Dark Force Rising, Chapter 28, Part 2

will: Greetings, gentlebeings, and welcome to this week on Force Visions, wherein we get the rest of the fight, I end up sounding like the history of japan video, and this time, Z gets the big pun and has a big reaction. Heh.

z: Just… -_-

will: Leia, dumbfounded but also optimistic, looks at Karrde, who shrugs, saying that he’d heard Bel Iblis was dead (itself a feat, Karrde being an information junkie and all), which is what Leia had heard, too–

–which reaffirms what I said back when we got Bel Iblis’s side of the story, inasmuch as Leia was Bail Organa’s daughter (and representative), after all. I imagine Leia had been aware of Bel Iblis not dying on Anchoron when the public at large thought he died, but when he and his followers vanished from the Rebellion, Mon Mothma probably had the story put out that he was dead even to those people (to keep him from splintering the Rebels further, especially in the Yavin era)–

z: Huh. Never thought about that until you mentioned it, but that makes some sense.  On the other hand, it’s pretty strongly implied that she hasn’t heard from him since, so she might well have thought he was dead, just not killed at Anchoron.

will: But anyway, Leia recognizes his voice, and says hi.

z: Calling him “Garm,” no less.

will: Bel Iblis greets her warmly, saying that he didn’t expect her to be here, but maybe he should have, and was “all this” her idea?

Leia, confused, asks what he means, and what he’s doing here anyway.

“Captain Solo sent my assistant the coordinates and asked us to come along as backup…I assumed it was at your request.”

Leia smiled tightly. She should have guessed. “Han’s memory sort of slips at times. Though to be honest, we haven’t had much time since we got back to compare notes.”

Bel Iblis gets cautious fast, because if this wasn’t an official request from the New Republic…but Leia assures him that it is now, and asks Virgilio to log it formally.

Virgilio says of course, and tells Bel Iblis that he‘s glad to see him too.

Bel Iblis thanks the captain, and Leia recognizes the smile in Bel Iblis’s voice as he says, “let’s do some damage, shall we?”

As the Dreadnaughts surround the Star Destroyer, blasting it with way too many ion cannons for it to deal with, Karrde moves up to talk to Leia, telling her that as soon as everyone’s off the Katana, it’s way past time to get out of here.

Leia’s surprised. They can’t just leave the Katana fleet to the Empire, that would be a disaster. But Karrde snorts with derision, saying that he did a scan…and there are only fifteen Dreadnaughts remaining.

(Counting the six that Hoffner sold to Bel Iblis, that means the Empire has already acquired a hundred and seventy-nine capital warships, and will probably pick up the rest too. Probably slightly fewer, if any had to be destroyed–or more likely broken down for parts to fix the others.)

z: So in conclusion, let’s summarize:  Eeeeeeep. Eep eep eeeeeep.

will: Leia’s rather shocked, and Karrde is clearly annoyed with himself, having underestimated how quickly Thrawn would get the coordinates of the fleet from Hoffner. As Leia offers a sympathetic platitude, remembering her own interrogation, Karrde is cold, saying it was probably just “a large infusion of cash.”

With that established, Leia calms herself, reminding herself that recruiting crews for a titch under 200 Dreadnaughts is a years-long process. She agrees with Karrde and tells Virgilio to send a landing party to help the tech team…but he doesn’t respond.

She turns to him, and sees what he sees: their plans have just been, ahem…

Perempted.

The Peremptory has arrived.

z: Will! No! Bad Will!

will: Scene shift! Aves orders a full retreat from the area, and Mara barely dodges a TIE laser blast, then casually catches the shooter as he flies by and vaporizes him, while complaining that her fighter doesn’t have the computing power for a hyperspace jump.

I’d been under the impression that Z-95 Headhunters lacked a hyperdrive, but it seems what they lacked was an astromech. It’s sort of interesting that the physical componentry of a FTL drive is smaller and easier to fit into craft than the computers that can calculate hyperspace jumps, but eh, this is still early Internet Era views on technology…

Anyway, Aves says he can feed Mara the jump numbers, and Karrde backs him up: get out of there.

Mara hates it, but admits that’s the right play; even with three Bel Iblis Dreadnaughts keeping the new ship busy, they’re outgunned–

She pulls her ship up as her danger sense goes off, but not in time; she’s hit. She preps for an eject, but realizes that her now-powerless craft is almost directly lined up to hit the Star Destroyer’s hangar port. She manages to line it up, and then pulls the eject handle, gets clear of the ship…and gets blasted by the Dreadnaughts’ ion beams. She loses comm, lights, maneuvering, life support, and emergency beacons.

She has a sudden memory of Luke Skywalker being similarly lost in deep space, but sadly remembers only that she had a reason to find him; no one has one to find her.

That’s when she’s hit by shrapnel from an exploding TIE, which knocks her unconscious, thinking that she had failed the Emperor again.

Scene shift to on board the Katana. Han sees Luke shiver, and Luke explains that Mara was “hit and…and lost,” very confused given that Luke looks like “he’d just lost his best friend,” instead of someone who’s wanted to kill him for two books now. He decides not to mention it, though; it’s “one of those crazy Jedi things that never made sense anyway.”

