The Last Command, Chapter 29

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to the last chapter of The Last Command.

(!!!)

This is a very very short chapter, only 4 pages in my paperback, which is a good thing because this Saturday is our first concert of the season and I had a rehearsal Sunday and hosted one today (Tuesday) and have dress rehearsal Thursday and

(!!!)

…so anyway.

will: On the other hand, I’ve gotten through my worst busy, I think, because the grand busy-maker of my job ended Wednesday night–well, Thursday morning, and holy crap, was it a Thing. (Though of course there was and is the equivalent of the mop-up action.)

z: We open in Coruscant.  Mara’s on the Palace roof, leaning against a railing, and watching night fall. This would be same rooftop Luke came up to after being awakened by Ben Kenobi’s goodbye in the first chapter we met him in this Trilogy, so, yeah, we’re very literally bookending.  She thinks that all the bustling and the hustling and the airspeeders and all the lights and movement near and far somehow seems strangely peaceful…

will: Speaking as a New Yorker, yeah, it is! I love watching the movement of the city at night.

Or maybe the peace was in her.  Either way, it made for a nice change.

z: Add that to the list of “stuff what would have completely gone over my head when I first read this book.”  Ah, to be young again, and not know about that kind of inner peace because you’ve never known about its opposite, a constant inner turmoil.  How you see and perceive everything around you changes, exactly as Mara experiences here.  The most idyllic pastoral scene is in upheaval around you when you cannot see past the upheaval within.

She hears a door open and knows it’s Luke without even reaching out with the Force.  She thinks that Luke is there for an answer to… something, and ruefully thinks “so much for inner peace,” but to get ahead of ourselves a little, she’s wrong about the peace going away.

will: Well, it can’t be denied that Luke has a habit of complicating her existence. Even now, there’s an element of “oh, the avatar of Real World Shit Going Down just popped up to say hi.”

z: Good description.

Luke tries to make oblique small talk (“quite a view, must bring back memories for you…”) and Mara responds hilariously: “Translation: How do I feel about homecoming this time.  You know, Skywalker—just between us—you’re pretty pathetic when you try to be devious.”

Beyond the hilarity, this is also very telling—look who knows how to read Luke so well now.  Look who knows Luke so well by now… and it’s not like they spent that much time together, when you think about it.  But the rest of this conversation is all in this vein—two people who understand each other, and who are completely open with each other.

will: They may not have spent a whole lot of hours together (though Wayland was what, two weeks?), but the emotional time spent was amplified by circumstance. Between Myrkr, the Chimaera, and Wayland…yeah.

z: That was some catharsis in Mount Tantiss for Mara, tell you what.

Mara continues her nose-tweaking with “stick with that straight-out farm boy honesty,” and Luke plays along with “sorry, spent too much time with Han, I think.”  Then Mara walks into the next one, though: “And Karrde and me, I suppose?” “You want a straight-out farm-boy answer to that?”

Look at that.  They are bantering.

But then he repeats the question, now plainly, and Mara answers just as plainly, although it’s not an easy answer.  She says that it feels strange, because it’s not really homecoming per se.  For instance, she had never just come up on this roof just to stand there and look at the sights before; she was always meeting someone or spying or someone or…

…oh, hi, revelation: Mara does not actually have a “home,” per se, does she.  The Imperial Center or the Palace was never home to her, not in the sense we usually mean.  And she probably did not even realize the lack consciously.

will: Yeah. She’s known she was lacking a home for the last five years…what she’s now seeing is that she hadn’t had one for a long time before that. A family, maybe she had (a deeply screwed up one)–but a home? Not so much.

z: Then Luke segues into the question that she was thinking of before, which, we learn, is about what she thinks of an opportunity.  Let’s jump ahead and not keep you in suspense: She’s been tapped to serve as a liaison between the Smugglers’ Quorum and the New Republic, if she wants to.  She thinks that the whole thing is “ridiculous,” because just how long will the Quorum stay intact anyway?  It’s Luke’s turn to walk into it: When he says that Karrde believes it’s not ridiculous, she shoots back “Karrde’s an even worse idealist than you sometimes.”  O-wwwwwch.

