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The Conversation Part 1

THE CONVERSATION by Francis Coppola
Wehaveseenthepresentanditisterrifying. THE CONVERSATION portrays one of the most powerful visions of hell ever shown on film. What makes it so terrifying is the fact that it is not metaphorical. Certainly, the film is a result of a dramatist carefully choosing the actions of his main character, but this world has no ghosts or walking dead, or creatures from the underworld; it has no outworn religious symbols brought back for one more turn in an effort to scare the audience.
This film is a "realistic" view of a professional man in a modern city. He is a technological specialist and while his world is certainly unique it is only a slightly more extreme version of the world we all livein. Inthisway,THECONVERSATIONconfrontsheadononeofthe great problems of modern storytelling: How to present the story of a specialized man while at the same time giving it universal power to affectallofus. THECONVERSATIONmaynotbetotallysuccessfulat bridging that gap but it comes very close.
The Opening
As is so often the case with great films, the structure and patterns of the entire film are suggested or presented in the opening. In this film, the opening scene is a model of trickery. The scene begins with the camera up high looking down on a view of a park filled with strolling people. The camera slowly zooms in and a jazz band somewhere off-screen can be heard playing "Bill Bailey." The camera slowly moves in and suddenly there is a slight but very noticeable distortion of sound. The viewer immediately becomes aware, even if only in the back of his mind, that he is not seeing real people in a real place directly. He is seeing an image of these people, both visually and aurally, and this image can be bent, cut up, separated sight from sound, and generally manipulated in all kinds of ways.
The camera continues to zoom in focusing on a mime, the camera going from being a non-directed eye to being one that is directed upon a particular character. This, the audience senses, may be the main character. The mime follows and imitates a lumpy, non- descript man wearing a translucent raincoat. From the distance with a telephoto shot the identity of the man cannot be seen and it is only a bit later that the audience realizes that this non-descript man is in fact the main character of the film. The camera in effect has picked up on the "wrong" man. Like the original distortion of the sound, the mime is also playing with the images of people. By imitating the walk of the man in the raincoat the mime in effect is dividing the man's personality from him, showing it to him as an artist and making the man self-conscious about it. This kind of self-consciousness is a paralyzing kind because it forces one to look mechanically at one's most intimate and spontaneous movements.
The camera next focuses on a young couple. Because the actors portraying the couple are recognizable, the audience knows that these two will be major players in the drama. Suddenly the film cuts to an image of what appears to be a high-powered rifle being aimed out of a window high above the park. Perhaps someone is going to shoot the young man or young woman. But again the initial impression is wrong. What appears to be a gun is actually a telephoto camera and the audience realizes that the man and woman are not simply characters in the movie that the audience is watching, they are people in a "movie," a surveillance being done by characters in the film. By making the audience part of this ambiguous zoom in, the writer, Francis Coppola, has made the audience part of the surveillance team. And the head of the surveillance team is none other than the man in the raincoat who was himself being watched andcopiedbythemime. Thisman,namedHarryCaul,isplayedby Gene Hackman, an actor whose plain, middle-aged face, receding hairline, and large, bulky body make him probably the most non- descript major actor in American film. He is the classic Everyman, not a star but just an average guy.
Through the surveillance team, the audience can hear a jumble of sounds: the band playing, various conversations, squiggles of noise from the recording instruments, but most importantly, the conversation of the couple that is being bugged. The couple comes upon a bum sleeping on a park bench. The man says, "He's not hurting anyone." The woman responds, "Neither are we." And then she says: "Oh, God...Everytime I see one of those old guys I always think that he was once somebody's baby boy...And he had a mother and father who loved him. And now there he is half dead on a park bench. Where are his mother and his father, all of his uncles now?"
With no other information to go on, the audience in general and Harry in particular can only conclude that these are two nice people. Harry by now has retreated to the central surveillance truck. And still more fascinating details come out. Harry has his assistant, Stan, check all of the surveillance stations, an indication that this is a large, highly professional operation and that Harry is the head of the operation. When two girls come up to the one-way mirror on the outside of the truck to fix their make-up, Stan takes pictures of the girls and immediately a difference is established between Harry's professional way of acting and Stan's more leisurely, profane approach.
The couple, always suspicious like prey in the jungle, spot one of the surveillance men and duck behind the cover of the sound of a man banging on some African drums. The surveillance man comes to the truck and mentions that he is not only going to the surveillance convention later in the week but that they can all have a party like they had two years ago.
This piece of information sets up the threads of the story that will later appear again in future scenes. But even more important this information tells the audience that surveillance is a business much like any other with its own convention and that these men are just average people doing their job who like to have a good party like anyone else. This immediately sets up a stark contrast between the daily routine of their work on the one hand and the fact that their work involves tracking down and invading the privacy of other human beings.
Stan wants to know who is interested in the couple and Harry, significantly, does not know. His work is depersonalized and the authority he works for is unclear and indirect. Stan has a natural curiousity about what he's doing and even wants to be entertained on the job. But Harry does not want to know what they're talking about or who the tapes are for. He says, "All I want is a nice fat recording."
With this crucial line the first scene ends. But already a powerful pattern has been established for the audience. The story has a running start with Harry, the main character, already on a job. In a crucial choice by Coppola, the hero, Harry Caul, is the man doing the bugging and his opponents, the young man and woman, appear to be nice people who are being victimized by the hero. Harry's desire, which will drive the early part of the story, has been set: to get a big fat recording. With this quick set-up of the main players of the story and what they appear to stand for, the dramatist has created a main character who is morally tainted, bugging two young people while at the same time obviously believing very strongly in the code of being a professional at one's job.
Perhaps most important of all, this opening scene tells the audience that this film is going to be most essentially about knowing. And more particularly, about knowing in a modern world that relies on technology to perceive. As a result, the story will be both universal and highly specialized. Of the two main tools open to the storyteller, knowing and acting, most writers emphasize far more the element of acting. But Coppola here makes knowing and even more basically perceiving, the focus of his story. Like Shakespeare, he is going to look at how the right or wrong action is based first of all on what the main character knows. Already in this tricky first scene filled with red herrings, the audience knows that images can and will be split from what they stand for and that, far from making knowing easier, everything will be unclear.
The next scene sets up the ironic connection between Harry's personal life and his professional life. Harry returns to his apartment where he unlocks no less than three locks only to find a birthday gift from the landlord inside the door. The alarm goes off belatedly and when he calls his landlord he finds out that she has a key to his apartment and has access to his mail. The scene is ironic first because it shows that for all of Harry's efforts to keep his apartment private and secure, his landlady has been able to broach his defenses easily. Second and more importantly, the scene is ironic because it shows that a man whose work involves invading the privacy of others is himselfparanoidabouthavinghisownprivacyinvaded. Clearly Harry's work is taking a toll on Harry's identity. He tells his landlady, "Alright, you see, I would be perfectly happy to see all my personal things burn up in a fire because I don't have anything personal. Nothing of value. Nothing personal except for my keys." In short, Harry is established as a man with a psychological as well as a moral need.
