Dark Force Rising, Chapter 9

will: Welcome back, I’m Will, that’s Z, and you all know why we’re here. This week, Rendezvous at Endor, which quickly turns into Cluster-mess on Honoghr. Well, not Cluster-mess, but I’ll save the true word for later.

z: <looks up from the top of the book in her hand, waves>

will: Khabarakh’s ship is apparently impressively stealthy, or maybe the Falcon‘s sensors are borked again; by the time Chewie and Leia notice the little ship, it’s within a hundred kilometers of them. Leia arrives in the cockpit from wherever she was (common area, quarters, whatever) to hear Khabarakh’s voice. He again greets her as “Lady Vader,” and says he’s come alone.

Leia admits she hasn’t; Chewie is here, and she has a protocol droid too. She’ll bring the droid, but as agreed, Chewie will stay behind.

Chewie takes this opportunity to voice his previously-voiced objections, but Leia mutes the call and says “we made a deal.” Chewie’s unhappiness doesn’t abate, and Leia realizes something that “she hadn’t really thought about for years.” Chewie doesn’t follow Han’s lead because he has to, he just chooses to. And if he chooses not to, who can stop him?

So Leia changes tactics, trying to convince Chewie that this has to be the way. He’s not happy at all, but apparently he decides not to press, as Khabarakh agrees to the droid, and Leia tells him she’s planning to bring one bag and an environment tester. Khabarakh says things will be safe where they’re going (“safe” being a broad term), but Leia counters that she’s pregnant.

“Heirs of the Lord Vader?”

What a question. Zahn has Leia think, “well, genetically anyway,” and we’re not going to even mention the events of those parts of the SWEU we refuse to traffic in…

z: …nope.

will: Anyway, yeah, Khabarakh says bring what you need, any weapons? Just the lightsaber. Leia asks if there are dangerous animals: “not anymore.”

Finally Chewie’s barely-restrained anger reasserts and he starts growling, and Khabarakh hears it. He asks what’s wrong and Leia, remembering that she has to be honest, starts to explain, but stops when she has to try to explain a life debt.

Khabarakh, though, knows about it, and correctly guesses. Leia explains that the life debt was to Han, and was extended to Leia and Luke.

Which…Luke? I dunno. I feel like the real transference was when Han told Chewie that he had to look after Leia on Cloud City. Luke and Chewie don’t seem to have the same type of relationship–they’re extended family, after a fashion (brother-in-law’s sworn companion), and they get along fine, but I don’t see Chewie having anything like the protective instincts he has for Han or Leia. (Then again, having a protective instinct for a Jedi would not be a long-term plan.)

z: And to Leia’s children, apparently, although that makes much more sense than being to Luke:

will: At any rate, Khabarakh confirms that the life debt also extends to the unborn Solo duo, and after a few minutes of deliberation, Khabarakh says that the Wookiee code of honor is enough like Noghri’s conceptions of honor that he can come along.

Chewie’s surprise turns to suspicion. Now that’s paranoia…not unjustified, but still. Leia rightly points out the catch-22 and they prepare to transfer over to Khabarakh’s ship.

Which means they’ll be leaving the Millenium Falcon sitting in orbit, the functional equivalent of the keys in the ignition. Endor really is the middle of nowhere…

z: Yeah, well, who’d even bother lifting that heap of junk.

(…yes, yes, I know.)

will: This is probably the most extreme example, in Zahn’s work, of character actions that don’t quite work for the sake of setup. And it’s a bit surprising that there wasn’t really any Force pushing, as would normally be the case. But let’s move on.

Leia hopes to spend the four days in transit learning about the Noghri, but Khabarakh barely talks to her. Chewie explores the ship, and Leia tries to work with Threepio to gather information on the Noghri from the one piece of evidence–a word–they have. It gets them pretty much nowhere…

z: I like the description of Leia and Threepio’s explorations to try to find a derivation or root for the word Mal’ary’rush.  Threepio and his six million languages means that this is an “interesting but ultimately frustrating exercise in linguistics,” which tells me that he somehow lacks the programming to judge between possibilities.

And then they arrive, and learn that Honoghr is a dead world. No sign of plant life, just a uniformly brown color. Leia can’t believe it, and she wonders which side was “most responsible” for this… before admitting that in that thought, she was defensive. There were two sides in the war, and one of them was the Rebel Alliance, so they share the guilt.

They see a brief shot of green, a place where maybe there can still be growth, as it slips into the nightside of the planet, and then…

An Imperial Star Destroyer.

