ship, we can uncritically infer that by the mid-2650s there were many Kilrathi who spoke basic Terran language.

Of course, basic communication and speaking fluently are two areas. From the later chapters, it appears that Kirha only knew relatively basic and formal communication; he didn't know much at bad language, for example.





Extended discussion.

Regarding how Kilrathi communicates with humans verbally, there seems to be an unstable continuity in the series.

In the Academy animation, it seems that everyone could understand each other easily. While such things as translation units exist, the technology was expensive according to the description in Freedom Flight Chapter 5. Considering Academy was eariler in the time line, it doesn't make sense here. I tend to think that Acadamy didn't take the language gap into account.

Of course, as far as we know now, translators and the like are not as costly to produce and maintain individually as spaceship engines. As long as the core technology is here, the popularity of terminals is easy. Maybe in the early nineties, when FF was created, people still had no concept of this.

Back in McAuliffe Ambush, the two species actually had some understanding of each other's languages. But... We know Ralgha, for instance, had little interest in learning human language before the rebellion. This was probably also a dominant idea among the aristocracy at that time, who mostly did not bother to really understand human culture. Of course, there are exceptions. From Action Stations, we know old Baron Vakka of nar Ki'ra clan noticed the importance of human civilization early on. He wanted his son, Jukaga, to study human culture seriously. Years later, Baron Jukaga spoke human languages without an accent. But this, together with his idea of valuing human civilization, had also once led to him being regarded by many Kilrathi as a sort of outlier.

We know from StarSoldier that by 2701 at the latest, the Confederation has started recruiting among the Kilrathi.

I guess there are even more Kilrathi who speak Terran by this time.
 
Last edited:

Crimsonstar

Spaceman
Larson complained that speaking Kilrathi takes its toll on the throat. Pretty sure speaking and reading Kilrathi had to have been required to be in the Intel community at the time. Even speaking Klingon is rather rough. Had to have been rough for John Rhys-Davies recording for Thrakhath in WC3.
 

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
Larson complained that speaking Kilrathi takes its toll on the throat. Pretty sure speaking and reading Kilrathi had to have been required to be in the Intel community at the time. Even speaking Klingon is rather rough. Had to have been rough for John Rhys-Davies recording for Thrakhath in WC3.
Major Kristi Marks of Fourth Division, Confederation Marines speaks pretty good Kilrathi language. Does this soldier belong to intel community?

Humans could speak in higher octave. It works even in early 2630s or eariler.
 
Last edited:

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
About the master and servant relationship.

This is a preety large and professional topic. So, I just simply give some points I got from this chapter.

Three levels of lord-vassals relationship on Ras Nik’hra

1. Ralgha and Kirha.

2. Ralgha and other old crew members.

3. Ralgha and new Pilot Officer Drakj'khai, and other new crew menbers, if any.

The first point.

Kirha's loyalty is without a doubt the highest. According to the description in Chapter 1, his family has served Rlagha's family for generations. This long-established master-servant relationship is strong.

The second.

“Soldiers of the Empire, you are sworn to me as my vassal warriors in the Emperor’s service.” From Ralgha's wording, we can assume that this oath of allegiance is an act of duty for the Imperial Fleet. Note that by Imperial law, Ralgha held their lives in grasp.

My impression is that the battle unit of imperial fleet was composed of a mixture of members of different clans. This oath form may be one of the components of the command relationship within the Imperial Fleet. Judging from what happened later in this chapter, the validity of this oath, at least in the eyes of a significant portion of Imperial soldiers, was not of the highest priority. Once the lord had become a rebel against the empire, he was defined as “Treachery!”

However, the long days of shared war career has also led to more bonding and affection between them. From Gun Officer (and his fellows) who chose to surrender at the word of Ralgha, to the Navigations Officer knelt and presented his throat, a gesture of submission on the bridge, all of these crew memebers probably did this with respect and affection for Ralgha.

Finally, the problem of new Pilot Officer Drakj'khai.

From previous accounts, it appears that he came on board as a replacement for his injured predecessor only after Ralgha was taken away for investigation. And from his full name, Drakj’khai nar Ghorah Khar, he was most likely a native of Ghorah Khar origin. And judging from the words that led to the conflict between Kirha and him, he was most likely inclined to think that Ralgha was connected with the rebels. Later, Khantahr on the bridge was something that he didn't expect. And later, what happened on the bridge, verified his previous judgment. Thus, he was the fastest to react. Of course, we know that as a result...




Extended discussion.

Allow me to talk about a few other examples of master-servant relationships in the series. As mentioned earlier, according to imperial law, the lives of vassal warriors were in the grasp of the lord to whom they swore allegiance. In one chapter, an inquisitor invited ruin just for showing a little compassion and understanding of humanity. It looks very saddening. Hoping that his son, who had already taken up the family's affairs before he left for war, would survive unharmed.

In the same era, there is another example that is more familiar to us. I don't know how to describe that master-servant relationship in one word. On the one hand, the master got a attendant who was great at taking care of various chores for him, but kept an eye on this potential rebel to see if he was going to really become a rebel. On the other hand, the attendant used this position to gain considerable power to observe the emperor's family so that he could obtain more benefits for his clan. I think everyone already knows that this is about Thrakhath and Melek.

It can be assumed that Thrakhath promoted Melek as a vassal in the last year of the war. Unlike the relationship between Ralgha and his old crew, the relationship between Thrakhath and Melek was almost purely one of interest. According to Heart of the Tiger novel, the emperor family's exclusive and brutal style at the late stage of the war had caused the discontent of many nobles. Melek was also displeased with Thrakhath.

A noteworthy point is that after Thrakhath was shot down and Kilrah destroyed, Melek cursed Thrakhath and the emperor in public, and this act, as well as his subsequent surrender, did not trigger overreaction of the other crew members present. Compare this to the fierce backlash Ralgha encountered on Ras Nik'hra, and you can imagine the strength of Melek's political ability.
 
Last edited:
Top