The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 10

will: Welcome back to Force Visions, all, where we’re out of the dinner party and into the fire.

z: That… isn’t exactly the most comfortable metaphor for someone who’s looking down the barrel of seven rehearsals and two performances in the course of the next two weeks, but who’s counting. (There’s a fundraiser one week before the main concert, and I’ll be doing two completely different pieces in that.)

will: Dev has woken up somewhere (remember, he ended his hypno-reinforcement last time by falling asleep) that he quickly realizes is the bridge, because in addition to his personal slave-keeper Bluescale, the Admiral and the ship captain are looking at him. The Force-user he mentioned must be important.

Wait, he’d known that. How far gone is he, he wonders.

z: …but then we’re not exactly in happy happy joy joy zone at this point, so I can’t find any real fault with your preamble metaphor.

will: I wonder that too. For the rest of this chapter–hell, this book–I’m not going to comment…overmuch, anyway…on elements of Dev’s inconsistent characterization, because Tyers is clearly trying to portray a character fighting against hypnotic programming. It doesn’t always work, and it’s not clear what is what, but she’s trying, and I can recognize the attempt.

Dev tries to push back a bit, staring at deck tiles, feeling unexpected and confusing homesickness, and only says that the new Force user is strong.

z: He’s confused; he hasn’t felt homesickness like that for a long while because “he thought [the Ssi-ruuk] were home.”

will: Bluescale has Dev focus, reinforcing the hypnosis, and Dev gets a fresh dose of loyalty, saying that this new user could contact humans from a distance! Could be quite a distance, too. After all, Dev felt the Emperor’s death.

Bluescale and Firwirrung discuss whether entechment from a distance could work, and Firwirrung envisions hooking Luke up to what amounts to a Force-energy conversion rig: keep Luke alive as a conduit for energy. It sounds ludicrous, but it also sounds like one of the most perfect encapsulations of hell, and that’s the important part.

z: …what Will said; I don’t have anything here.

will: The Admiral sees this as a way to conquer all known space, and decides to refocus on Luke as a primary target, and Dev feels himself wilt: he is being swept aside. Even the thought that this means he’ll get enteched at last feels less like a reward and more like a shunting aside.

He wanted his battle droid, but he craved their love.

Says it all right there…

z: And yes, that did break my heart.

will: Anyway. The Ssi-ruuk turn back to Dev, Firwirrung “lovingly raising red welts” on Dev’s arm with a touch (aieee), and ask Dev to find the other one. Dev craves affirmation of love, and Firwirrung gives a response of “you aren’t failing in your love for us, are you?”

Just when you thought this couldn’t get more abusive, it actually starts cribbing from abusive relationships…

z: Oh, I must disagree. I never thought this couldn’t get more abusive.

will: Dev is terrified–he gave up on humanity, what happens if the Ssi-ruuk cast him out? At the same time, he notes that while Bluescale “had always implied that he loved Dev,” he’s never said the word…

z: …and that’s leaving me wondering what form that implication might have taken. I’ve a nice crisp $5 that says it was mostly Dev interpreting things that Bluescale says as implying love.

will: No bet. That’s when Dev gets grabbed and hyposprayed, as his own mind reasserts control for a few moments, knowing that he’s being drugged and mind controlled.

But he’s not strong enough; he reaches out with the Force, sensing Luke’s “undeniably masculine and kind” presence along with a “diffuse feminine presence” nearby.

z: Okay, this has been growing in one edge of my awareness for a while, so I guess now is a good time to mention it: I’m not sure what this idea of the Force having feminine and masculine presences thing is about. I’m about 275% certain Luke and Leia don’t feel each other as different, except inasmuch as they are different entities. For another, if that was a thing you’d think Leia would have mentioned it about her twin babies who were becoming Force-aware in the womb. (Yes, yes, that’s five years ahead, but then Zahn’s books predated this one and Tyers had to have read them.) Add this insistence on masculine and feminine presences (Dev mentioned it before this, too, comparing Luke to his memories of his semi-trained mother) to Nereus’ description of having “effeminate lips,” and I find myself trying to find that disapproving-eyes emoji somewhere.

But moving on.

will: Dev extracts a name and location, Bluescale saying that “Skywalker” is auspicious (I guess Dev translated it on the fly?). Dev relaxes into the Force, humiliated by his masters’ focus on Luke and yet, seeking connection with this “Outsider” as well.

z: There’s an interesting sentence there: “Their glee and greed vibrated around him,” as the Ssi-ruuk are excited about capturing Luke to conquer the whole galaxy. Dev perceives what’s all around as “greed” and yet… doesn’t seem to judge that as a wrong thing. I somehow don’t read it as part of his brainwashing either. That would have been Dev not naming what the Ssi-ruuk is doing as “greed.”

will: Dev realizes he is at the end of his rope, and lies that he is content while his mind rages in hatred; at the same time, he can’t hate Firwirrung, the closest thing he has to family.

“My highest pleasure is to help those who love me.”

