Friday, February 1, 2019

The Expanse Profiles: Winston Duarte

Today is my last profile that I plan to write for The Expanse storyline. I couldn't find any illustrations of him online, and thus far in the series, he hasn't been cast. But he's really the biggest bad guy of the entire series because of what he ends up doing with stolen protomolecule technology.

We first meet Winston Duarte in Nemesis Games. He's formerly an admiral of the Martian Congressional Republic Navy, and he has the soul of a dictator/strong man the same as others of that ilk who are alive and oppressing people in today's modern world. In Nemesis Games, he is commander on Hecate Base, and he kind of gets mixed up in arming Marco Inaros' Free Navy, however, he does not directly reveal any involvement with all that as the distractions that Inaros' is affecting throughout Sol system draw eyes away from the stuff that he's doing.

Duarte has his own long-term goal with regard to the emergence of the Ring Gates: he basically wants to become the first emperor of a galactic-level civilization. To do this, he pilfers some ships and military tech from Mars, and then he finds a system within the Ring Gate complex that offers a planet with what looks like ship-building facilities in orbit around the planet (built by aliens). He then sails into that ring, names it Laconia, and tells people to leave him alone (under pain of death). Unfortunately, that's exactly what the people of Sol System do. They leave him alone for thirty years.

In that time, he experiments on people with a protomolecule sample that he stole from a safe in Fred Johnson's room at Tycho Station, basically turning them into vomit zombies. It's very reminiscent of the stuff you hear that Nazi's did to Jewish people held in concentration camps during World War 2. In the thirty year span where he and his cronies are left entirely to themselves, he institutes a totalitarian government where, if you are guilty of any crimes, then you get turned over to the doctors who are free to experiment on your flesh with protomolecule stuff. It's quite grotesque and ensures almost total obedience.

Additionally, the scientists on Laconia construct three new warships from protomolecule/alien technology. By the time they are done, these things are so advanced that nothing that the Sol system has can even deal with them should they go to war. And that's exactly what happens. One of Duarte's hand-picked commanders takes a battleship into the Medina Station Slow Zone and vaporizes a ship as an example to anyone else that would possibly attack him. When they don't listen, and attack this new warship, all of their weapons are completely useless. It's the same as throwing small rocks and sticks at a modern tank. There's just nothing they can do. And the weapon that the new warship employs uses powerful magnetic fields...so powerful that they can spaghettify hydrogen atoms. So yeah...nothing survives.

Well, the warship (having conquered Medina Station and the slow zone space) sails on into the Sol System. All of Earth's fleet, the Martian fleet, and the Belter Fleet attack the new warship. They even hit it with a nuclear weapon. Nothing...nada. Then it destroys a few ships and asks for a system-wide surrender. Being smart, the President of the O.P.A. stands down. And that's basically how Duarte conquers everything and forges the "Laconian Empire." It's not like anyone can say no to him and expect to live. His one warship can destroy an entire planet with billions of people on it the same as one person stepping on a bug. It's kind of ridiculous, and it holds many parallels to the uphill battle all the people without dragons face in A Game of Thrones by HBO. The dragons are basically super weapons that no army can deal with. That's what's going on here. Duarte has the "dragons" of The Expanse universe.

Also, Duarte has the same hubris that a lot of authoritarian leaders seem to share. In Persepolis Rising, he's using protomolecule technology developed by his scientists to give him everlasting life, and (at least from Holden's perspective when he sees him at the end of the book because he's taken prisoner) Duarte doesn't even look human anymore. I think Captain Holden says something like, "You're using that shit on yourself? What happened to you?" So yeah...there's that.

Here's a few great quotes from Persepolis Rising, which is the book where Winston Duarte really gets going:

"We have expended two-thirds of our rail-gun ammunition," the weapons tech announced. "Shall I maintain fire?" "Yes," Drummer said. "Then start putting chairs in the launcher. We hit that thing until we're down to pillows and beer."

"I'm as surprised as you are," Avasarala said. "Though I feel like I shouldn't be. I actually read history. It's like reading prophecy, you know."

"Prepare us for what?" Holden asked. "To poke gods with a sharp stick?" "No, Captain Holden. No sticks," Duarte said. "When you fight gods, you storm heaven."

"The sad fact of the human species that High Consul Duarte understood so well was that you could never overcome tribalism and jingoism with an argument. Tribalism was an irrational position, and it was impossible to defeat an irrational position with a rational argument. And so, instead of presenting a logical plan for why humanity needed to give up the old national and cultural divides and become a single unified species, the high consul obeyed the old forms that everyone would understand, and went to war. Thankfully, a brief one.”

“It’s the reward of old age,” Avasarala said. “You live long enough, and you can watch everything you worked for become irrelevant.”

I'll be back to my regular random topics on blogs this Monday. Thanks for reading and sharing my passion for The Expanse.

1 comment: