: Greetings, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 27 of Dark Force Rising, where Z will probably do a happy dance, but I’m mostly just facepalming.
One bit of naked self-promotion: the Skiffy and Fanty Show podcast has begun a new series, Thrawn and On and On, about the SWEU. Nice to see others returning to these fertile fields of discussion, and if you guys want to talk with others, well, Z and I will be happy to chime in.
: Back in the day, I had the advantage (from one point of view) of coming into the fandom late, so I missed a lot of stuff probably, but I also had the luxury of curating what I read a bit based on the opinions of others. So I am not actually aware of many of the Most Horrible of the GFFA, such as…
: Seriously, though, guys, even the Planet of the Rancors is small beer in the universe of horrible SWEU stuff…
: …who to the what now!?
No, I don’t really want to know. Chapter time.
(: That one’s actually on our list, folks.)
: Luke does the “I’m awake, I’m awake” jerk (at least, that’s how I see it) in his copilot’s chair as the alarms sound–time to drop out of hyperspace. He asks Han if he’s ready, and Han says of course–but Luke picks up on some tension under the surface, “almost brooding.” When he asks, Han unloads a bit:
“Just once I’d like them to find someone else to go off on these little jaunts across the galaxy. You know Leia and I didn’t even get a day together? We didn’t see each other for a whole month; and we didn’t even get a day.”
Luke comments that he feels like he’s been running at full speed since the first movie (well, “since we blasted out of Tatooine with the droids and Ben Kenobi,” but), which after all is nine years now, and Han goes on to complain that Leia looks “twice as pregnant as she did” (which I read as missing the time with her as she grows these new lives inside her), and that all she was able to tell him is that the Noghri are on their side. Chewie’s even being quiet about it and saying it’s Leia’s story. Han’s about ready to strangle Chewie–I’d like to see him try.
: I read the “twice as pregnant” line the same, too. It’s such an important part of their lives, and he’s missed even just being there for a significant chunk of it because they both had to go on “jaunts.” Can’t blame him.
: Luke cuts the tension with a joke that they’re just too good at their jobs, and it works, and Luke follows up by pointing out that there’s a leak in the Imperial Palace, so until that’s sorted out…
: …they can’t trust many people either. Which leads me to idly speculate about how much delegation these three would do even if they could trust thousands. It’s a thought.
(Leia would probably be best at it.)
: Luke demonstrably isn’t, but we’ll get there. Han reluctantly agrees with Luke’s argument, saying “someone” (Bel Iblis, in case you forgot) said the leak is called Delta Source. They speculate on who or what it could be, and then the time comes.
Luke looks around, shivering slightly at the thought of being “dead center in the middle of nowhere.” Han tries to crack wise about it being a familiar sensation, meaning Tatooine, but he forgot about Luke’s near-miss with a busted X-wing hyperdrive. At any rate, the Rogues launch from the transport, and Luke looks around, his eyes adjusting to the stars-against-blackness backdrop to see a ship’s running lights that make up a Dreadnaught. Han sees four more, and that clinches it.
“The Katana fleet. Only now did he realize how little he’d really believed in the fleet’s existence.”
Well, not “existence” so much as continued existence, right?
: No, “existence” works actually.
I know I told this anecdote to Will, but here you get it too, dear reader. I came to the United States for the first time when I was twenty. This was before 2001, so landing patterns to National Airport were probably different. Anyway, I connected through JFK, and was sitting on the right side of the plane, and coming for the landing we banked, and lookit that the Capitol Building.
A picture of that was almost always the backdrop of news about the USA on Turkish TV channels, so of course I knew what it looked like.
But I saw it from the plane and, no lie, the thought that flashed across my mind was exactly “Huh. It does really exist.”
So I get what Luke felt like. Come to think of it, since I had also experienced the thought “Huh, there really is a continent across the ocean” a number of hours before that landing approach, I should have been expecting it.
