The Last Command, Chapter 4

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 4 of The Last Command, wherein oh heavens I didn’t misremember that is what he did do mommy.

will: How you know it’s a good chapter: I’m not (at first read) sure which one Z means.

z: This week: Work busy, I endured the first hailstorm in my new home (no damage that I could see, although I didn’t inspect the roof yet), and I’m watching the Neil deGrasse Tyson version of Cosmos for the first time, which is very pretty and friendly for me if nothing else.  It’s reminding me, chiefly, of how much I miss Dr. SaganI was hurt when he passed away, a teacher that I never met.

will: On my end, I was hoping to get my tickets to Return of the Trilogy this week, but they aren’t up yet.

z: We join Luke on the next leg of his track-the-clones spy journey.   His itinerary, carefully crafted by Imperial Travel Agency, Inc., has taken him to Podaris as the next step on the clone trade pathway.   Zahn carefully describes the atmospheric conditions and the city which was built in response to them; pay attention, there’ll be a quiz later:

With a disorienting ten-hour rotational cycle, a lowland slough ecology that had effectively confined the colonists to a vast archipelago of tall mesas, and a nearly perpendicular axial tilt that created tremendous winds every spring and autumn, Poderis was not the sort of place wandering travelers usually bothered with.

A “slough ecology” is swamp-based, it turns out; you’re welcome.  I don’t quite know why a perpendicular axial tilt causes very high winds, but I’m willing to believe that there’s a physical explanation and that it makes sense, because this is Zahn.  He also explains why people bother to live there: “the stubborn spirit of the colonists.”  Knowing people… yeah, that makes sense actually.

will: Yup. It probably doesn’t actually count as a “colony” anymore–by the description it’s been populated for a long time and probably isn’t still beholden to another world–but one imagines a place like this (which never got enough development to be more substantial) as a homesteading frontier forever.

z: The non-touristic nature of the place, Luke notes, makes this both an ideal place for clone transfer, and a good place for a trap.  It is gratifying to see that he isn’t just blindly following the breadcrumbs.  At any rate, we aren’t left in suspense for long about when he’s going to discover the trap we know is there (as the result of Thrawn and Pellaeon’s conversation earlier).  In fact we join his point of view as he pays attention to the person he has sensed as following him.  He remarks that the guy was short and plain and probably was very good at his job, but inexplicably his training has not included how to tail Jedi Knights.  (We’ll find out later that Lesson One is “Stay back, away.  No, farther away than that.  No, farther away than that.”)

will: Or maybe send droids and use cameras.

Which brings up another point, tied into the timing: these days one would expect any Imperial-type society to be a total panopticon.

But I’d rather not think too hard about that, thank you.

z: I’ll join you in that.

Luke calls Artoo on his neck comlink to warn him that there is company, probably Imperials; learns that so far no one had been prowling around the ship, and asks Artoo to run through as much of the preflight check schedule as he can.  He then looks for a way to shake off his pursuer so he can make it to the ship, and they can leave.  He notices there’s someone nearby who’s in clothes very similar to what he himself is wearing, and follows that guy around a corner,  reaches around with the Force to scan what’s ahead, and… senses Force-free bubbles.  He realizes that these are created by ysalamiri, which means that a) the trap is about to be sprung, and b) the Imperials were planning (and expecting) to trap him, and him precisely.

will: Note that hooded robes are standard attire, or at least common enough that Luke can try for a confuse-swap with someone else wearing one. Fashion in the Galaxy Far Far Away may be a post of its own, some distant day, but for the moment, I can accept that the inhabitants of this wet, windy, swampy planet would go in for full-body coverings and hoods.

z: Look, I wear hoodies here and now in Maryland, USA, Earth, where the weather seems to have decided that oppressive warmth followed by serious storming is an acceptable spring activity instead of a summer one.

will: Yeah, but the robes.

z: The street Luke is on has a row of townhouses to one side, but to the other side there are narrow breaks between two-story buildings.   He slips into one of those little alleys, and with a little assist from the Force, jumps directly to the roof at a single go.  Once again I mutter a little that we don’t get to see this on screen.  OK, so he has to catch the roof edge and scrabble up a bit, but hey, let’s see you do that…I didn’t think so.

will: It’s quite a risk, after all, but Han doesn’t have the monopoly on clever tricks. Luke has a pretty good plan to get out of trouble, and if it doesn’t work, I guess he’ll be sorry.

z: Heh.

He peers over the edge of the roof to see, as expected, his tail comes running around the corner, pushing people out of his way and jabbering into his comlink.  From a cross-street a block away, a squad of stormtroopers with ysalamiri frames strapped to their backs appear.  Luke decides that now that the net is tightening, it’s time to slip out, let’s go down the other side of the roof andoooops.

There is no “other side” to go down to; he was on a street that on the edge of the mesa.  So the other edge is in fact the steeply-angled outer wall going down, slick and straight, all the way to the swamps down… there… somewhere. He has no way to go but down, but he can’t just slip down and make himself scarce, and needs to gain some more time.

He peers back into the street.  He has a plan, and in a moment that’s going to become very significant shortly, he thinks about the ethics of his plan.  His conclusion is that putting an innocent in mortal danger would be naturally unacceptable, but “merely inconveniencing him” should be okay.

will: Er. Yeah.

z: So he yanks the blaster out of his ex-tail’s hand with the Force, drops it in the hand of his costume-double, and makes “him” fire it back at the Imperialactually aiming above the heads of the crowd, of course, and the ex-tail jumps for cover and the stormtroopers stop checking IDs and faces at their end of the street and rush that way, and there is chaos for a moment, equally of course.  The poor dupe, having “had enough” and “shaking away the blaster that had inexplicably become attached to his hand,” runs for it into another alleyway.  Presumably, the entire Imperial presence on the street follows the Jedi who could yank the blaster from the one Imperial and then fire back at him. Luke’s got his diversion.

…welp.

Of all the things that make for a much different reading experience between the first time I read this, as a teenager in Turkey, and now, as an adult in the United States in 2010s…  I have to say that this is the most dissonant dissonance moment ever.  I also have to wonder how many times Zahn has thought of this scene since then.  It is very unlikely that he wasn’t ever reminded of it when… certain things… happened.

will: There is something to be said for the fact that the Empire does, by all evidence, want Luke alive, and now he knows why, so Luke can be reasonably sure that they’ll be setting for stun. Recall by contrast the scene in Hand of Thrawn where Han hopes that a blaster is set for stun…but I precede myself.

z: Yes, Luke is pretty certain that they won’t be shooting back at this particular civilian for good reason, and his reasons are sound and that is completely right.  But that’s the thing: Even knowing that, I still had a reflexive moment of “reallydid he do thathow could he think” before my brain caught up with itself.

Of all the people whom you can be reasonably sure will not shoot first without verifying identity…  The irony, it’s burning.

will: Right. My comment above notwithstanding, this is a scene that plays out very differently in the modern US. Ideally, one imagines that he gets stunned, or else sort of lies down/surrenders (which I can’t help but think of as “hands up,” and…yeah), and they see it’s not Luke and go “well, shit, leave him and let’s go,” but.

But.

z: Anyway. But having gained some more time, Luke goes back to the edge to study the way out.  The proper way to build a wall that can withstand and divert two-hundred-kilometer (per hour, one assumes) winds is, of course, to make it perfectly smooth, because any eddy current you create will be a microhurricane.  Which means that there are no handholds, crevices, or anything that Luke can, for instance, slide down to and stand on while he cuts himself a door into one of the lower levels of the city with his lightsaber.

Which is when he does the thing that had me “mommy”ing up there: He cuts a little notch in the wall, rips a piece off of his tunic and wraps it around the fingers of one hand, takes the lightsaber into the other hand, and sets it so that it would cut a groove angling to one side and down, starting from said notch.  Then he slots his wrapped fingers into said notch and slides down the wall, “holding on” that way, as he keeps making this path with the tip of the lightsaber always to one side and down of him.  

will: I discussed this back on Bimmisaari; it’s sort of a Douglas Fairbanks slide, from The Black Pirate. As you may recall, Luke did an Indiana Jones swing, so it’s only appropriate. And Zahn’s comment there was that Lucas is fond of “Errol Flynn swashbuckling adventure”; well, Doug was Errol before Errol was Errol.

(Zahn knows it, too. In his Quadrail book series, his protagonist explicitly names two animals Doug and Ty because their facial markings are sort of mask-like, in honor of Fairbanks and Tyrone Power, who both portrayed the masked man, Zorro.)

z: Good thing he hasn’t had any previous bad experiences with heights, like dangling from an antenna mounted to the bottom of a floating city or something while probably in shock from recently losing a limb oh wait.