The Hero and His World
The next morning at work the pattern of Harry's identity is defined even more clearly. Stan tells him that he is listed in the convention newsletter as one of the greats in the surveillance field. Immediately Harry shows why this is so. He meticulously sets up four tape recorders on which he will do his work. Coppola shoots this action with an overhead camera that focuses in on Harry's hands
In his work, Harry is both a scientist and artist: like the scientist, he takes the raw data from the previous day and, through careful interpretation, attempts to sift out a pattern of the truth; like the artist he takes the rough initial image and polishes it, listens and polishes it again. Using the split second cutting ability of film, Coppola as the writer crosscuts between Harry working the machines with the images and sounds of the couple being replayed from the previousday. Manyofthesamelinesandactionsofthepreviousday are repeated, most especially the young woman's comment about the bum being "somebody's baby boy." But also new lines and actions are seen and heard as Harry works his magic on the data. With these actions Harry begins to take on more scope and significance than simply being a surveillance man. He is a filmmaker and the tapes that he is working on are the film within a film. Already the tapes have started to become a code of modern life.
As Harry goes about his work, all sorts of ramifications begin to grow in the viewer's mind. The world presented here looks like the world we all know. But this is almost a metaphysical look, as though we have special glasses and can see the way the world is truly connected on the essential level. On this level, life has become detached from itself, and images of sight and sound are now totally portable and can be manipulated at will. There's the sense of a total lack of privacy, a process in which a stranger is coming to know more and more about a couple's lives. Also, the film continues to make the case that these two young people are good and innocent and that they are being victimized. And finally there's the sense that Harry is a techno-artist, not only of images but of life itself. He is showing the audience what the world looks like in its plumbing and wiring, what people look like on the nerve level. And in manipulating the tapes of these two people he is recreating reality and whatever order and interpretation he gives to the images of life will make up his view of the truth.
By the end of the fourth scene, the stark cold hellishness of Harry's world has been established, not only through the actions and words of the hero but also through the fixed geometric shots, the sad lonely piano that plays in the background and the cold sea images that combine to present a modern day realistic dystopia. The
combination of land, people and technology is at its worst: the natural world has disappeared and in its place are the broken-down buildings and warehouses of the city. There is no community here. Only strangers spying upon strangers and using tools of seeing and hearing that let people know about other people but not know them.
This world seems to be the direct opposite of the warm modern utopiaseeninMEETMEINST.LOUIS. Inthatmovie,anextended family lives happily in a big house and has good friends. There the new tools of the modern age - the telephone, the automobile and such - are not yet things that alienate one person from another but are simply the adult toys that give people pleasure.
But in a way this world in THE CONVERSATION is an extension seventy years later of the world that is merely suggested in MEET ME INST.LOUIS. Inthatfilmeveryonelistenedwhileaboycalledfrom New York to supposedly propose to his girlfriend. Already there was a sense that the tools of the modern age had become so advanced thatthecommunitywouldbedestroyed. Inthatfilmthecommunity was given a reprieve at the last second.
But here those tools have taken over and they have created an acausal culture. People are paranoid, atoms divided from one another, circling around, never knowing each other and using their tools of sight and sound to recreate reality. Each of the people in this world, the surveillance men and the people surveyed, are bombarded by forces whose origins they have no knowledge of. The people surveyed, the strangers bugging them and Harry Caul, the surveillance man whose personal life is one of fear and coldness, all suffer from a system that they create but have no knowledge of creating.
That night the coldness of Harry's life is increased. He goes over to the apartment of his girlfriend. All he wants is to talk for a bit and then have sex. But she wants to ask him questions, she wants to know about his personal life, about who he really is. He fends off her questions. She senses that he is watching her, that he is trying to catch her at something, that he is even listening to her phone conversations. Finallyhehashadenoughofherquestionsandhe starts to go. In one of the most touching moments of the film, she tells him how excited she was when he first came through the door. But she doesn't think she's going to wait for him anymore. With that moment, Harry's last connection to another person, to love and to even the possibility of community, is ended and his descent into hell begins.
The Timid Knight on A Quest for Right
Ironically, Harry's loss of his girlfriend is also what gives him an extra impetus to make his world morally right. In the crucial next few scenes Harry begins the process of trying to protect the couple whom hehasbugged. UpuntilthispointHarry'sdesirehasbeenthelimited and morally questionable one of getting a "big fat tape." But after he goes to the office of the Director, the man who has hired him to make the tapes, Harry has a sense that his tapes will be used for great harm. Now for the first time, Harry has a moral desire that runs directly opposite to his desire to do a professional job and make money. This desire continues to drive him and provides the single track for the film all the way up until the major final revelation.
Harry's visit to the Director's office where he meets the Director's assistant is where Harry's fears are really aroused. This is the world of his opponent and it is a stark and foreboding one. This is also the place where Coppola adds one of those terrific details that is common to all great films. In the waiting room of the office building high above the city, there is a telescope aimed out the window. This technological tool, which five hundred years ago was used to train on the stars and which founded the scientific revolution, is now, like the tools that Harry uses, being trained on human beings. And the effect is far more negative.
In the office Harry refuses to give the tapes to the Director's assistant who tells him not to get involved and to be careful. Then as Harry enters the elevator, he sees the man whom he has been bugging. Amomentlaterthewomanhehasbeenbugginggetsinto the elevator with him. Now he and the woman are at close quarters. He knows her but she doesn't know him and he has to stand there uncomfortably in her presence. This first major revelation tells Harry that the connection between his various opponents - those he is bugging and the Director who has hired him - is far more complex than he had imagined.
With this new fear, Harry takes the tapes back to his office to reexamine them. Harry's desire in the film has now shifted to one of finding out what the tapes really mean. Harry's opposition has shifted as well from the couple he is bugging to the Director who has hiredhimtodothebugging. FromthispointonHarryisona knowledge quest. He is in effect a private detective and this story conjuresupimagesofasimilardetectivestory,VERTIGO. THE CONVERSATION too may become a detective/horror story.
