The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 5

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 5 of The Truce at Bakura, where we actually do see what it’s like on the surface of Bakura, and meet the other important original character.

In personal news…

…I just lost my cat to what was probably very, very aggressive lymphoma.  I don’t think I need to say anything else.

will: *sniffle*

z: Moving right along.

z: We’re in the Imperial Bakuran Senate chamber, and in the point of view of a senator: Gaeriel Captison.  The senate is silent, waiting.  The chamber has translucent pillars on four corners, which serve as a conduit for rainwater being collected on the roof, and which are lit from below; this is a beautiful idea by the way.  Captison is a recent addition to the Senate: She had won the position when she was young, we are told, but had had to go spend a “required year of indoctrination” on the Imperial Center before she was confirmed to her position.

Interesting point: Apparently the Imperial Center is the only place one can study political science at the moment.  Because the Emperor wanted to control political thought, obviously.  I both like and do not like this bit of background-building: Like, because it shows a great understanding of how certain aspects of thought control start and promulgate; do not like, because it’s got a scale problem, of the “country scale vs. entire galaxy” variety.

will: Well, we’re told that’s only true for postgraduate work; maybe it’s specifically for government officials. Still, yeah, scale. I don’t think Tyers really thought through her worldbuilding on a macro level. Maybe there’s an element of “…for newly-conquered worlds” that she didn’t mention?

(Also don’t forget: Imperial Center is Coruscant.)

z: The Senate, we are now told, are waiting for Governor Nereus to show.  Gaeriel hears one of the senior senators, one Orn Belden, complain to another that the Empire does not care that much about defending Bakura.  Before the complaint is done, the Governor arrives.  We get a description: “He had the Imperial swagger down to a science.”  Also, dressed to look more impressive than he actually is, as far as I can tell. But there’s an amusing line:

“She’d always disliked him, but her year on the Imperial Center had made him slightly more tolerable–by comparison.”

Okay, then.

Nereus doesn’t even sit down.  “I know you’re busy keeping your sectors pacified.  Some of you are doing well.  Some aren’t.”  Um.  The senators’ reactions are also, effectively, “um.”  Gaeriel’s district has at least been productive, because the residents have been abandoning their jobs to dig shelters and…somehow…digging shelters is productive…?

will: For values of “productive” equalling “everybody is busy, working, and not causing trouble,” anyway.

z: But in the capital city Salis D’aar–

Hold on, I quickly need to go check something.

….well, well, well.  The Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan, published 1993.  The Truce at Bakura, published 1994.  I’ll only say “Sallie Deara,” and see how many bells are being rung here.  I am amused.

will: Heh!

z: Anyway, in Salid–I mean Salis D’aar, there have been riots.  The senator here is Gaeriel’s uncle, Yeorg Captison, and he’s been quelling the riots with the police because otherwise Nereus would send stormtroopers out from the garrison.

will: Yeorg is also “Prime Minister,” but we’re not really sure what that means relative to the Senate, and the Governor…it’s sort of a mishmash. See above re macro level worldbuilding.

On the other hand, we’ll find out later that this is what amounts to Imperial largesse, so it may be more deliberate than I thought.

z: Nereus announces that Rebel Alliance ships are in the system.  This shocks Gaeriel, because “the Empire doesn’t tolerate dissent,” and apparently she hasn’t heard of the first Death Star incident, let alone the second.  She’s young, but not that young, and we’re told that the Empire captured Bakura only three years ago.  They were very harsh and there were quellings and purges, during which both her parents died–she thinks they were caught in a crossfire, and when I was a teenager I took her at her word, but now I wonder–and she doesn’t want a repeat of that ever again.  But three years ago was two years after the first Death Star, I think?  So a Rebel Alliance isn’t exactly news?

will: I do wonder. At various points we get very different ideas of how controlled the concept of the Rebellion is. Luke knows about it; but at the same time, we’re talking about a state-controlled media, and Gaeri (as her name gets abbreviated) has spent time only on Bakura and Center. Maybe she doesn’t realize the scale of the Rebellion.

z: Also, she wonders if the Rebels are after some repulsorlift factory, and whether Nereus’ forces could protect Bakura “from Rebel raiders and the Ssi’ruuk.”

