Dark Force Rising, Chapter 23

will: Welcome back, gentlebeings, to Force Visions, where this week, we get the rest of the rescue, we find out what can render a Jedi speechless, and Z and I each play copy editor.

As I said last week, I’m currently in Wheeling, IL (a suburb of Chicago), at the Westin Chicago North Shore for Capricon. I’ll be on a slew of panels, largely on technology. It’s Friday, so you’ve missed “Zeerust: How Authors Got the Future Wrong,” but you still have time for “Why I Don’t Want a Flying Car,” “The MCU Round-Up,” and “From a Dream to a Real Product.”

z: It’s Friday, so you’ve hopefully missed “Finish the Bedroom Closets,” but you still have time for “Get the Kitchen Usable” and “Reorganize the Library.”

will: But now, let’s go back to where flying cars are de rigeur, and zeerust (and rust) are part of the aesthetic…

will: Luke, Mara, and Karrde are not happy when the alarm goes off, and the turbolift freezes. The two gunners (the maintenance guys got out in the chapter transition) exchange grousing for warnings about the penalty for grousing (though I imagine it’s hyperbole; then again, maybe Thrawn would be in the habit of having stormtrooper squads round up whiners, who knows?) as they swipe their ID cards, and Luke wonders just what the plan is.

The swipes also include a code check, so Luke, Mara, and Karrde can’t just swipe the IDs they stole, but Mara moves to the swipe as if that’s the plan…and takes out both gunners with the Jedi Neck Chop.

Ahem.

z: That flows better than “Emperor’s Hand Neck Chop.”

will: Flawlessly logical, Z.

Anyway, Mara finds the edge of the door and tells Luke to use his industrial-strength can opener (that’s “lightsaber” for the non-technically minded), and they open it to a horizontal portion of the lift tunnel, then walk a ways (taking care not to touch the rails, as they’re all third rails) to a hatch to a service room with a computer terminal. Mara needs to clear out the turbolift’s record of there being five people on board but only two checkins before the alarms go off…

But the computer’s been shut down. Mara is as boggled by this as Pellaeon was, but Karrde takes it in stride, asking where they are and where they can get going to. They’re above the aft hangar bays, near the central crew section…which, as Karrde points out, is near deep vehicle storage.

“Are you suggesting we grab a ship from up there?”

Hear that whine? That’s Chekhov’s ship warming up.

z: The repulsorlift tone is unmistakable.

will: Mara pushes back that being in deep storage will “leave us trapped like clipped mynocks,” but Luke, Jedi senses tingling, cuts them off with the news that someone is coming. Mara takes up firing position behind the useless computer, Karrde backs into the access tunnel that got them here, and Luke flattens up against the wall next to the door. They wait, Luke knowing there’s no way to use a subtle mind touch and reconciling himself to what he has to do.

The door whooshes open, and the stormtroopers charge in, blasters leveled.

Suddenly, a light flashes on, and a grinding noise comes from the access tunnel. The troopers spin to focus on that threat, giving Mara a few seconds to blast them both. Two naval troopers behind the stormies dive for cover, but “a single sweep of the lightsaber caught them both.”

Hmm. Given what Thrawn says later, I’m guessing a slash across their bodies, not cutting them in half or anything, but that generic samurai-style “sword slash death.” But I’d never really visualized it before.

Luke and Mara confirm that, for the moment at least, they’re clear, collect some blaster rifles, and head to rejoin Karrde–who, it should be obvious, created the diversion with a maintenance droid. Karrde pushes for deep storage, and Mara agrees, saying he’d better be right.

“My apologies in advance if I’m not. Let’s go.”

Ah, Karrde.

z: I hadn’t noticed it before, but yes, that is such a Karrde line.

I mentioned before that I want to work for Karrde, right?  Yes?  OK.

will: Pellaeon is trying to coordinate the search reports without a computer, and not having a good time. They’re not on the detention level, but the waste chute grating has been cut open–Pellaeon says screw that, just find them, and there’s a report regarding the turbolift alert, where a team has been sent to investigate.

Thrawn, however, goes back to the waste chute. How was it cut open? They don’t know. Find out, and also follow up on the two techs who saw a man in a flight suit.