In a brilliant move Coppola as a dramatist does not structure the film in what might appear to be a normal or probable way. Instead of showing Harry immediately investigating the tapes by himself and finding out the secret, Coppola has Harry's assistant Stan cut into the process with a conversation. Stan calls the tape a stupid conversation and wonders what the couple is talking about. the way Harry does. Harry then blasts Stan, first, for his asking questions, then for taking the Lord's name in vain, then for Stan's sloppy work. Overlaid onto this conversation is the one on tape in which the man and woman first mention that they will be doing something on Sunday at the Jack Tar Hotel. But of course, this is totally out of context so it hasnomeaning. Theninacrucialinterchange,Stancomplainsthat he wants to know what's going on, that it's just plain human curiosity.
This conflict sets up a number of oppositions and contradictions in the film. Besides Harry's opposition to the couple and to the Director is Harry's opposition to his ally, Stan. Unlike Harry, Stan is not the ultimate professional, and he is not a scientist in his work. He does not look at conversations as data to be analyzed the way Harry does. In his attack, Harry says, "Listen, if there's one surefire rule that I have learned in this business it's that I don't know anything about human nature, I don't know anything about curiosity. That's not part of what I do. This is my business." Coppola is setting up an opposition here between the human and the professional, between the worker and the businessman, between the humanist and the scientist.
But Coppola is also showing a number of contradictions and fallacies in Harry's argument. First is the irony that the better Harry gets at finding information about others the less he knows, and the less he knows about human nature. Second is the contradiction in his argument to Stan: Harry is saying that the surveillance business has led him to know nothing of human nature, yet the very fact that he has brought these tapes back for reexamination is due to his underlying belief that he knows that something is going on. And of course, in investigating the tapes, Harry is showing the same curiosity about a particular conversation as Stan.
Revelation and Certainty
Based on these oppositions, two processes are occurring. Through the surveillance business, Harry knows less and not more abouthumanbeings. AndwhenStanleavesoutofdisgust,Harryhas lost another personal relationship. Slowly but surely, he is becoming more and more alone. First, he lost his girlfriend. Now, he has lost his co-worker.
With Stan gone, Harry can resume his investigation of the tapes. As an artist, and as an artist of great ability, Harry is able to use a particular tool to uncover a piece of conversation that before had beenhiddenbehindtheAfricandrums. Thesceneisbeautifully staged to match exactly the way an artist in any medium works. Harry replays the particular piece of tape over and over again but cannot solve the problem. He thinks for awhile and then comes up with what might be a solution. He attaches a particular technological tool, makes some adjustments, and after again repeating the process over and over again, he is able to arrive at the piece of communication that he wished to uncover. That piece of conversation is, "He'd kill us if he got the chance," said by the young man with the emphasis on the word "kill." Harry again plays the line. He sits there stunned. The couple, he is now certain, will be killed because of the tapes he has made.
With this second major revelation, the case seems undeniable, the evidence vast, and it is only on a second viewing that one can see how beautifully this man has based his view of the truth on appearances and false assumptions. On what exactly has Harry based his conclusion? He has based it on his own assumption that these two young people are good and innocent. And he makes that assumption because they are young, because they look innocent, because they are being bugged by Harry at the request of a powerful man, because of what the young woman has said about the bum being someone's baby boy, and because the two of them are in love. And then this assumption has been supported by certain signs: by the Director's assistant saying that the tapes are dangerous and by the single line, "He'd kill us if he got the chance." The assumption is supported further by what happened in the past: other people that Harry has tapedhavebeenbadlyhurtbecauseofhistapes. Farfromknowing nothing about human nature, Harry is basing everything he does on assumptions that he has made about this couple, about the Director, about himself, and about what other people have done with such tapes.
With this key revelation, Coppola has set up two more patterns in the viewer's mind. First, he has set up a strategy of how the viewer willidentifywiththehero. Hehasbegunthestorybyshowingaman who is uncertain who then investigates and comes to a very strong conclusion based on certain evidence. Having sent the main character and the viewer strongly down one path, the writer can then shock the hero and the viewer when quite the reverse is true.
The second major pattern is a thematic process in which the story focuses first on perception and then on responsibility. The implication here is that just exactly how one is responsioble for other people, for what one does to other people, is based first of all on what one perceives and knows. Taking this even farther, responsibility in the modern world is greatly affected by the advanced technology that allows one to gain and use extremely private information about strangers.
Throughout the rest of the film the main character must deal with this unique but also very central moral problem. This central problem gives the hero his third and final desire - although just an extension and heightening of his earlier desire - that will drive him through the rest of the film: having apparently placed the young couple in mortal danger, the hero now wants desperately to remove his guilt. But Harry is caught in a classic predicament. Now for the first time in his life he wants to go against his professionalism to save the lives of others. But preventing him from doing that is his professional code along with the fact that he is to be paid $10,000 for the tapes, and his own uncertainty about whether these two people actually will be killed.
Like Hamlet, Harry suspects his opponent of guilt but cannot prove it. In a brilliant structural move, Coppola has Harry go to the confessional booth in the very next scene. Harry is a religious man, and furthermore, is concerned about doing the moral thing. This is obviously true in the older, more simplistic sense of morality in which a person should not take the Lord's name in vain, steal newspapers from the rack, or have impure thoughts. But now Harry is confronted by a far greater, more complex moral problem not susceptible to the absolute rules laid out by religion. He is in the real world now, the modern world where responsibility and right and wrong are relative and each individual must make his own decisions about what is the right thing to do.
Harry tells the priest of work he has done in the past that has caused other people to be harmed. But at this point, he still insists on his innocence when he says, "I am in no way responsible." Again, the scene is deeply ironic because here Harry is trying to exorcise his guilt by telling his most private thoughts to an anonymous stranger who is listening to him from the other side of a wall. Harry's listening to someone else has caused his guilt but someone else listening to him will not remove it. When the priest says nothing he too becomes partly responsible for what is happening. Even more importantly, in a relative, technological world guilt and responsibility cannot be settled by the old absolutist rules. They can only be determined by learning the truth, then taking action based on a personal code of morality.
Expanding the Story, Deepening the Hero
With the next few scenes at the convention and the party of the surveillance people, Coppola takes the crucial step of expanding the private hell of the main character to the world at large. It is a convention like any other, a place where businessmen can congregate, look at the latest products and take a small, fun break from their daily work. But the contradiction is glaring: this is not justanybusiness. Itisthebusinessofsurveillanceandsuddenlythis specialized job takes on the power of a vast symbol. These are people whose work has an immense effect on other people's lives, specifically by attacking their privacy and making public their most personal moments. Yet to these conventioneers, it is all just a business and a convention is just a casual affair. So yet another overriding opposition is set up: business vs. privacy on a grand scale.
