Conviction is a fan fiction novella set in the Star Wars universe. In the tradition of the “Big Idea” and “Five Things I Learned” posts on John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig’s respective blogs, I figured I would write a short piece about it here.
First off, Conviction is about a droid designated R0-N1, who is reactivated after years of being shut off. He wakes confused, uncertain of his own history and not understanding his current circumstances. Once he gets some clarity on that, he has to decide what his real place in the galaxy is. It takes place between the events of Episode III and IV, more specifically between the events of “The Bad Batch” and “Rebels,” if you want to be more specific.
Oh, and R0-N1 has a posse.
Since this is fan fiction, I should note that there are a couple things you will not find in it. One is sex— this isn’t fanfic in the vein of Kirk and Spock getting friendly in the transporter room. My aim was to write something that would fit comfortably alongside any other Star Wars story, and not push beyond. I also wanted to avoid using any existing characters, so while there are clone troopers, they are of my own invention. A character or two from the films do get mentioned, but all the main players are new.
Beyond remaining faithful to the overall tone of Star Wars, the story should also fit comfortably within existing canon. Of course, that could change at any time. In particular, I’ve been watching “The Bad Batch” with great interest, because like Conviction, it touches on the transition from clone troopers to stormtroopers. My version of that transition is gradual, and there are still clones around some years into the Empire, so we’ll see if that remains possible within canon, or if my little fanfic turns into an “Infinities” story overnight. Given R0-N1’s history, it’s also possible that the new “High Republic” material coming out could impact it, though that’s less likely.
Of course, the likelihood of Conviction being conventionally published is slimmer than the chance of a heatwave on Hoth, so I’ve been sitting on it for close to a year, trying to decide what to do with it. I thought about tossing it up on something like AO3, but a quick glance at other postings revealed the kinds of material I hinted at above, and while I have no problem with that, I didn’t want my own story alongside it for the same reason Trans Wizard Harriet Porber And The Bad Boy Parasaurolophus shouldn’t be shelved next to “Prisoner of Azkaban”. God bless Chuck Tingle, but you don’t want to get those mixed up. The obvious thing has always been to post it on my own site, but I didn’t want to run the risk of a nastygram from Disney’s lawyers. Then I saw the first episode of Bucketheads, which somehow manages to be “not for commercial use” and have a Patreon account, at which point I figured the hell with it. I’m not asking for money, let’s toss it on the web site.
BUT— just uploading a PDF would be boring, and wouldn’t give the story much of a chance to find an audience (he says as if he’s going to promote it). Instead, I’m serializing it. As of this writing, the first chapter is up, and the rest are scheduled to be published on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. There are eighteen chapters in all, ranging from 500-3,000 words each. I’ll add chapter links to the index page and individual chapters as we go, and the whole thing should be up before the July 4 holiday. Maybe once the whole thing is up I can upload a PDF if anyone is interested.
One last thing. Because this is Star Wars, it is of course filled with action, hopefully has some humor, and if I’ve done a decent job, should be a fun read. That’s the minimum you should expect from any tale in this universe. Beyond what the story is about, there’s also what the story is about, and I hope it also succeeds in giving the reader something to think about. Namely, can a droid have a sense of morality? And what do you do when you realize your mission is no longer what it was? And finally, anyone interested in sharing this with Dave Filoni? 🙃
R0-N1’s systems came back online with a vengeance. –what are you doing? No! He shot backwards at top speed, and fell over, suddenly facing the ceiling.
What is happening what is happening, he thought. Last he knew, he was on a…wait, where had he been? A ship of some kind, right? A starfighter, or maybe a capital ship? With armored soldiers? All his memories were a jumbled mess, and a good chunk of them were completely inaccessible. All the soldiers in his memory looked alike, but that couldn’t be right. He needed to run a self-diagnostic, but his power reserves were running dangerously low. Instead, he was forced to switch over to standby mode until someone helped him to a power station. The best he could do for the moment was enable some of his low-power sensors, which meant no optical data, only audio and some limited ambient information.
A voice said, “What. Was that.” R0-N1 thought it sounded female, but the voice was altered as if it were being processed in some way.
