The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 8

will: Welcome back, readers, to Force Visions, wherein hopefully this chapter will not provoke so much reaction. And seeing as I’m pretty sure I contracted norovirus in Chicago, reactions are something best left unexamined…

z: Yikes.

will: I’m mostly recovered now, thankfully, but…that was all sorts of Not Fun. The convention itself was awesome, though. Just not the aftermath.

z: I’m glad to hear that–of the recovery and of the awesome, both.

On my part, this week has been.  Um.  I’m going to have to get back to you about that. I have been losing sleep making conceptual recordings, so functional brain cells are a little thin on the ground.

will: As soon as Our Heroes are alone in their suite, with absolutely no regard for things like listening devices, an argument breaks out. Han tells Leia that she told the Bakurans (and the Imperials) way too much, that they can call down an attack on the Fleet at Endor. Leia says no, they can’t–after all, they haven’t been able to reach anybody, that was why they sent that drone.

Leia is, however, “relieved” that the argument is about that, not the Alderaanian officer. I imagine hearing the accent was comforting; she thinks about how for a moment her world was alive again, and that ‘it was a rare and suspect individual who volunteered for Imperial service.'”

Ahem. But OK, “rare” I’ll give you.

z: …yeah, the day when we get to examine another face of the Alderaanian Remnant can’t get here fast enough.

will: Luke cuts into this deflection argument to ask about how Dev had said the Ssi-ruuk came “at the behest” of the Emperor. After that, Han suddenly remembers (or, generously, realizes they’ve strayed into new territory) about bugs and scans the room, and we get a description, including that there are pillows on repulsorlifts. He’d prefer to be on the Falcon. Leia disagrees, comfort apparently overruling common sense.

z: That, and there’s a bit of reflexively resisting what Han wants because she thinks Han is jealous about that officer.  Still.  Because Leia is in middle school, right.

will: Threepio offers to have Artoo stand guard (Artoo objects), and Leia shakes her head at Han’s paranoia. She already figures the Empire is bugging them, probably not even in the room (see: the old laser bounce trick). So I guess she’s decided it’s unimportant–she goes on to say that Nereus “is the real power” on Bakura, but is pacifying the people with “government games”–that’s consistent with what we saw from Gaeri’s perspective, and everybody agrees that the situation is as it seems: Nereus is scared, so are the people; but Nereus is also scared about losing his power, not just surviving.

z: Well, under the “fear will keep the local systems in line” philosophy, he would have been the one to bring the fear down on the people, so he has to maintain absolute control.

will: Luke notices the answering machine light (as it were), and plays a message from Commander Thanas, wanting that face-to-face. He calls back as Leia and Han back off from the argument, Leia overwhelmed by reminders of Vader and the Empire.  Luke comes back a minute later reporting that there is a Ssi-ruuvi blockade in effect–oh, so the Rebels are effectively stuck–and he’s been invited to the Imperial garrison to confer with Thanas.

Han and Leia are on the same page finally, and say it’s an awful idea, Luke should meet Thanas someplace neutral. Luke points out what I’ve been saying for a while, “Bakura isn’t neutral,” thank you, and Han and Leia push for him to take backup or support.

z: Chewie is suggested.

will: (Threepio offers to stay behind. Heh.)

z: (That is one of the Threepio lines that actually manages to capture his voice, so let me add my “Heh” as well.)

will: Luke finally says that he can take care of himself, and the point is to show that they trust the locals. Which…would be better if Luke was meeting Bakuran locals, of course, but at least Luke is recognizing that this isn’t a negotiation between equals.

Leia says that her goal is to make an honest exchange, a lasting treaty, and maybe encourage defection.

So, “honest.”

z: Another “heh,” I hadn’t caught that.  Well.  Honest as a rebel, anyway.

It does make sense that barely two days after the Battle of Endor, they’d still be thinking in the mindset of a Rebel Alliance member, as opposed to the people we met in the Thrawn Trilogy who were trying to become a fledgling government of their own.

will: Han finally outright asks whether any of them feels good about working with “these people,” and Luke and Leia say no, but that doesn’t matter. Unease doesn’t stop them, though, Leia says. It’s time to make a start.

Luke does decide to take Artoo, who “bee-doop[s] a query.” Leia shifts to ask about the senators, and Luke gives his impressions. Apparently Leia’s speech about Alderaan worked, though I don’t really see how.

z: This is a prime case of Tyers telling, not showing; Luke states that what he felt from the senate members changed after Leia told her story, but a) we didn’t get any indication of this from Luke’s point of view at the time, b) we did get a mild indication from Gaeri’s point-of-view if we can stretch a point and call her “That could have been Bakura” as the beginning of an attitude change significant enough for Luke to notice from everyone, and c) …I’m sorry, but Leia was speechifying, really.  The way her speech is written was simply not that powerful or touching.

will: Leia says, “see?” to Han, reflecting that the Alderaanian officer has dropped “an invisible wall” between them; however, she does unbend enough to admit that Han’s habits are all pulling against the openness she’s encouraging, and he admits the same.

