Heir to the Empire, Chapter 14

will: Welcome to Chapter 14 of Heir to the Empire, wherein if I make any more puns, I think Z will kill me with a lightsaber.

z: Oh, not necessarily.

I mean, I might not be able to get a lightsaber, so no point in limiting myself to that.

will: Great working relationship, don’t you think?

will: We begin with Lando, being his Landiest. (OK, OK, I’ll stop now.) He growls and gripes, and Han knows (and communicates to Leia) to just let him get it out of his system; as soon as he’s done, he goes back to being Mr. Courtliness, the same way he was on Bespin. (Leia muses that it’s probably just to tweak Han, though right now, Han doesn’t even notice.)

z: That Leia isn’t bothered herself by it says a lot about Lando actually being in the “old trusted friend” category for her, I’ve always felt.  That is such a fine razor’s edge line to walk for author and character both.

will: Lando and Han discuss the history of Nkllon, including the tidbit that Han had quietly done some background research on the traveling-city idea–helping an old buddy out, one assumes–before turning to business, namely, that Han and Leia are running paranoid. And while Lando wants to help, Bespin looms large in everyone’s mind…

Jump cut to Lando insisting that the Imperials couldn’t have known from Nkllon that Han and Leia had shown up. Not that he trusts all of his people that far, of course: it’s just that nobody would have bothered to say anything because there hasn’t been any bounty offered. Ah, fringe economic systems, where trust extends to the better offer.

z: On the other hand, in a twisted way that makes trust there a bit more absolute I think: There’s no financial motive and Lando doesn’t even bother to consider a political, philosophical or personal motive as an alternative. Political: No one thinks they have anything to gain by sucking up to the Empire. Philosophical: No one there is the kind of mustache-twirling evil that thinks Palpatine had it right all along. Personal: No one is out to take revenge out on Leia because someone from Alderaan trod on their grand-uncle’s foot once.

will: For that matter, the mole miner raid makes no sense if it was an attack on Han and Leia.

Luke, sensibly though with a touch of naivete, asks how Lando knows there is no bounty…and Lando gives the inevitable answer: he’d have heard about it. That gets Han onto the original topic, but he’s interrupted by the report of a transmitter in the room. Han and Leia jump to “spy radio,” but Luke just reveals the beckon call from Dagobah, which Lando identifies as such.

z: It’s sort of a cross between a full autopilot enabler and location beacon which would allow the ship to come to you. There are options of making them take control over more of the ship’s mechanisms them just motion and landing: Some versions could fight their way through light opposition to the caller, or beckoner if you will.

As a linguistic aside, this is another of the pitch-perfect word coinages. You instantly know what it means and it feels so natural that you don’t even stop to consider the author has made it up.

(Yes, Zahn points out the pun in a margin note and I do sigh at it, but this is a nice one, relatively speaking. I may go so far as to call it wordplay instead of a pun, and I do like wordplay. The distinction would be a discrete digression, let’s divert the discussion distant from that departure.)

will: Discreetly. *ducks*

At any rate, Lando describes the advantages of sophisticated slave-rigging. “Tell that to the Katana fleet,” Han says, as Zahn footnotes how he foreshadows, and Leia watches Luke squirm about Dagobah until he finally asks to please go back to topic A, which is, what slicer would Lando trust with Leia’s life?

(Yes, I’m ignoring Zahn’s footnote 3 for now. I’ll discuss that later.)

