Heir to the Empire, Chapter 13

z: Welcome, gentlefolks, to Friday, the 13th… Chapter. Of Heir to the Empire.

Oh heavens, I’m in a mood again aren’t I.

will: Heh, heh, heh. I’m a bad influence. He said proudly.

z: <impotent glare>

z: As with the situation in the Bimmisaari marketplace, we left the previous chapter on a Han viewpoint, with a line from Leia, in the middle of bad trouble, and we open the next one in a Luke viewpoint, in the middle of the same bad trouble. His X-Wing and the Millennium Falcon were just about to land on Nomad City; now the Star Destroyer overhead causes a rethinking of plans. The Destroyer itself is harmless after coming in without a sun shield, but the complement of fighters she carries… And there seem to be some troop carriers as well…  Lando and Nomad City don’t have much of a small-fighter force, so Luke and Han assume they’ll be doing the honors, and Luke in particular volunteers to go in front and get to confuse the TIE fighter pilots’ minds with the Force—

Whoa, whoa, wait, what?

will: We’ll get there, but I’d also point out that Zahn admits that Luke thinking of this as “his first space combat as a full Jedi” was later undermined by other authors. He also spends some time reiterating the “what does it mean to be a Jedi without being a Jedi of the Old Republic” theme, by wondering if the Old Jedi Order ever did fighter combat. But back to the “cloud their minds” point…

z: On the one hand, this is an obvious thing for a Jedi fighter pilot to attempt. On the other hand, there’s a major gap from ”These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” to basically setting up enemy pilots as sitting ducks with the Force. On the first hand, Luke thinks he’s only going to confuse or slow down their reflexes a bit. On the other hand, I can just see the look on Wedge’s face if someone talked about slowing down a fighter pilot’s reflexes in battle with the adverb ”only.” On the gripping hand, in battle a fighter tries to stay alive and a Jedi tries to protect others, and one might argue it would be more than just stupid if they didn’t use everything at their disposal, and the Force is a rather big everything.

On the lightsaber-wielding hand–

will: Not “on the bionic hand”?

z: –as soon as Luke actually attempts this, he also starts wondering about whether this is too close to the Dark Side, and the sensation of touching mind to mind for control feels unpleasant to him.

will: Zahn will return to this much later, and answer the question very much less ambiguously. (I’m pretty sure that he calls back to this scene in that later one.)

z: And then it all becomes moot anyway, because someone calls into Luke’s mind and tells them ”You will come to me.”

They don’t say who or where they are, but it’s enough for the reader—it’s C’baoth, of course—and it’s more than enough to take Luke completely out of it.

will: Of course, Luke wonders if it’s Ben Kenobi, for obvious reasons. “You will go to the Jomark system. There you will learn from Joruus C’baoth, the insane Jedi clone who was almost me” doesn’t flow very well, though…

z: Nope, lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

will: By the way, folks, don’t ever try typing that with autocorrect on. Which reminds me. Would a clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi have been Been Kenobi, Obi-Waan, or just Keenobi? Probably Obi-Waan.

z: Luke struggles to keep contact, to learn more, but can get nothing back apart from ”You’ll find me and the Jedi will rise again,” and then snaps out of—whatever it was, and… Just as he’d lost track of time during that practice session with the drone some chapters back, he’s lost almost half an hour, without answering (one presumes) increasingly frantic queries coming over his comlink or from Leia through the Force. There has been a fight, as there are some TIE fighter bits lying around, but it’s unclear to everyone including the reader how much of that is Luke’s handiwork. (Leia says ”we got two,” but I’m not certain who ”we” is or if two was the full number of TIE casualties.)

Which gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies, to be quite honest.

will: C’baoth and the screaming heebie-jeebies do go fist-in-glove quite often…

z: The Star Destroyer is leaving, the surviving TIE fighters with her, and apparently the troop-carrier-looking ships never went near the city, so invasion wasn’t it, whatever ”it” was… and Luke is markedly unsettled.

And scene, to the bridge of the Chimaera, hanging out on the outskirts of the same Athega system.

will: And therefore showing off more of Zahn’s understanding of scale: the way many writers treat star systems in cinematic universes like this, a Star Destroyer anywhere in a star system would be impossible to miss. But at actual stellar scales, a Star Destroyer is…

z: Itsy-bitsy…

will: Only if it’s the Recluse.

z: …which Zahn understands and represents accurately. Good catch.

will: He’ll do it again in a few chapters.

z: We learn that the Star Destroyer that was sent in blind was the Judicator and it was under C’baoth’s control again. They were there to grab the mole miners of course, and got fifty-one, which makes Thrawn happy. But was it hard, Master C’baoth, you looked strained for a bit there…? No, says C’baoth, no strain, I was just talking to Luke Skywalker, no big deal.

Thrawn manages to convey “Say what now?” without actually using any of those words.

will: Yeah, but now I have the image of Thrawn actually saying “Say what now?” and it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in several hours.

z: Well, I laughed when I read the actual text, so…

C’baoth blithely informs Thrawn and Pellaeon that Luke’s on Nkllon right now. Thrawn is furious because C’baoth didn’t inform him; C’baoth is of the opinion that Skywalker is ”his” so why should he say anything? Gee, maybe because having a Jedi there, had he been undistracted, might have ruined the mission and quite a few Imperial personnels’ days terminally?  But Thrawn doesn’t mention that. Instead he says that it was too early for C’baoth to form direct contact with Luke. Maybe the rumors didn’t even reach Luke yet, and they need to take C’baoth to Jomark (that those rumors mention) ahead of time. C’baoth is unconcerned, and Thrawn kindly says that they’ll check the damage to the Judicator,  then take C’baoth there, will that be OK? C’baoth is happy with that, and leaves to rest.

will: Eh, Thrawn knew that C’baoth wouldn’t be swayed by that argument. Rightly so.

z: Thrawn immediately commands Pellaeon to chart Luke’s most likely course from Nkklon to Jomark. They’ll be lying in wait for the X-Wing, in case Luke does go to C’baoth as the latter insists he will, and capture the younger Jedi instead of simply speeding him along to C’baoth. They can decide whether to really give him to C’baoth (to re-emphasize who dispenses C’baoth’s wishes and therefore has the upper hand there) or kill him (to point out that C’baoth only gets to have toys if Thrawn lets him have them.) C’baoth can have Leia and the twins and be satisfied.

