Dark Force Rising, Chapter 29

will: Welcome, gentlebeings, and welcome to April. No fooling from us, though, unless you count me taking the lead this week. Z is around, she’s just up to her armpits in other stuff, so I’ll handle the end of Dark Force Rising. In this brief denouement of a chapter, pieces begin to be placed for the final puzzle, secrets are revealed, and I go full Alice in Wikiland on mythology.

z: <grabs onto whichever rope/vine/cable/whatever it is that’s within reach, hopes it’s not a snake> “We will see these days renewed.”

…yeah, I keep telling myself that.  It may even be true.

will: Luke is out into space less than an hour after the end of the Symphonic Suite, as soon as they can leave the bridge (once the hull breach is repaired), and he finds Mara’s depowered escape pod almost instantly. Aves gets Mara (unconscious, probably from hypoxia and a concussion) to a medical facility, and Luke heads back to the Katana, wondering why he had to rescue Mara. He eventually decides it’s either the Force, or “one last gasp of youthful idealism and naïveté.” Which sound like the same thing to me…

z: And once again, I hit my head on the lampshade that I had very much missed seeing when I was young.

Knowing that my youthful self is joined by [mumble] other EU authors in missing that point doesn’t make things any better.

will: One assumes Luke also retrieves his lightsaber, which is either in the anteroom or floating next to the ship, depending how big the hole he cut in the bulkhead was. (I suspect it would be next to the ship because a ship that big would have some gravitational pull on the saber.)

z: I… you know, I could try to calculate that, but it’s 2 am and I’m still not sure about the cable/snake situation, so we’ll pass.

will: Also I don’t know the mass of a Dreadnaught. Neither does Wookieepedia.

As Luke’s returning, he gets a call from Han, who tells him to get back now, in a voice “of someone walking through a graveyard.” Han says he knows what the Empire is up to, and it’s not good.

z: That analogy, however, struck me as strange.  Just… I can’t make up my mind whether it doesn’t fit Luke or Han or Luke’s picture of Han or both, but… well, maybe I’m overthinking it.  It is definitely an evocative image.

will: Scene shift. Thrawn is furious at C’baoth, blaming him for the loss of the Peremptory. C’baoth, unruffled, points out that maybe Thrawn would have been dead if the Chimaera had moved to support.

Which I’m torn about. On the one hand, this is Thrawn we’re talking about. On the other, the Peremptory had barely arrived before it got a broad-spectrum ionic, and then a Katana application (Ship-On! Apply directly to the superstructure!), so I don’t really see how, short of plot armor, the Chimaera would have fared better.

Which suggests the plot armor really was C’baoth–so the Force is involved here.

At any rate, as Pellaeon edges himself further into the ysalamir bubble for self-preservation, Thrawn drops the matter entirely, and instead asks what C’baoth wants.

z: Hands up if you went “Awwww…” at the mental image of the good Captain effectively hiding behind a meter-long, sessile creature.

Just me?


Anyway, seriously, why did C’baoth go there anyway?

will: C’baoth, smiling, says that he intends to make sure Thrawn keeps his promises, and as such, he’s going back to Wayland and he’s taking command of the Mount Tantiss project. Been a while since we heard that name, didn’t we?

Pellaeon reacts with horror at the thought, and C’baoth plays the “you thought I didn’t know, did you?” card–

z: Well, I  thought he didn’t know–

will: –but Thrawn assures C’baoth that they weren’t keeping secrets, they were trying to spare him “unpleasant memories.”

z: And here I was about to say that there are Wampa cubs on Hoth who weren’t fooled by that, but once again I’m confounded–

will: C’baoth is willing to entertain the notion that Thrawn might be telling the truth on that, and even thanks Thrawn for his consideration, but says he’s grown in power and that’s no longer an issue.

z: I’d like to enter a candidate for consideration in the “Least Reassuring Reassurance Ever” awards.

will: Knowing what we know, and what the new reader will learn in about a page and a half, I have to assume this means that C’baoth knows he’s a clone, and knows what the Mount Tantiss project is, and has come to terms with it. (This will not be contradicted by his later deflections on the topic to Luke.)

Anyway. In his best pronouncement voice, C’baoth proclaims that he is a Jedi Master, and the Force his servant.

z: <twitch>  Well, that’s as good a definition of “Dark Jedi” as there is, I guess, when all is said and done.  Anger, fear, aggression, acting from those or drawing power from those, that’s all one thing, but the attitude that the  Force is the Jedi’s servant, instead of the other way around…

…although come to think of it, Vader may have stared incredulously at C’baoth before {{{Force Choke}}} if he’d heard the Force being spoken of that way.  But I think the Emperor would have approved of that point of view.

Anyway.  Yet another one in the “Zahn thought about the Force in detail” files.

will: Thrawn calls C’baoth his servant, but C’baoth denies it.

“The circle has closed. The Jedi will rule again.”