Nobody, of course. (Really, Han.) Lando suggests that Talon Karrde could have a slicer and might be trusted, but even that seems iffy. Han mentions being told Karrde was the biggest fish in the pond these days, but as Chewie vies for Han’s attention, Lando has other ideas…like a deep-underground life support capsule on the sunside of Nkllon. Which sounds like claustrophobia with a side of hyperventilation, if you ask me, but Leia’s willing to entertain the notion until she realizes it would be impossible to communicate.

z: Leia might have been, which only goes to show that she has far more trust in technology than I do in those situations.

will: Finally, Han and Chewie’s side conversation comes to the fore. Sounds like Chewie wasn’t in on the “find a way to protect Leia” goal, and he has an idea: why not come to Kashyyyk? (With a side note about nomenclature, an interesting diversion concerning how a being with Chewie’s vocal range would say “Kashyyyk”–or wouldn’t be able to–and why that wouldn’t work as the world’s name–Zahn got overruled by the Powers that Be. But he made it work.)

z: I  can’t say Kashyyyk, even in your strange language that is willing to accept y as a vowel. Well, I can, but it sounds… long.

will: Yeah, I always hear it as “ka-sheek.” Or maybe “ka-sheeeeek.” Leia is, on the one hand, interested, but also, Kashyyyk is known for a rather lethal ecology. Han, similarly, is concerned. He’s willing to trust Chewie with his life, but “this is different.” And while Leia realizes that for some reason, asking Luke to go with her will go nowhere, Han and Lando work out a plan. They’ll split up, with Han pulling attention away from Lando’s ship (which will fly with Chewie and Leia) by pretending to have Leia on board. Speaking of, where’s Threepio?

Lando doesn’t actually say it, but the scene ends on a strong note of “I have an idea…”

As the chief programmer (who, by his description, sounds a lot like Lobot, Lando’s aide on Bespin–but Lobot was bald, wasn’t he?) and Lando and Han go over the plan, Leia and Luke take time to talk. She gets around to asking why he wouldn’t be able to go to Kashyyyk, and Luke says that he thinks there’s another Jedi out there. Yes, Yoda said Luke was the last–but maybe he was mistaken, or Luke misunderstood. Jedi aren’t omniscient, and they do tend to tell partial truths. “From a certain point of view” indeed.

z: I do notice that Luke doesn’t omit the bit about partial truths when telling Leia that Jedi aren’t omniscient. Good for him.

We did get to see when he told Leia she’s his sister, but I sure wish I could get to see the later conversation when Leia asked “Um, so, how did you learn about this again?”  You know she must have. Or was that in The Truce of Bakura? It’s been too long since I read that one… But if it wasn’t, well, that’s where fan fiction shines, I think.

will: I don’t think Leia ever asks how Luke knows; given that she “always knew,” it’s just Understood, I guess. Luke decides to spill more beans: why could Yoda stay hidden from the Empire? They should have been able to feel him in the Force. Except they couldn’t…because he was living on Dagobah, right next to a fount of the Dark Side. In fact Yoda must have been the one who stopped that renegade Dark Jedi in the first place. And at a distance, the two energies, Light and Dark, canceled themselves out.

This, by the way, should have been where Zahn put the footnote that the beckon call started life just as a way to get Luke to Athega, but people kept thinking there was more to it, so when he wrote Specter of the Past/Vision of the Future, there was. And for me, the way he tied that back in was perhaps his great feat of welding a bunch of offhand bits and pieces together into a grand arc.

Anyway, Luke points out that another Jedi could have done the same thing, but Leia doesn’t think the C’baoth rumor is solid–wait, says Luke, what rumor?

He did it again, ladies and gentlemen. Remember when Zahn pivoted from “maybe the Empire has a Jedi” to “C’baoth rumor”? This time he went from “another Jedi” to “C’baoth.”

But if Luke hadn’t heard the rumor, how could he have known there was another Jedi out there? “Someone called to me, Leia, during the battle this afternoon. In my mind.”

Leia even brings up the possibility that this is an Imperial trap, with a Dark Jedi like Vader (who didn’t count as Jedi, by Yoda’s reckoning) calling and the C’baoth rumor as bait. Note the distinction: Leia’s willing to believe the C’baoth rumor is a plant, but not that it’s also true. They can’t imagine that C’baoth is a Dark Jedi. He’s Jor(u)us C’baoth, after all!

