Dark Force Rising, Chapter 14, Part 1

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 14 of Dark Force Rising, which, I don’t mind telling you, is one monster of a chapter, both length- and coverage-wise.

will: As a result, for the first time and probably not the last on this blog, we’re splitting the chapter into multiple posts. Besides, we can tell when a post is running long, and this one…yeah.

z: I am taking the lead once again this week in order to be swapping next week’s lead ahead of time: Between now and the 12th, Saturday, my evening and weekend program runs approximately as “optional choir practice – choir practice – soprano/alto joint sectional – piano practice –  church performance – regular rehearsal – small ensemble rehearsal – dress rehearsal – concert,” with some potential “one-to-one extra practice with folks who can’t attend ensemble rehearsals” and “work on arrangement(s) due the 20th” mixed in, and my work-daytime program roughly runs as “proposal deadline draft deadline proposal deadline project deadline,” so… yeah.

(But if you’re local, or anywhere near local, or potentially local, or conceivably temporarily local, looky here.)

will: Once again, I might (might) be coming down to one of those concerts (the second one, on the 19th), so if you will as well, hey, let us know!

z:  yay

Ahem. Anyway.

z: Luke Skywalker is approaching the planet Jomark, and is taken aback by the fact that for once, the planet as it looks from space seems to reflect charts he’s seen exactly.  That’s probably because most of Jomark’s landmass is one barely-continent, more-like-large-island.  Approaching the continent, Luke tries to contact C’baoth through the Force, but gets no response.  He thinks that this may be a test of sorts.

We’ll notice a pattern.

But before we go any further, I will also point out that from moment zero, Luke’s coming in having already fully cast himself in his mind in the role of a student, with all the attendant humility and willingness to, for instance, submit to real or imagined tests.  Which is an interesting bit of characterization, and ultimately may hold some hints to some of the more fundamental reasons why Luke may have resisted the Dark Side: He does not have the necessary arrogance.

will: Yet. But you’re right, Luke is coming into this with an open mind of understanding. He doesn’t want to learn power for the sake of wielding it, to strike down his enemies and the like. He wants to learn how to use the power he has responsibly, and how to teach others to do the same. This is something we’ll discuss (much) later, when Zahn has to deal with what all sorts of other people did to Luke in this regard.

z: Asking Artoo to scan the main continent for signs of technology, Luke notices that most of the population centers are near the coast, but there seems to be a cluster near a high volcanic lake inland.  That is the area he chooses to focus on.  Approaching closer, he finds out that there is a mansion perched on the rim of the crater lake, with some villages nearby, but no other settlement immediately adjacent.  Luke thinks that this could be a good place for a Jedi Master to have lived in seclusion for a long time, with easy access to the villages for contact with the outside Galaxy when he chose to emerge again.  So they go and land next to the mansion, and sure enough, there’s this elderly man waiting right there.  Luke can’t suppress a reaction of excitement upon seeing him.

will: One does wonder if the Force led Luke to find the right place so quickly, or C’baoth, or both. Given everything, I actually lean on the C’baoth option.

z: (I don’t care if this is an expectation spoiler, but I won’t be calling C’baoth a “gentleman.”  Also, yes, it is C’baoth, sorry for spoiling that if it needed spoiling.  And with hindsight, I wonder how much of the tremor in Luke’s voice as he gives final instructions to Artoo and his heartbeat picking up are due to plain excitement at meeting another Jedi when he had been told there were none left, and how much due to other kinds of nudging by the Force that he did not recognize at the time.)

will: I do wonder how this would have played out if C’baoth had been, as originally planned (and scrapped for good and valid reasons), a clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi. On the one hand the initial moment might have been a shocker, but I feel–I’d like to think–that Luke would have gotten more uneasy even faster. Which is saying something.

z: The immediate first interaction between Luke and C’baoth, in bits and pieces, builds up to something that is skin-crawlingly unsettling. Luke introduces himself; C’baoth responds that he knows who Luke is.  Luke thinks to himself that there has been unplanned detours but at least he did finally make it here; C’baoth literally says “I expected you before this,” with “what kept you?” strongly implied.  Luke apologizes that circumstances has been somewhat out of his control recently, what with being stranded in the middle of nowhere by the Imperials damaging his ship, being imprisoned on a planet where he couldn’t access the Force, and then finding himself in the middle of a battle at a spaceyard where he’d gone for repairs.