I read between my fingers as he remembers that incident, including the, like, actual falling that came right before, and thinks that this whole action is “at the same time exhilarating and terrifying.”

will: Face your fear, and let it pass over you, and so on, I guess? Though at the same time, I think Luke wouldn’t have had much of a fear of heights (a bored Tatooine childhood probably had him climbing rocks a lot), trauma of Cloud City notwithstanding.

z: I understand why people ski, I really do.  I’ve done it once, even, and I’ve done it… “well” isn’t the word, let’s say “satisfactorily.”  The only two times I fell during that ski trip were once while getting off the elevator thing and once while standing perfectly still on my skis, don’t even ask. Never while skiing down, although I reached that “must loose knees or will fall” speed, that strange moment between having to control and let go simultaneously, many times.  I know exactly what “exhilarating and terrifying at the same time” feels like.

Do Not Want.  Not again.  I’m just not wired that way.  But I’m happy for Luke that he is, if that makes sense?

will: I haven’t skied in a few years now, but I used to do it regularly with my family. Though I started so young that I never got the “this is exhilarating and terrifying” experience–by the time it was a conscious thing I’d already learned the basics and I knew what I was doing. Even when I injured myself (not badly; I was too close to the edge of a slope and I got tangled in a tree branch, if memory serves) I was back out on the mountain once I was checked out.

Well, the next day.

Anyway, the point is, I do understand that, though I don’t get it from skiing. There’s always something though. If I ever go skydiving (someday…), that’ll probably do it.

z: A ways below, the sharply-tilting wall becomes completely vertical wall, and just before he reaches that edge he changes the lightsaber-groove direction more and more horizontal and less down, until he stops.  He’s gone far enough to one side that he would be out of the cordon now.  He cuts himself a doorway into… uh, somewhere, and disappears into the city.

will: Come to think, this also has similarities to an Assassin’s Creed level, years in advance.

Huh. AC with a lightsaber. Yeah, I’m in.

z: That, I’d be on board with.

Scene shift to aboard the Chimaera.  Pellaeon has received the “uh, so, like, he slipped away” report from the stormtroopers, which he’s unhappily relaying to Thrawn.  Thrawn grumbles that he’s warned Intelligence “repeatedly” not to underestimate from how far away Skywalker can sense them, but they didn’t listen, did they.  Pellaeon says that Luke can’t have gotten that far, and the troops are even then doing a search of the buildings inside a secondary cordon.  Thrawn, for once not underestimating Luke–

will: There’s a “physician, heal thyself” joke in that…

z: –deduces from the blaster-and-decoy trick that Luke must have gone to the rooftops. Pellaeon says that they have spotters covering the roofs.  Thrawn then asks about the shield wall.  Pellaeon’s information is that it cannot be climbed, and yet Thrawn sends a spotter there anyway.  We’re on a not-underestimate-Luke streak here!  Also, it turns out, they still haven’t identified which is Skywalker’s ship.  Thrawn points out that they are very likely out of time to do so now, and orders that the tail is to be demoted “one grade.”  Pellaeon mentally remarks that this is a harsh punishment but it could have been much worse: “The late Lord Vader would have summarily strangled the man.”

Oh, please, mon Capitan.  The late Lord Vader would have summarily Force choked the man.  It’s not the same thing at all.

will: You know, I have to say this–as I recall Vader only Force-choked two Imperial officers (to death; the temporary choking of Motti was a petty swipe for his dismissal of the power of the Force). One was Admiral Ozzel, who had just bungled the Hoth arrival; the other was Captain Needa, who had just personally apologized for losing the Millennium Falcon. Those were big screw-ups. Vader’s “Force-chokes for the tiniest mistake” reputation seems unfairly amplified.

And even given that, while Vader might well have Force-choked the tail, I guess, all the tail did wrong was underestimate how far Luke could sense he was being followed. It’s not like there’s clear data on this, and Force sense being what it is, there might not have been any safe distance. And if underestimating Luke was a death sentence, Thrawn would be long dead.

z: Thrawn, in the meantime, orders that all stormtroopers except the clones be withdrawn from the landing fields, but leave the clones guarding the likeliest possibilities to be Skywalker’s ship.  To Pellaeon’s “huh?”-equivalent, he explains that he’s going to let Luke take off after a token battle with clones, which would lead him to verify the presence of clones there on Poderis, and then they’ll capture Luke directly with the Chimaera but let his astromech droid escape back to the Rebellion and report that yup, this is where the clones are transferred through.

