Dark Force Rising, Chapter 25

will: Welcome, gentlebeings, to the next chapter of Dark Force Rising, or in this case, surfacing.

z: My turn to say “nice one. ”

will: In news of us, Z and I will actually be seeing each other this weekend. As mentioned, Z’s recently bought a house, and I’ll be attending her housewarming. Doubt we’ll have the chance to write anything, though, as there will be music and drinking. Still, raise a glass for Z and her new home, as we will.

(Wonder if she’ll figure out the pun I slipped into this review, that she seems to have missed? I’ll report if she ends up chucking something at my head.)

will: Han looks around the Tralla Room on the Coral Vanda, reflecting that it might really be the best casino in the galaxy. It has sabacc tables, lugjack bars (read: slots), tregald booths (no idea), holo-chess (this was before “dejarik” was the preferred term, I guess) tables, and very traditional “warp-tops” for crinbid (I’m guessing craps, based on the horseshoe shape and the idea that the warped table would matter for the dice–er, “chance cubes”).

z: Nice catches all, and I have no idea about tregald either.

will: It also has a fully stocked bar, and a window to the kitchen for people who want to emulate the inventors of tekka maki and sandwiches.

Both of which were named for their relationship to gambling; tekka maki, the basic “tuna roll” sushi. takes its name from tekkaba, gambling parlors in Edo (now Tokyo), and the sandwich from the British Fourth Earl of Sandwich, all because they didn’t want to stop playing their games long enough to eat.

z: Huh.  I didn’t know that about the roll.  And now I want sushi, so thank you for that, Mr. Zahn.

will: Anyway. Even if you somehow get bored of everything else, you’re on a transparent submarine, with amazing views of coral reefs, fish, and sea mammals.

z: From the first time I read that, it’s always stuck with me as a perfect example of authorial dry-sarcasm-voice.

will: And there are seven other rooms like the Tralla Room.

Lando is apparently rather sick and tired of waiting, and figures that the Dreadnaught dealer isn’t there, but Han is sure of it. The dealer is not broke, or he’d be trying to sell another ship, so there it is. But so far, no luck. Lando has an idea–instead of wandering around looking, they should pull him to them. If they start playing, and losing, he’ll want in on the chance to win some money.

Han (who’d had the same idea earlier but didn’t float it) is more than a little impressed–Lando has a gambler’s reputation after all–but Lando only says he wants to go home to Nomad City, toot suite.

z: And back to his mining operation.  Which, well, gambler etc., but also a businessman, although now in a different kind of work from Karrde.

Also, Han is embarrassed since he remembers that he’d dragged Lando into this hunt.  I laugh.

will: As they decide to take one more look in another room then start the plan, they smell something familiar.

Do we even have to say it? One of the impressive things about this is that we’ve only encountered the cigarra a few times, but that not-actually-pear-scented cigarra is an instant trigger. Sure enough, and this isn’t a ‘90s thing because even these days casinos are about the last public places that still let you smoke indoors, there’s Niles Ferrier, smoking and smirking. He bolts, and Han and Lando follow.

z: The implication is that this time, he left the still-burning cigarra on the table as an advertisement of his presence. I think either Luke or Lando had told him, in their previous interactions, how they’d recognized the smell?  Now he’s amusing himself by setting up blatantly obvious traps with it.

will: It does bother me that apparently he’s the only person in the galaxy who smokes, but eh. On their way to meet/catch Ferrier, they hear something else, what sounds like thunderclaps. Both Han and Lando know what turbolaser blasts sounds like when they hit water, so they fill in the pieces.

“Ferrier had gone ahead and made a deal with the Empire…and if the Imperials got their hands on the Katana fleet, the balance of power in the ongoing war would suddenly be skewed back in their favor.

And under the command of a Grand Admiral…

In distinction-without-a-difference land, I note that Ferrier hasn’t so much made a deal with the Empire as desperately tried to save his own skin, but potayto, potahto.

z: Well, yeah. He still dealed, technically, although his side of the bargain was less “untold riches” and more “i don’t like the smell of my ship exploding from around me.”