C’baoth’s reaction, however, is to ask “what do you mean, out of your control, are you or are you not a Jedi?” with that last phrase being a direct quotation.

In a way, my reactions to this meeting are going to reflect my reactions on the first Luke-Mara interaction, it seems: Hoo boy.

Luke just stammers “well, yes—” and C’baoth pounces to tell him that then he should be in control, always, in control of both himself, and of the people around him (hoo boy) and of events.  Luke, confused, thinks that the only other Jedi Master he’d known for any length of time was Yoda, and Yoda had never said anything like this.

Good point, Luke.  What did Yoda say?  I seem to recall vaguely, something like—

Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

So he should be passively always in control, I guess?  Something isn’t right here.

will: Control is fundamental to being a Jedi. At various points some of the attempts to quantify Force abilities and powers, such as RPG supplements or card games, divided Force powers into Alter, Sense, and Control (as in, external effects ranging from telekinesis to “move along,” enhanced senses as well as “a great disturbance,” and then, well, self-control, meditation, healing). The key here is that there is self-control, that is, mastery of your own body and mind and ability to accept and react to what comes, and then there is control of others and the situation, and which one do you suppose maps better onto the Dark Side?

Again, I think of Japanese samurai and monk imagery, the warrior standing perfectly still, waiting for the right moment. Self-control to wait, to master the stroke, but not forcing the moment to come before it does.

Come to think of it, the nature of control is a major theme in this book, from C’baoth and his direct domination, to Thrawn and his boxing-in of enemies and the manipulation of the Noghri, Karrde and his information habits and feudal loyalty…the list goes on.

z: We’re standing in the middle of a big heaping of awkward, but C’baoth suddenly smiles and says that the important thing is that Luke is finally here, “[they] couldn’t stop [him].”  Relieved, Luke responds that they tried, though, which makes C’baoth suddenly alert.  He asks if any of the attacks Luke’s been through recently had been directed specifically to him.  Luke replies that at least one was, although for the others he was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time, or at the right place at the wrong time, or at the wrong place at the right time, or something, this whole Force-guiding-your-actions thing is so confusing.  C’baoth ignores that bit of philosophical questioning to state that “the wrong place at the wrong time” was the epitaph of so many Jedi.

Hoo boy.

C’baoth reminds Luke that the Empire destroyed the Jedi.  Before the conversation progresses any further, to save the shredded remnants of my sanity and composure,  I will declare that I am going to be clinging to the canon as it was before the Dark Times, before the Phantom Menace, so mote it be, amen.  Luke says he knows, yes, the Emperor and Vader did.  The Emperor, Vader, and a couple more Dark Jedi, C’baoth corrects—

—hang on a second, I have to go turn off my metaphorical smoke alarm here—

—and, oh, it was so long ago.

will: I wonder whether Zahn was still trying to argue that C’baoth was the twisted clone who killed the original Dark Jedi Guardian he said back in Heir. I mean, really.

z: Luke is completely discombobulated now, what with all the topic shifts and the mood shifts and the general shiftiness going on, but wonders if this all is another test.  He’s still clinging to his humility.

C’baoth brings up Leia and the unborn twins, surprising Luke a little bit.  Apparently the New Republic PR machine has been trumpeting Leia’s pregnancy, which neatly answers the “who knows how much where” questions as pertains to that issue, but Luke would have thought that a true flyspeck like Jomark would not have heard.  Hey, Luke?  That was what we call another “hint” in the trade.

Anyway, Luke says that the twins are the reason he went there, referring to all his previous self-doubts and concerns about teaching them without losing them to the Dark Side.  But C’baoth disagrees, saying that to be a Jedi is to be a servant of the Force (?!?) and when the Force calls, a Jedi must obey (o….kay), then saying that Luke actually went there because he, C’baoth, called him there through the Force.

will: And again, we see the distinctions, between “servant of the Force,” self-control and preparedness, and “you serve the Force, I called you through the Force…” with its inherent logical result…

z: Not “called out to him.”  “Called him.”  Literally, one sentence before he says “when the Force calls, you must obey,” and the next sentence he starts with “When I  called you—” (emphasis mine)…

Hoo boy.

will: Yup.

z: So C’baoth “called” Luke for two reasons: One, to complete his training, and two, to help C’baoth by carrying on his work (which isn’t defined) and legacy (which isn’t explained either). After all, one day C’baoth is going to die.  Luke, saddened, asks how he can help, and the answer is quite unsubtle for the reader who witnessed C’baoth’s point of view before: “Open yourself to me, absorb from me my wisdom and experience and power… carry on my life and work.”

will: Note also that C’baoth does not actually seem saddened by the notion of his death, because “it’s the way of all life, for Jedi as well as for lesser beings.”