This time, Pellaeon’s contrarianism makes sense. Who cares how the grate was cut open? Thrawn makes a very Thrawn comment about sending all the forces to the hangar bays, which could let the intruders perform some really impressive sabotage first. Pellaeon, though, points out the difference between what he was asking and Thrawn’s mocking.

z: This time, I’m OK with Thrawn getting a hunch, though.   Pellaeon’s disinterest is understandable and it doesn’t necessarily give him the idiot ball, but if Thrawn is a deductive genius, and with his mind so much on Luke Skywalker since this is Karrde escaping, I can see him looking for lightsabers everywhere.

will: In fairness, Thrawn admits to a hunch, just as the report comes in that the turbolift-investigating team is dead. Two by blaster fire, but the others? It’s not clear.

This apparently cinches it for Thrawn, who tells the searchers to look for “near-microscopic cuts across the bodies with partial cauterization.”

“And then inform them that one of the intruders is the Jedi Luke Skywalker.”

Pellaeon says no way, he’s on Jomark, but Thrawn is sure. He comments on C’baoth’s limits, and says this proves that Karrde helped Luke escape Myrkr.

As usual, I note the distinction-without-a-difference of Thrawn’s conclusions and reality. It’s nice to see.

z: And it’s gradual, too.  He’s right about C’baoth.  He’s wrong about Karrde.

will: Anyway, Thrawn has Rukh round up the ysalamiri and put them in the hangar bays–and use “your hunter’s instincts” on most effective placement, to limit Luke’s Force abilities. As Pellaeon starts to chime in, Thrawn cuts him off, needing to think.

He correctly figures that they’ll keep to the turbolift tunnels, so he has the system turned back on to hopefully herd them somewhere, but what happens once they realize they’re being herded? They’ll go a different way.

Thrawn and Pellaeon brainstorm. If Luke were in charge, Thrawn figures, they’d go for an assault shuttle, straightforward enough. But if Karrde is giving the orders, they’ll try for something sideways…true enough.

z: At first glance, this is another “he’s got Luke’s number all right,” but then I remember that one bad habit Thrawn’s consistently had is to underestimate, repeatedly and specifically, Luke.  Here he’s stereotyping Luke as the straightforward frontal assault man.  Which, as we have seen even in Hyllyard City, not necessarily true of Luke, and we will later see that it is not even necessarily true of someone who is characterized by Zahn explicitly as One Who Fails Concealment Horribly (i.e. Wedge).

Luke would probably go for an assault shuttle at this point, but at the first sign of trouble he’d improvise like nothing and end up somewhere quite else.

But it’s true that Karrde will start with thinking sideways.

will: Thrawn muses that Karrde wouldn’t go for the shuttles, but maybe TIEs, or a double-back fakeout, or…

He has it. Where’s the Falcon? You know, Chekhov’s ship? Pellaeon thinks it might have been taken to deep vehicle storage, but he isn’t sure. Thrawn sends orders to check the hangar bay computer, and smiles. He knows what the plan is, they have them.

z: …because at least Mara knew about the Millennium Falcon being found in orbit around Endor, right.  Though she wouldn’t know about the transfer order to deep storage… but Thrawn probably assumes that she’d have pulled that out of the main computer before he ordered the shutdown.

will: Karrde, Luke, and Mara are faster, though. They’re in deep vehicle storage already, reviewing what their ship options are…

z: …because, heh, Mara has done no such thing.

will: They look around at their options, mostly unmarked Intelligence ships, as Mara says she’ll go for the local computer to maybe fake a transfer order. As they approach, though, a ship comes into view.

“That’s–no. No, it can’t be.”

Chekhov’s ship it is. Mara confirms they took it aboard at Endor, but there was no talk of prisoners, so it was probably deserted. Luke realizes this means Leia and Chewie are stranded, but hey, at least they know what ship they’ll be taking…

z: …although given Luke’s past experience with the Falcon, he must be missing Artoo very, very badly right now.

will: Luke casually heads toward the lift shaft bringing up the Falcon, where there’s a tech and a naval trooper waiting. They see Luke, but he just looks like a flight-suited guy, so he starts spinning a story about a change of plans and moving the Falcon back down for bait. The (teenaged) tech has no records, and the trooper points his blaster generally in Luke’s direction as he says he doesn’t know either.

Luke says things are moving slowly on the computers, but the trooper isn’t convinced and demands ID.

Luke Force-yanks the blaster out of the trooper’s hand–the trooper, showing good reflexes, throws himself at Luke, and Luke stomach-punches him with the butt of his own blaster.

