: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 4 of Dark Force Rising. I’m sitting here at my favorite café in the Munich Airport, Terminal H. (Yes, I’ve done this enough times to have a favorite café here.) If you ever pass this way, I strongly recommend Pano. It’s under a skylight, and as long as you buy a reasonable amount of stuff—today, two croissants, an orange juice and a tea in my case—no one minds if you sit at a corner table for hours waiting for your connection, drawing a picture, reading, or to pick a random example, write a blog post draft reporting on reunions, planning sessions, and re-separations in Chapter 4.
: I’ve never been to Munich. Only spent a few days in Germany, years ago. Someday maybe I’ll go for longer. As to preferred airport cafes…remarkably (given how much I’ve flown in my life), I don’t have any. I like the Delta terminals at LaGuardia and JFK just fine, and anywhere in a Japanese airport (especially Narita), but the way I travel, I haven’t had a consistent transfer point like that. It’s either direct flights, or a sort of globe-trotting randomness. (Like the time I overnighted from Kansai Airport to San Francisco via Taipei.)
Oh, and in case the weird mentions of place and time confuse you, yes, we managed to advance some of the work this week. The writing on this chapter started before Chapter 3 was posted. (Not before it was written, of course.) As I write this, Z is still with her family, and indeed still at the seaside, but by the time this goes live on Friday, she’ll be back to more convenient Internet access. Till then, feel free to seethe.
: The chapter opens on Luke doing research. Having received a Force message from Joru(u)s C’baoth at Nkllon and heard rumors of the presence of a Jedi on Jomark, Luke is trying to make up his mind on what to do about it. A logical first step is to go to the Old Senate Archive and see what the records say about C’baoth.
Precious little, it turns out. After some initial internal snark about why every new regime feels it necessary to introduce a new dating system, hoping the New Republic wouldn’t do the same, all Luke finds would fill about one page of a mass-market paperback, and is all in all-caps sentence fragments.
: Of course, it wasn’t entirely clear yet what “Pre-Empire Date” meant, or what that translates as, and it ties into the reevaluation of the timeline of the Empire and the Clone Wars (I’ll poke this again when Leia learns of the Noghri’s time). For example, Outbound Flight is listed as having departed “4/1/64” Pre-Empire. That doesn’t really line up with later, since Anakin Skywalker was on the early phases of the mission (as we’ll see in the book Outbound Flight), and he wasn’t in his mid-80s when Luke and Leia were born (the Empire’s establishment having been at that same time). It’s also not clear how C’baoth could have been appointed an ambassador in 62 PE (which, like BCE, is a countdown) if he left in 64 PE, but I read that as a typo. Maybe it was meant to be 56 and 54 for Outbound Flight’s funding and launch. But I precede myself, or more accurately, my counterpart:
: A point that makes Luke twitch is that C’baoth apparently served as a Jedi advisor to Palpatine, but there are no records detailing this service. Then he was involved in suppressing a Dark Jedi revolt on Bpfassh, which incident, incidentally, is why the Bpfasshi still mislike Jedi. After that he moved about being a mediator/diplomat/general busybody, which seems to have been a common role for the Jedi of the Old Republic, advising in a succession dispute in Alderaan about 50/52 years before he and Leia were born. He then convinced the Senate to fund this “Outbound Flight Project,” got on board with five other Jedi masters 64 years “pre-Empire,” and was never heard from again. End of record highlights.
: One or two other notes: C’baoth assumed the title of Jedi Master, he wasn’t granted it. This isn’t quite consistent either, given the prequels, but does set Luke up to do the same (arguably too soon), and eventually we get the now-accepted definition that a Jedi Master is a Jedi who has trained an apprentice to Knighthood. Also, note that the computer sees to have some limited sentience, given how Luke snarks “do you mean unavailable, or classified?”
: Winter finds Luke considering what he learned: Leia wants to see him. They head to Leia’s office, coming out of the Archive area and ultimately passing through the Grand Corridor, lined with the greenish purple “ch’hala” trees. Luke touches them as they pass, talking; the bark changes color and the color change spreads in ripples before settling back in response to pressure. It’s pretty. (It also taught me a new word: “moirélike.”)