: Anyway. Han angles for the nearest ship, but Luke feels something in the Force and directs them to another one. Han gives him a look, but shrugs and points for that ship. The Rogues get into escort formation, and as they approach, Zahn gives a picture of the Dreadnaught, including “a bow that he’d heard once described as a giant clam with an overbite.” The Dreadnaughts were the battleship-equivalents of the Old Republic, before the Star Destroyer aircraft-carrier-equivalents of the Empire, so they are not to be underestimated. Han sees the main docking bay, the transport settles in with its bow pointed out for a quick exit, and Han and Luke meet up with Lando, Chewie, and a four-man tech team in the entry ramp. The air is reported clean, and they head out–Han, Luke, and two techs for the bridge; Lando, Chewie and the other two for the engine room. The ship is in remarkably good shape, as they walk, and Luke suppresses a shiver at the thought that the crews had “died here in agony and madness,” and wonders about the cleaning and housekeeping droids who had cleared the bodies.
: In particular, he wonders what those droids “had made of it all.” If anyone was going to care about the experiences of mute ancient droids it’d of course be Luke…
: The bridge is empty, and Lando and company report that the engine room is bad shape–most of the power converters are out of alignment, the sort of fix that takes a shipyard to repair. No shock there, Han says, ditto the likely-sorry state of the hyperdrive, but that’s not really their job.
Luke, meanwhile, makes an interesting discovery: this is the Katana itself, the flagship of the fleet. Huh, says Han, that must be why the Force put them there.
And Wedge cuts in with news: an incoming ship. A New Republic Escort Frigate, as it turns out. They hail, and Captain Virgilio of the Quenfis replies…and orders them to leave and surrender, they’re under arrest.
Fey’lya smugs at Leia and Karrde as the three of them watch from the observation deck above the bridge, and Fey’lya “advises” Virgilio to launch fighters and show that he’s serious.
: Normally I’m not given to verbing the language, but I do like “smugs.”
I do not like launching New Republic Military against, uh, technically New Republic military though, I do not like that one bit, and I have to wonder about this Virgilio, Fey’lya loyalist or not.
: Verbing weirds language. Anyway. As Virgilio hustles, Leia stretches out, hoping for any sign that Virgilio is in the least annoyed or resentful of taking orders…but nope. And given that Fey’lya chose the ship and the crew, she isn’t shocked that Virgilio would be the type to take orders from Fey’lya.
As the squadrons of X-wings launch, Virgilio tries to reach Han again, but Wedge cuts in, asking, in nicer language than I’d use, “what the hell?”
: Well, an officer and a gentleman and all that.
Fey’lya decides to get personally involved, telling Wedge that Han is acting illegally, but Wedge says that can’t be true, he got his orders from Leia. Fey’lya counters with his trump card, Mon Mothma’s orders, but Wedge asks for proof. While Fey’lya says “I’ll show you when you’re aboard,” Virgilio cuts back in, saying that as a superior officer, he orders Wedge to surrender and dock with the Quenfis.
: In light of what’s going to come later in this blog but what chronologically happened before it, it is so cute that Virgilio thinks this would work right away. And by “cute” I don’t mean “cute,” bless his heart.
: On the one hand, yeah, Wedge is a Rogue. On the other hand, he resigned before he went after Thyferra. But we precede ourselves.
Leia looks over at Karrde, who is focused outward, she thinks remembering what it was like for him last time. Wedge finally replies that if he refuses, what happens?
Han cuts in, telling Wedge it isn’t worth a court martial, get going, and disconnects.
Fey’lya, somewhat shocked, demands that Leia get Han back on the comm.
Leia just says “Han won’t listen to anyone when he’s like this,” with a side order of “you blithering moron,” and Fey’lya–once again–turns to threats when things go the slightest bit not his way.
He doesn’t even get to finish the threat due to alarms. A Star Destroyer just hypered in.