A second voice responded, this one definitely female. “I’m sure it’s fine. Its power cells are probably just drained. I mean it’s been how many years? I’ll call someone from—” She grunted, as R0-N1’s gyros indicated he was being put back on his feet.
The first voice growled, “I don’t care about its power cells. Has its memory been wiped? What was that gibberish it was saying?”
Wait, memory wiped? Why would they want to wipe my memory? R0-N1 tuned his sensors to better evaluate his surroundings. There was lots of ambient noise, people walking around, the usual chatter of biologics and droids…but no engine drone. So he wasn’t on a ship. Some terrestrial location, then.
He landed back on his feet with a thunk. The female helping him said, “I don’t know. I don’t speak droid. It all sounds like that to me.”
There was a brief pause, and the other person responded, “Fine. Just have it sent to my ship on platform five-seven—“
“Your ship? The readout clearly said this droid isn’t supposed to leave the facility until it’s been interrogated. It was—”
“I know about the droid’s situation, Lieutenant. I am countermanding those directives. What I need to do with this droid must be done off-grid, and I have no intention of squatting here with it like some filthy Jawa pawing through scrap.”
The Lieutenant’s voice began to tremble slightly. “Okay, I won’t argue, but—“
“That’s very wise.”
The Lieutenant coughed and spoke with a little more confidence. “But. I need to know on whose authority, and for what purpose. For Imperial record-keeping.”
There was a pause before the altered voice responded. She said, “Of course. Put down that Inquisitor Nianda Morek is commandeering it for investigation into possible treason against the Empire.”
The conversation between the two females ended, as one of them walked away, leaving R0-N1 with more questions than before. Empire? What Empire? And what’s an Inquisitor?
The Lieutenant let out a puff of air. “Well, I’m not sorry to see her go,” she muttered. “Okay, you weird little droid. Let’s finish these requisition forms and get you out of here.”
At that point, everything went quiet except for the ambient noise around him, so R0-N1 switched to standby mode to conserve what little power he had left.
R0-N1’s power cells must have completely drained, because when he came online again he was as thoroughly confused as he was before. He did have power, though, so that was good. He ran a preliminary check, realizing to his dismay that in addition to his power issues, someone had attached a restraining bolt, and sloppily at that. No wonder everything is jumbled, he thought. He tried to take a look around, but his feet were clamped to the deck, and when he tried to spin his torso around he could only turn half way before a power coupling stopped him. Someone had connected the cable to a backup socket in one of his channels instead of the primary connector in his support rings. Whoever plugged him in didn’t know much about droids, though he was admittedly an unusual design, with his torso composed of seven independent channels bound inside a pair of rings, no separately rotating head, and two pairs of motorized feet instead of the standard tripod setup. He tried rocking back and forth to get free of the foot restraints.
“Settle down. You’re not going anywhere.”
Who? R0-N1 spun back around to see a Rodian female sitting next to him, though her skin was darkened well beyond the more typical green hue of the species. There were red striations throughout, giving her skin the appearance of a smoldering lava field. Her bulbous eyes glowed strangely red. She was clad in black and grey leather, with bulging armor plates beneath. The shoulders bore an insignia R0-N1 didn’t recognize. She scratched idly at her left arm, or more precisely, at the stump where it met a prosthesis. Unlike the rest of her uniform, the prosthetic was ill-fitting and appeared to be temporary, with an extra strap jury-rigged to keep it in place. The skin was raw where it made contact with it, and oozed a yellowish green pus. She winced and stopped poking at the wound.
The Rodian tapped a few keys on the console in front of her. “Now, let’s see what information you have for me.” Squinting at the display, she muttered, “You really got around, didn’t you? All right, we’re just going to let that run for a while.” She got up, stretched, and started to leave.
R0-N1 chirped, Wait, where am I? And who are you? Why am I here?
The Rodian looked at him annoyed, then toggled a switch on the console, reading a text version of his questions. She snorted. “I wouldn’t worry about that. As soon as I’m done with you, you’ll have your memory flushed and you won’t even know you were here.” She walked out the door, turning out the lights as she went, leaving the droid alone in the dark.