(And speaking of knowing people well.  Yeah yeah yeah, behind that façade… You’re only in it for the money, right, Talon?)

will: You’re preceding Han there. By ten years and a bodyguard crush.

z: Luke points out that if it holds, it’s going to be a very good thing: There are so many information sources in the fringe that the New Republic doesn’t know how to access.  But why do you need information sources, Mara asks: Thrawn’s dead—

Loose end #1, tied: Apparently that’s now public knowledge.  Did Pellaeon put out an all-ships bulletin and the New Republic intercept it, or do they have intel within the Imperial Remnant Fleet, or… ? Either way.

will: As we’ll eventually find out, yes, pretty much: Pellaeon sent the message, and New Republic Intelligence got a hold of it.

z: Anyway, Thrawn’s gone, cloning center gone, Empire’s retreating, you’ve won, so why do you need information?

Oh, my sweet summer child.

will: Seriously. Mara’s smarter than that–I can only assume it’s the inner peace talking.

z: Luke points out one aspect of the sweet-summer-childness: We had “won” at Endor too, but we’ve had five years of so-called mopping-up action since then.

That one sentence includes so many books, folks.

There’s also the sweet-summer-childness that he doesn’t mention, probably because he shares it: Why, whyever would governments need extensive information sources even in peacetime.  Go figure.

will: And now you’re preceding Karrde by ten years.

z: {unabashed grin}

Mara’s next question is probably the reader’s next question, too: Then why not get Karrde to liaise?  Because he’s a smuggler, according to Luke, and Mara was “just a smuggler’s assistant–”

–Mr. Straightforward-Farm-Boy needs to learn at least some tact, if you ask me–

will: Nah, given the rest of the sentence–he’s not saying what she was, he’s saying what she’s seen as by others.

z: I’d still leave the “just” out.  –but anyway, that does make a difference to some people, probably some whose names may rhyme with “Mack’s Bar.”

will: Not just him either, but yeah. And the elements of Mara having been Karrde’s organizational expert, not to mention her role in taking out Wayland, gives her a bit more status in the eyes of the politicos. So yeah, she really is the ideal person for the job.

z: Besides, it turns out that Karrde has already refused. His vornskrs are “recovered” now: So Will was right, C’baoth’s attack last chapter wasn’t fatal.  (Loose end #2.) So Karrde wants to get back to his people pronto.

Anyone surprised?

will: Least of all Mara and Luke.

z: Mara then posits that she is not a politician, nor a diplomat; Luke counters that thas doesn’t matter since she’s a person both sides are willing to trust.

will: Which is kind of the truest definition of a diplomat, right?

z: Mara isn’t so certain, and complains that Chewbacca and the team he’s taking to settle the Noghri to a new planet are going to have more fun even with all the challenges that implies. (Yes, that was loose end #3 tucked in.)

will: And there probably isn’t any surprise what planet they settle, right? I mean, we might not get told explicitly until the ten years are up, but you can tell.

z: Luke touches her hand and reassures her that he knows she can do this, which implies that he’s read some lack of confidence behind all her reasoning and excuses, and I’m willing to trust him on that.  She sighs, and says that she’ll have think about it, and I smile because I recognize that kind of answer.  Besides, she’s already made her decision and telegra–er, subspace-beamed it in a blink-and-miss moment: She said Chewie and his team were going to have more fun, not would have more fun.

That had also flown completely over my head earlier. Nicely played, Mr. Zahn.

will: Hmm. I don’t know about that. I mean, she’s not being invited onto that resettlement team, so I’m not sure she’d phrase it like that anyway. But eh.

z: Luke, maybe coming to the same conclusion, tells her to come down when ready. But he probably doesn’t move, and besides, Mara can now read his sense well enough to be able to tell that there’s something else.