: But this I really don’t like, the verbing and the content neither. I do like that it’s Karrde who tells Fey’lya, in a voice I imagine is glacially calm and courteous, that the alarms are due to an Imperial Star Destroyer that just dropped in for a visit.
Scene shift; we get a brief Wedge POV.
: Wedge orients the Rogues to the Star Destroyer.
: (The Katana is right between the Quenfis and the newcomer.)
: Wedge tells Luke and company to clear out, and hurry up, dropships are launching from the ISD. Han tells Wedge to get to the Quenfis again and cuts the connection, but Wedge says “like blazes we will,” and the Rogues angle for the Katana, and the Star Destroyer beyond it.
: …while Captain Virgilio is babbling something over the open channel, which Wedge pays no attention to–presumably, he’s already in the battle focus.
Scene shift back to the bridge of the Quenfis.
: Fey’lya doesn’t get it, but Leia does. The Rogues are running cover for the transport to evacuate, and the Quenfis needs to help.
Fey’lya orders Virgilio to recall his ships and get out of there. Even Virgilio seems shocked–that whole “on the side of the common soldier” thing is taking some dings–
: This is my surprised face–
: –but Fey’lya says that they have a duty to escape and sound the alarm, and if the Rogues want to commit suicide, let them.
Leia tries to cut in, but Fey’lya slams the intercom closed and waves the paper shield of authority.
Leia is tempted to cut that paper, and Fey’lya, in half with her lightsaber, but reins herself in, because that is the path to the Dark Side after all (or at least that’s what she tells herself). Instead, she says this isn’t what Mon Mothma expected, and if they don’t help, Han and Luke will die.
Fey’lya replies that if they do help, they’ll die too, including the unborn twins.
“That’s not fair.”
“Reality is not required to be fair. And the reality in this case is that I will not waste men and ships on a lost cause.”
“It’s not lost!”
And that’s when Fey’lya pulls a blaster. They will withdraw, and nothing will change that.
: And that’s when I really get where Zahn may be going with Virgilio, after all, and start grinning.
: Scene shift: aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer Judicator, Captain Brandei (who isn’t a famed Supreme Court Justice, that’s Brandeis, with an s) confirms there’s only one Dreadnaught with people on board, so they’ll focus on that one. Only one squadron is engaging, the rest are hanging back.
: Unsurprisingly I’d never would have noticed the significance of the name, and I do like it.
: Brandei smiles, thinking that rebels “fought like crazed animals when they had nothing to lose; but give them a taste of victory and a chance to enjoy the spoils and suddenly they weren’t nearly so eager to risk their lives anymore.” Which is why the Empire, which I guess is in the “with your shield or on it” camp, will win.
Well, he got Fey’lya nailed to a T, didn’t he.
: Fairly good description of Bothan psychology, maybe… if I also go into the “all members of a species behave the same” route.
: Brandei orders the dropships into defense formation, launches two TIE squadrons, and orders a message to the Chimaera: enemy engaged.
Back to the Katana. Han sees they won’t make it to the transport in time, so let’s do something else. He tells Lando to check the power couplings for the turbolasers in engineering, and waves the techs with him over to fire control. They manage to get the station online and active, and as Luke tells him he only has one shot, lines up for a visual aim at the dropships, which are in tight formation (to protect themselves from the X-wings). He takes the shot, and feels the capacitors disintegrate under the sudden strain after years of neglect. But the shot is true; five dropships of the dozen that launched are gone, along with a few TIEs that were too close.
: On the one hand, I can’t blame the Imperials for not realizing that warships that have been abandoned for half a century and more could be operational enough to fire even a single shot. On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that had Thrawn been there from the start, he’d have known to be wary.
: The dropships go evasive, which means they can’t do that from the Katana again–not that they could anyway, as Lando reports that couplings and generators are fried. Now it’s time to head to the docking bay, or at least the place right outside it, and mount a defense.
