The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 1

will: Welcome all and sundry to the start of a new year, and the start of a new book: The Truce at Bakura, by Kathy Tyers. Published in January of 1994, making it the first full novel to follow the Thrawn Trilogy, which was finished in 1993.

That’s a bit of a hedge, as the young-adult “Jedi Prince” novels–we won’t be covering those–had seen six novels in 1992-93…

z: …wait, Jedi what?  I wasn’t aware that…you know what nevermind.  Therein lies dangerous waters.

will: …and other media like the first X-Wing game had already come out, too, but if you assume (and we do) that the Bantam Spectra novels are the central trunk of the tree that is the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Truce is the next…um…ring, I guess. I was going for a height analogy, not a width one.

Stupid botany.

z: You got into that one on your own, I’m not going to try to dig you out.

will: So to speak.

Anyway. Chapter One awaits!

will: For the first time (in the “tree,” at least), we don’t open with a Star Destroyer. We do get some equivalent of the classic “space panorama pan down,” with Tyers providing a description of planets and stars and “cosmic energies,” before zooming into the battered but victorious Rebel Fleet, and Luke Skywalker, exhausted (and maybe hung over–at least, “red-eyed,” though that could just be mourning and lack of sleep) and aching.

z: The descriptions are actually very poetic; there are cosmic energies singing timeless music on the wrinkles of space-time…

will: Music of the spheres indeed.

Luke’s just returned from the Ewok victory party, and a little put out that he was almost immediately asked to confirm that he fought and killed the Emperor and Darth Vader singlehandedly.

(In what will set the stage for what we at Force Visions believe to be the appropriate tack, he’d answered that Vader killed the Emperor, and hadn’t explained any further.)

z: Yes, and I liked the detail that he’s said to answer so immediately and firmly.  It’s one part “I’m not going to be a hero” and two parts “I’m not going to let Vader not be given credit,” although I admit those ratios are my estimation.

will: Luke’s going to check on his X-Wing, but finds Artoo being loaded up, and Luke’s relief pilot (remember, while Wedge was Red One at Endor, Luke is still Rogue Leader for now) is being sent out. Wedge, it seems, was up even earlier than Luke, and went out on patrol immediately.

Which…dude just flew the Second Death Star Run. You’d think he’d take a day off–I bet Lando wasn’t out on patrol.

More like out on a prowl.

Ahem.

z: WILL!

Anyway, it’s Wedge, so of course he’s out on patrol.

will: Anyway, Wedge ran into some sort of Imperial drone ship with a message for the Empire, but there’s a self-destruct, and Wedge is now manually keeping it from going off.

z: We’ll find out that “manually” is a bit too literal in this case.

will: Luke dashes for the ready room, comes back hopping into a flight suit, does an “Alliance-record speed check” of the systems, and ignores the fact that Admiral Ackbar was looking to debrief him. After all, this is Wedge.

Kathy Tyers, I like you already.

z: I second that motion.

will: As Luke launches, he’s wracked with pain and blurry vision, but uses what might be a Jedi technique and what might be just human nature and calmness and breathing to forestall it for now. He notices for what might be the first time (he was kind of, you know, busy) the damage to the Fleet from the battle, both in battle damage to the Mon Calamari Star Cruisers, and in the reduced number of them; further out, a heavy transport is vectoring away very carefully.

Wedge, who is barely in range of his X-Wing’s transmitter, explains that he’s physically holding on to two “electrite crystal leads,” which he describes as relics from “the old ‘elegance’ days.” If the crystals touch, a nine-meter fusion engine will blow up.

z: “An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age…”  Wedge would not think in those terms, but maybe it’s a semi-common way of mentioning the olden days in the GFFA?

will: Pause here. This was long before the prequels, of course, but I like how this fits into our view of how to explain the apparent tech gap between the first batch of episodes and the second: the first batch were set during what amounts to the Old Republic’s Final Flowering, a fin-de-siecle era of glitz, glamour, and “elegant” design (I expect that Tyers was also influenced by the “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age” line)…that’s far less efficient. See, for example, the proto-A-Wings that need larger “hyperspace rings” as opposed to newer miniaturized tech.

Back to the topic. Luke is a bit curious why whoever sent this drone used such old tech, but whatever. Wedge is EVA. He’s literally hanging in deep space, his flight suit and emergency helmet only rated for several minutes of vacuum, but he says that “the view’s terrific,” which Luke knows to translate as “I’m too macho to admit I’m close to dying.”

z: I don’t know, it doesn’t scan as “macho” to me.  It’s more like a resigned soldier’s approach.  Wedge, as usual, is doing what he sees needs done.

will: Artoo’s manipulator arm can’t reach that far, and Wedge’s force sense is starting to wobble, so Luke comes up with a desperation play: he ejects his lightsaber into space (via a “flare ejection port”; somehow the idea of a space fighter like an X-Wing having a signal flare is very Star Wars), and uses the Force to grab it.