: It’s interesting that Luke’s POV is where we learn the word. Han wouldn’t know the name, but Luke… I bet he has a desertworlder’s fascination with growing things so he looked up the name. Or maybe the Force was telling him to keep an eye on them…
: When Luke mentions C’baoth’s name, Winter remembers reading about his mediation in the succession dispute, and recalls an image to mind, saying that he looked about forty back then. Which fits what the record says about him being born 112 years before the Empire.
: See above. Note also the way that Winter talks about the succession; it was a vote to decide which line of succession was proper for Viceroy-hood. And, of course, Winter’s perfect memory gets brought up again.
: Luke asks, and Winter doesn’t know, how long the humans from C’baoth’s home planet Bortras usually live, but who can tell with Jedi anyway?
…actually, now that I think about it, can anyone, later on in the EU? Will?
: Not that I know of, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a longer lifespan was somehow tied into Jedihood, except inasmuch for death by violence. There is a note about smaller species living longer than larger ones (apparently), but Luke still doesn’t know what species Yoda was anyway. (Interestingly, according to sources, “do not name Yoda’s species, homeworld, or history” was a Lucas fiat rule. Maybe even still is under the Mouse.)
: Winter does have an impression of C’baoth from what she read, though: “C’baoth struck me as the sort of person who loved being in the middle of things. The sort who, it be couldn’t lead, control, or help in a particular situation, would still be there just so he’d be visible.”
So if he liked the spotlight that much, why did he stay completely out of the entire civil war?
: This, I’d point out, was definitely made consistent in Outbound Flight. C’baoth’s pride is his weak point–and whether the clone C’baoth was twisted to be Dark or fell himself, or somehow a combination, his own pride was clearly involved.
There’s also a nice mention of the fact that C’baoth was in good shape and even a bit buff, which surprised Winter–for which she apologizes. This is an interesting note; it calls up comparisons to D&D-type wizards who are always shown running to obesity and laziness (if you can magically do things, why bother to stay in shape?). But Jedi are warrior monks, remember–and the sohei, the Japanese Buddhist warrior monks who played a major role in the sengoku-jidai, are the better comparison. Zahn sums it up with “the subtle ways in which control of the body was linked to control of the mind.” I imagine a lot of people who do complex mind-body things, like martial artists, fencers and other swordfighters, and dancers, are all nodding at this one.
: As one of the last (and, very partially, the last and the first together—I studied capoeira for a little), I did definitely nod.
: Luke thinks that C’baoth is no longer in control of his powers, maybe? But he doesn’t voice this; instead he asks Winter about the Outbound Flight Project. Supposed to search for life outside the Galaxy, wrapped in secrecy, she wasn’t even aware that it was actually launched. If C’baoth went with them that explains why he wasn’t around during the Rebellion on one side or the other, but then what happened to them and how and when did he got back? Well, says Luke, touching the last tree in the corridor before they turn into the office suites area, I guess I’ll have to go to Jomark and ask him.
: Thrawn sighs in relief, and Zahn quietly establishes one of the most important pieces of the edifice that will support the structure of the Star Wars EU for two decades…
: Threepio greets them, serving as the receptionist. Luke responds to his greeting gravely–“no matter how ridiculous Threepio might look in any given situation, there was always a certain inherent dignity about him, a dignity that Luke usually tried to respond to in kind.” Not a bad point of view.
: And in contrast to Han’s view that Threepio is just fussy. Luke is in many ways a throwback (the Standard Fantasy Farmboy Backstory factoring in here) when it comes to questions of sci-fi nobility.
: Yes. And this time through I’m really noticing the contrast.
Chewie is sitting near the door with his bowcaster on his lap. Back on the bodyguarding. Han is there also. They discuss Han’s revelation about a Grand Admiral to the Council the previous day, and how it wasn’t believed. Leia calls the disbelief wishful thinking; Luke calls it willful denial, and they’re both probably right except in Fey’lya’s case, for which I’m firmly in Luke’s camp.
: I’m not so sure. Well, maybe the legal term “willful blindness.” Refusing to investigate because “it can’t possibly be true,” so why investigate just to find out you’re wrong?
: That is a legal term? Huh… TIL.