The droid was left helpless, strapped to the floor, aware that memories were being extracted from him without his consent, but helpless to do anything about it. Worse, they were memories that he could barely access himself. He sat and stewed at the injustice of it all.
When she returned several hours later, R0-N1 greeted her with an agitated squawk. I demand to know what you–
“Oh, shut up,” she snapped as she deactivated him again.
Days later, they were en route…somewhere. The Rodian had found something in his memory banks that intrigued her enough to pursue, but R0-N1 didn’t know what it was. He had tried multiple times to get her to remove his restraining bolt so that he could learn more, but she wasn’t having it. He was about to call for her and try another tack, when there was a chime from the cockpit. The Rodian blew past him, putting a helmet on as she went.
From his vantage point, R0-N1 could see the Rodian and a hologram in profile. The caller was dressed much like the Rodian, save for the helmet, which framed her more humanoid face. The image of her pale skin and bright eyes cast the cabin in an eerie light. The Rodian said crisply, “Morek here. What can I do for–“
“You’re late, step sister. Where are you?”
The Rodian– Morek– bowed slightly. “My apologies, sister. I am pursuing a lead. You can expect a report from me in two week’s time.”
“What do you mean, ‘a lead?’ Your instructions were explicit. Did you fail to find the droid?”
“No, I found it, sister. I have it with me right now.”
“Then bring it to me. You were due back days ago. Why the delay?”
Morek spoke carefully. “I took the liberty of extracting some of the droid’s memories, in the hopes that we could plan more efficiently on my return. In the process, I found something worth exploring.”
The woman in the hologram pressed her. “Showing some initiative, are we? Be precise, Morek. What did you find? You know how important our mission is to the Empire. The delay had better be worth it.”
“It will be. I learned of a small enclave on Ryndellia. I believe it may be home to Force-wielders.”
Even in the hologram, the sister’s surprise was visible. “Ryndellia? I thought that planet was lifeless.”
“It would appear not. There is at least one underground city there, called Alqassar.”
“Hm. Hold on a moment.” The sister turned away to consult something out of sight, and then turned back to Morek. “How are you planning to get to the surface?”
“I am taking my personal vessel. Why?”
The sister sneered at her. “Do you have a death wish? Ryndellia is plagued with a toxic atmosphere and corrosive precipitation. That crate you call a ship won’t last more than five minutes.” She checked something out of sight again. “I’m signalling The Conviction. They’ll have shuttles and other landing craft you can use.”
Morek protested, “Isn’t that a star destroyer? I hardly think that’s necessary.”
The hologram snorted. “Don’t flatter yourself. It barely qualifies, and is slated for decommissioning within the year. Regardless, You have these resources available to you, use them. I’ll give you a week.” She paused briefly, then continued with a sneer. “We can schedule a sparring match on your return. How is your arm?”
Morek’s prosthetic hand clenched into a fist at her side. “It’s doing fine, sister. Thank you for your concern.” She abruptly flicked off the comm, and the image disappeared. Speaking to no one, she growled, “Spiteful harpy. I’d like to see how well you fare against the Emperor’s pet.”
Leaving the cockpit, Morek went to the console where R0-N1 was still plugged in. She sat down next to him and disengaged the power and data cables, leaving his feet clamped to the floor.
R0-N1 spun his torso around and pointed raised the channel bearing the restraining bolt to Morek’s eye level. He clamored again for her to remove it. Listen, if you will just remove this thing, I can be much more helpful. You just–
He froze as something gripped his torso, freezing it in place. At the same time, he heard the unmistakable sound of a lightsaber sparking. R0-N1 squealed in terror as he strained to backpedal away. Within seconds, his wheels slowed to a crawl, even as the droid’s howls of protest dropped in pitch and volume, and eventually came to a full stop, the sudden effort having quickly drained what little juice had been given him.
