Heir to the Empire, Chapter 27

will: Welcome to Chapter 27, a nice short sequence wherein Zahn abandons all pretense of subtlety, though not of surprise, and shows us a nice big red blinking light marked “Space Battle —> THIS WAY.”

z: Yeah, we’re not foreshadowing any more, and we aren’t bothering to use a long prod to make the characters board the train to ActionLand either.  We’re basically throwing them bodily on board.

will: On the one hand, we get a secret technological development for the Empire; on the other, we get Wedge and Rogue Squadron.

z: YAY ahem sorry.
not sorry

will: We open with the footnote explaining the origins of the name Chimaera. Given the presence of the “Lambda-class shuttle,” I can’t really complain about the Greek of this, and the explanation–a mix of human and alien, unbeatable, mythical–makes sense. Plus, it is somewhat ominous, as is the habit for Star Destroyers. (Which we will discuss some twenty books from now or so.)

The Chimaera is watching a nearby freighter that is apparently the test-bed for a cloaking shield, and Pellaeon is worried. This was expensive, and the Empire doesn’t really have the resources to spare…and who knows if it’ll work? But Thrawn is adamant, and the prizes at Sluis Van seem worth the risk.

z: After Will pointing out Pellaeon’s old habits of thrift in terms of personnel some chapters back, I notice the contrast between his and Thrawn’s approaches coming up here as well.   I have seen versions of this in business, if not in the military—sometimes if you are not willing to take risks in terms of spending, you are not going to extend your capabilities and therefore your future spending ability.

On the other hand, Thrawn may be right with being less concerned about money, but Pellaeon is absolutely right in being concerned about people, obviously.  Those instances were not the first time we saw Thrawn treating people as things; they will not be the last.  And in fact an instance is coming up right now.

will: There’s also the matter of a technological limitation. A cloaking shield, in the Star Wars universe, is doubleblind. You can’t see out of the field any more than you can see in. (This is contrast to, say, Star Trek.) I’d always thought that Zahn himself came up with that, but he credits it to West End Games’s RPG books.

z: I’m glad that limitation is there either way—it makes for a nicer challenge to the character all around.  We likes it when battles turn out to be as much battles of wits as well as battles of brawn, after all, we does.

will: Zahn explains that he wouldn’t have used cloaks at all but for the line in The Empire Strikes Back. Which…honestly, as much as I liked his use of them, if that was the only reason he should have skipped them. It was a complete throwaway line, probably hearkening back to Trek, that I think no one remembered. (Then again, it was in the West End Games stuff. So who knows what the universe looked like in 1991?)

At any rate, Pellaeon is worried about sending the freighter in given the limitation, but there’s nothing to be done.

Except maybe bring in C’baoth. Pellaeon, somewhat surprisingly given how he generally feels (including even here about the “borg-implanted” comparison), thinks that the Jedi communication will be a great help, especially because he thinks they can’t rely on predicted timing. Thrawn argues that he can, that it doesn’t matter about the Rebellion also having a say because the Sluissi will be the ones in charge–

z: (and therefore it’s the Sluissi timing and psychology that counts, and he’s studied those)

will: –and he explains that he both doesn’t want to make the fleet dependent on C’baoth, nor give C’baoth too much power.

“He said he doesn’t want power.”
“Then he lies.”

Which, given what happens, may not be wrong. It’s a question of the sort of power…but we’ll get there. Thrawn reiterates that all men want power, but they have the ultimate distraction for C’baoth: the Jedi twins. Once they’re there, C’baoth will treat his ability to control (or influence) the fleet as the dull parts of his job.

As to capturing them, Leia and company “will eventually run out of tricks. Certainly long before we run out of Noghri.”

As if we needed more “no, this is not a good guy” signaling.

z: …right, this is exactly what I was talking about.

I virtually looked around for Rukh when I hit that line (i.e. reread the scene to see if he was mentioned as being around anywhere), but no.

will: At any rate, the test is ready. They turn on the shield…and nothing happens.

Which Pellaeon and Thrawn hoped for, it seems–though we’re not clear why. I can’t help but wonder if people were meant to be confused, or to realize that just because they can still see the freighter doesn’t mean that there was no effect from the cloak.

z: Both, I think.  I definitely gathered the latter, but still wasn’t entirely clear on why that was the desirable outcome or what made it so.

will: At any rate, the mission is a go, and Thrawn is sure they’ll succeed.

Scene change: Wedge Antilles is annoyed.

He’s very traditionally annoyed, in fact. He and his elite team of heroes (the full extent of their heroism to be retconned later, of course; at any rate he’s a known quantity, the guy with two Death Star battles/kills) are being assigned to escort duty, for cargo ships to Sluis Van, and his professional pride is offended. But he knows he’s taking it out on the wrong guy, the dispatcher with the assignment. And the dispatcher points out that there might be an advantage to being away, because Fey’lya and his people might be ready to “make their move.”

Wedge assumes coup. The dispatcher looks shocked and scandalized–he apparently just meant a political thing, some sort of official no-confidence vote regarding Ackbar. Which…what? You lower your voice and whisper “they’re going to make their move,” and you are shocked someone thinks you mean violence? Come on.

z: Especially given who the someone is.  Guy’s kind of a fighter ace and all.  Also: Consummate soldier.  Also-also: Been involved in the Rebellion from… well, at this point we don’t really know, but early enough that he was at Yavin.  Of course he’s going to think coup.

will: The dispatcher calls Wedge “one of Ackbar’s diehards,” and says that Fey’lya is the only person on the Council who cares about the welfare of the common soldier. Wedge knows this is slickly spun bullshit, but the dispatcher disagrees–and points out that those orders he was griping about? Guess who sent them.