…..aaaaaand yes, maybe I do note the pun here on the reread?  But this isn’t throw-things-at-heads level, lucky for you.

will: That wasn’t it, no. *smirk* Han and Lando have a new plan now: find the ship dealer and get him off the sub before the Empire boards them.

As they run, the Vanda takes what seems like a glancing shot, and Han reaches out to steady himself… right into the wraith fur. In what must be a familiar scenario for anyone who gets Wookiee hugs regularly, he’s pinned, fuzzy arms covering his face and holding his gun hand down, and is being dragged down the corridor. Two more shots come in from the Star Destroyer, and Han gets basically thrown into a small drinks storage room to meet Ferrier.

Ferrier gives Han the full smirk now, explaining the wraith is the one who planted a second homing beacon on board the Lady Luck. Han (who “always thought wraiths were just a space legend”) tells Ferrier it’s not too late to deal, but Ferrier says this is the deal: he’s keeping Han out of harm’s way.

z: The phrase “space legend” in one of those that you don’t have to think about, but if you do, it can take you interesting places.  For instance, I guess the Earth phrase that is most closely analogous is “sailors’ tale?”  From there one pauses to think, and realizes again something we should have noted all along:  Our Heroes are all travelers; that’s where we’re used to finding the stories of GFFA.  But not everyone is.  Not even the majority is, really.

Anyway.  Ferrier is keeping Han safe, but…

will: Lando, though, “he’s another story.”

See, Ferrier is tired of Lando, who seems to have turned up too many times now. So he’s going to arrange for Lando to play the part of heroic idiot, killed defending Captain Hoffner.

Once again, Ferrier is free with names if you keep him talking.

(z: Captain Hoffner being the name of the Dark Fleet peddler that both Han/Lando and the Imperials are after.)

will: Right. It’s no good for Han, though. Ferrier also explains why Han and Lando hadn’t found Hoffner–Ferrier, who got the name from Thrawn (remember “the rather thorough background check” they ran on Karrde?), has had Hoffner locked in his suite since an hour after they got under weigh.

Ferrier leaves, as Han tries the worst offer since his blind bid to Jabba: “We’ll pay you double what the Empire’s offering!”

z: Even I laugh.

will: Han then tries the same line on the wraith, who gives it the snarl it deserves, and Han gives up. He has to figure out a way out, and fast.

Scene shift time, as Pellaeon watches the Chimaera pour green fire on the underwater casino. Thrawn and Pellaeon discuss the stubbornness of the wealthy, and the habits of gamblers. They figure the ship is going for a tunnel within the reefs, which will get them out of range. So, time to collapse a tunnel. Pellaeon lines up his shot while Thrawn muses on the coral reef’s artistic status, “created by living yet nonsentient beings,” something he would have liked to have studied.  And yet…

“You may fire when ready.”

z: Nice priceless natural treasure they had there.  Shame something is about to happen to it.

will: Also, again, there’s only one species of coral in the galaxy?

(Huh. Come to think of it, Zahn’s Quadrail series features coral…)

Back to Han. The next shot goes a bit wide, but as the Coral Vanda rocks from the near miss, Han jumps into a stack of boxes back-first, knocks the top one off into his hands, and chucks it at the wraith, knocking him over and breaking bottles of Menkooro whiskey.

Oh, that’s what Menkooro is! (You’ll see it mentioned again later.)

Han gets the wraith’s blaster, and tells him not to move.

No dice, the wraith keeps getting up.

Is Han willing to shoot the wraith dead?

Well, he is, we know that, but he doesn’t have to. He blasts the whiskey instead, setting it afire. The wraith jumps backwards into more crates, breaking more whiskey, and Han ignites those, too.

The wraith shrieks, but Han knows that alcohol fires aren’t that hot, and this won’t be fatal, especially not to a furred being like the wraith. But hey, it will provide a distraction.