Please note the sheer amount of considering Luke as an object, not even a pawn but an actual object, inherent in Thrawn’s alternatives here. He does acknowledge Luke’s proven himself dangerous so it’s better to give only Leia and the babies to C’baoth.  This does not help with the whole ”object” thing. Hi. This is our villain. Please say hello and run away.

will: This is our villain specifically working to undermine our other villain, don’t forget. It isn’t just the heroes who suffer from divergent agendas.

z: Case in point, Pellaeon is more wary of angering C’baoth, and speaks in favor of the first option, because he thinks that’ll keep C’baoth happier. He doesn’t give this as his reasoning, though, instead points out that they especially don’t want C’baoth to go back to Wayland, now, do they?

Huh. They don’t?

Apparently they don’t; Thrawn throws a bone to the reader by unpacking this to ”Not until the work on the Spaarti cylinders is finished and [they] have all the ysalamiri there [they] are going to need.” Well that cleared it right up. Wait. It didn’t.

will: However, this is the first indication that ysalamiri are being used on Wayland, as opposed to elsewhere. Setup for Leia’s great Eureka Moment in The Last Command.

z: Thrawn also indicates that he’s aware that Pellaeon didn’t have that as his only or even first reason for keeping Luke alive, but he’s letting it pass, and this is entertaining. He’s all ”aw, you’re adorable” towards his Captain, and Zahn manages to create that impression with just

Thrawn’s lip twitched. ”Very well, Captain: I accede to your suggestion.”


Besides, Thrawn points out, the Millennium Falcon may well follow Luke, and that nets them all the birds with one ambush. Cut.

This is a short, but dense chapter. There is a brief rumination from Zahn in a margin note about the role of coincidence in fiction, but I’ll leave that for Will to comment on. We approach and probe the same type of evil (denying the reality of people’s agency/denying them their agency) from two directions. It is creepy either way, and there isn’t much more to say about that.

That’s it from me by this point; what did I miss, Will?

will: Well, Zahn’s footnote about the lack of a “thr” sound in German, but what more is there to say? Except that I wonder whether he already knew how Chiss (we’ve already established that Zahn might or might not have made up his mind about Thrawn’s race) names are structured.

As to the coincidence footnote, honestly, Zahn is being generous. The Pull of the Red String of Fate is alive and well in the Galaxy Far Far Away; especially for Force-sensitives like Luke and Leia, and even for non-Force-sensitive but ta’veren characters like Han, Thrawn, and so on…

Yes, Z, I did put that in to make you groan.

z: …actually, I was thinking it, and knew you were too. (In case it’s unfamiliar, this is what we’re talking about.)

will: That’s the other vector for how Z and I met, incidentally. But I’m making a point, too. This is not a random universe. There is a…how can I say this without overloading the word “force”? There is a Something guiding people, subtly or overtly. It’s hard to have the free-will-or-predestination paradox discussion about characters in a fictional universe, though, and besides, I’m not drunk enough to be a philosopher. (Though I am hopped up on cold meds! Still, bad idea.)

Anyway. I do think it’s interesting how Zahn didn’t give us a battle sequence here. I guess he recognizes that unless you’re telling Top Gun IN SPAAAACE!, a fighter’s-eye view would be kind of boring. (He’ll give us some of that later, when the Rogues mix it up, and of course Stackpole and Allston actually wrote TGiS–well, Stackpole for sure, Allston was more like Hot Shots IN SPAAAAAACE!)

That’s about it for this part of the rising action. Tune in next week, where Landos gonna Land,—

z: No, you didn’t.

will: —Wookiees gonna Wook,—

z: No, really.

will: —and Jedi gonna Jed.

(And Z gonna kill me.)

z: Yes, yes she will. When we’re done.

will: May the Force be with you, everybody.


8 thoughts on “Heir to the Empire, Chapter 13

    1. That back-and-forth was actually real time—we were simultaneously editing the document on Google Drive.

      I watched it happen. But I was powerless to stop it. {haunted expression}


  1. Space is big, but spaceships are hot. Star Wars ships can have any characteristics and stealth fields the plot requires in terms of shielding their emissions. But the Project Rho page pretty much convinced me that it’s at least very hard for a spaceship bound by physics (especially one with the kind of mass and energy a warship requires) to hide anywhere in the same solar system.

    (They give an example of a Russian submarine kitted with a tenth gee ion drive, and estimate the detection range as around four times the distance to Pluto.)


    (They may be getting something wrong– I know Zeynep is much better-equipped than I am to know if they are, and Will may be too. But they make a pretty convincing case, and they do at least address the usual strategies for avoiding detection.)

    I’m pretty sure that in this particular situation it can be finessed. The people doing the detecting are doing it with the disadvantage of being really near an energetic star, and have few or no detection resources further out. The enemy is coming in ftl, which limits the amount of time there’s anything to detect. (Does Star Wars have ftl sensors? How visible is a jump into or out of hyperspace?) Even if they do discover a bogey on the fringe of the system, that’s not going to get primary attention over the immediate attackers.


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