The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 3

will: Greetings, all, and welcome to Chapter 3 of The Truce at Bakura, where we arrive at the Bakura system, and we learn about two different types of engagements: martial and (pre)marital.

z: WILL

N…

You know what nevermind.

My contribution this week will have to be somewhat sparse, dear readers, because there has been quite a bit of Life happening around here.

will: True here too, I’m afraid. This is a new record for formatting and posting: 6:30 AM on Friday. Woo!

…ohgodIneedsleep…

will: The Flurry and escorts drop out of hyperspace, and Luke (slowly) goes through the normal command procedures for such an exit; as long as he moves slowly, he thinks, he doesn’t hurt anymore. Much.

He does, however, acknowledge that his captain and navigator were smarter than he; he would have had the group jump straight into the system close-up, but they wanted to check the planetary positioning from the edge of the system–and yeah, the planets don’t match what the navigational predictions had been. We aren’t told how good a chance there would have been of a hyperspace collision, but any chance is enough. Luke acknowledges them with a salute and they move on. Nice reminder that Luke is very new at this, hence his being paired with an experienced commander.

z: All of that, and nice to see that someone is still thinking a bit of astrophysics, too.

That reminded me of a talk I heard about the New Horizons mission to Pluto, actually.  When they launched in 2006, they didn’t know exactly where Pluto were, or would be when the probe got there.  No, really.  They kept taking measurements and making course corrections throughout and, finally, in 2015, it passed 12500 km above that tiny rock which is hundreds of gigamiles away.  It was quite a bull’s eye.

…aaanyway, so of course they didn’t know the locations of the planets precisely and they had to stop in the outer system and take stock.

will: Six Ssi-ruuvi ships are clustered around the third planet, presumably Bakura itself, and there’s a giant furball of fighters; all of them are marked threat red, but they’re not all on the same side. Luke looks over at “General Dodonna’s brainchild, the Battle Analysis Computer.”

AKA something like a CIC computer in a David Weber novel, I can only imagine. Heavy data analysis. Another sign that while we have made it to the 1990s in this world and a concomitant technological culture, that’s all we’ve made it to.

z: There were references to Pellaeon looking at a computer analysis of battle efficiency in Heir, as I recall, but I cannot imagine the Imperial technology is the same as the Alliance one.

will: Han says that this looks like a real mess, and Luke agrees, just in time for “the communications man” (who is next identified as a Virgillian–and to Z’s point, it looks like the Virgillian Civil War was made up for this novel) to say they’ve opened a hailing channel. Luke considers what to say, having been given a list of possible openers from Leia, but this is an active battle, and he’s talking to a military commander. So he says this:

“Imperial Navy, this is an Alliance battle group. We have the white flag out for you. Looks like you’re in need. Would you accept our help, as between fellow humans?”

So it looks like “Virgillian” is akin to Alderaanian or Corellian, not a species; and yeah, Luke then thinks of how that’s not entirely true, given Chewie, the Duro navigator on the Flurry, and even a Mon Cal gunship crew, but “the human chauvinist Imperials” don’t need to know that. Not yet anyway.

Which…see above, re 1990s. That sounds like the kind of thing that made sense then. These days I imagine I’d have preferred Luke just say “will you accept our help” and leave it there.

z: I also think that this is the first instance that an anti-alien bias on the part of the Empire has been explicitly acknowledged?  I may be wrong.

will: I feel like Zahn mentions it in explaining how Thrawn was the exception. Anyway, Luke has a vision of an Imperial commander groping for procedures, and orders his ships to stay alert and shielded, when the response comes back from one Pter Thanas: who are you and what do you want?

Luke finally makes up his mind whether to admit that he knows the truth, and tells them about the message from the governor to “the Imperial Fleet, which is, ah, mostly in airdock at the moment.”

“Airdock” is a reasonable adaptation of “drydock” for water naval terminology, I guess. Luke realizes that he’s standing up when his legs start to hurt–he isn’t fully healed, just mostly, if that–and he sits back down.

z: Also, Luke’s being very nice and polite again.  He didn’t say anything about, oh, we broke your second Death Star and your Super Star Destroyer and such.  I’m hearing his words in the tones one would use when saying “my neighbor’s car is in the shop so I drove their kids to school today.”

will: Leia tells Luke to soft touch this, or they’ll be chased off, but Luke says the Imperial battle group is in enough trouble that they can’t–just in time for Thanas to agree and send the necessary data to decide friendlies and support. Unfortunately, that confirms that most of the furball and all the big ships are still hostile, and the BAC reports that the Empire’s central ship is a single cruiser which still outguns the Flurry. (Translation: the Alliance task force might not be any help at all.)