Thrawn warns C’baoth, even he is not indispensable to the Empire, but C’baoth smiles the mad smile that terrifies Pellaeon:

“On the contrary. As of now, I am all that is not indispensable to the Empire. Come. Let us discuss the new arrangement of our Empire.”

z: At this point, if I was an engineer on the Chimaera, I’d be seeking major kudos and possibly promotion by coming up with designs, unasked for and of my own volition, for a portable ysalamiri frame that is uniquely suited to the Noghri anatomy and particularly to staying out of their way as much as possible for their hand-to-hand combat and ninja techniques.

But I’d wait until C’baoth was elsewhere and there were ysalamiri already around us before presenting the designs to Thrawn.

will: So, no more “I seek to train Jedi and stay out of this squabbling.” Sounds like C’baoth’s near-death experience has made him go full-on Palpatine after all.


z: From one angle, this is a pretty straightforward fable development.  If you try to bind and use a rabid dog as your hunting dog… let’s just say you can’t expect it to hunt rabbits exclusively.

will: Scene shift, the final. Luke stands over the bodies of the dead troopers, finally understanding their weird sense he had received from their minds. While Han and Luke discuss whether there’s any chance of a mistake and Leia’s running a check to be sure, we watch Luke staring at the faces of the troopers.

Or rather, the at the single face that was shared by all of the bodies.


“So that’s it,” he said quietly. “Somewhere, the Empire’s found a set of Spaarti cloning cylinders. And has gotten them working.”

“Which means it’s not going to take them years to find and train crews for their new Dreadnaughts,” Han said, his voice grim. “Maybe only a few months. Maybe not that long.”

Luke took a deep breath. “I’ve got a really bad feeling about this, Han.”

“Yeah. Join the club.”

And scene, and book.

And click.

That “little bit of technology,” the Spaarti cylinders in Mount Tantiss, are cloning tanks. Thrawn has been cloning the Empire’s manpower–remember that he had standing orders to transfer the best troops to Mount Tantiss back at the start of the book, and he’s been looking specifically for ships, just hulls that can fight, since before Sluis Van. So it’s a mature operation now.

z: I have a little bit of tangent, which I should insert here before we fall down the upcoming rabbit hole: This is another one of those non-native-English-speaker moments for me.  I think this page was the first time I’d ever encountered the locution “Join the club” as Han uses it here.  I like that expression and use it when the chance presents itself.

Anyway, we’ve got more important things to worry about:

will: How Luke would know they were Spaarti cylinders, not Kaminoan, is explained by the fact that, according to my research, the word “Spaarti” was introduced in these books, not preexisting. Zahn was working from nothing, a decade before “Kamino” was anything to anyone.

Speaking of, I have to guess that the doubling-vowels thing is related to the double-a in “Spaarti.” In fact it looks like that whole thing is a mythology reference; you know the legend of Cadmus planting dragon’s teeth that grew into soldiers who helped him found Thebes? Seems the Greek word for those warriors, from the worn “sewn” (as in, sowing seeds), is…drumroll please…sparti or spartoi.

z: Oh look, this is me, seriously impressed.

will: So yeah, take that, add a double-vowel to represent cloning (because it looks/sounds appropriate, I suppose), and bam.

In fact, it goes further–in a short story Zahn would write later to provide some connection between the prequels’ Kaminoan clones and his own Spaarti, the Wayland Spaarti cylinders were found on the planet of Cartao.

In mythology, Thebes is considered to have been the originator of the Phoenecian language–and the Phoenecians were the civilization that founded Carthage.

z: And now I’m even more impressed.  I’m also impressed a bit at Will, who braved the trackless labyrinths of Wikipedia and even of Google itself to bring you this information.  While I clung to this vine.  <eyes vine uncertainly>

will: Interestingly, seems like “Sparta,” which is what I originally thought the connection was (harsh training and all), is unrelated…though now that I say that, I wonder whether the Mandalorian society Karen Traviss dreamed up (about which I’ll for now say only this, for…complicated reasons we’ll maybe get to someday, many years and books from now), might owe something to the Spartans. Would be funny, in light of the relationship between Mandalorians and the Kaminoan clones…

z: Circles within circles.

z & will: “Pray, do not disturb my circles.”

will: Seriously, our minds both went there simultaneously. (If you don’t know what that’s about, look up Archimedes. And check out Greek Key by K.B. Spangler.)

But anyway. Now we have the pieces in place, and many of the secrets revealed. Cloned Imperials, with almost two hundred heavy cruisers, and things are looking grim for Our Heroes. We don’t have all of the secrets, though, and we’ll get a couple more big ones in the start of the next book.

z: This is quite possibly the shortest chapter ever; it’s only about 3.75 pages in my mass-market paperback.  Luke rescues Mara (and ties the one loose end from the battle), Thrawn (and by extension, the entire Imperial Remnant) is slapped in the face by C’baoth, Luke (and by extension, the entire New Republic) is punched in the belly by oh look the Empire can crew the Dark Force and anything else they damn well please after all, we’re done.  I do have comments about the State of the Plot, but that is better served by waiting for the general impressions entry.

will: So for now, we’re done. Next week we’ll have our overall impressions and thoughts on Dark Force Rising, and the week after that, without further ado, we begin the end of the Thrawn Trilogy with Chapter 1 of The Last Command.

z: Until then, may the Force be with you.


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