Ouch.

z: Ouch indeed, but non-fatal, and also, look, Thrawn, reacting to changing situation and improvising happening riiiiight here.

will: Anyway, Luke takes the tech’s datapad, and Karrde tells the tech to lock himself and the trooper in a closet, we won’t kill you, don’t worry. Comforting.

z: I started to type “in a way it is,” and then I realized that the tech at least would have done better defecting right there and then.

will: Karrde goes to start up the ship–don’t worry, no security codes, it’s hard enough to keep the Falcon functional.

z: So, so confidence inspiring…

will: Luke comes onboard soon, as Karrde reports two to three minutes until they’re ready to fly. Luke goes to get Mara…when a squad of stormtroopers arrives. They don’t seem to know that their quarry is there, so it serves as confirmation that Thrawn did figure out their plan–just too late.

But Mara’s still at the computer. How can he tell her to wait until they can get a good crossfire going?

He goes for Force telepathy, since Mara did say one of her best skills was hearing the Emperor’s messages…he tells her to wait, and while there isn’t a reply, she does lean back into the shadows instead of jumping out. Luke heads to the hatchway as the troopers start heading up the ramp, and as soon as he’s in position, he sends a go-ahead.

Given how fast she fires, Luke figured Mara was going to go then whether Luke said to or not, but whatever. As the troopers start to turn to find the firing source, Luke jumps out, slices the lead trooper’s blaster in half, and then goes bowling for stormies–he Force pushes the leader into the whole crew and they go sprawling. He keeps up the deflection-and-distraction routine as Mara shoots a few more, then jumps down to distract the ones he’d sent sprawling so Mara can finish them. But Mara stops firing, so Luke just takes them out with a few saber swipes.

It’s now clear why Mara stopped firing–the lift that the Falcon‘s on is going down. Luke tells Mara to jump, and she’s annoyed, but she does it, and Luke catches her with the Force (“you’ve got me? Who’s got you?”)–

z: “…the Force, aren’t you paying attention?”

will: –and they get onboard. Mara takes copilot, which bothers Luke for a second, but truth be told, Karrde and Mara probably have more knowledge of flying freighters, even if Luke has more experience with the idiosyncrasies of the Millennium Falcon. so he lets it go.

Anyway, Mara says the computer was locked up, and the lift takes them to a vehicle corridor, and Mara figured the stormtroopers have called for help “unless [Karrde] thought to jam their comlinks.”

“Of course I did,” he says (ah, Karrde), but it doesn’t matter; they’ll have had orders for regular reports.

Luke says he figured they would be taking the lift to the hangar bays, but this lift apparently doesn’t go there; there’s another shaft that goes all the way, a little ways in front of them.

A shaft which has a lift coming down already, and if it blocks the way–

Karrde slams the ship to full speed ahead, and Luke is reminded of the Rancor pit as he watches and knows there’s so little he can do.

z: In the meantime, everyone’s remembering that ship-eater thingy on that asteroid in that asteroid field out of Hoth.

will: Luke’s sure they’re going to get caught, but with a screech of metal (bet they lost the antenna array again), they’re through.

z: By this point, Han should just spring for a modular antenna array.  Or an automatically-retracting one on springs or something.

will: The hangar bay is ahead, and deep space visible, so they blast outward. But there are TIEs launching to intercept, so Luke knows what to do. Death Star Escape, mark whatever we’re up to–come on, Mara, take a gun battery.

z: You know, I lost count?  Although chronologically speaking, this wasn’t that many times back then…

…oh, you mean the number of call-backs to the DSE during these two chapters.  Yeah, I lost track of that too.

will: Karrde says he needs Mara as a copilot, but head to the dorsal battery, he can arrange that they’ll come from that way. How, Luke doesn’t know, but he doesn’t have time. He straps in at the gunnery position, and then sees what Karrde’s plan is: The Falcon has swung up over the Chimaera at skimming range, and its escape vector is putting it just above the sublight engines’ exhaust. Rather closer than Luke would prefer, but it definitely means there won’t be (unshielded, remember) TIE fighters coming at the Falcon from underneath.

z: I’d liked that a lot in the first reading, and I like it still.  (Why doesn’t Karrde just fly over the ship proper?  Because then they might randomly get into the range of the destroyer’s own guns.)

will: As the TIEs come swooping from above, Luke relaxes into the Force, and Zahn elides. He has Luke specifically remember the Death Star escape, wondering if the Empire has a devious plan here, but either way, they get clear and make the jump to hyperspace, and they’re gone.