But Luke pushes the Big Red Button and the fighters start to scramble. In order to decide how to approach, though, he taps into the Force for “a leading…a hunch, as others called it.”

z: Good Jedi.

will: The Ssi-ruuk temporarily jam transmissions, but Thanas gets past it and asks for a cone of ships to get between the Ssi-ruuvi cruisers (Luke files away the name). Luke lets the Force tell him to sweep down from “solar north,” and orders a course set.

Thanas thanks Luke, and Han says things don’t look good…and Leia insists that she has to get to Bakura and make this official. Which is when Luke and Han tell her nope, the Falcon is not about to try to land in the middle of a pitched battle in space. Leia is pretty annoyed, but eventually agrees to wait somewhere else with the Falcon. She’s pissed at Han and Luke both, it seems, and Luke decides not to wade into the Han part of it.

(As with my feelings about Luke’s actions in the last two chapters, Leia’s feelings seem incongruous. Her focus on landing and making a truce is one thing, but this is an active battle zone! And Leia should know better, even here in the days after Endor.)

z: Well, also about what is to come in the chapter…but we’ll address it there.

will: The Falcon vectors for an out-of-the-way planet as Luke and the Flurry prepare for a microjump into the thick of it, Luke regretting that he’s not in his X-wing. He considers whether he could access the BAC through Artoo in the future, which is a serious case of responsibility overload: a carrier group commander cannot also be a fighter pilot, Luke, really now.

z: I laughed so much at that.  Oh, flyboy.

will: Anyway. The lights go green, the jump is on.

And the scene is shifted.

Han and the Falcon wait as the battle group hyper out, and Han marvels at the fact that Luke is commanding a carrier group. Han relaxes at being back aboard his ship, repaired after Lando flew her (but “no hard feelings”), with Chewie in the copilot seat; but there are still differences, like how Leia is behind Chewie and “leaning forward as if she thought she ought to be copilot instead.”

Han thinks nope, he’d do anything for Leia, but he won’t do that. “Even a smuggler drew the line somewhere.”

z: 1. No, Will, you didn’t sneak that one past me, and 2. I somehow don’t think Leia would think that, or that Han would think she would think that.  But again, later.

will: Threepio starts blathering about how this is safe even if he’ll be less useful–and Han asks Leia to turn him off, which she does.

You know, this is a book that’s harsh on droids. We’ll come back to that.

They overfly the planet they’ve lined up on, and the scanners report it’s basically a comet; there’s a settlement, but they check and it looks destroyed already, probably by the Ssi-ruuk, which means they won’t be back. Leia hopes Luke will be OK, but Han focuses on how this is a cold approach, which will not be easy; heat is a Thing in space, which is the sort of thing that harder-science SF tends to go into (see Mass Effect and its take on stealth in space), nice touch.

We get a twisted proverb about “if wishes were fishes, Calamarians would be in charge,” which, have you met Ackbar? But whatever. The point is, he tries to land, but realizes that this isn’t an ice planet, it’s frozen ammonia or something else, even a cold landing will melt it. OK, no landing, they’ll be in low synchronous orbit. Chewie notes that a relevant piece of equipment is a Falcon classic (cross-wired to hell and back), but Han says it works well enough.

z: The circuits that’ll keep them on orbit, nothing less.  Whee.  Han thinks about “it should hold us in orbit well enough that we won’t be detected,” while I think “I hope it holds you in orbit well enough that you won’t, like, crash-land.”  The piece of rock has very low gravity but the piece of rock is still a piece of rock and inelastic collisions with momentum are A Thing.

will: Han figures that Leia wants to watch the battle play out, Leia says that “with this scanner board” it’s impossible to tell, Han wonders if that was a dig and then realizes that means they can have an hour’s peace! And he’d had Chewie put in a few modifications to the Falcon that he hopes came out OK, this was a matter of aesthetics. After all, “he hadn’t exactly joined this picnic for the war effort.”