He tells Wedge to jump free at signal (“I’ll lose fingers,” “you’ll lose more than fingers if you stay”), and Wedge now asks if he can “Jedi [him] a little nerve blockage.” Luke, since Wedge is after all asking, pushes out to colocate in Wedge’s head. He can’t manage to help with the pain and everything else, though, so he just says to jump clear on three.

Wedge is very woozy, but manages to disengage, and Luke cuts the connections to one of the crystals. Wedge remarks on how pretty the kaleidoscoping of the lightsaber blade is, and then stops responding, so Luke calls in a med pickup.

z: The way Tyers signals that whole “he’s going into shock” thing is very effective.

will: Scene shift. Wedge is recovering in bacta, all fingers saved, and the 2-1B (well, Too-Onebee) med droid asks for Luke himself to get scanned. Luke reluctantly does so, and the droid asks about double vision–and then diagnoses Luke with “sudden and massive calcification of [his] skeletal structure, of the type brought on by severely conductive exposure to electrical and other energy fields.” Like, you know, Force lightning.

z: Eh, it happens.

…what?

will: The choice is unspecified treatment, bacta immersion, or a chronic condition. Luke opts for treatment, stretches out, and wakes up in even worse pain, especially in his ears. He refuses the painkiller the droid offers, figuring he’s a Jedi, pain is inevitable. At least his bionic hand doesn’t hurt. Meantime, he can work on his healing trance skills.

He does ask about Wedge (who will be discharged tomorrow), but as he starts falling asleep, he hears someone running. And while he has been ordered to sleep, he “was still Luke Skywalker, and he had to know what had alarmed that trooper.”

Really?

z: I’m not clear what this bit of characterization carries, actually.  Farmboy showing up?

will: I mean…that feels a lot like justifying yourself. You’re not the commander of the Alliance, Luke. You don’t need to know everything instantly. But, eh.

He gets up, and gives an “if I localize my pain to my feet I can make my feet not hurt and that will mean I don’t feel pain” explanation that even he admits is vague and unconvincing, ignoring the med droid’s concern, and asks the trooper if this is about the drone ship. No, says the trooper, so Luke…decides to head for the war room. The droid reminds him to rest or risk chronic pain, but Luke has an idea.

Scene shift again. Luke floats in a repulsor chair into the war room, which is empty except for apparently three people: an on-duty tech, Mon Mothma, and General Crix Madine, who viewers would recall from the Endor briefing. The senior officers frown as Luke floats in, and Madine says they’ll just have the droid sedate Luke. Mon Mothma just lets her stare do the talking.

z: I giggle.

One thing that I noticed quickly in the very early pages of this book is that Tyers’ touch is very lightly humorous, as if there’s a little smile playing in the corners all the time.

will: Luke asks about the message, and a hologram of Ackbar joins the party, and the Luke-berate train; he tells Luke to be more careful. Luke promises that he will when he can, and Artoo the caboose shows up to yell at Luke some more. Luke doesn’t really need a translation.

Neither do we.

z: See, that’s what I mean.

will: The tech (now named “Young Lieutenant Matthews”) reports that they’ve decoded the message, and it starts to display. It’s a message from the governor of the Bakura system to the Emperor (Luke notes that they haven’t heard about the Emperor’s death, of course, and years will go by before that is fully understood everywhere), asking for help: Bakura is under attack by a fleet of alien invaders, and being overrun. They’ve tried to send Holonet messages to “Imperial Center” (Coruscant, which is presumably either in a mass freakout over the loss of the Emperor, or a mass knife-sharpening session for grabbing power now that he’s dead–well, both, really, especially given this was pre-Special Edition and the celebration sequence) and Death Star II, but got no reply. Help, they say. Send stormtroopers.

(That’s your priority? Against a fleet? Imperial governors, man.)

z: The aliens are described as “from outside your domain,” “you” meaning the emperor.

will: Madine asks for more data, and a droid responds that there are visuals. Luke gets excited, and then hears Yoda’s voice like any good mentor’s, and tries to calm himself and focus on the fear and danger Bakura is suffering through.

z: “Adventure, excitement, a Jedi craves not these things.”  Luke has had some time to grow up, since A New Hope, when you think about it, but then he has also been thrown from Major Crisis to Major Crisis since then.  No wonder this is still not a way of being for him, but something that he has to remind himself of.

will: The image is a holorecording of an Imperial patrol craft being menaced by an unfamiliar design of ship, with a lot of some sort of antennae emplacements, which is tractoring escape pods. Mon Mothma asks for the details on Bakura, which she doesn’t recognize any more than Luke does, and the droid reports it’s further out than Endor, and was…

…and here are some timeline/politics issues. Bakura was colonized at the end of the Clone Wars by a mining corporation and was subjugated between Star Wars and Empire, meaning the populace remembers independence. See, the Bakurans are basically a repulsorlift manufacturing center (the corp presumably learned that the system was rich in the raw materials necessary for such manufacturing), and the Empire appreciated the resource boost.