At last, it can be revealed! My entry in the Ulysses writing contest was a short story titled, “Dad Reflexes.” It, along with several other winners, was published on the Ulysses blog yesterday. They also included a brief summary of their thoughts on each entry. Here’s what they said about mine:
The premise of this story intrigued us immediately: a superhero who has no idea that he has super powers. How cool is that? The tight dialogues bring in a thrilling speed. Although this is only a short story, the hero’s »Dad Reflexes« seem to be just the first episode in a series of heroic events. We are curious what might happen next in the life of our »oblivious« superhero Del.
More to come later, but here’s the short version of last week’s excitement. The fine folks at Ulysses recently sponsored a writing contest to celebrate Disney’s Flora & Ulysses. I entered, and was one of ten finalists in the shh…not telling yet group. The winning entries are available now on their blog, and if you’re the kind who needs proof, you can see my name at that same address. They should be publishing the remainder of the entries in the next month or two, and I’ll provide an update when mine is available.
“If we fundamentally can’t agree that Black lives matter or that people have human rights to be protected and respected…that is a very different divide than, ‘We can’t agree about trickle-down economics.’”
Unfortunately, that’s as hard-hitting as the article gets. For the most part it takes the tack of “why can’t we all get along,” and “should who you voted for matter so much?”
Yes, it should. And it does.
These relationships are not falling apart because Republicans lowered taxes on the rich. They’re falling apart because Republicans have become a fundamentally bigoted, authoritarian cult. Look at the GOP’s 2020 platform, which boils down to “Whatever Trump says! 👍 Do I need to trot out the “fine people on both sides” thing again? Or sharpie gate? Or the half a million dead people from COVID? Or gassing people for a photo op? Or the January 6 invasion of the capitol? Or Qanon? The revival of Jim Crow laws? What they’re doing to trans people? The list is horrific and seemingly endless.
I would argue that as painful as it might be, it’s good that these relationships are ending. Think of it in terms of Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance. There are beliefs that should be considered beyond the pale, and if friend or family espouse them, cutting them out is the only moral thing to do. They are not “people you disagree with.” They are bad people.
(No, this is not the thing I hinted at earlier in the week. That’s still coming.)
Got my COVID vaccine shot this morning, thanks to Chandra. Let’s be honest, left to my own devices I probably wouldn’t have gotten the vaccine until it was required for work. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because adulting…is not my strong suit. Plus the whole needle thing, about which I remain a big baby. True fact: as the nurse was preparing the injection, she remarked on how they kept the room on the cold side, while all I could think was, “Man, is it hot in here?”
Anyway, Chandra got her jab a couple days ago, and we both got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so we’re done except for the waiting. It’s only been an hour & a half, so I haven’t been hit with any side effects yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that whatever I get will be mild…and in a couple weeks, game night!
I was still working through my morning email when there was a loud “BANG” in the house. Thinking the cats had done something spectacular, I ran upstairs to find Chandra already on the phone to 911, and a flatbed truck smooshed up against the house. The path above is not 100% accurate, but it’s as close as I can gather. In particular, the first couple vehicular hits are probably not in the right place, and Chandra says the dude plowed through our yard twice. There’s more about the incident on the Fall River Reporter.
We’re fine, the cats are fine, as far as I know all the vehicle occupants are fine, and the house should be easily enough repaired. Our Friday was pretty much shot, though.
Because this is about all I have the mental energy for today, for reasons big (that truck) and small (Tr***). Over the summer, I designed and printed a little paper holder for one of those tear-off paper cubes. It has a pen holder, and a slot where I can drop the slips of paper. I keep it on my nightstand, and use it to keep track of the books I’ve read…because why not. I’m sure somewhere out there, Mrs. Millen is thinking, “Great, Jason. Why didn’t you do this forty years ago?”
Anyway, it only covers the latter half of the year, so there’s a bunch of stuff not included in it. The first couple date ranges are estimates. I used orange for purely prose works, and green for graphic novels and comics. The items in red I couldn’t get through. Mr. Moore, if you’re out there, don’t take offense at how I got distracted from your novels. I just found Shakespeare for Squirrels hard to get into, and it was just bad luck that From a Certain Point of View arrived when it did. I’m a sucker for those collections.