Dark Force Rising, Chapter 20

z: Good day, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 20 of Dark Force Rising, in which we get so tired of metaphorically screaming “Look out, behind you!” at Luke that it’s a relief when someone else comes to take over the screaming.

In a bit of personal news, I’m typing this sitting on the ground of a furniture-less room of a furniture-less house which nonetheless is mine.  Hopefully, within ten days there will be furniture too, if we can manage to dig out of what seems to be coming our way this weekend.

will: On my side, Arisia went very well indeed. Lots of fun and the Star Wars panel was packed. Now, I get the joy of not traveling for a full month (well, almost)!

One more thing before we dive in: I want to address the comment from Chris Hammock on last week’s post, who really wanted to know, “what *do* they call a hands up with cheese on Alderaan?”

A viceroyale with cheese.

z: Well I can’t stop you, and revenge will have to wait.

z: The chapter opens with Luke visiting the village with C’baoth.  It is late in the evening, and this is not a social visit; they are sitting at judgment again.   Or rather, C’baoth is, but he gives the last case of the evening to Luke.

will: Who “braces himself” for the uncomfortable throne, feeling an alien smell to it which he attributes to “the hours the Jedi Master had spent in it judging his people.”

Once again, I attribute Luke’s lack of Clue here to Dark Side clouding.

z: Luke listens to some tale about someone’s livestock breaking through someone else’s fence and eating fruit off of fruitbushes and now there must be compensation but the livestock were also hurt and besides if the fence had been properly made they couldn’t have broken through and and and…

…and I find myself wondering why it’s “livestock” and “fruit” here–it’s almost as if those were put down as placeholders, but then Zahn forgot to get back and make up names for them.  But that’s all right, since maybe the gist of the problem comes across more clearly this way.  It just feels a bit stilted and unnatural for Luke to think of the items using those words in his head.

will: I don’t know. I feel like it actually is more natural–Luke hasn’t been around this planet for too long, maybe he isn’t good at pronouncing the names of the fruit or the livestock. And would it be better to have a two-page digression on “the hyrissa, which were similar to the banthas Luke had grown up with…” and so on? See also.

z: Luke gives his judgement about the fruit bushes: The livestock’s owner will pay for the bushes that were damaged, plus compensate for the fruit eaten, but the village council will determine the fruit’s value.  C’baoth stirs, and Luke senses he’s unhappy.

will: Interestingly, he considers reversing his ruling, but that wouldn’t be better, and besides, he doesn’t have a better idea.

z: About the fence, he says, he wants to assess the damage himself tomorrow morning before giving judgment.  C’baoth declares the session closed, his voice echoing grandly.  Luke wonders if that’s C’baoth using acoustics well–

–OK that doesn’t sound right I mean you can project well and that still wouldn’t matter in a room with bad acoustics and {sits on hands}

–or if it’s a Jedi trick that Master Yoda never got around to teaching him.  Though why Yoda would need such a technique, he thinks he can’t imagine, and, well, duh, Luke.

The villagers depart. C’baoth turns to Luke; Luke braces himself; C’baoth effectively asks “Have you even been listening to me?”.  Luke is immediately remorseful (“an all-too-familiar lump sticking in his throat”–dude wait you aren’t 15 to start sniffling at the first sign of criticism what’s going on) and apologizes, noting to himself that whatever he tries, he never seems to be able to live up to C’baoth’s expectations.

will: What’s going on would be C’baoth’s style, a Force push to please him, and generally a lot of minor corruption, I gather.

z: Then C’baoth mocks him for apologizing, chastises him for giving the fruit’s value evaluation to the village council (“you should have decided yourself,” nevermind Luke didn’t feel competent because what would he know of the market value of common agricultural products of Jomark, a planet he has heard a grand total of, what, two months ago?), and chastises him more for not deciding immediately about the fence, just because he didn’t know the extent of the damage–everything Luke would have needed to decide would be there in the two supplicants’ minds, so why didn’t Luke just go in and take it from there?

Ah, we’re still in the Nope class car of the Nope Train bound for Nopesville, I see.

will: Express.

z: Luke tries to make his entry to the understatement of the year contest by stammering out that it seems wrong to read someone’s thoughts that way, which, thank you, but C’baoth counters by saying “how can it be wrong when you’re using it to help them?”

The word “amoral” starts jumping up and down in my mind at this point.

