: And we’re back with the second half of Chapter 14 of Dark Force Rising, wherein the slow-motion speeder wreck that is Joruus C’baoth continues to unfold as we watch.
I hope all of you are well as we barrel into full-on December holidays. It’s the middle of Hanukkah right now, so Chag Sameach to all, and may everybody survive family and the end of the year with minimal disaster and minimal politics at the dinner table.
: I’ll add my voice to that wish indeed.
Unfortunately, “minimal disaster” doesn’t quite describe Luke’s current fortunes… though it’s not yet maximal, either.
: Don’t forget, if you’re seeing this as it goes live on Friday, you still have a chance to see the Washington Metro Gamer Symphony Orchestra tomorrow or next Saturday!
Thus endeth the plug.
: Thus do I appreciate the plug very, very much.
: Oh, two more things. First, if you haven’t read “Iphigenia at Honoghr” by John W. Campbell Award nominee Max Gladstone, read it now. It may be the best discussion of the whole “Legends” de-/re-canonization process I’ve seen.
Second, I may be the last person in the galaxy to get this far, but after a substantial delay, I’ve finally seen the Phineas and Ferb Star Wars episode.
If it turns out I’m not and you haven’t either, see it. Even if you haven’t watched Phineas and Ferb–though it helps if you have–it’s a lot of fun. And it’s now streaming on Netflix, so go watch.
: Luke and C’baoth walk to where there’s a cart waiting for them, your universal standard wooden wheeled cart pulled by a
horse SoroSuub speeder bike. (Technological mismatch, ho!)
: SoroSuub recreational bike, excuse me. So the mental picture is… have you ever seen one of those oversized old Harley-Davidson motorcycles which are almost as large as a car, but without the chassis, with an extremely comfortable seat, and sometimes even with two wheels instead of one at the rear?
That. With no wheels.
: C’baoth explains that the people of Chynoo (sounds like a Tuckerization again, perhaps?) “built it for me when I first came to them.” Luke tries to sounds out C’baoth on where he was before then, trying to get some sense of the timeline from “launched with Outbound Flight” to “Jomark,” but C’baoth can’t help him; “I lived, I thought, I meditated. That was all.” Luke presses, and C’baoth accuses Luke of suspicion.
: Perish the thought.
(By the way, I think it’s a Tuckerization too, but it’s a fun word to say. Chynoo Chynoo Chynoo. …I might be easily amused right now.)
: Which, given that C’baoth is lying through his teeth, is a good instinct.
Luke points out that he had been told he was the last of the Jedi, but that when his master said “the Jedi” he hadn’t been including Dark Jedi.
C’baoth pulls what even I have to admit is a good move, and makes a joke out of it, asking whether Luke can believe that Joruus C’baoth could ever possibly turn to the dark side?
How very C’baoth, even given this isn’t the original (more on that in a second): it plays up the vanity that C’baoth always had, the idea that he’s too awesome to fall, and one imagines that Luke is going to be all too willing to believe that there’s such as thing as incorruptible…
: Also, it’s a good defensive move too, because “Hi, I just met you, but I’m willing to believe you’re evil even after you’ve told me not” is not quite within the capabilities of a well-socialized well-brought up young man such as Luke.
: What’s also interesting is that C’baoth apparently knows his name is the double-u version, “Joruus,” and yet he thinks he’s “the real one.” I attribute this to his cloning madness, to say the least. It’s an interesting thing. He doesn’t think he’s “Jorus,” he thinks the Jedi of legend was “Joruus.” How egotistical.
: That has always confused me a little. But I’ll go with that.
: Anyway. C’baoth’s laughter dies as he goes “haunted-past,” explaining he was out of the Empire’s reach, and after he returned…
(Luke, really, I have to assume you’ve been addled and distracted, because C’baoth isn’t even subtle here. He might as well have said, “Look, a horse in a bookcase!”)
(Look, I’m tired.)
: Anyway, C’baoth’s shift is that “there is another,” not Leia, out there. Luke nods and explains he’s met her; C’baoth locks onto that. Luke explains that (assuming he’s right, it’s a big galaxy and all) she’s Mara Jade. C’baoth rolls that around his brain (what’s left of it), and Luke tries to get back to Outbound Flight, “determined not to get dragged off the topic.” (Way, way too late, farmboy.)