I am starting to get a distinct “oh my sweet summer child” vibe here.

will: Yeah; she works well enough as a stand-in for Bakura as opposed to Imperial Bakura, as it were, but…there’s a definite bit of “backwater, isolated, and clueless,” year of indoctrination notwithstanding.

z: Nereus also announces that their sole remaining cruiser the Dominant is badly damaged and he’s withdrawing the forces from the main battle to protect Bakura itself, and wants the senate to confirm that order.  I am confused as to why he’s looking for a senate confirmation on that, but apparently old Senator Belden isn’t, and guesses out loud that Nereus is trying to toss the blame on the Senate if things don’t work out.  “Who’s keeping the Ssi-ruuk off, I wonder?” Oooooh, burn.  Gaeriel thinks Belden is very brave, but then maybe she would also be so brave at age 164 with a second prosthetic heart.

will: Note the prosthetics, lifespan, and health discussion, vis-a-vis the Ssi-ruuk and entechment. You will see this again.

z: This also reminds Gaeri that she had promised to go sit with Senator Belden’s elderly wife, Eppie, while the Senator is at a meeting that night. It seems that Eppie’s mind is gone; although she is “only 132,” and Gaeri has been a long-time friend, and has been helping sustain her by keeping up the relationship.

Nereus responds to Belden’s accusations by saying he’s only given those orders so that the Rebels will not attack Bakura. Belden snipes back by asking who was is that damaged the Dominant, and Nereus also strikes back saying, don’t worry, your factory will be safe because I’ll send squads from the garrison.  Which isn’t nice. Before things can escalate further, the prime minister stands up, his dignity a marked contrast with Nereus’ posturing in Gaeri’s eyes, and makes a coded hand gesture that means “placate,” so Belden sits down. Then he calls for the vote, unenthusiastically, to support Nereus’ order.

We learn that thirty-eight senators are human and two are “pale Kurtzen from the Kishh district.” I like that this planet has a two-species government, however unequal. Most senators vote approval; Belden and two others refuse. And I like Gaeri’s thoughts about this not at all:

Gaeri sighed to herself. Belden wasn’t a follower of the Cosmic Balance. He could not bring himself to believe that when he graciously allowed fate to diminish him, others were exalted.

There’s also a “the meek shall inherit the earth” bit, but.  OK.  Nope.  If she really thinks the Senator is voting no because of hubris, or, worse, thinks that any vote, plus or minus, is for the voter’s personal standing rather than their opinions on what’s best policy…So much wrong so little time.

will: The Cosmic Balance appears to be an attempt to do Zen in Star Wars, which is interesting given how much Buddhism (through the monks of the jidai-geki) had an influence on the series; that said, yeah, I don’t quite buy it here.

It does, however, give us the first taste of a religion/belief system among humans that’s separate from the Force.

z: But anyway.  Before the Empire conquered Bakura, there was the typical democratic government, “no set of three individuals in the government could ever agree on a program.”. Even the school system was massively overhauled several times while she was a student, and her father being a senator and her uncle being the prime minister meant she heard all the arguments. She also thinks the Empire had an easy time conquering Bakura because there was no coherent defensive strategy either, and that Nereus left so much of their system of government including the Senate in place because the conquest has been easy.

will: This is the element that might justify how weird the government is is; like I said, it’s a way of the Empire presenting itself as nice, letting the Bakurans keep their senate, as a reward for the Bakurans not being particularly rebellious.

z: Gaeri thinks “Imperial peace” is a good compensation for lost autonomy; no chaos, no civil infighting, interstellar trade opened to them, all good…but she’d also noticed that other systems’ residents didn’t like hearing about Bakura’s senate, and sometimes hears the older senators voice dissident ideas, and listens.

will: The point that the Bakuran senate is an outlier that way is definitely an interesting one, inasmuch as other systems are annoyed or even jealous.

I’m glad that Gaeri listens to the older senators, at least.

z: She heads out to go sit with Eppie Belden, and we’ll have a scene shift, but before then a point about style–I’ve never liked this form of “character thinks to themselves in detail about things they wouldn’t think in detail about unless they were explaining it to someone” method of infodump.  Something about it rubs me wrong.

Anyway.