Han is mistrustful of how Fey’lya has not rattled too many bars yet. In fact, maybe Fey’lya doesn’t want all stones to be looked under in the investigation into how all that money made it into Ackbar’s bank account just timed with the attack on Sluis Van? Because maybe his people, and not the Imperials, put it there? Uh, says Leia, so that presumes either that he’s a great opportunist, which, he is, or that he knew in advance about the attack, which. Erm. We can’t turn around and accuse Fey’lya of treason in response to his accusing Ackbar of the same.
: Leia and Han have had this conversation already, we also see. Han says “maybe Fey’lya knew,” Luke looks to Leia and sees how strained she is, and she emphasizes that with everything being held together with “hope and
duct crating tape,” playing politics isn’t a distraction, it’s necessary.
: Even I can see that’d be rotten tactics, but Han isn’t convinced and wants to go full steam ahead, and Leia opposes that, and then Luke we wins the “Most Amusing for Z” contest again: “Luke cleared his throat. ‘If I can say something?'”
Heh. I wonder if he also raised his hand. And Han responds in kind with “Sure, kid, what is it?”
Jedi Schmedi. Lando can use Luke’s name effectively as a shield halfway across the Galaxy, but at home with Han, some things never change.
: I read it as quite deliberately a tension breaker. Two parties are back and forth, but the third cuts in calm and collected, and the first two embarrassedly back off to pull themselves together.
It works here.
: Luke suggests trying to figure out exactly what Fey’lya is playing or what he is after by looking into the Bothan’s history and old business activities, which he may or may not have kept up after joining the Rebellion post-Yavin. Fine, but where to look? Han the chicanery master is on board with the plan and has an idea about that question. He asks Leia to look for places where the Bothans fought in the war, without being part of a multi-species force and without being ordered there by the Alliance brass.
(That’d be the word spelled with two esses, Google gesture typing, thank you kindly oh so very much.)
: Yes, the one-ess version would be a different style of Rebel support.
: I really have no one but myself to blame. Well, myself and Google Keyboard. But mostly myself.
: Though I’m almost surprised at Leia’s cluelessness at why. Han eventually explains, “what exactly would Fey’lya be protecting that he would have his force do something out of character–that is, engage without orders or backup?”
: Leia finds that in a battle near New Cov in the Churba sector, the Bothans fought off a Victory-class Star Destroyer. That system is not mentioned anywhere in Fey’lya’s already scarce business dealings information. So obviously that’s the place to start digging. Even if the timing of the money transfer was coincidental and doesn’t indicate a Bothan Imperial agent, they might be able to trace something there. “Quiet like.” (I really like that phrase.)
: It’s very Han, the Han of “why don’t you use your divine influence and get us out of here?”
Following up, as I said I’m disappointed that Luke and Leia didn’t get what Han was looking for, but I do understand Leia’s “we can’t take this to the Council” reaction, she’s used to thinking in those terms. Han just wants to snoop–investigate.
: And Han and Luke can head out right away since Leia has got the political end covered here… Right?
Luke senses Leia wincing, she notices and begs him mentally to keep quiet, but it’s moot anyway because Chewbacca, whom we now realize must have been boiling like a kettle all through this conversation, bursts out with all that “Leia promised one of her prospective kidnappers to meet him alone and maybe go to their planet” story.
: Which is nicely done: Zahn doesn’t need to say what Chewie said specifically, just that he “growled out” the story, and everybody can understand him well enough…
: Han’s reaction is entirely reasonable and expectable: “You promised what? [You had] no choice?… I’ll give you a choice–no, you’re not going.”
Luke pretty much teleports out of the room as soon as he hears that line, mumbling something about checking on his X-Wing because you know they are not in the middle of the central Alliance facilities or anything, and Chewbacca follows suit.
: Snerk. Epic snerk.
I sort of envision the two of them going to get drunk, actually. (Thinking of the scene all those years later in Star Wars: Union where Han orders hot chocolate for Luke and whiskey for himself, then revises: “Make it a double. Make both of them doubles and give my whiskey to him.”
Then, after Luke gets the news at issue, he turns to the server: “Keep ‘em coming.”)
: Left alone with Threepio, Leia tries to make Han understand–we can’t escape forever, even after the kids are born they’ll never have a normal life of the Noghri continue to come after them, and unless Leia can help them and thus break the hold the Empire has on them, they’ll never stop.