Luke says that he’s trying to understand, but this is all so new to him, and a little quiet alarm bell goes off in the back of my head–what it is exactly that is new to you, and why are you sounding so confused, Luke?

will: I’d say what’s new, or newish, is being an authority figure, at least in this context. Being a Commander in the Rebellion’s military was different, but now he’s being a Jedi. This is the followup to New Cov.

z: C’baoth mocks him further, asking if he never violated anyone’s personal preferences to help them or worked around stupid bureaucratic restrictions.  Luke, remembering using slicer codes in Sluis Van to get his X-Wing fixed fast, winces guiltily, and I get an even larger sense of Wrong when he displays no awareness that there might be a difference in tone, let alone degree, between rummaging in someone’s head and getting your ship fixed so that you can go try to hold the galaxy together.

will: Well, no, it’s C’baoth who doesn’t show a difference in tone, by comparing reading someone’s thoughts to “ignoring some minor bureaucratic rule.” A lot of stories about telepaths deal with telepath ethics, and none of them considers reading people’s minds minor unless they are dystopic regimes.

z: True, but I meant Luke doesn’t remark that they don’t compare, not even to himself.  He isn’t completely off, though, and tries to explain that it feels like he’s taking too much responsibility for these people’s lives.  C’baoth says that taking on that responsibility was what made the Jedi special.

Oh, all the wrong: 1. No, you don’t get to live someone else’s life for them, Jedi or no.  2. We kinda only have your word that the Jedi did take on that responsibility.

will: I actually believe that the Jedi did take on a lot of responsibility, but the structure of “they took the responsibility, therefore they deserved the power and mastery of the galaxy” is a twisting of one of the most common philosophical tenets of geekdom.

(Yes, the Gospel of Uncle Benjamin.)

The Jedi had responsibility because they saw a duty to use their power, not the other way around.

z: C’baoth continues that in the final analysis these people are primitives and only Jedi intervention can help them mature.

I was mistaken; that wasn’t all the wrong above.

Luke objects at the “primitive” designation, since these people have technology and a system of government.  C’baoth brushes that aside.   Maturity, he says, is only defined by the understanding and use of the Force.

The Nope Train was a transformer; it’s morphing into a Nope Flying Car.

will: Nopeformers! Nopethoughts in the mind!

z: C’baoth gets distant, as if remembering, and tells Luke that once there was a mature society, led by the Jedi, but the envy and hatred all the “lesser beings” in the galaxy had for the Jedi because of their Force and responsibility made them turn on the Jedi, and thus was the Jedi destroyed.  Luke, confused, says that he’d thought it was only the Emperor and a few Dark Jedi who had destroyed the Jedi.  C’baoth asks if Luke thinks the Emperor could have pulled that off without the consent of the entire galaxy.  They hated us for our wisdom, he says, for our knowledge and power, for our maturity.

Why is he harping on “maturity” that much?  I mean, why would he–

Oh.

Well-played, Mr. Zahn.   This is the first time I noticed that.

will: I might not be seeing it. But it sounds like a reference to the idea that C’baoth isn’t a mature clone, he was a rush, and it shows…?

z:  Yup, exactly.

will: Cool.

z: Anyway, C’baoth says, once the Jedi rise again, that hatred will also flare up once again.  We must stand together against a universe that would destroy us.  Bring your sister’s children to me, Luke.

Luke feels extremely fatigued.  But a corner of his mind is fighting, because he remembers how Yoda was always unafraid and never bitter about anyone, let alone a galaxy that was supposed to have aided in the destruction of his order.  He also remembers how Obi-Wan was treated with “a sort of aloof respect” at the Mos Eisley cantina once he’d revealed himself as a Jedi.  And most of all, he remembers how the people in the cantina at New Cov had expected him to give judgment and accepted his decisions without arguing, with obvious respect and truth.

will: The Force pushing back, one imagines (remember, as soon as you get things like “images flowed unbidden into his consciousness from his memory,” you can be sure the Force is involved).

z: So he says he hasn’t experienced any such hatred, but C’baoth says that he will, and he should bring his sister to him, and the kids also, so C’baoth can teach them.  Luke, in a flash of spirit, claims that he can protect them and teach the kids, but C’baoth asks him how certain he is, since he’s throwing away the kids’ future if he’s wrong.  Luke says that he can do it, with Leia, but C’baoth disagrees, and tells Luke that they have to stand together: “The endless war for power still rages–the galaxy is in turmoil.  We who remain must stand together to guard against those who would destroy everything.”

Now wait just a minute.  Even the Emperor wasn’t pure chaotic evil.  I am very certain that it was never part of his Master Plan to, you know, destroy everything, not when he could rule over everything instead.  So what’s with C’baoth’s nihilism?