Through the technology of sight and sound, these people have become ammoral and therefore immoral. The only concern of these people is that their own products will be stolen by a competitor. Those who live by trickery are afraid of being tricked. Fittingly for this dog-eat-dog world where everyone is suspicious of everyone else, Coppola as director shoots the convention in a series of cuts. There is no flow, no sense of fullness, no context, no relationship, no sense of community that would partly compensate for the immorality and spareness of these lives.
When Harry finds his former assistant Stan working for a competitor, William Moran, his only motivation is to get Stan back so thatStanwon'tdivulgehissecrets. HarrytellsStanthatdivulging secrets would be unethical. Moran perfectly exemplifies the ammoral, casual approach of the bugger toward other people when he gives a demonstration that makes fun of someone being caught in the act of adultery. It is at this point too that the audience sees the first shift between the hunter and the hunted. Harry finds himself being followed by the Director's assistant who tells him that he wants the tapes.
The long scene in which Harry and his colleagues have a party at Harry's warehouse office is a fascinating one because it simultaneously shows Harry with his one great chance to escape his lonely, paranoid existence into a life of love and community and also shows the final dashing of that chance. Harry's sleazy competitor, William Moran, accurately calls Harry "Mr. Lonely and Anonymous," but he also respects Harry as the best surveillance man on the West Coast. Out of envy rather than respect he brings up to public scrutiny a case that Harry had done years before in which some people were killed because of some superb work that Harry had done.
This finally is the ghost that has been haunting Harry all this time, that has made him so concerned about this current case and that has constantly made him deny his own responsibility for the effect of his work. Even now he says, "What they do with (the tapes I make) is their own business." Harry still seeks the impossible: he wants to stay out of the personal side of his job, to keep everything business, to not be responsible for what happens in his business. After all, how can someone be responsible for simply passing along information? But the effects of Harry's business are all too clear to him and so his ultimate reponsibility is becoming more and more difficult for him to deny.
Stan, always the nice guy, comes to Harry's aid by turning on the tape of the current case and complimenting Harry's efforts as a work of art. Stan wants desperately to have Harry's respect and has wanted it all along. But the secretive Harry, who has never treated Stan as a human being, sees this as yet another betrayal by Stan. Harry's intense reticence is overcome in the only way possible, by his artistic pride. As Stan recounts how Harry has cracked this difficult case, Harry steps in and explains the case himself.
For the first and only time in the film, Harry speaks excitedly about something in his life. In a nice touch, Moran asks why the client needs the actual voices of the people Harry is bugging. Harry says, "So he can believe them." In this world, everything is assumed to be false, so determining truth is extremely hard. The scene expresses in miniature Harry's central problem of the film: as he goes on excitedly explaining how he was able to bug the two people, one of the women asks what the two people did. Harry stops short and shrugs it off saying, "Uh...I don't know." Harry is a man whose actions affect people's lives in extreme ways, and in spite of that, or rather because of it, he refuses to know the content of their lives.
With Harry's animated expression, the audience suddenly realizes that much of the conflict within Harry, much of his paralysis at doing the right thing is based on his pride as an artist. It is one of the only times that Harry's vast and powerful defenses are overcome. He is fooled into speaking because the compliments about his work aretheonlywayhisidentitycanbeconfirmedandstrengthened. The audience further becomes aware that the one thing that Harry wants even more than to remove his guilt is to have public recognition of his ability as an artist. Competition is especially fierce among wiretappers because by their very nature they can have no identity outside their own professional circle. Harry must be anonymous, with no self, no name and no everyday public recognition. So when he has the opportunity to get a claim that he rightfully deserves he cannot turn it down.
Hope and Defeat
In the middle of this scene Harry has an intimate moment with Moran's pretty, but slightly aging assistant. She likes him and she's kind and she wishes he would just trust her, just tell her what he's thinking. Harry waits for a long time and begins to open his soul. The sad, spare piano melody with the minor keys again begins to play in the background. Harry says,"If you were a girl and waited for someone..." The woman says, "You can trust me." Harry: "If you never really knew when he was going to come and see you. You just livedintheroomaloneandyouknewnothingabouthim. Andifyou loved him and were patient with him. Even though he would never tell you about his personal or professional life, even though he may have loved you. Would you go back to him?" The woman: "How would I know that he loved me?" Harry: "You'd have no way of knowing."
For Harry this is the crucial conversation, the key moment in the film. In this conversation, Harry is wondering if a human being is capable of blind faith or trust in his or her lover. Implied in that question of this other woman is Harry's need for justification as a person, as a human being, in spite of what he does. But of course, here too in his personal life he seeks the impossible. He wants someone who will love him even when he is totally committed to his work and will tell her nothing about himself personally. His understanding about the moral geometry of the world, how people make each other's lives better, is badly distorted by what he does for a living.
Still, it is Harry's one great positive moment. In only the very best films, a writer is able to show the audience how the hero's slavery is based on a downward cycle that feeds itself. Indeed, up to now, Harry has been on a downward cycle: being a surveillance man leads him to be secretive in his personal life which leads him to feel moral disgust for himself and fear for those he's bugging. That in turn leads to an even greater desire to pull away from personal involvement.
But now, for the first time since his girlfriend ended their relationship, an upward cycle has begun. Harry has a moment of privacy with a woman and that privacy has led to a fragile sense of trust. Thistrusthasgivenhimacommunitywhichinturnhasgiven him a moment of individual freedom.
But then a series of events dashes this brief chance for Harry to escape Hell. First the other people at the party break into the private moment riding on their motorcycle. Soon thereafter Harry finds his conversation with the woman has been bugged by Moran. Moran says, "The bugger got bugged." Harry, with a taste of his own medicine but unable to see the contradiction in his own life, furiously throws everyone out. But still his chance is not gone because the girl stays.
Once again Coppola makes a brilliant use of overlapping sound and visual images. While the woman is trying to get Harry to go to bed with her, he continues to listen to the tape recording of the young couple he's bugged. During a very personal moment in his own life, Harry hears what he is doing to the personal lives of his prey. Then the woman he is about to make love to summarizes the ethic
which Harry is finding less and less acceptable in his life. She says, "You're not supposed to feel anything. You're just supposed to do it."
The brilliant stroke here comes from the layers. The tape of the young couple is playing and the line comes from a stranger that Harry is about to have sex with. In this way, Coppola in one stroke connects the professional with the personal. Harry is just supposed to do it, not feel anything in his personal life or in his work. When the two worlds are combined in this way in one line and one moment, the ethic by which Harry lives rises out of the particular events and can be seen by the audience as a way of life that governs all action and destroys those who live by it.