Luke admits that’s possible, but he has to go looking. The Force is clearly involved, so Leia admits the location and Luke prepares to head out. But time to find out what’s up with Threepio…

Long story short, they’ve programmed him to sound exactly like Leia. He’s horribly offended–this is not proper protocol, even if Lando tries to justify it as taking the job of translation to its logical extreme. Everybody breaks to do last-minute prep, and as Threepio heads off, Leia wonders, “do I really sound like that?”

z: I laughed. I laughed even more at Leia’s line. And when I hit the relevant bit in Mass Effect 3 (you know what I’m talking about, or I not going to spoil you) I remembered this and laughed some more. And fell in love with the voice actress (Jennifer Hale) a bit more, too.

Threepio’s sense of propriety is such a wonderful, precious thing.

will: This is definitely a plot chapter. Even leaving aside the long-term storytelling of the beckon call, it’s here to set up the back half of the book, as established at the start of the next chapter: Leia and Chewie on Kashyyyk, Luke on his Force quest, and Lando and Han’s Excellent Adventure. It’s also heavy on Luke and Leia and the Force, reminding us about Luke’s fear of botching his job of training the next Jedi, and giving us a bit of Zahn’s take on the mystical aspects and the “why” of Dagobah.

That’s about all from me this week. Thoughts, Z?

z: One thing Luke does not reveal to Leia are his exact misgivings about his teacher role. She can probably sense the worry and reluctance in him, but now it occurs to me to wonder how she would react if Luke had outright told her “maybe I can’t teach you well, maybe I’ll lead your kids to the Dark Side unwittingly. ”

She would probably reassure him about the first one, but I honestly don’t know where she would fall on the nurture vs. mystic nature thing. Would she be confident because the parents, uncle and droids are all going to be there to nurture a strong moral core in the children even without considering training in the Force, or does she believe the innate temptation of the Dark Side can be stronger and cannot be reinforced against?  I have no sense of the answer at the moment, but it’s interesting to think about.

will: It sort of depends on the nature of the Dark Side, not unlike how Buffy the Vampire Slayer would later deal with magic: is it merely who you are, or is there actually something different about using darkness to power yourself? We’ll see this again throughout the EU, including I, Jedi with Corran and Mara, and then Luke’s examination of why Mara was never truly a Dark Jedi.

z: It’s interesting that Lando is the one coming up with the chicanery and Chewie the one with the actual safety plan, interesting in the sense that neither is devised by Han.  It might speak to exactly how worried he is.  Luke, it now strikes me, is not and has never been much of a planner. (Don’t talk to me about the rescue in Return of the Jedi. Lando and Leia were probably involved in planning the subterfuge bit, and if the whole thing was directed by Luke, well, that explains how hopelessly baroque it was.). He’s a good problem solver, and intuitive Jedi par excellence, of course.

will: My sense is that subtlety, and layered planning, is not exactly the Jedi way. They prefer openness, honesty, and simplicity: repaying kindness with kindness, and injury with justice. I’m put in mind of the opening sequence of The Seven Samurai, where the samurai Kambei shaves his topknot to pose as a monk, and how everybody was surprised at his willingness to do that–subterfuge is not exactly what you expect from a samurai.

(Yes, it’s relevant. The Seven Samurai is Akira Kurosawa again, and it’s another Jidaigeki. That word literally translates as “period drama,” and primarily refers to stories about the sengoku-jidai, the Warring States era of Japanese history. And the Jidai part of that is why we have Jedi. Lucas liked the sound of the word.)

(Oh, one more thing: that “kindness with kindness, injury with justice” bit I said above? A quote from Confucius…who was one of the primary philosophical sources of what we now call bushido, the principle of samurai life. So yeah.)

z: That is all she has for now. To soothe Threepio’s feelings and sense of propriety, imagine it in his voice this time: May the Force be with you.

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