Leia is sure Khabarakh didn’t betray them. Chewie has been on edge for a week or more. Guess what happens next?

Yep–Chewie charges the cockpit and Khabarakh. He starts banging on the cockpit door, but Khabarakh opens it. Chewie charges him, but Khabarakh does something with his arm that sends Chewie sprawling, and then turns to Leia to say he didn’t call the Empire, didn’t betray his word. And please, keep Chewie quiet, Khabarakh needs to send a response code.

As Khabarakh urgently tries to get Leia to believe him, Chewie’s back on his feet and charges again. Khabarakh tries to hold Chewie off with pure hand-to-hand strength, but, well, Wookiee. Leia tries to get Chewie to back down, using logic again, but Chewie doesn’t listen.

So Khabarakh stuns him. The ship apparently has a stun weapon built in.

z: Huh, I read that as the Noghri having a stun weapon built in, which made no sense frankly.

will: Leia’s pretty pissed now, but unlike Chewie, logic wins: this was literally stun or be killed, and Khabarakh tried to talk first…she checks Chewie’s heartbeat, confirming that “the stun weapon hadn’t played any of its rare but potentially lethal tricks on the Wookiee’s nervous system,” which I guess is either a throwaway or some reference to WEG roleplaying material.

z: I’d guess throwaway.  Something along the lines of how you’re not supposed to use a defibrillator on someone with normal, regular heartbeat, for instance.

will: Yeah, makes sense. Khabarakh turns comms on and starts speaking in Noghri, as Leia wishes she’d had time to get Threepio, and finally Khabarakh switches off comms. He’d convinced them it was equipment failure, and they bought it. I guess “there was a Wookiee in the way” counts as a failure of equipment the way “able to be picked” counts as a mechanical defect of a lock?

z: I’m not going to argue with that.  You can even say completely honestly that you managed to pull the defect under control before it damaged the systems further.

will: At any rate, Khabarakh looks at Leia with pleading eyes, begging her to believe him, and Leia realizes that this just became an honor issue for him: he promised her safety, and then, boom, Star Destroyer.

z: So he’s put in the position to really seriously for true prove that he didn’t betray them.

will: Terminally, if necessary. She realizes that the Noghri and the Wookiees have a lot in common after all, tells him she believes him, and asks what the next step is.

He was going to go to the capital city, Nystao, and get her to his clan dynast (nice use of a semi-obscure word that people will still understand, don’t you think?) by nightfall, but that’s out of the question, the Imperial lord is there–Leia confirms it’s the Grand Admiral, and Khabarakh explains the story.

Vader had come one day to Honoghr and told them he couldn’t oversee them anymore, he was busy with fighting the Emperor’s enemies, and the Grand Admiral will be in charge from now on. (We’ll get more about why this happened, from the Imperial perspective, a long time from now, in one of the Tales collections.)

People were sad; seems only the Emperor and Vader had ever cared about the Noghri, and given them “hope and purpose.”

Leia, of course, can’t help but think “being death commandos is not what I’d call purpose, or hope,” but won’t say it.

z: This is, I think, also meant to get the reader thinking of how bad the Noghri’s lot must have been, that they took to this as hope and purpose.

will: Chewie starts to wake up, and Khabarakh explains he’s static-damped the ship (claiming it was part of the malfunction) but would rather not have to stun Chewie again, can Leia keep him under control? Now that the initial rage has passed, Leia thinks so. They’ll be heading to Khabarakh’s home village, a ways away from the capital, on the edge of the Clean Land.

Leia asks if he can trust the villagers to keep quiet–and Khabarakh says he’ll keep them safe. Which Leia notes, doesn’t answer the question.

In Nystao, sitting on the High Seat of the Common Room of Honoghr, Thrawn goes through the ritual motions of greeting all of the dynasts as Pellaeon keeps from yawning, wondering why Thrawn is doing all this.

z: To placate Lord Vader’s spirit.