The tape plays the voice of the woman talking about the bum who is someone's baby boy while Harry's new friend lays him down on the cot. Harry is also still trying to make amends to the woman he was bugging. In a dream sequence he follows the woman and yells to her through the fog. He says, "I know you but you don't know me." This is the source of his guilt. For a man as private as Harry to know so much about someone without their knowing him is the ultimate transgression, the ultimate violation. It has created tremendous guilt in him, but for that same reason he is unable to discharge that guilt. He is reduced to talking to the woman in a dream and in the dream Harry makes what for him is the ultimate sacrifice. He tells her a number of details about his childhood. He warns her of being killed. And then there is a smash cut in which Harry dreams of the woman being killed in a motel room.
When Harry awakens, he finds Moran's assistant has left and taken the crucial tapes of the couple's conversation with her. All along, she had been hired, apparently by the Director, to get to know Harry, to win his trust just so she could steal the tapes. Harry looks at his work area and mutters, "Bitch." And at that moment Harry's one chance to break out of his Hell is dashed. Now all of his fears, defenses and suspicions about other people, and especially about women, have been confirmed.
Here Harry makes a crucial mistake. He concludes that closeness and trust and community are impossible because of how people are, of how women are. He does not realize that trust and community are impossible only in a world in which people spy on others,invadetheirprivacy. Insuchamodernstateofnature,having a woman pretend intimacy in order to steal is the norm rather than
the exception. With this betrayal Harry is within his cage. But the door has not yet slammed shut.
submitted by killa5abi to FivePlotPoints

Sea of Hope: Paradigm [Part 3]

Author's note: Today's gonna be a two-parter. It wasn't originally intended to be, but I really don't want to break up the flow, so it'll be easier to make a Part 3.5 than start off Part 4 with it. Just more content to love. A bit of serendipity for anyone following along and enjoying it I guess?
[Part 1] | [Previous] | [Next]

Bourbon’s eyes settled on Grim, who was looking at him with intent. The tetchy-looking Admiral had made a gesture for his attention, and he nodded towards Bull. Bourbon gave Bull a nudge with his elbow, and directed him towards Grim. Once Grim had both of their attention, he tapped towards his wrist. It’s time, then.
Bull gave Grim a nod himself, and the Admiral got to work. He turned towards the assembly, and gave a shrill whistle. Everyone promptly snapped to look at him, and he made his announcement. His voice was a gravelly rasp, it seemed unnatural for him to raise it. “Ambassadors and cohort are inbound in three. Places and faces everyone, make ready and square up.”
Everyone wrapped up whatever pleasantries they had wrapped up, and moved with purpose to whatever positions they’d been told to stand in. The heads of each branch would be front and center, while their associated aides would stand further back. Bourbon watched them with interest for a moment, and he was struck with several more thoughts, one after another, as multiple facts dawned upon him.
He was probably the lowest-ranking individual amongst the entire congregation. He might’ve outranked the aides, but they didn’t count. Neither did Luna, since she didn’t have one at all. But as someone who would be an active participant in the Summit, he was utterly outclassed by those around him. Consequently, that meant he was also the most expendable person there. He briefly checked the color of his shirt. Out of anyone in a command position, he was the only person who didn’t bear some lofty title.
The next thought that he had was that he had actually wasn’t actually sure if he got to sat at the big kids table or not.
He decided to vocalize his moment of concern to Bull. He suddenly felt uneasy about the matter. “Would you prefer I moved to the back with the rest of the common rabble, or am I to remain here?” he asked. He put enough urgency into his tone to suggest it was a genuine question, despite being seasoned with the sarcastic remarks that so often gave his speech its flavor.
Bull blinked. “You’ll remain here,” he replied. There was a certain curiosity to his voice, he seemed uncertain as to why Bourbon was asking. Bourbon knew where he’d been told to stand, so it most likely seemed an oddity to him that he would ask.
“Then do me a favor.”
Bull arched a brow, a look of concern forming.
“Give me a cool title.”
Bull blinked, taken aback by the request for a moment. “Beg your pardon?”
“I’m the only person here without a cool title,” he elaborated. “Everyone else gets to be the Director, Secretary, or Chief of something. Meanwhile I’m just the Colonel of 3rd Drop Shock. Don’t get me wrong mate, I’m far from nobody, but I’ve got the reddest shirt here.” Worry was beginning to creep into his voice to some degree. “Introduce me as such to the Xenos, and I’ll look like an absolute buffoon. I don’t want the ambassadors to think I’m some punk bitch who somehow stumbled his way into the Summit. How will I manage to amass my collection of alien groupies if I’m to be perceived as a non-entity by their leaders?”
Bull paused. He gave Bourbon a searching look, uncertain as to whether or not the Colonel was serious. When it seemed apparent that he indeed was serious, Bull inhaled and gave a subtle shake of his head. He was probably surprised this was even a real conversation. “Director of HUB Operations,” he responded flatly. He gestured for Bourbon to take his place.
Satisfied, Bourbon gave a heavy sigh of relief, and positioned himself accordingly. He could see Bull shaking his head ever so slightly, though whether in amusement or disbelief at Bourbon’s shenanigans was a mystery. He checked his uniform one last time to make sure everything was where it ought to be. He didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be. Niki had hounded him well enough for it, so everything should have been in order. If it wasn’t for whatever reason, he supposed he could blame her for it later.
In the interest of manners, he transitioned his sunglasses back to clear before powering them off. He withdrew a case for them from a pocket inside his jacket. Not on your face, they go in the case. They might not have cost him anything monetarily, but they were still a costly piece of kit, and he intended to take good care of them. Plus, the case acted as a charging pack for all of the electronic components in them. They could go plenty of time without it, but it never hurt to keep them ready.
He missed his old Wayfarers, which had come from Earth, but wearing glasses that were older than he was just wasn’t a good plan. Besides, Earth didn’t have the kind of tech they did. It just made more sense to upgrade, much as he valued his antiques.
Sometimes it was just hard to let go of the old things.
Before long, the trucks carrying the dignitaries came into view. They were prewar MRV-7s, though substantially modified to suit the needs of the situation. The Modular Reconnaissance Vehicles were huge, six-wheeled vehicles that had seen most of their usage in survey missions prior to the outbreak of the war. The fact that they were still up and running after all this time said something for their construction, he supposed. More often than not, they had a massive drill fitted onto them for core samples, though that wasn’t the case here. Instead, the heavy equipment they typically hauled around had been removed, clearing out the midsection to afford the necessary space to haul the alien delegates.
The extra space was necessary to house proper seating arrangements for the Xenos. The Holnirsis were massive creatures who shared nothing in common with Humans. The Pryxti likewise had a totally different biology, though they drastically varied in size. Resultantly, both species required special accommodations. The Zyb’r, on the other hand, would be perfectly compatible with any Human or alien configurations, though for the Summit, Human was the flavor of choice. That would prove interesting.