Wow, we’re on such a don’t-underestimate-Luke streak that we are not even underestimating Artoo Detoo.  This is a good day!

will: For some values of the words. Given how much Luke has figured out, though, one imagines that Artoo would say to the Republic “So, Luke walked into a trap, it closed on him, I think they let me go deliberately to tell you that Poderis is clone central, but I doubt it, because trap.”

z: …he would, too.  And Leia for one would believe him.

Scene shift; Luke’s strapping into his little freighter after what he thinks was an intense, but “too brief to be realistic” fight with troopers who, he verifies to Artoo, were clones.  He’s certain that he’s been let go on purpose, so once again, he’s not flying blindly into a trap.

will: Too brief to be shown, too. But yeah, that’s a nice dodge on writing another action sequence.

z: …after that gliding-from-four-fingers situation, I think we’re allowed skip another action scene.

As soon as Luke takes off, he’s shadowed by a pair of Skiprays, which he leaves behind as soon as he’s clear of the mesa.  Talking to Artoo, he verifies that his fight near the ship had been with clones, and also mentions that the Imperials knew he was coming.  Artoo suspects “that Delta Source thing,” as does Luke.  Apparently it’s a big enough deal in the upper echelon now that Leia told him if they couldn’t figure out where or what it was, she’d recommend leaving the Palace entirely.

will: One imagines that one thing that has been happening for the last month is that Bel Iblis has been sharing his intelligence gathering with the New Republic.

Somewhere other than the Palace.

z: Well, somewhere other than–{sits on hands to stop typing}

will: Yeah, but all Bel Iblis knows is the Palace.

Also, as Luke reflects and is sure Artoo is being too polite to say, if Delta Source is a person, fat lot of good that will do.

z: The freighter is now high enough to see the curvature of the horizon.  Luke sets Artoo to calculating their jump.  He’s expecting a Star Destroyer to be lurking beyond a horizon, to swoop in on an interception path any minute.  He gets the idea to reach out with the Force, and senses the Imperial ship a moment before Artoo shrills a warning: not cutting across his path, but coming fast from behind.  The tractor beams are already tracking Luke’s freighter, and are about to get him… “or at least, get the freighter.”

Hmmm.

Luke activates an autopilot, the aft proton torpedoes, and, uh, the freighter’s self-destruct sequence.

will: The classic three-switches gambit.

z: Then he dashes to a cargo area, where his X-Wing is “wedged nose-forward” with Artoo already in his socket.  He leaps into the cockpit, seals the canopy, and reaches for a special switch that has apparently been added recently.  It’s a lot like the last time he had a run-in with a Star Destroyer, Luke thinks, but while that time it had taken skill and luck to get away (…and only to end up in the literal middle of the literal nowhere, you’ll remember), apparently the New Republic technicians made some modifications to his ship this time which makes the luck “built-in”?

will: Luke also makes explicit that he’s figured out that the earlier time he did this dance, it was a deliberate ambush (an attempt by the Imperials to capture Luke for C’baoth).

z: He reaches into the Force to time things well, senses the tractor beam locking on to the freighter a half second before it does, and hits the switch, so that the lurch of the freighter losing momentum rapidly by its capture is simultaneous with its front end blowing up “into a cloud of metallic shards.”  You’ll remember from the movies that X-Wings don’t actually take off that fast, but that is not a problem here because this X-Wing is launched by a “deck-mounted blast booster,” which I’m envisioning like one of those magnetic boosters they use in some roller coasters, so it just shoots out through the glittering shards of metal.

will: Or a railgun-style accelerator; think Battlestar Galactica‘s Viper-launching sequence.

z: The tractor beam attempts to catch it, and for a moment Luke feels as if it’s going to succeed–note this too, there’ll be a quiz later–but the particle fog obstructs its effect well enough that the X-Wing rapidly breaks whatever weak lock there might have been and dashes away.  The Star Destroyer now attempts to fire on him, but it’s futile.  Artoo has the jump ready.  They flee into hyperspace.

Scene shift, to the Chimaera‘s bridge.

This is where you want to go review our recap/commentary for Chapter 16 of Heir to the Empire, everyone.  You know, the chapter where Luke managed to slip from the clutches of the Chimaera‘s tractor beam, with fatal results for the tractor beam operator.

