The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 9, Part 1

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 9 of The Truce at Bakura, wherein people learn things and we unfortunately have to cut the commentary short lest it become too long.

will: As you’ll see below, we decided to cut this chapter into everything before the dinner party, followed by the dinner party. Because…dinner party.

z: For me-news, the most relatable thing is that I’ve been reading a fairly interesting book, Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Bryson is one of those people that I’m very jealous of–he’s curious about everything–we’re good so far, so am I, or at least about most things–but then he’s managed to get paid for being curious about everything. Good work if you can get it.  Both this book, and his A Short History of Nearly Everything are highly recommended; they are very entertaining reads.

will: Quiet week here in NYC, too. Mostly, a chance to rest and relax.

z: We open chapter 9 with a Dev point-of-view, and it’s massively confusing.  In all fairness, it’s massively confusing because he’s massively confused. He’s cleaning-up the spill and feeling guilty about planning to hide his discovery of Luke from the Ssi-ruuk, thinking that they would be very interested because “The Other” is very strong in the Force, and that might mean that he would fall from the Ssi-ruuk’s favor… but wouldn’t that mean it’d get his battle droid at last and isn’t that… good… we’re not feeling so happy here, and what if they entech the Other instead?

Humans screamed in the entechment chair.  Someone that strong in the Force might kill Dev with his agony.

Oh, you’re getting a clue–

No, no.  Only the body felt pain.

–you idiot…?  No.  I’m being unfair, and I know I’m being unfair because of what comes ahead.

will: Yeah, for a lot of this, you can sub in “programmed victim” for “idiot” and be fairer.

z: As he was commanded to, Dev seeks out Bluescale, the “Elder.”  On the way, he comes across a group of the “dull-witted servant race,” the P’w’ecks, working, and remarks to himself that even the young ones don’t bother to eat well and aren’t taking care of themselves and don’t seem to have any satisfaction in their job, and all of this is coding that went riiiiiight by me when I was a teenager but is striking me as pointed, maybe even a bit too-pointed, right now.

will: The Nineties were not always a subtle time. I mean, we were too young to see it, but.

z: Anyway, Dev finds Bluescale near an entechment hall.  Bluescale takes him into a room they haven’t been in for their sessions before.  There’s a sunken enclosure in one corner, which Bluescale tells him to enter, and Dev is uncomfortable because this looks like a cage that could be used to discipline P’w’ecks, which he’s never seen done.  Bluescale presses something hard against Dev’s shoulder, and asks him about his project.  Dev is suddenly happy and starts babbling about his translation work, when Bluescale abruptly cuts him off, and from what I can tell, hypnotizes him through some means or other.  It’s really confusing, so I’ll quote, and let y’all decide what’s going on:

“Stop,” said Bluescale.  He bent his massive head closer to Dev and peered down with one eye.
Dev smiled back fondly.
“You are human,” Bluescale said. “Think for a moment what that means.”
Dev pushed up one sleeve and stared at his soft, fuzzy arm.  “It means… inferior.”
“Are you certain?”
Bewildered, Dev shut his eyes.  From the deepest recesses of emotion, he released something controlled and repressed and stinking and hateful and–
The huge lizard loomed nearer.  Dev howled and struck its forelimb.

“Repressed” was right.  Dev rages, beating on Bluescale and screaming for the Ssi-ruuk having killed his world and his family, for every one of them “absorbed, murdered, mutilated…”   Something in him knows exactly what’s going on, and is kept under unimaginably tight control and thick wraps and denial, and we’re about to find out how.  Bluescale leans closer, and stares at him with one black eye that seems to suck Dev in; he feels he’s falling in and losing the freedom he’s trying to cling to. Next thing he knows, he’s on the deck tiles, feeling horrible and ashamed because he’s abused Bluescale. Bluescale’s saying that he’s angered Dev deliberately to show how close to the top Dev’s temper is.  Dev must never say these things. Dev agrees. Then Bluescale sticks in another hypospray, which Dev accepts gratefully, and gets up, not ashamed any more, and says he won’t show anger any more, thanking Bluescale. Who picks that moment to ask “What disturbed you so much this afternoon?” and Dev, not quite remembering why he had even thought about not telling, describes the sensation of another Force user, a strong one, among the new arrivals, and falls asleep.