Especially when combined with the fire-suppressant foam being sprayed into the wraith’s face…

z: Well-played, Mr. Solo.  And not even especially cruel. (Not that I’ve ever tried dousing my arms in alcohol and setting it on fire…)

will: Han heads out into the corridor, shooting out the lock of the storeroom to close it on the wraith, and starting for Lando.

So what have we learned, class? Ferrier talks too much and drops names, wraiths don’t make good jailers, and Han Solo is still better than everyone at getting out of trouble. And into it.

z: Will that be in the exam, professor?  Anyway, point-of-view shift:

will: Lando doesn’t know where Han is, but figures he probably went off in search of Ferrier–trust him to play a hunch now. as the Coral Vanda is surfacing and the crew is lining up to mount a futile defense. Lando tries to flag an officer, saying he knows what the Empire wants, but it’s no help. The crewer he gets says the man probably already ejected in an escape pod, and it’s fruitless.

Lando knows better, figuring (correctly) that Ferrier has the man locked up. So, he has an idea: find a computer terminal, identify Ferrier’s room, bingo. He starts for a terminal…

And runs into four men “escorting” a fifth, thin, white-haired guy–Hoffner (not that Lando knows the name), surrounded by Ferrier’s men. They take a shot at Lando, who throws himself back behind a wall, then they head off. Lando figures they are headed into the crew-only areas, and starts to follow when another group of flunkies fire on him. He dives for cover, gets it, and notices they’re advancing–and suddenly there are shots from a different blaster, and silence.

Lando lines up his blaster, but recognizes the voice asking “Lando?”

Lando explains to Han that Ferrier has Hoffner, and Han says Ferrier has made it personal for Lando, too. They get to the crew access door, which is locked, but if Ferrier’s people got in…yep, it’s been hot wired.

They open it.

To blaster fire.

“How many people has Ferrier got on this ship anyway?”

“A lot.”

z: “They have a cave troll!”  Don’t know why I suddenly remembered that.

will: Lando suggests that they go around and meet the flunkies on the other side, but Han says time’s up: the Empire’s aboard, they’re throwing subsonic grenades, time to bail. Lando’s very shocked, and starts to object, but he realizes Han knows even more than Lando what this means…

One escape pod later, Han and Lando reenact either a moon landing splashdown or a New Yorker cartoon, bobbing in an escape pod as they watch the Imperial assault shuttles take off. They have Hoffner, which means they’re gone. Lando tries to logic Han out of his funk–they could have blasted the ship to the bottom of the ocean, they could have killed us, there’s no way the Empire can train 400,000 crewers so quickly and they’d need that to crew the full complement of the Dark Force.

z: Ouch, the foreshadowing.

will: Nothing works, so Lando goes for humor, saying he just saved the New Republic by saving Lando.

Han, confused, asks how.

“Han! You know perfectly well how fast the New Republic would fall apart without me around.”

Han can’t stop a smile and agrees to stop moping. But Han knows Lando knows the truth: this will be a first-rate disaster, and they have to stop the Empire from getting the Katana fleet.

“Somehow.”

Scene.

This chapter… made almost no impression on me, I have to say, in any prior reading. I remember it only inasmuch as “the Empire gets to the guy who knows where the ships are and Han and Lando come home empty-handed.” that’s it. Not sure why–I guess anything is a letdown after the massive brilliance of the previous chapter. But this was better than I remember, containing some great exchanges and more establishing character beats, especially for Ferrier. Looking back, it’s actually more impressive how much Zahn is establishing all of the things that will lead to Ferrier’s downfall.

But yeah, it’s a lot less character and a lot more plot movement, so my gloss is vague but not wrong. So, not quite so long and intense of a post this week, from me anyway.

Z?

z: I had the same vague impression as well.  Also, back when I was young the action was a bit confusing, although now it reads as well-choreographed enough.  And the foreshadowing about everything is fun to note.  This is one of those chapters that one will appreciate more in rereads, almost definitely.

Next week, we–arrrgh it’s my turn to take the lead and the second paragraph starts with “Fey’lya.”  Next week, then, you all get to try to read something coherent between my snarling and I’ll get to try to not snarl too much.  Until then, may the Force be with you.

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