: Also worthy of note is that Luke is actually reluctant to give him her name, and even seems to feel uneasy at the thought of C’baoth knowing about her. If it’s his protective instincts surfacing, that makes sense: C’baoth already knows about Leia, but maybe Luke is not all that eager to tell him about Mara Jade, and even may regret the admission that he “has met her” later.
: C’baoth simply explains that the other Outbound Flight Jedi died, “and I alone survived to return…it changed me, you know.”
Luke says he understands, but asks for more. Too bad they arrive in the village and C’baoth can simply dodge, saying “not now.” Luke looks out to see small cottages “that seem to combine natural building elements with selected bits of more modern technology,” and at the center, a pavilion featuring a throne. C’baoth explains that he “had it brought down from the High Castle” (suddenly I’m drawing Philip K. Dick comparisons; I suspect it’s just coincidence), it used to be a throne, now it’s where “I usually give my justice to the people.”
: I’m not sure if it’s just a coincidence; it might very well be referential. It’d be up Zahn’s alley.
: Seriously, Luke, you better be already influenced by C’baoth’s madness. Though he does try to read the crowd–he gets no love, but no fear either, mostly awe.
Anyway, C’baoth explains that he’s been coming here less than a year, and he “persuaded [the people]” to accept his wisdom. “I showed them that it was in their best interests to listen to me.”
: C’baoth tells Luke to reach with his senses into a nearby house and he can tell there’s a fight brewing. They go in and see two men clearly about to mix it up. One has a knife. C’baoth gets them both to disarm (the knifeman drops it, and the other drops the slugthrower from his pocket) and listens to them, then renders a harsh and immediate judgment; the gunman is to pay the knifeman. Luke, on the other hand, thinks that the situation was more nuanced, and is surprised at C’baoth’s judgment. He figured there would be a compromise–
Nope, C’baoth won’t have it.
And then the gunman jumps for his gun. Luke brings up his lightsaber.
C’baoth blasts the gunman with Force lightning.
Luke, seriously, what more evidence did you need? Again, I say, I hope you were already being affected.
: This is one of those scenes where I wish we could simply quote a full page, by the way, because the pacing and rhythm of words and motions are exquisite. If you don’t get a full flash-back to the relevant scenes in Return of the Jedi, you haven’t seen Return of the Jedi, in which case what are you doing reading this?
: Luke, horrified, confronts C’baoth…
“You will address me as Master,” C’baoth responds.
: What was that about skin crawling?
: Luke ignores him, forces himself to be calm, and moves to heal the gunman.
C’baoth says no. Luke says the man’s in pain, but C’baoth gives some sort of “the burned hand teaches best” line, and points out that the gunman had been going for his gun. C’baoth explains that this lesson will stick, and if you don’t make your justice stick you will just repeat it. Come on, time to go.
That night, Luke gets to the High Castle courtyard, where Artoo and the X-wing are waiting, and says hi, is everything OK? And how’s that search for distorted vegetation that might signal a source of the Dark Side?
Artoo gives a negative on that one, sensors are crap over here in the mountains. He then asks how long they’ll be staying, and Luke sighs. He doesn’t know. And gives the probable reason why he’s not assuming the worst about C’baoth:
“I went to Dagobah expecting to find a great warrior, and I found Master Yoda. I came here expecting to find someone like Master Yoda…and instead I got Master C’baoth.”
: …yeah but you see— OK, I’ll wait.
: OK, yeah, I might understand why Luke would be slow to judge, as Luke recalls Yoda’s Greek-style patience-and-kindness-to-strangers hospitality test.
I rewatched The Empire Strikes Back the other day, and I’m not sure I would have reacted any differently. Yes, Luke was on edge and got fed up quickly, but Yoda snuck up on him when he was in unfamiliar territory, unannounced, and then started rooting through his camp supplies without so much as a how-do-you-do. That might put me off hospitality too.
: Right. But Yoda hit Artoo with a stick to make him let go of that flashlight or whatever it was that he pretended to want; Force lightning wasn’t in evidence.
: Oh, yeah. I’m more objecting to Yoda’s lesson, not supporting the C’baoth perspective. And I suppose the second part of the test, where Yoda gives Luke food and Luke is stuck on “where’s Yoda, you’re wasting my time,” that might be more of a problem. Still, I feel like Yoda stacked the deck.