Side note: By contrast to feeling like Leia is too overzealous, and the issues I already vacillated on re:Luke’s responsibility, this works. Han and Leia may have confessed their love over a year prior, but they haven’t had much of an opportunity to figure out how to be together.

And I also like what we’re about to see of Leia’s dealing with movie fallout…

z: …that I like, but…well, we’ll get there.

will: Leia picks up the omniscient narration, turns Threepio back on to keep Chewie company, and follows Han. For one, she has enjoyed talking with him, learning that he has ideals, he just had to hide them, and for two, she hasn’t wanted to be alone since–

And we get a few paragraphs of her dealing with, or trying to deal with and mostly just going into repression and denial about, Vader being her father.

She thinks to herself that even if Luke was willing to accept it, she never would.

z: When I first read this book, I realized that I had never given any thought to how Leia would have taken that bit of news, beyond the initial shock we saw in the Ewok village; and what Tyers did rang true.

will: She next thinks that they’d better not waste this time hiding; she’s been doing nothing for too long.

z: …for…all of…what, 16 hours?

will: Han stops near the aft hold, and Leia asks what there is to fix, thinking that she doesn’t want to get between Han and “his first love,” and what’s the point of being jealous of a starship anyway?

z: And yet this, I didn’t like. Granted that they haven’t had time to figure out how to be a couple yet, they have had ample time to figure out how to be around each other, to be friends and partners; I feel like by this point Leia would not even think about thinking about being jealous of the Falcon, let alone telling herself that it made no sense to, etc.  I just feel like she was more emotionally mature at that point, is all.

will: But Han says that things are going to be quiet for a while, and Leia realizes that there isn’t anything to fix either. She challenges him about something needing testing or repair, and he says yes, goes in, finds a minifridge (just call it what it is), and pulls out a bottle of Ewok berry wine. A present from the tribe:

“…to ignite the heart that’s beginning to warm.”

Cue the cheesy lounge music, we’re about to see Han Solo be seductive.

This will end well.

z: And you know it.

will: Leia figures it out and points out they’re at war; Han fires back that they’ll always be at war, what is she waiting for? She blushes and her desire to be with him wars with he feeling uncomfortable with this, as well as how she has a very different upbringing from Han, which leads to a reference to Vader, which leads to her thought process stopping.

z: And I especially didn’t like that bit where she thinks about how she is of a much higher class than him.  Yes, she was brought up in a royal palace.  Yes, he is a smuggler.  That would have made more sense if we had seen Leia ever seem to consider such things during the Rebellion, but nope.  Not with respect to Luke either, who is after all a farmboy from Tatooine as far as anyone knows until quite late in the game.

will: Han pours the wine, Leia thinks it probably isn’t “palace-quality vintage” and starts to say they shouldn’t do this, but even she remembers that she can’t do much good. They clink cups and drink, and Leia calls it way too sweet; Han takes her around the corner to “a nest of self-inflating pillows.”

Han gets annoyed at Chewie for setting that up; Leia laughs, pushes him into the pit, and he grabs her and pulls her down.

And we get a chapter ending Sexy Discretion Shot. I guess.

z: I did like that she was the one to cut through the “um…er…” that seemed to about to begin, though.

will: As I said, some of the characterizations here feel off, but the parts about Han and Leia navigating being in love and reality don’t. OK, maybe Leia’s leaning a bit heavily on her being a princess by birth, but the rest of it–her mixed feelings about Vader, her understanding Han, his counterpointed feelings about her and her place in his world and ship–are solid.

Other than that this chapter feels very…brief, I guess. The big “Empire, this is the Rebels, we’re here to help you!” part is tossed off almost casually. But that’s sort of the point; this is desperation, and Leia will follow up with the real truce after the battle finishes.

The tone of this whole thing will remain a bit off relative to the movies or Zahn; not awful, but it feels like it missed a couple of passes for proper Star Warsing. This is a good example of it.

Z, what do you think?

z: Pretty much that; I’m more okay with Han trying to figure out if Leia’s…presence, for lack of a better word…changed in weight and scope within his ship than Leia wondering about the equivalent from the other side, but the rest…yes, some beats have been missed.

I am afraid my mind keeps missing beats too right now, however.  So I’ll have to sign off here.  Next week, we’ll…still not make it on the ground on Bakura, I’m afraid, but we’ll get closer.  Until then, may the Force be with you.

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