Luke says they’re facing 40-to-1 odds, but Han throws “never tell me the odds,” and says you never know when they might change. He glances at his chrono, thinking it could be any time now…
Scene shift, before you get distracted by the dangling plot thread.
: Not fast enough, I assure you.
: Leia tries to reason with Fey’lya, admitting she’s talking to him like he’s a child, but nothing works. Fey’lya throws “duty above personal considerations” at her–
: –I throw an “Oh no you didn’t go there,” especially considering just who it is he’s lecturing and what she has been doing two days or so ago–
: –confirming there are two minutes to hyperspace, and Leia considers trying to jump him, knock the blaster out of position with the Force, something. She continues to try to use reason, pointing out that Han and Luke would be valuable Intelligence coups for the Empire.
: Karrde “calmly comments” that the Katana is firing–well, has fired–and for whatever reason I find that a bit funny.
: Then Karrde, crossing to stand next to Leia and dropping a datapad on the console, tells her to save her breath. Leia is concerned about her family, but Fey’lya has a different set of priorities.
Leia reads the datapad, which tells her to turn on the intercom and comm, and I have to admit, I am kind of underwhelmed. An open-mic gaffe? That’s what’s going to do it?
: Let me show you how much I’d have cared at this point: <can’t find a small enough font and gives up>. But honestly, I can’t think about any other way either. Fey’lya absolutely had to be brought down by revealing to those he’d been so cynically using without a second thought that he had been cynically using them without a second thought, and no way a second-hand report by anyone would have done that.
: But then, I’m jaded.
Like I said, 2016 is going to be a really long year, folks.
: …there, we’re in complete agreement. Unfortunately.
: Anyway. Leia reaches out through the Force and activates communications, in-ship and intra-, behind Fey’lya, who’s focused on Karrde.
Karrde keeps going, and explains that Fey’lya is concerned with his political survival, because he can’t afford to lose any of his most ardent supporters–and he’s made sure to stack the deck, having shuffled assignments to make sure the entire crew and escorts are his people.
Leia deflates, realizing it’s all over. Everybody’s against her.
“So you can imagine how reluctant Fey’lya is to risk losing any of them over anything so outmoded as loyalty to one’s comrades. Especially after having worked so hard to convince them of how much he cared for the average fighting man.”
Leia now “sees where Karrde is going,” and I wonder why exactly she thought Karrde wanted communications online, but again, jaded. She injects the note of disbelief, and perhaps horror, into her voice, asking Fey’lya to confirm that he was only saying he was on the side of the average fighting man to gain political power, and Fey’lya, in full smug contemptuous asshole mode, sticks his foot so far down his throat that he can step on his stomach:
Of course it is, what other use are soldiers to politicians but political bargaining chips and masses to be duped into supporting you? And no, I don’t care if the Rogues die, because they don’t get involved in politics, which makes them my enemies–
: –because the Rogues aren’t on any political side, you see, which means that they are not on Fey’lya’s side either by definition, which means that they are his enemies, by his definition. He actually says this in so many words.
: –and enemies are supposed to die.
And…that does it. Once again, GFFA politics are more reasonable than our own, and the Quenfis‘s X-wings fly off to back up the Rogues, the people who are doing the right thing for the right reasons.
: Leia and Karrde, watching the squadron going to engage the Imperials along with the Rogues, both say “You’ve said enough” to Fey’lya at this point, and it strikes me that this is once again a very cinematic moment: They’re looking out from the observation window, Fey’lya runs his mouth, and pair by trio the Quenfis‘ escort zooms away to join the battle…
: Virgilio comes into the observation lounge then, with soldiers, and orders Fey’lya to quarters. Fey’lya, confused, says he doesn’t understand, and Virgilio walks over to the intercom–never turning it on–and announces battle stations.