True enough.

z: Also, wow, had I ever not noticed the huge honking great lampshade when I read this previously.

will: Anyway, Han and company meet up with Lando and company, but it’s all bad news–they’re outgunned, one of the techs needs a medic within the hour, and the troopers are still coming.

Han says they should get back into the bridge, but Lando points out that there’s no way out from there, which is when Luke braces himself and tells them to get into the bridge: “I’ll handle it.”

z: Lando, bless him, still reacts with a “You’ll what?

will: Luke repeats that he’ll handle it, and Han knows that look (one he probably has seen a lot of over the years, starting when Ben Kenobi gave it to them aboard the Death Star), and pulls them away, saying they’ll back him up from inside.

z: Nice catch about Ben.

And Han’s still thinking about Luke a certain way, still; he thinks of “The look on the kid’s face…” Heh.

will: A minute later, Lando, Han, and Chewie are taking cover, and Luke has what’s either the Gandalf Pose or the Samurai Stance: alone in the archway, blade drawn, prepared to hold the line. The Empire’s troops quickly realize they’re not being shot at anymore and move up more quickly, filing into the bridge foyer (OK, OK, anteroom) and taking cover. Han, Lando, and company fire into the maelstrom to no avail, as Luke simply waits, deflecting anything that comes near him. Han wonders what “the kid” is up to, knowing that once the Imperial troops coordinate their fire not even a Jedi will avoid becoming a blaster sponge…

…which is when Luke backs up a step and throws his lightsaber into the nearby bulkhead…causing a major hull breach.

z: Confession time: I did not see that one coming.

will: Luke jumps back another pace into the bridge as the blast doors slam shut (on both sides of the anteroom), and Chewie kills the alarms as the troopers suffocate.

Luke is looking out at the battle, probably a mix of glad to be alive, sorry he had to kill so many people, and wanting to help with everything else, especially Mara, if Han is reading right, but Han (who grapples with his own helplessness given Leia’s dangerous placement) says they can’t fire, they can’t maneuver, what can they do?

Luke tells him “you’re the clever one”…

z: Archetype-savvy if not quite genre-savvy, that one.  Or, well, has been around Han for far too long.

will: …but Han is about to give up.

“Yeah. Sure. I’m just supposed to wave my hands and–“

And there it is, the equivalent of the mole miner moment.

Han finds the helm, telling Chewie and Lando to give him a sensor readout.

“Where are we, anyway?”

“The middle of nowhere,” Lando grouses, reminding Han that the ship is dead and fiddling with the helm won’t help.

“It’s not going to get us anywhere,” Han says, and it takes Lando another second to remember that they’re on the flagship Katana, command ship of the fully slave-rigged fleet…

Han throws power to the sublight drive, and when one of the other Dreadnaughts lurches to life–Lando tells him to count his blessings that there was still one with engines working–Han asks for an intercept course for the second Star Destroyer (which, being newer to the fight, has suffered less ion cannon damage than the older one), and feeds it in.

Luke tells him there’ll be no way to fire accurately, but that wasn’t Han’s plan. Once he’s lined up, Han hits ramming speed.

z: This, I did see coming. As soon as Han moved the other Dreadnaught anyway.

will: The Peremptory has suffered enough damage to its control systems from the ion cannons, so there’s nothing to do but watch…

Even from the Katana’s distance, the impact and explosion were pretty spectacular.

Brandei watches in horror, unable to believe that “the mightiest ship in the Empire’s fleet” could die like that, but a shot across his bow snaps him back to reality. With two of the other Dreadnaughts heading back for the Judicator (the third having been damaged by the explosion), Brandei is outnumbered, his starfighter screen is toast, and he orders the retreat–comforted in knowing that they have most of the Dark Force, commanded by Grand Admiral Thrawn himself.

And scene.

One downside to our splitting the weeks, as significant as it was, is that the urgency seems somewhat muted (even if we did split in just the right moment, the lull of the battle after the Dreadnaughts arrived); it’s a mad scramble from start to finish, and the time between docking with the Dreadnaught, let alone realizing they’re on the Katana, and finding out just why the Force nudged Luke there was maybe an hour.

And yeah, I’ve been making samurai jokes for the past chapter, but seriously, this really was a battle where a Katana felled the enemy in a single stroke. If the fleet hadn’t actually been named Katana I probably wouldn’t have. But of course it was. Zahn doesn’t talk about it as far as I remember in any footnotes or interviews or anything, but there’s no way he didn’t know the same jidaigeki stuff I’ve been saying to you.

And that’s about it. All we have left is the denouement, recovery, and revelation.

Z?

z: I’m still sort at stuck at “Eeeeeep,” even with the awesomeness of Luke’s You Shall Not Pass and Han’s Clever Ploy.  But that’s because I know what the characters don’t… but they’ll also find out soon enough.

As in, next week, within one page.

Until then, may the Force be with you.

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