You know, apart from the obvious?

will: Isn’t that enough? And a sales pitch to Luke, casting himself as the last bastion of order and righteousness, &c. &c.?

z: And then C’baoth abruptly goes stiff.  Luke, concerned, asks if he’s all right and offers help, but C’baoth sends him to bed, with a fog of fatigue abruptly descending on Luke.  C’baoth tells Luke to go and sleep, and Luke does, and this is kind of what I meant by “screaming ‘look out, behind you!'”

will: One more thing, which is that C’baoth reminds Luke to bring Leia to him, “and I will teach her such power as you can’t imagine,” and Luke starts to have the appropriate warning bell reaction to that–but he’s so tired that it doesn’t matter…

z: We shift to Mara Jade’s point of view.  She’s flying through hyperspace, and dreaming, and we finally get to learn the content of the recurring dreams that she had had periods of encountering before.  It starts with the Emperor, Vader and Luke in the Throne Room of the Second Death Star, and for a few moments it’s familiar, with Vader and Luke locking sabers right in front of the Emperor’s face.  But then the two, Vader and Skywalker, both turn and attack the Emperor.  Mara has the usual nightmare-effects sequence: She tries to run, but she’s too far and too slow; she tries to divert the attack of Vader and Skywalker to herself, but no dice, and just before the fatal blow lands, the Emperor looks directly at her, his face dominating her vision, and gives that one command: “YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER.”

will: This is the first time we see Mara’s take on what happened on the Second Death Star. (We also see that the Emperor explicitly Force-lightninged them both in Mara’s vision, which Mara saw as a good thing, hoping it would work. It seems like an oversight that she doesn’t react next chapter when C’baoth uses the same trick, though she will have had enough parallelism by then.)

It’s a nice setup for the resolution of those bits in The Last Command, anyway.

z: Mara jerks awake, with a proximity alarm ringing.   Still half-asleep, she muzzily thinks that this time she will have the power to be able to do so… but she isn’t here to kill him, she’s there to ask for his help, because that’s the only way she can save Karrde and she really wants to pay that debt.

She  is arriving at Jomark.  She drops out of hyperspace and uses Imperial transponders to locate the small island with the crater lake. She starts her atmospheric descent, trying to  shake off the image of the Emperor before her eyes–and abruptly wakes up, again, with the Skipray’s alarm systems shrieking their heads off.  But this wasn’t one of those “dreamed that she was waking up and then really woke up” things.  Instead, for some inexplicable reason, she fell asleep just as she was starting the descent through the atmosphere, which is a very good way to get yourself smeared across several thousand square miles of planet.  She fixes the descent; at first surprised that she could have been that tired.  Then, getting an idea, she goes to the back for the ysalamiri that she got from Aves.  And as soon as she enters the animal’s sphere of influence, the tiredness disappears.  Well.  Apparently, she snarks to herself, the mad Jedi Master doesn’t want visitors.

will: I can’t even imagine how that feels like. Suddenly feeling fatigue and weariness melt away? Realizing that your oppressive feeling of exhaustion is external and can be stopped? Wow.

z: Aaand now I’m imagining a ysalamiri patronus.

You’re welcome.

Mara shaking off the suicidial fatigue is presumably what triggers C’baoth’s next move, which is to throw many, many tiny rocks at her at a really high speed instead of bothering with unrefined stuff like turbolasers and such.

Will knows what I immediately flashed to upon reading that this time, but I’m going to let him link to it since I’ve still got a proposal section to write tonight.

will: Remember: Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space. No credit for partial answers, maggot.

z: And the rocks are, as per spec, very effective: The ship is hit four times, not-serious, not-serious, not-serious, very-serious–as in the repulsorlifts fail.  The Skipray starts tumbling out of the sky.

And scene.

Will?

will: I imagine that the central point of this structure is to explicitly tell any particularly unobservant readers that C’baoth has an oppressive mental presence (see Mara), which explains Luke, and will set up Luke basically having a miniature “He’s Back” moment once Mara gets him inside a ysalamir field. (Though in truth, Luke will already be on the right path by then, as Mara will see.)

And it’s nice to be reminded that for all his failings and self-doubts, Luke has the right of it very well–he didn’t necessarily want to be passing judgment, but once given the authority, he avoids bludgeoning with it, and encourages the villagers to establish their own authority as well (hence, the village council).

And the difference between Luke’s version of the galaxy vis-a-vis the Jedi is actually a pleasant one, all things considered. Yoda, “gruff but unafraid,” Ben doing everything he could to avoid violence, and the crowd on New Cov who listened, and trusted, and respected. The “warrior monk” comparison is strong with this one.

Next time, we’ll see an interesting debate about the the Empire, the Force, control, and morality. As represented by a blaster, a lightsaber, Force lightning, and an X-wing laser cannon.

Until then, may the Force be with you.

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