And Fey’lya realizes what just happened. He tries to recover position with Virgilio, but Virgilio cuts him off: “Some of us don’t consider loyalty to be all that outmoded.” He tells Leia that they’ve called for backup, but it might take a while, and invites her to the bridge.
Leia thanks Karrde, who reminds her that Mara and Karrde’s people are due to join them, as Fey’lya says one more time that this is a lost cause.
“That’s all right,” Virgilio says. “The whole Rebellion was considered nothing more than a lost cause.”
: …once again, consider just who you’re talking to.
: The Fall of Fey’lya, courtesy a trick that the Bothans have probably been doing since they discovered recording technology. It never pays to be smug.
: Well… speaking of 2016 being a long year, remember the 47% incident?
(Although that, chillingly, wouldn’t work for today’s, um, issues.)
: Final scene shift; the Chimaera is touring the Depot (as Pellaeon has nicknamed the empty space wherein sits the Katana fleet–once again, Space is Big, kids) when the report comes in from the Judicator.
: Hee. I’d never noticed that “Depot” crack before. That is adorable, Captain.
: They review the facts and decide to go back up Brandei–but the nav officer suddenly isn’t responding to anybody’s voice, sitting stiffly and silently, and an unidentified Lancer has just entered the system and demanded to speak to Thrawn.
Pellaeon figures it out as Thrawn takes the call: C’baoth.
C’baoth wants to speak to Thrawn, now, and won’t take the delay to assist the Judicator. Because it’ll be fifteen minutes to bring C’baoth aboard, too long to help, Thrawn decides to send another ship, the Peremptory, to back up Brandei, and will wait to talk with C’baoth.
As the nav officer slumps, alive but shivering, C’baoth thanks Thrawn for his generosity and the comm cuts off. Thrawn has the nav officer taken to sickbay, and Pellaeon wonders where C’baoth got the Lancer.
Thrawn, saying C’baoth had probably hijacked it, points out that C’baoth has apparently learned how to take control of people over long distances–as in, light-years.
This gives Pellaeon the screaming heebie-jeebies…
: …Not only him either; show of hands, folks?
: …and Thrawn isn’t fond of the idea, saying that it may be time to “reconsider our arrangement with Master C’baoth. To reconsider it very carefully.”
Well. It’s about damn time Fey’lya got what was coming to him. It’s almost too quick, though–but maybe that’s the point, that Fey’lya was never in as strong a position as he thought he was, because he figured everybody else was thinking like him, and they weren’t–they were on his side because the evidence pointed that way and they believed what he was saying. This isn’t even xenopsych at this point, it’s…well, it’s good old-fashioned loyalty to your military comrades versus icky politics and compromise, which in retrospect has that same authoritarianism-yay note in mil-SF that I’ve been feeling–but maybe I’m taking that too far.
At any rate, it’s also interesting to see the first speed-chess moves, the various ships and factions, the secrets and reserve pieces and twists. And to see the difference between Fey’lya and even many of the people who were backing him, because it’s kind of impressive that even the “most loyal” Fey’lya supporters in the military evaporate once Fey’lya’s true colors come out. Kind of a relief.
: In one sense, this ties into the trilogy-wide theme of lack of information causing defeats; Fey’lya’s problem is not lack of information per se maybe, but lack of perception (because remember that Han told him point blank the “information” he’d need for his situation, which was that Leia and the others don’t play Bothan politics; and he apparently could have been speaking in R2-D2 beepese for all Fey’lya could understand him).
: Good point, and what is an open-mic gaffe but the result of not having a little but critical bit of information concerning the status of an on-off switch?
Also, I’m not sensing that much of a military authoritarianism yay vs. icky politics, as you put it, because after all what Fey’lya’s doing, or representing, is not compromise at all. It’s cold-blooded manipulation.
Next week, we’ll start by getting a glimpse into the rest of this battle from a pilot’s-eye point of view. In between, I hope to get two potential-trouble trees taken down and my shed emptied of various Stuff. Until then, may the Force be with you.