Anyway. Artoo points out that C’baoth and Yoda are not what you’d call similar, at all, which Luke agrees with.
And, in classic boy-and-his-droid fashion, Luke talks to Artoo in a way he can’t talk to anyone else: “He hurt someone today. Hurt him a lot.”
: I’ll pause the recap here and remark that the entire dialogue, for technically being a monologue (Zahn doesn’t quote any of the translations of Artoo’s remarks that come up on the X-Wing’s monitor, which Luke is reading from), is still a great dialogue. It struck me reading through that one might have expected handling all Luke’s inner thoughts through an inner monologue during the time he’s away from the other Our-Heroes, but no, he’s got someone to talk to normally.
: Artoo (presumably–as Z said, we don’t actually get the translations) asks the big question: “could he be a Dark Jedi?”
(Note: Artoo’s knowledge of Jedi and the Force are a topic for a few paragraph down.)
Luke shrugs. “Why wouldn’t he just kill me, if he were?” But Artoo has a lot of answers for him there. Seems that’s what Artoo’s been doing all day.
: Thinking about it, yes. Which I have to say is exactly what I would have done in his place.
: I wonder if “he wants to corrupt you” made the list? I wonder why Luke didn’t think of it, after the Emperor did just that? (But then, this Luke isn’t as versed in understanding what the Dark Side really is, and what the Empire really was, yet. Allston will come up with that, a long time from now.)
: Actually, I don’t know if that would have occurred to Artoo… he was in the vicinity of some memorable corruptions/attempts, but as far as I can recall never actually witnessed one.
Though he would know that turning is possible.
: At any rate, Luke says he can’t sense evil off of C’baoth, which I can only chalk up to the ongoing corruption and the way that C’baoth’s evil differs from the Emperor and Vader’s, but Luke has a different explanation.
“I think it’s more likely that Master C’baoth is insane.’
: …which makes the difference between the Emperor’s evil and C’baoth’s evil a matter of intent—the Emperor knew he was hurting people, and in fact probably liked it; he knew he was getting his power from anger and fear, and probably liked that too, believing those to be the stronger sources anyway. Whereas C’baoth is seriously miscalibrated and discombobulated and has no stable references left.
But this is coming way too close to the kind of philosophical discussion on the nature of evil that we probably don’t have time for. Oh well.
: We could make the time, we’d just need the booze.
Anyway, Artoo is shocked speechless, which happens to Artoo about as often as it happens to me.
: [can’t stop laughing]
: Finally Artoo responds, and asks, how?
Luke has a theory, and as he feels the fatigue in his mind and his muscles–
There it is! Some of it could be atmosphere, but I’m calling it: mental manipulation.
: I hadn’t noticed it as a first-time reader, but this time I’m with you. Even if Luke’s hesitation to call a Dark Jedi a Dark Jedi can be attributed completely to his decency, and that’s a big “if,” that fatigue is C’baoth messing with him.
: –Luke explains that he was able to see Ben Kenobi for a while, and after Endor, Yoda and Anakin too. And yeah, Ben was who he talked to on Dagobah.
OK, back to Artoo and the Force. Because I can only imagine what Force training looked like to Artoo. Luke’s running around with Yoda on his back! Luke’s going into a cave! Luke’s raising Artoo off the ground with no detectable magnetism or gravity change! Luke is having one-sided conversations! I’m amazed Artoo didn’t just throw up his metaphorical hands and say “the kid’s lost it.”
: [had never thought about it] [can’t stop laughing] [wants that fanfiction now]
: I mean, even if you accept the prequels and that Artoo knows all about Ben and Anakin and Luke and Leia, since he didn’t get memory-wiped–
–by the way, it is an article of my assumptions about the universe, “my headcanon” as the kids say, that Artoo kept a copy of Threepio’s memory pre-wipe and eventually gave it back to him. (I know the Dark Nest Trilogy suggests there’s more going on, but that’s safely beyond the realms of anything I have to care about)–
: Interesting theory/concept; I like it. Initiate Headcanon Adoption Procedure… Headcanon Adoption Procedure Completed.
: –anyway, even if you accept that Artoo’s used to most Force stuff, Force ghosts are new! So here’s Luke, on Dagobah after Yoda’s death, having a conversation with what Artoo can only see as thin air, and going from “Yoda said there is another” to “but I have no sister” to “Leia’s my sister!”