The convoy came to a halt, and the armed escorts poured out of the trucks first. Unlike the others at the ceremony, the escorts were wearing full M-RAU. The Coalition’s Multi-Role Armor Unit was distinct in appearance. Like many Coalition designs, there was a heavy emphasis placed on angular designs from head to toe. Tweaks over time had reduced some of the excess bulk that had given earlier iterations a boxier quality, but to call it sleek would’ve been untruthful. Some things were just unavoidable due to their nature, like the hard storage cases on the breastplate and thigh guards that had mostly replaced traditional combat webbing. Some units, like his own, still employed more traditional pouches in addition to the hard cases, but there were reasons for that.
The armor was largely designed to be modular. Most Coalition designs were made to be modular. Everything tended to be a variant of something. Components could be added, removed, or replaced depending on threat levels, unit requirements, or user preference. The gauntlets, for instance, had hard attachment points to mount different weapons or tools. The pauldrons were often swapped out, either traded for lighter options that offered greater mobility, or for larger units that ensured maximum protection. Armored collars were another popular modification, in various shapes and sizes. Areas that weren’t covered by heavy plating were protected instead by the jumpsuit underneath; he noted that they were wearing the combat variant of the jumpsuit, rather than the civil variant of it. As such, they sported heavy ballistic padding.
The helmet was probably the most distinctive feature. By and large, it evoked the image of a Knight, whether by intention or coincidence. Its most prominent trait was its face plate, comprised of four angular planes, each serving as something of a quadrant. It completely shielded the user’s face, and used cameras installed in each quadrant to provide the wearer with a view of the outside world. The faceplate could be unlocked and slid up a crest that served as a mounting rail, which would uncover a more traditional visor underneath should the wearer wish to show their face.
These guards wore bog-standard M-RAU. In fact, there was nothing distinctive about it, not even unit markings, which he found odd. So odd, in fact, that he decided to engage his ocular implants. They could do almost everything that his sunglasses could, he’d simply been opting not to use himself as a source of power yet. Now that the glasses were off, the implants would be more useful for continuing to identify individuals. Another quick diagnostic run revealed them to be fully operational, so he decided to reveal the identity of the mysterious guards.
Results didn’t disappoint. They were CFIR operatives. Raiders. Like him, once upon a time.
In a sense, he technically still was. He still had all the physical augments that came with the territory, and even when his current body died, they’d use the same template. It was an insurance policy, in some sense. Nobody ever totally escaped CFIR. Himself included. He still had to report to Cam to check in for an evaluation every now and again, and they were keeping tabs on him. If they ever needed him back, then as far as they were concerned, he belonged to them.
The fact that the Coalition had decided to use Special Forces as guardsmen seemed smart enough, given the circumstances. He was certain that the ambassadors hadn’t been informed of such measures. He doubted much of the assembly had been informed, at that. The only threat to the delegates on Terra Nova would be disgruntled clones who were unhappy with their presence. While it was extremely unlikely that anyone would pull something so outrageously stupid as trying to assassinate the aliens, they’d covered all their bases. They wouldn’t even be using the same route out as they had in.
Paranoia had shaped many of the Coalition’s policies, both against others and themselves. The Summit had been in planning for the past year. He imagined there were many security implementations he hadn’t been informed of, and that this heap of rubble was, at present, the safest place in Coalition space.
Raiders or not, the clones themselves didn’t pique his interest much. Perhaps if he could’ve seen their faces, he’d have recognized them—Perhaps not. Clones were clones, however, and there was something of far greater intrigue held within the convoy. He watched as each truck took its turn stopping, offloading its contents, and making way for the next ones.
He identified Lee, the Coalition’s own ambassador, disembarking from the first set. Lee was a gruff man, a bit abrasive at times even. He was a far, far cry from a socialite. Bourbon always thought he was an odd choice, he seemed to lack the necessary tact that was required for political maneuvering. That said, he also acknowledged that nobody else wanted the position. Nobody envied him for being the one who had to deal with the Xenos, and he likely didn’t much enjoy it himself.
Bourbon didn’t really know much about Lee. He really didn’t know much of his history, nor had there been much time to ask. Most of their interactions had been in preparation for the Summit, and had been largely one-sided at that. They’d never met prior to that, nor spoken to one another under different circumstances. His major takeaway was Lee putting particular emphasis on not directly addressing any of the diplomats. Evidently, when he spoke, he should speak only to the collective, keeping things as general as possible.
That didn’t much appeal to him, but he’d do things their way. Stars forbid he find some way to inadvertently offend the aliens, lest he find their skin was fair thinner than their hides implied.
The next set of trucks contained the Holnirsis. He’d seen their kind before, during the Hybridas Conflict. He’d worked alongside them in some sense of the word during his days in CFIR, and they were definitely strange creatures. The closest commonly-known analogues he really knew to equate it to would be an ant. Maybe combined with something akin to a mantis, he supposed, though they bore little resemblance to either in form.
Upon first glance, their torso might have seemed serpentine. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t. Instead, it seemed to more or less be comprised of an upper and lower segment that shared a spine that must’ve been incredibly strong, and all the more flexible. He wanted to compare it to a centaur to some degree, but even that wasn’t right. They had six limbs in total, and would walk on them according to whatever sort of circumstances were necessary. Their rearmost limbs were dedicated legs, though they seemed to prefer walking using at least four at any given time. Their other limbs were geared more towards hard labor or manipulating objects.
Their heads were equally as foreign. Describing them didn’t do it any justice. They were Humanoid in some sense of the word, but they were vaguely… Triangular? They didn’t have much by way of chin. Their lower jaw was more or less melded with their neck, which offered a set of six gill-like breathing slits, three to either side. When they opened their mouth, it was actually the top of their head that moved, rather than the bottom, like some kind of demented Muppet. Their head flared and flattened nearer to the top, and four compound eyes were set into it.
The Holnirsis shared an origin with the Hybridas, being an engineered race as well. Where the Hybridas had been engineered as soldiers, however, the Holnirsis were created as workers. They were made to look as foreign as possible, so that their creators could detach and distance themselves from them, seeing them as nothing more than the slave laborers that they were designed to be. They existed in ant-like colonies, headed by Queens that served much the same function.
Their colonies were largely run by an AI overseer, however. The AIs would dictate orders to them, relayed by their makers, and judge their productivity. Sufficient productivity meant that they would be rewarded; slacking meant punishment.
The Holnirsis evidently did not produce anything comparable to dopamine naturally. Instead, when their productivity was deemed adequate, they were rewarded by introducing a stimulant that replicated its effects. It would not have been inaccurate to compare it to getting high off drug usage, and as one would expect, the Holnirsis acted in much the same way as an addict would. They would push to greater and greater lengths in order to achieve their reward, such to the degree that they formed rivalries between colonies and industry sectors in attempts to outdo one another.