Of course I remembered that the first time I read this, and of course, so does every single person on the bridge at the moment.  Foremost among them, Pellaeon.

Continuing his learning streak, Thrawn murmurs that the “rebels” get full credit for ingenuity, because he’s seen that trick worked before, but not quite so effectively.  Pellaeon has got admirable discipline so he’s probably not audibly gulping, but when he speaks, he can’t hide the tension in his voice; Thrawn actually soothes him for a moment: “At ease, Captain.”  He’s complacent because from his point of view, the primary purpose of the mission was to convince the Rebellion that Poderis is part of the clone conduit, and it’s been achieved.

will: Which…has it? I mean, Thrawn is thoroughly convinced that Luke thinks Poderis is exit 8 on the Clone Highway, but Luke is probably more skeptical and figures it was all breadcrumbs for a trap. This actually strikes me as one of Thrawn’s sloppier moments.

z: No, it hasn’t.  Thrawn is back into the underestimate-Luke habit, it seems, even as he’s praised the “rebel” ingenuity.

Pellaeon can’t even relax more than a few muscle fibers before Thrawn continues with the comment that the actions of the bridge crew cannot be ignored anyway.

They go over to the tractor beam control station.  There’s a young man, one Ensign Mithel, standing at attention there.  He’s “pale but composed” and Pellaeon reads it as the expression of a man facing his death.  Thrawn says, “tell me what happened.”

Mithel gives a dry, plain technical description of what happened: I had established a positive lock when the target broke up “into a cluster of trac-reflective particles.”  Apparently, lots of metallic particles at once reflect back a tractor beam.  “The targeting system tried to lock on all of them at once and went into a loop-snarl.”  …yeah, that I have no trouble imagining.  Too many unknowns, not enough equations.

will: Right. And the whole point of a tractor being to catalog and track objects at a distance…yeah.

z: Thrawn asks, then what did you do?  Mithel responds with a variant of “I tried to do physics;” he shifted the beam into “sheer-plane mode” so as to try to disperse the particles out of the way instead of waiting for them to dissipate, as that would take too long.  He shows a miniscule amount of emotion for the first time when he sighs quietly as he acknowledges Thrawn’s remark that it didn’t work.  It made the target-lock computer freeze completely instead.

Thrawn then asks, you’ve had some time to think about it, can you think of anything you should have done differently?

Mithel says no, implying that he has thought about it: “I’m sorry, but I can’t.  I don’t remember anything in the manual that covers this kind of situation.”

Please note that he’s been using the first person pronoun all along–I shifted the beam to try to disperse the particles, which made the computer freeze; I don’t remember anything in the manual (not “there isn’t anything in the manual”).

will: As contrast the earlier, which was all “it’s not my fault, the training didn’t have this, how should I have known,” and even from the ensign in charge, lots of “I don’t know, I just trained him.”

z: Thrawn agrees.  “Correct. There isn’t anything.”  Apparently this maneuver has a name (the “covert shroud gambit,” which, heh) and people have tried for a long time to come up with a countermeasure and have failed.  Mithel’s was apparently one of the more innovative methods that was tried, and Thrawn is impressed that he’s come up with it in the heat of the moment, even though it also failed.

will: Which is where Mithel gets “a look of cautious disbelief,” he can’t believe what he’s hearing…

z: The Empire needs “quick and creative minds.”  Mithel is hereby promoted to Lieutenant.  His first assignment is to try to develop that countermeasure.

will: If you look closely, you’ll see a fairly minor seed…

z: Zahn doesn’t use the cliche “you could hear a pin drop,” but… you could probably hear a pin drop on the bridge.

Thrawn congratulates the newly-minted Lieutenant, leaves the bridge to the Captain, and heads to his command room.  Pellaeon doesn’t need to develop Jedi senses to feel the sheer stunned awe and admiration arising from everyone within earshot:

Yesterday, the Chimaera’s crew had trusted and respected the Grand Admiral.  After today, they would be ready to die for him.

And for the first time in five years, Pellaeon finally knew in the deepest level of his being that the old Empire was gone.  The new Empire, with Grand Admiral Thrawn at its head, had been born.