So: We’d theorized before that this was one massive case of Stockholm Syndrome, but it’s even worse–it’s Stockholm Syndrome being maintained by some sort of mind control, which Dev’s Force sensitivity may be making him more susceptible to (that much isn’t clear), some sort of chemical control, and a huge additional dose of getting-one-while-he’s-young and plain old gaslighting and manipulation.  From the inside, it’s one kind of horror story; to watch from the outside as the reader, it’s the other.

will: So yeah, we’ve clearly found Luke’s Project for this book. A Force-sensitive victim of hypnoslavery… just the right note for our Jedi.

z: Scene shift to Gaeriel, and another one of those sections where I’d previously missed everything that screamed “sheltered, privileged life.”  She’s resting in her room in her uncle and aunt’s house.   She has had a nap, that she was woken up from by a nightmare in which “The Jedi Luke Skywalker” featured disturbingly; she turns on music (“Imperial Symphony Orchestra”) for which she has cultivated a taste for in the Imperial Center and which is played on an elaborate, room-wide, specialized piece of sound equipment which her uncle has had installed as a graduation present for her.  Oh, and the only supply of the appropriate media on Bakura is Governor Nereus.

will: Once again, the Nineties. We’ve spoken before about the way the Information Age lines up with the Expanded Universe; the idea of music being kept under that kind of lockdown very much screams “Napster hasn’t been invented yet.”

z: Nereus, we’re also invited to infer, has some more personal interest in Gaeri.   Oh joy, oh rapture, oh hi Trope #9274.  She has some thoughts about how maybe the Rebels could give Bakura a better chance of resisting the invasion, and then oh hi Trope #9273:

Idly, in this unguarded moment, she recalled the way she’d been drawn to the Jedi Skywalker before she learned what he was.  If she’d been ten years younger… she’d have probably wished he were something else, and that he might stay for a while… or that she could go back in time and unlearn what she knew.

But the Cosmic Wheel rolled only forward, building tension and then balancing, building and balancing.

There’s something that bugs me about this section, and it’s not the presence of Trope #9273.  Rather, it’s the “in this unguarded moment.”  That is about as unnatural a thing to think about your own thought process unless your thought process is about analyzing a past thought process.  In this case, it’s basically yanking the narration from the third person PoV to the omnipotent narrator’s PoV for precisely four words in the sentence before cramming it back, and that gives me whiplash.

will: Not to mention, the weird element of “if only I wasn’t a Zen Cosmic Wheel believer, I could be ignorant of what my religion teaches and wouldn’t have to fear and hate this guy I’m kind of attracted to.”

That too sits badly with me.

Also, how old is Gaeri supposed to be? The ten years younger bit does seem to refer more to the “less religious” factor, but a teenage crush and this aren’t quite the same thing.

z: I was forced to conclude “mid-to-late twenties” from this anyway because no other age range makes sense given that statement.

Her aunt comes in to announce that they’ve invited both the Rebels and Nereus to dinner and that it’s important Gaeri also be there, dressed up, to “help us to keep them from arguing, dear,” which… okay, sure. Gaeri remarks to herself about her Aunt’s poise, and how she had been serving Bakura fully as long as her uncle had been, from which we can deduce that we have a true First Lady situation here.

will: Which, if you are marrying a Captison, comes with the territory–oligarchs and all. Tiree would have known that going in.

z: Then Aunt Tiree mentions that yes, they know about Nereus’ “attention to” Gaeri and want to nip it in the bud.  She intends to seat Gaeri next to Princess Leia.  Gaeri suggests inviting Senator Belden also, which Aunt Tiree thinks is a good idea, and once she heads out, Gaeri starts getting ready, thinking that she has duties–to the Empire, Bakura, and family, not in that order–and it’s time to go back to work.

The chapter is far from over here, but unfortunately, the chapter is far from over here–we’ll move on to a Luke point-of-view and go through the entirety of the dinner, in which there will be a lot to unpack.  Therefore, by consultation with my esteemed co-author, we have decided to split this chapter’s analysis into two, but I will be taking the lead again next week.  Anything to add, Will?

will: It’s probably significant that we get these two scenes with both of our new major characters in their own environments of skewed perspective. At least Dev has the excuse of hypnosis in his programming; Gaeri just has privilege.

Other than that, no, light week this week, we’ll dive into the comedy of politics and manners next week. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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