It was an effective business model, to say the least. It kept them docile and dependent.
When the makers had gone away, the AI no longer dispensed the stimulant. The Holnirsis had been none the wiser for a time, simply believing they had not achieved their quotas. It wasn’t until they pushed themselves to the breaking point that they would finally learn the truth. It caused a severe disruption for a time, and even infighting. Especially when cases were discovered where colonies had any chemical reserves left.
His implants identified the Holnirsis representative amid the crowd. He couldn’t exactly say that he was adept at spotting the difference between individuals yet, so he was reliant on them for the time being. Once upon a time, the Holnirsis rep had been the breeding Queen of her colony. After the collapse, her colony had been destroyed by the Hybridas. She chose the path of vengeance. She had her reproductive organs surgically removed; whether in an act of grief, spite, remorse, or symbolism he did not know. Or perhaps a breeding Queen’s reproductive system was not dissimilar to those of the infamous Alien Queen from that old Earth movie, Aliens, rendering her immobile*.* He didn’t know, and hadn’t really been sure of who to ask for a biology lesson on a race they had minimal information on. He was… Fairly certain he recalled hearing that they were born from eggs, and he could’ve just as easily seen this thing perched upon a giant egg-sac like that.
After the loss of her colony, she put together a ship and crew to take on the Hybridas as a vigilante or privateer. She began to hunt them down on her own, and do what she could to stop them. The Confederacy, at the time, hadn’t been taking the threat terribly seriously. She railed against them to take action until they finally relented, and provided her with a fleet to attack Hybridas facilities wherever possible. She razed much of her former masters’ space as a result, setting fire to as many of their worlds as she could find. There had initially been some concern, given that she was so unlike the rest of her species in how aggressive she was, so she’d had to fight hard to win over her supporters.
Her infamy rose until she finally became one of the Confederacy’s military leaders, and a representative for the Holnirsis as a whole. She bore the title of Provisional Queen of the Collective, which made her the leader of her entire race for the time being. She’d been elected to the role based on merit, and it was possible that it might become a permanent position for her if the Collective so chose. Her tenacity and military prowess made her a clear candidate to serve as an ambassador to the CCS. She was someone who they might respect and understand, who they might feel more on equal terms with. She was definitely the exception to her species, rather than the rule, but it would likely prove interesting to see what she was like in person.
The Holnirsis communicated largely through pheromones, but used various clicks, chirps, and trills by way of “spoken” language. This meant that translation devices were necessary. It also meant that their names were utterly unpronounceable by Humans. They knew the Holnirsis ambassador’s name sounded like it started with a “B,” but quickly devolved into something that sounded like an individual with Parkinson’s suffering from a stroke. They quickly discovered that they faced a similar challenge with the other delegates, which meant a solution was required.
The Coalition had designated each delegate with a few different names. One would be the name used to refer to them officially, which would trip the translator and cause them to hear their name in their native language. The second was one that wouldn’t trigger the translator, for use when talking amongst one another outside the formalities.
The Holnirsis ambassador’s code name would be “Nambi,” while the name they’d address her with would be “Bridgette.” It seemed like it would be funny to address the hulking alien with such a mundane name, but it was the best they could do to keep from accidentally summoning a fifth-dimensional Eldritch monstrosity in their attempts to pronounce her name properly.
The next race he could see piling out of the trucks were the Pryxti. The Pryxti were a primarily aquatic race, and that was plainly visible at a glance. Their representative’s official name would be “Kheeri,” with the codename being “Aphros.” As far as he was concerned, her name would be Aphros, since he wasn’t supposed to speak to any of them directly. His understanding was that her real name sounded something like a long-held breath being violently expelled, with a dip and rise in tone somewhere in the mix. He made a mental note that if he were to lack a translation device for any particular reason, self-asphyxiation would be an acceptable substitute as a means of communication.
These Pryxti weren’t especially massive, though that suited him fine. The Holnirsis were monstrous enough on their own, they didn’t need a giant lobster mucking about too. Which was, really, what the Pryxti appeared to be. Some odd combination between a mantis and a lobster, though that was indicative of only one stage of their life cycle.
Their bodies were comprised of different segments as insects were, but the parts were distinctly crustacean. The general stance was reminiscent of a mantis, standing on four legs that were mounted to its… Thorax, he supposed the word was, with two more frontal limbs lifted off the ground. Its backmost legs were clearly oriented to be used for navigation in the water. The middle pairs seemed to be multipurpose, while the front were far more dexterous, manipulator-oriented limbs. Bourbon would’ve expected them to have claws, really, but he imagined it would have been pretty difficult for them to advance if that were the case. Instead they just had some strange, cartilage-like appendages that functioned as digits, which served the secondary role of being exceedingly creepy.
They possessed lobster-like tails, segmented and all. They weren’t very large, though his understanding was that was a product of having been born on a ship as opposed to on their homeworld. Males and breeding females tended to have much larger ones, he’d been told. Some seemed to have swimmerets, other didn’t. Probably indicative of coming close to a new stage, or maybe a product of their birth too. He did note several other odd features on their bodies, such as some kind of structures that likely served a similar function to ballast tanks, as well as furrows that likely would’ve made them more hydrodynamic.
That was a word he couldn’t recall having used before, off the top of his head.
Their head extended outward from their thorax in a vaguely Humanoid way. The head looked fleshy from where he stood, save for the chitinous growth on the top. They could pull their head back into the shell of their carapace, similar to a turtle, to protect themselves. He couldn’t help but eye their mandibles, which were a bit unsettling to see on a creature that large. He wondered what that might look like when they entered their next stage.
His interpretation of things was that it sounded as though they didn’t enter their next stage until certain conditions were met, namely environmental. Age was a factor, but it wasn’t the driving force. That meant they could go their whole lives without achieving their race’s final form. The ambassador, old as she was, was still in one of their earlier forms. He didn’t know if they had the ability to choose when they hit the next step in their evolution, if they did something to trigger it, or if it just happened when the conditions were right. That might not have been completely accurate, but that was his takeaway from the information he’d been given.
Things to learn, he supposed. The fact that they grew into monstrous leviathans in their later stages piqued his curiosity though. He had a hard time picturing the creatures in front of him ever becoming such a thing, and maybe she never would, but it was an interesting thought.
Apparently, Aphros had been alive at the time the Hybridas and Holnirsis’ masters vanished, so she remembered the start of things. She’d spent much of her life in space, explaining her comparably diminutive size, and eventually came to command the ship she’d lived on as well as the flotilla that defended the planet they were stationed at. This also meant that when the Hybridas reared their ugly heads, she was responsible for defending against them.
