We all know Blair and Angel, Maniac and Rosie, Catscratch and Sosa... but the conventional wisdom says that Wing Commander is, by its very nature, not the platform for stories about complex romantic relationships. In honor of Valentine's Day 2017, I would like to respong by remembering two relationships from the Wing Commander canon that are a little more nuanced.
Warning: the first is a downer, a great 'could have been.' The first Wing Commander novel, Freedom Flight, introduces us to Lord Ralgha nar Hhallas (the kil who would become Hobbes) and Lady Hassa, the Sivar cult priestess to whom he is oathsworn. We learn that the pair are old friends who grew up together on Hhallas and that they are now prominent citizens: an honored Khantahr (Rear Admiral) commanding a cruiser and a leader of the rebellion fomenting on Ghorah Khar respectively.
Hassa has ordered Ralgha to support her rebellion by defecting, surrendering his Fralthi to the Terrans at Firekka. Ralgha, an abolitionist deeply loyal to Hassa, has agreed though it will mean his explusion from Kilrathi society. In an open air temple in a peaceful, tree-lined Ghorah Kharran city, the two steal a moment to say their goodbyes, each knowing they will never see the other again. Ralgha beautifully summarizes the moment with a profoundly wistful line:
"Sometimes I wonder if we should ever have left our planet, Hassa. We were so happy there as children, we could have stayed there... perhaps I should have claimed you as my mate and bearer of my children when I had the chance. Years ago, before politics and soldiering claimed my life, and the Lord Sivar claimed yours."
But it was never to be: by the time the day is out, Hassa is most likely dead at the hands of Imperial Security and Ralgha is on his way to Firekka, never to return to that childhood home on Hhallas. You can read their entire goodbye in the Freedom Flight preview chapter (originally included with Wing Commander II) here.
Now the good news: our second relationship is a great deal more fun! The year is 2790, and the name of the place is the Tri-System. Lev Arris is on a quest to learn his true identity and make a quick credit... and he's always happy to rescue a damsel in disgress. Melissa Banks, a similarly skilled privateer who is not above a little gun running, has run afoul of the Papogod at Nav 51. Lev flies to the rescue of her Faldari and the result is a romance, a second mission and a series of cutscenes as the two encounter one another through the course of the game.
In a game with a wide range of cutscenes, these personal moments stick out; Clive Owen and Mathilda May have an excellent chemistry and they give the Arris/Banks relationship a wonderful edge. Seeing the two flirting-ly snipe at one another as they seemingly try and completely fail to keep their connection 'casual.' What's more, they seem to be true equals, each an expert pilot and each capable of a great riposte. It feels incredibly genuine... and more realistic than anything else in gaming from that era. Here's the final cutscene in the sequence:
BANKS: Just look at you. I bet you've forgotten.
ARRIS: Forgotten what?
BANKS: Our anniversary.
ARRIS: Our what?
BANKS: It's the anniversary of the very first time we met. When I came out of nowhere and saved your life.
ARRIS: That's not quite how I remember it.
BANKS: Typical man.
ARRIS: Sorry, do I know you?
BANKS: In every conceivable sense.
ARRIS: I mean, your face is familiar, but...
BANKS: Oh, that's a pity, seeing as I just booked a hotel suite with a freefall jacuzzi.
ARRIS: Melissa! Happy anniversary, darling.
BANKS: Do I know you, mister?
ARRIS: Well don't you remember, you saved my life?
BANKS: Somehow, I just can't recall.
ARRIS: We, ah, we met at the Rampant Robot bar, you gave me a cure for dry lips.
BANKS: I did?
ARRIS: Listen, has the suite really got a free-fall Jacuzzi?
BANKS: You bet.
So cute--LEV+MEL 4EVER! You can start the Melissa Banks side-quest by playing with SOS missions on with Disc 2 of the game in the drive. Of course, we couldn't let a Valentine's Day pass without the famous Love Arrow animated GIF!