Leia next asks Luke about the reaction to Luke’s being outed as a Jedi, which Luke says was typical, but Leia’s clearly looking for more–and Luke puts his finger on it, it’s related to Vader.

“You’ve got Vader on your mind again, haven’t you?”

“I want nothing to do with anything that came from Vader.”

“I came from Vader, Leia–“

And Luke doesn’t actually say the next part, which is “and so did you.”

Han says Luke’s just trying to help, and Leia explodes anew, saying what do they want, her to be happy about it? Or tell Mon Mothma?

“Not again,” Han mutters.

Hmm. Are we to assume that means she did tell Mon Mothma?

z: I took that to mean “let’s not have this argument again.” There is a slight allusion ahead of us to the time when she told Han and it ended, unsurprisingly to anyone who’s met Han, well; but even though nothing else is said about anything, maybe she already had one outburst at Luke before.

I… I think I’m beginning to put my finger on what is bugging me so much about Leia’s reaction to the Daddy Vader situation. It is completely normal that she is shaken and feels rage and revulsion and shame and anger. It was also completely normal that she would be afraid of telling Han, let alone anyone else.  What isn’t normal is that she keeps lashing out at Luke about it, as if this was Luke’s fault.  That would be a normal reaction, too… in a teenager.

We’re also invited to infer that she has already had Luke’s initial (and completely normal, even without him being in shock due to hand-choppiness and all) “No, that’s not true, that’s impossible” reaction from her little internal outbursts of “nope not gonna accept no no no no,” except a) we saw her initial reaction, and it was more confused sadness than attempting to throw herself off the Ewok bridge, and immediately she accepted comfort from Han, b) If something that dramatic happened, I’m sorry, but you have to show me, even if it’s in a flashback.

In conclusion, :/

will: Luke is just as confused, it seems. This all gets resolved with a group hug, including Chewie saying they’re his adopted family (note that technically we already did meet Chewie’s Wookiee family, in the–I won’t say the name), and Leia reflecting that Han saying her name, no nicknames or teasing, in his most loving move.

(Note also that Luke still seems to want to tell everybody about Vader.)

z: That Vader was the one who killed the Emperor, that is.  I didn’t get the sense that he wanted to make the announcement “scariest silhouette in the entire galaxy for the last 20 years was my dad!” over the Holonet.

Also, Will means it literally about the “group hug.”

will: At any rate, everything being resolved, we scene shift and perspective shift.

z: …resolved?  Because they’re all friends again?

will: Well, sort of resolved. Anyway, we’re riding shotgun in Luke’s brain as he shuttles to the garrison. He worries that his worries and fears about the Ssi-ruuk (who he again describes as a galactic-level threat, on the principle that taking Bakura would give them enough battle droid batteries–you know, humans–to take another world, and so on and so forth; I still don’t buy it against the scale of the universe) have been setting Leia off, and also, that he’s distracted by Gaeri. Especially the way she went from attracted to disgusted when she found out he was a Jedi. He couches it as worrying about her negative reaction’s effect on a potential treaty, but knows he’s lying.

Anyway. He gets to the garrison, and Artoo’s presence is challenged; information repository versus espionage.

z: Aw, poor maligned Artoo.

will: The gate guard eventually gets approval for Artoo to be present if he’s attached to a repulsor disk, shut down. Luke is less than thrilled (and Artoo is worse), but they go through. Luke sees all the curious gawkers as he continues through, and one of them apparently starts to try something, but Luke Force-pushes a speeder bike over, which defuses that.

z: I feel compelled to point out that this paragraph has two good uses of the Force: One is actually a non-use of the Force when Luke didn’t literally go “this isn’t the droid you’re looking for” this time, and the other is something that only causes a little property damage and distracts potential enemies very effectively, so is a good and proper use of telekinesis.

will: Luke continues through to Thanas, who takes him to his office. He offers the local booze, which we’ll meet later, but Luke isn’t that dumb. Thanas admits to surprise Luke would come to the garrison, but Luke just says it was practical, and feels out Thanas as basically honorable.

Thanas calls up the holorecording of the battle. They verbally fence about certain maneuvers, secrecy, the Falcon and its modifications, the strength of all fleets, and the danger the Ssi-ruuk pose. Luke asks about the Emperor’s “invitation,” Thanas doesn’t answer but admits he doesn’t even know in how he not-answers.