: There’s more. Han has told Lando “they’re after the twins” but hasn’t told Leia in so many words. So when he brings them up, and she answers “but what else can we do,” it confirms that she already knew.
There’s also a mention of “crazy Jedi things” about nobly running toward danger, which is rich coming from Han “Corellia’s Proudest Son” Solo, but not inaccurate…
: Han is mortally afraid—of course he is—and horribly helpless—of course he is. Leia is right and there’s no other solution with a hope of working at the moment. But beyond that:
…no matter how much he loved her—no matter how much he might give it himself to her—she could never be content with that alone. Her vision extended beyond him, just as it extended beyond herself, to ask the beings of the galaxy.
And to take that away from her, whether by force or even by persuasion, would be to diminish her soul. And to take away part of what he’d fallen in love with in the first place.
Gentlebeings, I wish each and every one of you a partner, a friend, a parent, someone who sees and loves you that way. Someone who will surrender to choking fear about you rather than do something that would make you smaller, make you less.
Han Solo, I salute you. Mr. Zahn, that salute is actually to your address.
: Also, the flashes of history that Han remembers as he takes this in, the “into the garbage chute, flyboy” moment, her voice helping him through hibernation sickness, and the reprised “I love you”/”I know” moment at the Endor bunker…
Ahem. Excuse me.
: It’s really dusty there on that page, isn’t it.
: Even on a Kindle. Han asks if he can come along, and Leia moves to hold him, “smiling her thanks,” and says no, she has to go alone.
: Han’s going to make sure that Leia is going to take the Falcon at least, since that’s a better ship to go into trouble with instead of Lando’s Lady Luck, which Han will take the opportunity to return to Sluis Van. Chewbacca has Opinions about Leia going alone, and won’t be gainsaid no matter what Leia promised Khabarakh. Well, Leia needs someone to pilot the Falcon to the rendezvous point, right? (Nope, but Khabarakh doesn’t know that.)
: They do work out a compromise (and I like the moment of Leia saying “listen, you have to–” ROAAAAAAAR! “OK, OK…”), but Leia does extract a promise, a Wookiee promise, to follow Leia’s lead once they make it to Endor.
Note also that this means my theory about drinks is off the table, because Chewie clearly exited the room, then waited and eavesdropped (I just imagine a glass held up against the door) to the whole conversation. In fact, the moment Han opens the office door to the reception area, he practically bounces off of Chewie like a brick wall.
: Threepio is also coming along, since Leia will probably need a translator.
: Threepio, who has been very quietly saying not a damned thing this whole time, which Han thinks of as a “marked improvement,” though I call it diplomacy…
: And scene, with a million things left unsaid on Han’s lips, because really, what is he going to say?
Time I hit the duty-free shop for gifts and meandered to my gate. I’m still tired too, frankly; didn’t sleep much across the Atlantic. Over to you, Will?
: Ahem. Sorry, I was rereading Han’s happy-painful memories again.
Damn, that’s glorious. Screw dusty, it’s tear-jerking, no euphemism needed.
Anyway. I guess this marks the end of the beginning for this book, since it’s the second Luke POV after Sluis Van, giving all of the characters their marching orders–even absent Lando, who you just know Han is going to connive to come with him to New Cov. (And with Luke off the hook for that, he’s clearly off to Jomark.) We already know what the other two sides of the triangle are up to, also, though some of that will come next chapter…
Another amusing note from Chewie’s reaction, how he “shows his teeth and growls his opinion,” but Han is very diplomatic: “He doesn’t like it.” Heh. Too bad Leia knows more Shyriiwook than she used to…
And that’s it. We’re reminded why Han and Leia are the epitome of love stories, we get some insights into the nature of the mind and the body, and the characters are off to do their things.
Though I note that this leaves absolutely no one (well, none of Our Heroes) on Coruscant. Then again, what more can they do there anyway?
That’s it for me. As I said, right now as I’m writing Z is still giving us seething fits, but she’ll be back in touch by the time this goes up, so by the next post, I won’t have to punish you all with horrible puns.
: <perk up>
: Instead I’ll just do it for fun.
: …perked up too soon.
: May the Force be with you all.