Her story wasn’t quite so dramatic as Nambi’s, but it still explained well enough how she’d ended up at the Summit. The Pryxti also had a matriarchal society, so the fact that she fit the gender role probably played into it as well. He wondered if that meant that all of the Pryxti’s governing body would be female, or if there were even any males present here. Apparently, there were fewer females than males, so he wondered how they balanced that one out.
That seemed stupid to Bourbon. He didn’t understand how that worked. In the Coalition, everything was based on merit. They were a meritocracy. The most qualified people were the ones who got to be in charge. They were the best at what they did, so they ascended the ladder. Even if he didn’t like or trust most of the people around him, they were there for a reason. They had earned it. Nobody had just been arbitrarily granted their position based on any preferential treatment. If they were, then he would’ve counted himself a member of High Command over a void-damned century ago.
Nothing was granted based on any predisposition. No one was born into their role—Metaphorically speaking, seeing most of them were clones. They earned it. They worked hard for their achievements. Nothing was blind luck, there were no special privileges that came with their creation. The only exception to that rule was the Juggernauts, and that was due to the necessity of their design. They had to be created for their role thanks to the brutal nature of it.
Gender meant nothing. In theory it could affect performance, from a pure data standpoint. From the standpoint of the collective? It bore no significance beyond whether or not your designation started with an X or a Y. No one cared what was in someone else’s pants unless they were trying to get into them. From a social standpoint, it bore neither pride nor stigma. It simply was.
Race meant nothing either. There was no such thing as race in the Coaliton. Race implied some form of genetic heritage, or lineage. Some ancestral home, a place of origin. There was no such thing in the Coalition. Clones had homeworlds, places to originate from, that was true. Oftentimes, that had an affect on them, because sometimes different worlds mimicked Human cultures they found interesting. That might affect some of their thoughts and mannerisms, but race? No.
Clones were manufactured, their traits randomized. There were templates to mix and match, draw different genes and traits from so as to keep them as close to “natural” as possible, but they were random. In theory, it was entirely possible for a clone to be created with ebony flesh, almond-shaped eyes as green as emeralds, a pronounced aquiline nose, lips thinner than a razor’s edge, and hair as golden as the rays of the sun. A mismatching of all sorts of genetic traits stemming from all corners of the Earth, that one would certainly not find on Earth.
They generally avoided that, because they were aware that it was “unusual,” but it could happen.
The only “heritage” that any of them could claim was that they were Human, and culturally far removed from them, at that. They were Homo Sapiens Effigies. They celebrated their individuality, not their heritage. It didn’t matter who or what they were, it was what they chose to be.
Everyone started at zero, and worked their way up. The idea that someone could start in the negative for being born or created a certain way made no sense. The idea that anyone started with bonus points for being born or created a certain way made no sense. Treating someone differently for traits beyond their control, before they developed into who they would become, before they even became a person? There was no logic in it.
In the Coalition, people who were good at what they did were rewarded for it. Not always in terms of rank, but in other ways too. One would find that they had greater freedoms granted to them. Rules and regulations became a little laxer. New tools and toys would be offered. More resources would be made available, new doors would open. If someone could be trusted to do their job and do it well, then there wasn’t any need to put them on a leash. Why clip the wings of a bird who never strays far from home? Let them soar, let them fly, and see how high they can go, what potential they have. So long as they return, where’s the harm?
Even then, people weren’t punished for being bad at something. If someone was bad at something, they could either learn how to do it, or move on and find something else they were good at. Find their place. That was what most clones strived for. Finding some place where they belonged, seeing where they fit into the big picture. So long as one tried, it would be seen. A Corporal with an exemplary record might enjoy all the same privileges as a General, the only difference between them being a title and a job description. An extreme and unlikely comparison, but possible.
They served different purposes, played different roles. If someone was exceedingly good at their role, why should it otherwise matter?
If someone decided not to play by the rules, not do their job, or otherwise make a problem out of themselves, then the inverse was true. The rules and regulations would be heavily enforced, and any privileges they might’ve otherwise had were taken away. They’d be given the bare essentials and nothing more. A grounded child, bereft of an allowance, denied any sweets, their toys all locked away until they could prove that they could do their chores without being forced to.
And yet… Once they proved that they were capable, and the wrongs were righted… They would once again be granted their freedoms.
Was that not fair?
He’d been on both ends of the spectrum. He’d known Bull since his own creation, but started from the bottom. He did his best work in the field, not behind a desk, so the duties of High Command were not suited to him. That was why he played the role he did now, as the Colonel of the best infantry brigade the Coalition had to offer. That wasn’t bias, it was a fact. He’d worked his way from the bottom to become one of the early shock troopers. He’d entered CFIR upon its conception, the Coalition’s elite. He played no small part in the conflicts the Coalition faced, and he’d helped to train newer generations of CFIR operatives. He had a record.
When he fell into alcoholism, he felt the repercussions for it. Any requests he’d had were denied. Any excess luxuries were denied. Any nonstandard and nonessential items were denied. People were instructed not to indulge him until he fell back in step. He’d fallen to such a low place that he hadn’t been allowed a wretched bar of chocolate. It hadn’t even been that he was denied it, they had removed his access from the system entirely. He had to steal a bar of chocolate. And in doing so, he ended up in the brig. He locked himself in the brig.
Now? He was helping to create an entire section of Coalition space where he could go wild. He was getting to be a part of the creation of an alliance between galaxies. He had fallen, and now was standing again. He’d been burned for his mistakes. Upon making corrections, he regained what was taken from him. To the Coalition machine as a whole, the problem was either resolved or being resolved. He had to live with the social repercussions, but he wasn’t being punished anymore. He was doing his duty, and was reaping the benefits again.
Did that not make sense?
Apparently, that wasn’t how much of the universe worked. That didn’t seem to be how much of Earth worked. That saddened him deeply. For as much as he had a deep interest in his Human origins, the notion that they quibbled over such stupid things was upsetting. He had a hard time imagining living in a place where factors outside of one’s control determined their lot in life, or how they were treated. It was a foreign concept to him, and yet… It persisted.
Anything that can’t hold up to scrutiny shouldn’t.
He doubted very much he would care for the Pryxti. Even at a glance, it seemed they had world views that clashed drastically. He would learn what he could of them and keep an open mind, on the grounds that he did enjoy learning about alien cultures, but he didn’t see himself particularly liking the crustacean-folk. He doubted that many within the Coalition would, but perhaps he’d be proven wrong in time.
submitted by YC-012_Bourbon to HFY