Finally, Thanas asks for a demonstration of Luke’s lightsaber, and calls in two troopers to take Artoo in custody which is clearly a setup–Luke knows it, and when he pretends to resist and the stormtroopers start shooting, deflects the blaster bolts into the wall. Thanas dismisses the troopers, and Luke, whom he gives a shuttle ride to the spaceport.

z: Luke does point out, before leaving,  that Thanas’ “demonstration” taking that form might have cost Thanas two stormtroopers, and Thanas responds that he didn’t think Luke would kill them.  Which.  Well.  Yeah.  But.  …well.

will: (Luke also feels out that Thanas is more sympathetic than he appears; he’s not particularly loyal, just professional.)

As he gets driven to the spaceport, Luke reflects that he hadn’t thought about Gaeri in a while, and then does so. And he reflects on two interlocking points: first, this is no time for love, and second, neither was the first Death Star, and Luke’s “desperate love” for Leia caused so much.

“If only Gaeriel Captison needed to be rescued…”

Well, when you only have one move, you use it.

z: …and get a flat stare from me.

will: Now we’re riding in Thanas’s head. He fidgets with his prized pocketknife, thinking of how he really had always wanted to see a lightsaber in action. He finds its combat uses limited, but the whole package is compelling. Then we get his backstory, which boils down to “Lawful, not Evil”: he’d raised certain slave miners’ food rations because, you know, people work better if they’re fed. The slaves had figured out he had done it, and saved his life…and six months later he was ordered to wipe them out. After a superior officer had reduced the food rations back, and they “delivered a cautiously worded protest.”

Thanas refused, so the officer had had someone else do it, and reassigned Thanas to a backwater: Bakura. “An isolated, low-paying job with little hope for rotation out to the Core worlds.”

Thanas spends a moment fantasizing what he could do with the credits from Luke’s ransom (remember, the Empire still doesn’t believe the Emperor is even dead), namely marry again, retire, and live in peace. But first, he won’t get the credits; Nereus will, if anyone. Second, he couldn’t even defend Bakura without help. He’s stuck.

z: I’m trying to remember, but don’t: Does that “again” ever come up as significant?

will: Final scene shift: Leia reads up on Bakura, which primarily exports repulsor coils and “namana tree” crops, and wasn’t so much a republic as an oligarchy; the prime ministers have all been descendants of the original Bakur Corporation ship captain, and the senate elects its own members.

Nice.

Leia wonders how much anti-Imperial sentiment she could tap into, and sees that Han is in his room, either studying or asleep. She’s also furious with him, for “implying she wanted to dally with an ex-Alderaanian Imperial. A renegade, a quisling.”

Leaving aside the nature of the word “quisling,” since I’ll accept the translation convention, I’m not thrilled with this internal monologue. Leia’s going full royalty here, and it doesn’t fit.

z: Yes, as with many other things, her reaction here is just off enough to be bothersome.  It’s understandable that she would be irritated at Han’s needless jealousy.  It may even be understandable that she would be furious at Han’s needless jealousy.  But then she would say so.

will: At the same time, Leia admits that she overreacted to the Vader thing, especially as not even Han had held her parentage against her, despite everything Vader had done to him, Han, personally.

She reflects that she just needs to avoid reminders of Vader and the Force–yeah, fat chance, she says to herself.

z: …………..

Flashback time: “I hope Luke wasn’t on that thing when….”  “He wasn’t. [thousand-yard stare] I can feel it.”

Less than 24 hours later she learned what she learned, she’s voluntarily reaching out for a sense of Luke, possibly relying on what she had learned without knowing it on Bespin; 48 hours after that, she wants to forget all about the Force.  So, Luke too, one presumes.

…wait.

I mean, avoiding reminders of Vader is one thing, but…

will: Threepio reports a call from the Prime Minister, who invites Leia and company to dinner. Leia accepts for Han and Luke, but decides against mentioning Chewie–anti-alien biases, and all.

Captison also says he invited Nereus. Well, that’ll be fun.

She hoped Luke got back from the spaceport in time to clean up.

She hoped Luke got back, period.

And we’re out.

This was a less objectionable chapter, which isn’t the same as excellent, given how infuriating the last one was. I noticed I did more summarizing than in the past, which I imagine I’ll keep up going forward. Z can fill in anything important I missed, I guess. But this one was mostly just…there, really. Filler.

Z?

z: I didn’t think you missed anything important.  There’s still a bit of a sense of disjointedness, of characters having arguments because-they-are-supposed-to, of being hostile because-they-are-supposed-to, even Threepio being comic relief because-he-is-supposed-to.  Potentially significant content of the chapter: Luke meets the Imperial military commander and verifies that unlike the civilian governor, he’s of the honorable type who’s basically trustworthy, just doing a job; Thanas’ backstory demonstrates that he wasn’t one of the “I was just following orders!” brigade; Prime Minister Captison invites Our Heroes to dinner.  And that’s… basically it.

Next week, we’re flying back up to the Ssi-ruuk fleet and AllTheNopeland.  Until then, which I realize doesn’t sound very attractive, may the Force be with you, anyway.

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