Luke pulls out his old lightsaber–the one he lost on Bespin and nearly fell to on Wayland–and says he’s like Mara to have it.  This surprises Mara for some reason…

…oh come on already…

will: Heh.

z: …and she asks why, and Luke says there are lots of reasons.  The comments in between are mine; he just rattles them off without a break:

“Because you earned it.”

No kidding.

“Because you’re on your way to becoming a Jedi and you’ll need it.”

We never find out if Luke had the same sort of qualms about teaching Mara as he had about teaching Leia and the twins, but probably not.  For one thing, if he tried to teach Mara what I call the philosophical side of the Force he’d get laughed at, or if he tried for the ethical side, he’d probably get laughed at even more. Knowing these things, I’d find it believable he doesn’t have the same worries.  He’s never had any trouble teaching the practicalities, so that’s not a problem.

will: Though the underlying “Mara has grounding in the Force, but she worked for the Dark Side for so long–why didn’t she fall?” will be addressed later too.

z: “Mostly, though, because I want you to have it.”

Ah, finally, we’re spitting it out.  Time for balloons, confetti, 76 trombones… —yeah no, I wish, we’ve still got a ways to go.

will: A loooooooong ways.

z: But to Mara’s credit, she doesn’t want for elaboration on this point. She takes the lightsaber, slowly but still takes it, and thanks him.  Luke says “You’re welcome,” touches her hand again, and heads to the door, asking her to come to some conference room when she’s decided.

Which leaves Mara pondering how, by giving her the lightsaber, Luke had also given away one of his last links to the past.

Oh no, wait, I have to quote that bit of her inner monologue verbatim actually:

Mara turned to gaze out at the lights off the city again, the cold metal of the lightsaber pressed against her hand.  Luke’s lightsaber. Probably one of his last links to the past… and he was giving it away.

Did you notice that?  No?  Well, here’s the next bit: “Was there a message in that for her? Probably.  Like she’d said, subtlety wasn’t one of Luke’s strong points.”

Hey, look, it’s not “Skywalker’s” lightsaber or strong point.  Her inner monologue does not refer to him by name at all before this point in the chapter, and then it’s “Luke” twice in rapid succession.  Well-played, Mr. Zahn.

Loose end #4 for the reader, tied up.  And, Mara thinks, there are no loose ends left for her and if that was a message like she thought, it was wasted, because she’d already broken her last link herself in the Mount Tantiss throne room.

will: Which is less true than she realizes, but it’ll be a long time (even more than the ten!) before we see her confront that.

z: Now it’s time for her future, and though she thinks she might not like it, that’s the New Republic.

will: Because let’s face it, the New Republic is a squabbling mess. It’s the Winston Churchill reasoning for democracy: it’s the worst form of government except for all the others.

z: Hearing Luke open the roof door, she calls after him to hold on a minute: “I’ll come with you.”

And scene.

And book.

And trilogy.

(!!!)

I don’t have much of a retrospective for this chapter by itself, given that I’ve babbled so much over less than four pages of text.  And we’re planning to do book and trilogy retrospective in the coming weeks.  So it’s time for me to bow out.  Will?

will: I wish we had a sense of how Luke felt about giving her his lightsaber. I mean, yeah, we can read some into it from her perspective, but we never got a view from Luke on the fact that Anakin’s lightsaber is back in the world.

(I guess we’ll just have to wait for Episode VIII for that?)

But other than that, yeah, we’re planning a bunch of retrospectives, so I’ll talk more then..

After we do a book retrospective, and a trilogy one, we’re planning a couple of lighter, non-chapter weeks until after the new year when we dive into the next book. We’re kicking ideas around for that right now, but if you have any suggestions for non-book posts or thoughts you’d like to see, let us know!

(Hell, if you want to ask questions, we can try to do a Q&A post. Fire away!)

But that’s all from us for now. See you next week for the first retrospective.

Until then, may the Force be with you.

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