This introduces what I think is a new idea into the universe: that there could be independent worlds and that the Empire was busy subjugating more while the movies were happening. Interesting, complexified by the prequels and everything…but what the hell, let’s just go with it. It does flesh out the worldbuilding.

z: “The more you tighten your fingers, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”  I’ve mostly considered that to imply “more who are now under your domain will join the Rebellion,” hence the slipping-through, but that does make sense that there were those that had never joined in the first place.

will: (The greater problem might be the timing of the Clone Wars–the system was only settled twenty years ago? Eh. I guess. Maybe settled from nearby Rim worlds.)

Bakura is on the extreme edge of the Rim, meaning that given the Empire’s scattering forces (thanks to, you know, the Emperor calling in so much of his force for the Endor trap) they’re screwed–no Imperial force can get there quickly enough to help.

Leia, who has been listening, asks how large the Imperial garrison is, and Luke is surprised (but, in retrospect, shouldn’t have been) that she was listening. She’s “allegedly resting” with Han, and Luke has a reflection that he’d “loved Leia all along, wishing…”

OK, I’m impressed that Tyers slipped this reference into the book, under the noses of whoever had editorial. It works right here because of the pace of the movies–basically Luke would still be recovering from the revelation, and it’s hard to put down feelings entirely, though he definitely drops it here.

z: I must admit, I did jump when I read that; I’d forgotten about the timeline.

will: At any rate, the Imperial garrison is under-strength and old, so Leia has an idea: they should ride to the rescue themselves. That way they can free Bakura from the Empire, not just the aliens. We shift to Leia explaining this, with Han subvocalizing (he does a lot of mumbling and murmuring here) that they can also get the repulsorlift manufacturing capacity, and Leia volunteers herself as a “high-ranking negotiator.”

z: Here’s another example of the constant current of humor. Han’s lying a ways back, twirling a twig, and editorializing.

will: Han immediately says to her that she has a price on her head, the subtext of “what are you thinking” nice and clear, but then to her surprise, Han joins the call proper to argue in support of Leia’s plan; this invasion force could be trouble for the whole galaxy. And Leia’s right, if she goes, and Han goes, they’ll have the Falcon.

Leia asks about the whole “price on Han’s head” thing, but Han just says she’s not going without him.

z: The family who’s bounty-hunted together… wait.

will: Hold on to that “trouble for the whole galaxy” comment. It’s going to be important to one of my key criticisms/comments at what this book is trying to do, and how it pre-mirrors one of the great failures of the SWEU.

Back aboard ship, Mon Mothma agrees to send “a few fighters” to support Han and Leia.

Luke asks why the aliens are taking prisoners, which no one knows, so he starts doing his version of the “well, you’ll need” song and dance to suggest he should go.

Madine says hell no, and Luke’s eyes agree by resuming double vision. He starts to back down and return to his cabin, and Mon Mothma says they probably won’t be sending him. He’s not just another fighter commander, after all: he’s the Last of the Jedi.

But for whatever reason, this makes Luke decide to not get rest: instead he says he can help select the strike force.

No, Luke. You can heal.

Agh. I kind of want to slap him.

z: I agree.  But one can also wonder whether there’s a prodding from the Force, as in “this prisoner thing seems important…”

will: And scene.

Even moreso than the Thrawn Trilogy, or at least even moreso than Heir, this book assumes a lot of foreknowledge on the part of the reader. I mean, yeah, it’s an easy assumption of foreknowledge, since it assumes the reader of a Star Wars tie-in novel has seen the then-complete Star Wars Trilogy. But still, it’s interesting. Clearly by this point, not least because of the positioning, Tyers knew what she could expect out of readers.

And since this was still before the X-Wing series, I give Tyers props for putting Wedge into prominence so quickly. A recurring theme that I like in Luke and Wedge’s interactions in particular is that aside from his innermost circle of family, Wedge is probably the person whom Luke has known the longest, and that Wedge knew Luke when Luke was just a talented bush pilot, not a Jedi. And around Wedge in particular, Luke doesn’t have to be “on,” in a way he probably can’t even manage with Leia, given how the two of them would have to be all formal and official.

For example: who do you think Luke can get really drunk with?

z: Yup, that.

will: On the other hand, Luke’s whole “I need to be into everything” feels sloppy, like Tyers needed to frontload everything and continue forward. Especially in light of what happens next chapter, she could have cut most of this and Luke wouldn’t be acting like such an idiot.

But that’s enough from me. Z?

z: I don’t have much to add to what you said, actually.  The background (alien invasion) is interesting, and when you think about it, immediately serves to expand the galaxy.  Luke’s jumping into Wedge’s rescue is completely in character, and perhaps his jumping into Bakura’s rescue is meant to follow suit.

But, dude, seriously.  When the doctor says “sit down and rest or chronic pain,” sit down and rest, or chronic pain.

And that’s a lesson we all may heed, said she who’s spent the last two days trying to recuperate from [TMI] by working from home.

So that is it from me, too.  Next week we get a visit from an old friend.  Until then, may the Force be with you.

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