: …which Artoo also knew, by the way.
: Right, but it’s the only hearing Luke’s half of the conversation, like he’s on the phone but without the phone part.
: And now I want the fanfiction where Artoo spent a lot of time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back being underfoot, arranging inconveniences, and in general doing whatever he could to ensure Luke and Leia never had A Moment, or even the potential for one. He couldn’t very well jump forward and body-check Leia in the infirmary on Hoth, but still…
: At this point, I want a scene where a grizzled Artoo is the one going “it’s all true, the Dark Side, Jedi, all of it.”
Anyway, back on topic.
: Awwww, do we have to?
: We’ll never get through the chapter otherwise. Luke says there’s apparently a way for a dead Jedi to anchor itself on to another Jedi. Artoo “points out a possible flaw,” could be one of a number of possibilities, but Luke (annoyed) says he knows there are issues, but maybe this is what happened, and C’baoth is, or was, dragging around five other Jedi?
: To wit, the others who went on Outbound Project with him, among whom he’s the only survivor.
: A nice counter to “I am not a committee.” That would drive anybody bonkers.
: Luke’s theorizing well, here. Unlike Thrawn, however, he’s aware that he’s starting from incomplete information and isn’t overconfident.
: At any rate. Artoo asks, can’t we just get out of here? And Luke–perhaps influenced by C’baoth still, I dunno–says no, but isn’t saying he needs to learn from C’baoth anymore. Now, he needs to help C’baoth.
Which is at least a bit more respectable, I suppose. But clearly, Luke has decided that this is not who he wants to use as an example for his Jedi training…
: Which is a relief. Two reliefs. Two large and two tiny reliefs.
: Luke worries here; he isn’t a healer, trying to save Vader almost killed him, and that was with the whole Skywalker family thing, is Luke out of his mind and/or depth?
C’baoth calls Luke through the Force, and Artoo worries, but Luke reassures him: I’m a Jedi, remember?
: Insert the Artoo-equivalent of an incredulous stare here.
: And an eyeroll.
Still, Luke admits that Artoo has a good point. There’s a lot going on, and he’s needed elsewhere. Should he really be here, helping C’baoth, instead of dealing with the Empire and the politics in the New Republic?
Sealing the deal, though, Luke is reminded of the speech he gave Threepio about not letting himself get so caught up in the big picture that he forgets about individual people, and how it’s time to put up or shut up.
Which, I might remind the Honorable Jedi Delegate from See-the-Best-in-Peoplonia that the context here was a Jedi being unfailingly polite even to a stuffy droid–
: Heh, I like that origin designation for Luke. Also, not only was he being polite to Threepio, but taking Threepio’s personality and feelings seriously.
: And he was thinking about the way Ben Kenobi did the same. But anyway, Exhibit B, Ben, polite even to droids; exhibit C, C’baoth called Artoo a twisted mockery of life. But hey, I can’t fault the Jedi for Jedding.
: But for that one, I may never be able to forgive you.
: Still, given that we (unlike Luke) already know that C’baoth is working with the Empire, the tension is kept high, and you can almost see the validity of Luke’s high-minded idealism. (The rest is the Dark Side influence.)
So, two weeks later, and we’re done with Chapter 14, and it’s time to move on. Next week, it’s a good old-fashioned Corellian standoff, with Bel Iblis, Han, and Lando all figuring out who wants what from whom and why, and where did these Dreadnaughts come from, anyway?
: Seriously, “Jedding!?”
: Five thousand Republic credits at an awful exchange rate to the first person who can guess what song I’m inevitably pre-filking in my head right now.
: Ahem. Anyway.
I’ve been very chatty inline here, so not much else to say for the overall. The one thing I want to point out is that plot-structure wise, we’re undeniably left at a cliffhanger, but an unusual one: There’s no frantic action going on. Instead almost none of the tension is resolved, but made even clearer and starker by the Luke-Artoo dialogue at the end which sets out all the questions Luke’s beginning to harbor.
But this one won’t be one of those cliffhangers we immediately pick back up, since it’s also one that demands in-story time to pass. So as Will said, we’ll next be checking in with the ones in the friend… enemy… enemy of my enemy… who knows exactly what camp. Until then, may the Force be with you.