Luke turns off the gun battery, and Karrde explains that Mara’s gone to fix some damage.

z: I feel compelled to point out that in the first draft, Will typoed that as “bun battery,” which I corrected, but the mental images are too precious not to share.  You’re welcome.

will: I swear that was an accident, but all I can think now is it keeps going, and going

z: Heh.

will: Luke says that one advantage of the Falcon‘s bonkers wiring is, it’ll fly with half the systems on the blink, and they’re off to Coruscant.

z: There are ships that are up to code.  There are ships that skirt being up to code.  There are ships that majorly fail at being up to code.  Then, somewhere outside that continuum, is the Falcon, accept no substitutes.

will: Both to drop Luke (and the Falcon) off, and to follow through on a promise Karrde made about the New Republic standing to gain.

z: Ooooooh….

will: They need ships, right?

“What do you think the New Republic would say to approximately two hundred pre-Clone Wars vintage Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers?”

Luke felt his mouth fall open. Growing up on Tatooine had been a sheltered experience, but it hadn’t been that sheltered. “You don’t mean…the Dark Force?”

Karrde says come down and we’ll talk, but let’s not mention that to Mara yet.

z: Clever Karrde figures out that rubbing Mara’s face in that much of outright support of the New Republic might not be the best of ideas.

will: Luke does so, and we see the payoff from the whole “gravity plating discontinuity” thing last time–Luke doesn’t even notice.

(I think that’s the first time I noticed that little tag, actually.)

z: I don’t remember where I first read the reversing-gravity thing in the Falcon‘s gun turrets… maybe it was here, maybe it was in the novelization of A New Hope.  I did like that A New Hope the movie does make it clear, with camera angles and flashing back-and-forth between the two gunners, that there’s something extraordinary going on there.

will: Back to the Chimaera. Pellaeon watches in “helpless silence,” helpless because the main computer is still coming online, so a lot of the Chimaera‘s systems are down…

“Silent, because the disaster was far beyond the scope of any of his repertoire of curses.”

One, heh.

z: …amusing, but also, way too strong a callback to the Falcon‘s escape in The Empire Strikes Back.  Vader didn’t go chokity on Piett at that point, but still, Piett was watching helplessly too… and he obviously expects to die when the Falcon jumps to hyperspace as they watch.

will: Now I’d like to point out that Z first wrote “lightspace” here, having commingled “hyperspace” and “lightspeed.”

z: Dude, I was typing while sleeping with one eye.  You’re lucky you only got “lightspace.”

will: But two, Pellaeon, you’re Navy. Though I guess you’re an officer, so that explains it. Find a deckhand and let him curse at you for an hour or so, you’ll be good up.

z: …this is however true, and however long it has been since he was in the Academy, it can’t be that long…

will: Forty years, I believe. He lied about his age. Anyway. The ship jumps away, and Pellaeon again braces for “the worst,” and Thrawn again doesn’t give it. He recalls the TIE fighters, cancels the alert, orders the computer brought back online, and says to go back to resupply unloading. Pellaeon is confused–didn’t Thrawn realize how bad this was?

Thrawn says it’s just one round, but Pellaeon points out that there’s no way the Katana fleet won’t go to the “Rebellion” now.

Thrawn, though, says Karrde’s going to try to deal, which–especially in light of the ongoing political kerfluffle on Coruscant–will give the Empire time to us the Ferrier lead. Pellaeon isn’t sure that will work out, but Thrawn says he already knows who they’re off to find. Ferrier already reported in that Han and Lando are off for Pantolomin, and the background check Intelligence did on Karrde means Thrawn knows how this will play out.

He orders a departure for Pantolomin, and as Pellaeon starts doing the mental math, he agrees:

“Now it’s a race.”

As I said before, from the perspective of the escape, we know how it’ll end. They’re going to get out. The big question is how, and the lining up of all the right elements to make it work is what we’re here for. The punchline of the Falcon is perfectly done, because the references to what happened to it are relatively slight right up until the deep vehicle storage collision, at which point everything locks in place.

Z?

z: It is very satisfying and enjoyable to read, even fully expecting the escape.  It’s also nice to hear about Luke attempting to communicate with Mara through the Force, and also nice that he maybe almost succeeds–an obvious first time success would have been too much; what we get is just right.

Unfortunately I don’t have much more for you this time through, since Things.  And Stuff. But I will point out that next week we’ll be returning to the major cliffhanger we left on Honoghr and move headlong to the climax of Leia’s story.  Until then, may the Force be with you.

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