There’s what would have set off a thousand warning alarms for me, at least, if I wasn’t already hearing them. Who talks about “greater” and “lesser” beings, here?

z: Luke, instead for making tracks away from there at such a statement as carrying on someone’s life, tries to say that he’s got work of his own to do too, but before he can explain further, C’baoth asks if he’s fully prepared, or did he come to Jomark with nothing to ask of C’baoth?  Luke admits that they, meaning the New Republic, could use help against the Empire.

C’baoth asks “To what end?”

Erm.

Nonplussed, Luke starts talking about opposing tyranny and setting up freedom and justice –there’s an obvious derail here that I’ll skip for the time being–and once again is rebuffed.  The Jedi, C’baoth says, are the true justice; you and I will forge a legacy of new Jedi to follow us, you get ready for that and forget about all those petty battles.

will: And again with the lesser beings, too. Don’t look to “lesser beings” for justice, C’baoth says.

z: Luke is struck speechless, which, yeah.

C’baoth jumps tracks to ask what Leia’s children need.  Luke says that they will some day need a teacher, but finally, he’s beginning to feel reluctant to carry on the conversation.  Yay.  Join the club.  But he carries on to reveal some of his worries about being an inadequate teacher, so if C’baoth could give him some pointers —C’baoth won’t, but tells Luke to bring the kids to him for himself to teach.  Luke can’t even get two lines of a polite refusal out before C’baoth asks what Luke still needs training in, in matters of judgment, perhaps?  Luke admits that this may be the case.  OK, C’baoth says, let’s go to the village and I’ll show you.

will: Luke is feeling pretty transparent, he thinks, given his experiences (and lack of experience) as an arbiter of judgment–such as from the tap-cafe. I wonder if C’baoth pulled that from Luke’s mind? But it’s definitely a place where Yoda, who had to work on Luke as a warrior Jedi first, fell down on the job.

z: Then C’baoth objects to Artoo coming along, because “Droids are an abomination,” since they have reason but are not part of the Force.

will: Organic chauvinism, nice…just what’s needed.

z: Luke isn’t exactly on board with that idea, but for now doesn’t argue, instead quietly asks Artoo to run another sensor scan to see if there’s anything like the cave on Dagobah nearby.  Because if there is, maybe that’s how C’baoth had remained unnoticed through all those years of rebellion.

will: Or perhaps it twisted him some; we know that places steeped in the Dark Side can have effects on people too.

Cough. Ahem. Cough.

z: Or maybe the Emperor has known about C’baoth but left him alone, Luke also thinks.  So what does that mean? Luke doesn’t know, but means to find out.

This point reads a lot like a chapter break to me.  It’s definitely a tense point, but then the tension is so high all along that it’s kind of hard to tell.  C’baoth keeps jumping from place to place and making grandiose pronouncements that reveal quite a bit about his philosophies of power and of the Force, and Luke, still believing that he’s in the presence of a genuine Old Jedi Master, tries gamely to follow along.  Success: Mixed.

Will?

will: It certainly works as a half-chapter break for us. I think Zahn felt it was a bit too short, in terms of events (it’s basically one conversation), to qualify on its own, so he combined it with the next part into one longer chapter about Luke. Also, I think he had to juggle a lot of stories by this point, seeing as the next chapter is back to Han and Lando. So yeah, this is one of those things where if you wanted to be charitable to C’baoth, as Luke does, everything can be explained, but if you are suspicious, it’s a giant screeching alarm klaxon. This will continue in part 2.

But until next week, when we resume watching the slow-motion horrible disaster that is Luke not realizing just how gone C’baoth is, may the Force be with you.

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