We are with Dev, on board the Shriwirr. Although normally he spends battles working on his translation to distract himself from sensing the terror of enemies captured in tractor beams, this time he’s taking some victuals to the bridge because apparently instead of replacing some droid servants, Admiral Ivpikkis had all the newest captures put into battle droids.

Dev has guilty thoughts about how he takes some secret comfort in human presences when they are brought aboard and before they are enteched. (Gah.) Sometimes he secretly reaches out to feel other humans through the Force…he does so again:. “And touched power.” The feeling reminds him of the deep, placid strength he’d feel from his mother, although this one, this “Outsider,” is far stronger. Dev remembers hearing the Admiral mentioning a new group arriving. This new “enemy” makes Dev think of home, and he senses that this person is also focusing on the combatants, but with a different “shade of passion,” whatever that means.  Maybe it’s Luke not starving for human sensations through the Force?  Because it’s Luke, of course.

will: Also I feel that Luke’s trying to be objective for the battle. But yeah, the primary passion issue is clearly starvation, or the lack thereof.

z: Dev guiltily drops contact, but as he starts pushing his cart again, an emergency alert comes on, signaling a reorient.  He leaves the cart there and runs to a compartment with emergency hammocks, wraps himself in one (harder for him since he’s small), and then is worried because he just left an unsecured cart out there and, oh, by the way, this invincible ship is apparently…running?

…and they don’t have inertial compensation technology either, it seems.  The ship twists about and there is acceleration forces and unpleasantness.

will: Or at least the gravity compensators aren’t good enough to handle emergency maneuvers. It would be consistent with not having piloted small craft, too.

z: Then someone asks what gives, this hasn’t happened since Noodle Incident, and a voice Dev recognizes replies that they lost a cruiser and nearly all their drone fighters to this new group, whose fighting and command style is very different.

will: One wonders–is that the Force giving Luke an edge, or a difference in Imperial versus Rebel styles? The Empire is fond of the Zerg Rush, after all, which would not be effective against the Ssi-ruuk.

z: That makes Dev wonder if there could be a proper Jedi in command, that he’d felt…But the Emperor was supposed to have purged all the Jedi…But the Emperor is dead so maybe a Jedi may have come out of the woodwork?

Dev leaves the harness.  The voice he recognized belongs to one Sh’tk’ith, who’s got the respectful nickname Bluescale, for which we are so very grateful, I’m sure.  We learn that Bluescale’s race of Ssi-ruuvi is different from Firwirrung’s, the former dominant on the home planet, the latter in the military. Oh yay, we’ve also got castes?

will: Yup. Religious castes and color-coding, as I understand it.

z: Dev has just opened his mouth to greet the Elder when Bluescale interrupts with “what’s wrong?”. This is the Ssi-ruu who performs Dev’s “comforting “renewals”” and can sense changes in human scent from stress.

To his own great surprise, Dev lies to Bluescale, spinning some yarn about such a tragedy so many enteched humans lost their new happiness so soon boohoo.

Bluescale dismisses him to clean the corridor, but tells him to go to the Elder afterwards so he can be “renewed for happier service,” (gah gah gah), and Dev goes for cleaning materials, trying to reassure himself that he hasn’t endangered the advance force with that lie.  But no, the Admiral will be victorious!  But isn’t it treasonous to hide thoughts? (Gaaaaah.). He owes his masters so much…  but this is the first time he’s touched a kindred soul, and feels he can’t betray that.

This would be why it was critical for Luke to get here, in case that wasn’t obvious.

So: New characters, politics on Bakura, and Dev’s first Jedi contact.  This is a short, but fairly dense chapter.  I think my comments are all interspersed; Will?

will: Fairly dense is an accurate (but cheap) way of describing some of the people, too. This is not a great first impression of Bakurans: we have Senator Crusty Old Idealist Who Hates that He Collaborates, Governor Backside-Covering of the House of Semifop, Prime Minister Dignity McToothless, and our viewpoint character is Senator Open Your Eyes Already.

z: Heeee. Accurate.

will: It’s a little troperiffic, is my point. I get the sense that Tyers spent a lot more time figuring out how the Ssi-ruuk work, and then took a grab-bag of the Usual Suspects for the Bakurans.

But that’s all. Raise a glass in memory of those we have lost, and we’ll be back next week to where the rubber meets the road, or at least, the Rebel meets the planet.

Until then, may the Force be with you.

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