Wedge folds his argument–words, besides inspirational heroic ones,  aren’t really his strongest suit–by defending Ackbar (and consequentially his orders) and slumps off. He isn’t even sure whether the dispatcher really does think what he said about Ackbar and Fey’lya, or was just scoring points. Doesn’t really matter.

Thinking about it, Wedge decides he needs away from Coruscant for a while anyway, to figure out what he should do as the politics happen, and how he can cope with what the New Republic has become–an actual government, not a resistance movement.

z: Oooooh, wait.  I just realized… hmmm.  I don’t know if this is the best time to do this; it will probably not come up as starkly as this again until late in the Rogue Squadron series, and I don’t have time to do it justice now anyway.  So I could probably leave it until then…but this is A Thing:

Once upon a time, I wrote fanfiction.  (Yeah yeah I know whatever.)  Exclusively Star Wars fan fiction, and exclusively about the Rogue/Wraith Squadron characters. (Not out of a sense of purity; that was the only thing I felt the urge to fill scenes in.  Since then, there’s been one (1) more thing, and that with one scene only.  Please try to contain your surprise when I reveal that that was Mass Effect.)

will: We need to do a whole blog post about Mass Effect eventually. The influences, the importance, the resonances, the Bioware connection (“someday we’ll find it…”).

z: Anyway, one of my stories followed a character we had learned to be an Imperial defector, through his defection following Alderaan’s destruction, to him finding his way to the Rebellion.  (I didn’t come up with the character or the triggering event; Mike Stackpole did.)

will: Z is being coy to hide this character’s identity, folks. Either you know who she means or you don’t from that description, but we’ll save it for when we meet him.

z: Our dear readers here may be a little tired of hearing this litany, but: I was much younger then and my grasp of and approach to certain matters were considerably more immature. So while I knew it was important to acknowledge the “what makes a person trained to obey orders and who’s lived under the rule of some law or another to go into open rebellion against an established government, and what kind of soul-searching does it take?” questions, I handled them by… basically only mentioning them.  One might argue that in that particular character’s case, the trigger was strong enough that other questions would not have mattered.  Still, it is kind of a big step and all.

It’s just hit me that gradually, slowly, Wedge (and the others) are now going through the reverse transformation, and here Zahn handles it almost solely by mentioning it, but only after showing an example of what kind of things may become bothersome.  We’ve also had Han’s earlier reaction (“all aboard the Nope freighter”) and there’ll be more.

will: This also resonates with Luke’s action later, especially one that Mara will reflect on in this exact sense. But I get ahead of myself.

I sympathize with Wedge a lot more than I did with Ackbar back in the early chapters. Wedge isn’t a politician (not yet, anyway). During the Rebellion, he followed his orders and did his job, and they won the war–except sort, as evidence the current campaigns, but officially. He’s still a soldier, but the nature of the battle has changed, as has the context–he can’t just be fighting for freedom with a strong undercurrent of independence, even for the Rogues. Unlike Ackbar, for whom politics would have always been and should always be part of it, Wedge is basically a grunt. A dedicated soldier, sure, but he doesn’t deal at the high political levels, nor would he expect to. (Well, the X-Wing Series will challenge that a bit, but I can gloss it.)

I wonder if Zahn meant to channel a bit of post-Vietnam America, here? Or maybe even post-Gulf War I America, given the timing? The distinction between the political generals and admirals and the ordinary soldiers caught in the middle of political debates about the morality of war and the role of the military and all?

z: Maybe.  Or maybe not.  Because as per above, these are the things a better-than-me writer would be (should be) touching upon if their setting is a post-rebellion changes in government.  At least, if Zahn felt like using them, there would be enough Earth parallels.

will: Wedge decides that yeah, he’ll take the time away to figure out what he wants to do next, and maybe the Imperials will even try to attack–that’s an enemy he can fight.

Famous last words, Wedge. Famous last words.

z: …You take that back.  Now.

He didn’t mean last words, folks.

*does a credible imitation of Golde at the end of that scene when Tevye has finished reciting to her his “dream”*

will: Heh. “May it fall into the river, may it sink into the earth!” OK, OK. More like “be careful what you wish for.”

This is a little transition–Z commented that “there are footnotes longer than this chapter” when we were planning–but it’s significant, and hey, it has Wedge.

Z?

z: One thing I noticed, early on in the chapter before the cloaking shield test commences: Thrawn asks Pellaeon for the “word from Myrkr,” and Pellaeon says “the last regular report” came in two hours ago and was “still negative,” then they immediately move on to something else. That was foreshadowing, predicated on the single word “regular,” unlike everything else in this chapter.

And now, the Imperials are heading to Sluis Van.  Wedge, along with the rest of Rogue Squadron, is heading to Sluis Van.  I would connect the dots for you, but I think they just collided on the page themselves. But of course Zahn will let this cliffhanger hang from this cliff now, while he pulls up a previous one.

See you next week back on Myrkr, and until then, may the Force be with you.

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4 thoughts on “Heir to the Empire, Chapter 27

  1. I wish I could remember whether or not I invented my double-blind cloaking device before or after reading these books.

    (Although I do it mostly for physics reasons. Can’t go duplicating photons all over the place like that, no indeed.

    “What do we say to the god of thermodynamics?”)

    Liked by 1 person

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