…well.  This is a crowning moment of awesome in some sense.  Thrawn was completely ruthless in punishing what he viewed as an irrevocable error: Inadaptability and not taking personal responsibility; in the exact same situation, he rewards flexibility, quick thinking, and taking the initiative, even though both of the outcomes were the same. He can discern the difference, and he can appreciate talent when he sees it.  Back in the Heir chapter, I had remarked that the people on the bridge who witnessed the previous controller’s death, and who believed that they weren’t very adaptable, would probably instantly put in transfer requests to pretty much anywhere else.  Conversely, after this, the people on the bridge who feel that they can also contribute similarly will feel free to do so without fear of failure leading to their destruction, knowing that they will be appreciated.  One instant MegaLoyalty package, coming right up.

will: Right. It’s the difference between a lack of creative intent and experimentation, and a failure of execution. One is fundamentally problematic, the other is science. In the words of Adam Savage, failure is always an option–that’s how you learn.

z: Scene shift, back to Luke, who’s in his X-Wing hanging out in the middle of nowhere… again?!  Again.  But it’s not that bad this time.  Apparently, they are only running low on power.  There are quite a few places they can reach with the remaining power. However Artoo is skeptical, because half of those places are under direct Imperial control, and the other half are either leaning that way or “keeping their options open.”

Artoo suggests Kessel.  Zahn gets to seed a few more stories by throwing away the line that “Moruth Doole is still in charge there, and Han has never trusted him…” as Luke’s objection.

will: Huh. I wonder–hang on. *wookieepedia*

Yeah, turns out that throwaway was where Doole got invented. (I was checking whether West End Games hadn’t made him up.) Zahn doesn’t give context or anything, but still, that sets up what, a plot in a Rogue Squadron novel and the background to the entire Jedi Academy Trilogy?

Efficiency.

z: He looks down the list and says that they can also try Fwillsving

Fwillsving.

Fwillsving.

This is Zahn personally messing with me and my sense of phonetics, across so many years, I’ll tell you what.  “Fwillsving”?!?

will: It sounds Norwegian, to me…maybe we call in our Scandinavian friends? (Who might be reading. Hi gang!)

z: But anyway, before I can come down from that bit of indignation, Luke has another idea.  Why don’t we go to Honoghr to refuel and visit the Noghri instead?

“There was a startled, disbelieving squawk from behind him.”…yeah, you and me both, Artoo.

will: Also, we note that Leia had programmed Honoghr into Luke’s nav system “almost as an afterthought,” which rhymes with “because the Force said so,” right?

z: Right.

Luke tweaks Artoo’s non-existent nose by teasing him that he wouldn’t be afraid of going somewhere that Threepio had gone, now, would he?  Artoo retorts that Threepio didn’t, like, have a choice as such.  Luke says, but he’s still been there.  Artoo is probably not convinced, but is resigned.  Luke points out that Leia’s been telling him to go visit them, and he trusts her judgment of the Noghri, so they’ll be “killing two dune lizards with one throw… ” which, even he agrees, might not have been the most comforting figure of speech.

And scene.

I love this chapter unabashedly.  It’s longish, but it’s got so much stuff to unpack.  The sheer action of Luke’s escape; the ruminations on the ethical implications of the way he uses the decoy person; the nice creativity and engineering that goes into the covert shroud gambit; the beautiful (and, remember, almost successful) quick-thinking response from the then-ensign; Thrawn’s response to the same.  Almost as an afterthought, cliffhanger at the end.  No, I really love it.

Will?

will: It’s here that I’m realizing that by this point in the writing, Zahn must have known how big this was–Heir would have come out, and while it was probably too soon to change anything in Rising, Zahn was writing this some time in 1993. Other novels would already have been authorized–in fact, contra what I said above, I wouldn’t be surprised if Zahn had been in communication with Kevin Anderson and knew Moruth Doole was a character Anderson planned to use (both books came out in 1994, after all). So Zahn starts playing with the universe even more, knowing it’s not just him who can pick up things he wrote–which will tie into my “Stackpole loved Chapter 3” comment too.

Besides that, I agree that this is one of the most fantastic sequences in the entire trilogy. Luke’s resourcefulness (and his resources), Thrawn’s highest moment of leadership, and plenty of hooks for Zahn and others.

(Such as this: eventually, Mithel succeeds.)

But that’s about all from us on this one, so we’ll see you next week for a shorter chapter, involving some very different New Republic politics, the Rogues and Bel Iblis (two great tastes that &c. &c.), and the miracle of life.

Until then, may the Force be with you all.

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