Yeah yeah I know I kid.  But in a manner of speaking, exactly for that.  The Noghri honor Vader’s memory, and Thrawn has to be seen to honor Vader’s traditions with them, too, to keep Vader’s influence.

will: Behind Pellaeon, Lieutenant Tschel (the one who Pellaeon had castigated for yelling at the start of all this) moves up behind him to give a report of an anomaly: a commando ship almost didn’t respond in time–equipment failure, he said, which Pellaeon had expected, but the ship didn’t land at Nystao for repairs.

z: …and thus another dark horse was born.   At least for me.  I’ve always liked Tschel, although probably after a while just due to familiarity.

will: Given that he shows up ten years from now, I’m thinking it wasn’t just you. Pellaeon takes the report of the incident, wondering if he should bother to bring up something this minor to Thrawn. Thrawn had said to report everything, but…

Thrawn, ever observant, asks Pellaeon to report, and Pellaeon does so. Thrawn asks if Khabarakh’s ship was scanned, but there was the static-damping, which twigs Thrawn’s own paranoia, and he reads the report, especially the name. He asks where the ship is, and Tschel–who is definitely improving–has the answer.

z: Learns fast, that one.  But then, back at the Tractor Beam Incident we had speculated that those people serving on the bridge of the Chimaera  and who had cause to doubt if they could learn fast had better seek transfers fast, instead.

will: It’s also a proper illustration of the roles of Lieutenant (have the info, report as needed), second-in-command (get the reports and decide what needs escalation), and commander.

Thrawn decides they won’t stop Khabarakh’s ship now, but they’ll go say hello and welcome him home, with a tech team. He has the clan dynast come along, and explains to Pellaeon that he recognized the name: the only survivor of the Kashyyyk attack team. So, Thrawn asks, where’s he been and why did he take this long to report in?

z: That was a surprise for me when I first read it.  I had always assumed that Khabarakh had made it back to Honoghr, even if he hadn’t discussed the Mal’ary’ush incident with anyone, and then headed back out to Endor.  Though it makes sense that once he reported in, he wouldn’t be able to just go anywhere anywhen he wanted without explaining where first in great detail to someone.

And scene.

This is a transitional chapter, both in terms of what happens–they’re in transit–and its place in the story, shifting Leia and Chewie to their central plot. Luke and Han and Lando got their two chapters of transition last time, after all.

This is one of the few places where I feel the heavy hand of the author in the way, with Leia leaving the Falcon orbiting Endor, Thrawn deciding to say hello to Khabarakh, and the timing of Thrawn being at Honoghr at all, but I’m willing to forgive a little bit of that, sometimes you do need to make sure the pieces all line up.

z: I honestly didn’t feel that much about the former two.  I think Leia’s idea was that Chewie would stay on the Falcon and wait for her back (right) or even take the Falcon away and later come back to pick her up again (riiiiight).  When Chewie, um, objected, there wasn’t anything else they could do with the Falcon.  Land it and hide it under a camo-net?  But those Ewoks get in everywhere

As for Thrawn deciding to say hello to Khabarakh, honestly, once I recognized the name I’d want to do the same in his place too, and this wasn’t even among the more interesting of the leaps of intuition Thrawn has taken, in my opinion.

{duck, run}

His visit’s timing, I give you.  I was fully expecting him to show up after Leia had been among the Noghri, but of course this way it raises the dramatic tension and creates the opportunity to make it a matter of deep honor for Khabarakh.

will: The Chewie-Khabarakh fight (if that’s the word) is interesting because of how it emphasizes each side’s advantages; Chewie is big and strong, but not subtle, while Khabarakh runs to wiry and muscular but is very much about using skill and tricks, as would be appropriate. A running theme for Chewie–some time from now we’ll see a discussion of how Wookiees are almost unbeatable hand-to-hand, but if you can neutralize their advantages, they aren’t invulnerable, and their sheer strength means they might be more susceptible to things they didn’t ever have to learn to be ready for.

That’s about all from me. Z?

z: One interesting thing with the Thrawn scene is that he doesn’t quite treat the Noghri as objects that openly when among them, but you can still get the sense that he is dismissive of them.  I honestly hadn’t realized how much foreshadowing there was all throughout the trilogy about… um, stuff.  And things.

The description of Honoghr, its life-bearing ability completely destroyed other than the little strip of the Clean Land, is devastating, scary, and must have been poignant in a different way for Leia because… well, remember what she witnessed once.

We’re not going to leave this thread hanging for longer than one week; next week we pick up with Khabarakh and Leia again.  Until then, may the Force be with you.

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3 thoughts on “Dark Force Rising, Chapter 9

  1. “Heirs of the Lord Vader?”

    What a question. Zahn has Leia think, “well, genetically anyway,” and we’re not going to even mention the events of those parts of the SWEU we refuse to traffic in…

    So, first I thought midichlorians, but that is technically not EU, so I’m assuming it’s something else, and I’m not sure what. Explain?

    Like

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