Irony.

Firwirrung asks Bluescale to let Dev serve of his own will, not through hypnosis; Dev shudders, but complies. Ivpikkis says for Firwirrung to “take your pet and go,” and he does.

Later, Dev–still fighting for control–reaches out with the Force, knowing this will lead to “the deepest renewal of his life,” meaning the worst session with Bluescale yet, but figuring he has to try, and send an urgent warning.

Luke wakes up with a wave of fear and warning, that humanity is in peril because of him; he thinks it’s a dream at first, inflating his ego (lookit me I’m important enough to put the entire human race at peril), but it doesn’t fade. He tries to reach out to Ben, no reply; he turns the warning over in his mind in light of entechment, and decides it might well be a real danger. He worries that coming here was a mistake–Jedi make those, after all.

He calms his mind and starts to meditate, seeking glimpses of the future, and they are quickly confirmed: the Ssi-ruuk are about to invade. And they might well conquer the Empire.

Dev retreats from his trance, knowing Luke is a Jedi; there’s a knock-equivalent at the cabin door, and in comes Bluescale, explaining there is “a new mission for our young human ally,” and he needs a fresh renewal.

Dev is terrified, has nowhere to run, follows in fear. He thinks what he could do–fight the hypnotic trance, for a while? But it won’t work–and if they find out he warned Luke, they might kill him outright. And be ready for Luke with more ships and power.

So he has an idea: sacrifice. He will skip the hypnosis–

z: –by using the Force and putting himself into the renewal trance by himself instead of Bluescale pushing him into there by hypnosis; the details aren’t very clear but I don’t think it matters. What’s important is that Dev will therefore–

will: –willingly be renewed, so Bluescale doesn’t find out during hypnosis that Dev contacted and warned Luke. It will be a “small, poor unsung sacrifice,” but it could save millions, including Luke.

Standing straighter than he had stood in five years, Dev led Bluescale through a too-familiar hatchway.

Dev awakes later, with very little memory, which slowly filters back–things like Bluescale’s name. Bluescale explains that he has cleansed Dev of everything that will clutter his life–and Dev agrees. That includes how the renewal works, by the way.

z: yaaaaaay

will: Firwirrung is waiting, and Dev thanks him as well. Ivpikkis has a mission for Dev, so away he goes.

He had white eyes, furred skin, and a small stinking tailless body. Who was he to deserve such effort on their part, such happiness in service, such important life work?

This all adds up to tragedy, under-accomplished in the writing, but tragic all the same.

z: *points up* What Will said.

will: Luke wakes up from a dream–wait, a warning–to a comm call. The spaceport authority is saying there’s a disturbance with the Rebel troops, there’s a car on the roof, please hurry?

Luke does, thinking that at least he’s rested, though he is a bit paranoid–is this the warning?

He decides to bring Chewie for backup–no need to dress, he’s extra “eyes, brain, and especially muscle,” Han and Leia are busy with a breakfast meeting with “Gaeriel’s uncle,” nice way to refer to the Prime Minister…

z: …and a nice way to remind everyone what Luke’s focal point in the whole mess of Bakuran politics has very quickly become.

will:

A disturbance. He couldn’t imagine Rebel troops making trouble–
Well, yes. He could.

Heh.

z: …and heeee.

will: Luke wakes Chewie (carefully), and off they go.

z: That care is a nice touch, too–he takes a biiiig step back from Chewie’s bed, because standing too close to a Wookiee suddenly roused from sleep and with a lifetime’s accumulation of smuggler instincts is probably bad for one’s orthopedic health, Jedi or no Jedi.

will: The speeder doesn’t quite screech to a halt on the spaceport pad, but near enough. Luke sees Captain Manchisco and they meet up. Manchisco explains that “our allies,” emphasis hers, say they have a Ssi-ruu captive, but won’t let anyone get close. Luke heads for the fracas, and hears a shout that “the aliens have landed, they’ve killed two people.”

Which doesn’t fit with Ssi-ruuvi plans at all, Luke knows–they would have taken prisoners. He gets closer, seeing first two human bodies, and then two Calamarians.

Who have come down on shore leave. Luke thinks that there’s no way the commander would be stupid enough–yup, they came up in the rotation, and apparently didn’t think twice about landing on an Imperial-controlled planet full of human chauvinists who probably haven’t seen aliens outside of pictures and are currently under siege by an alien species and at least Luke’s reaction is equally as “what the fuck” as mine.

z: Join the synchronized facepalm team.

will: Ten humans charged the Calamarians, and fired first, so the Calamarians killed two.

Luke wanted to go back to Endor.

I feel you, buddy.

z: Murderous teddy bears: Infinitely preferable to murderous-because-idiotic idiots. Also, they make you part of their tribe when they like you. The benefits never end!

will: Luke has one of the Calamarians come with him, and walks up to the Bakurans, deflecting blaster bolts as he goes, telling Chewie to keep everyone controlled if he has to knock heads together to do it.

Which Chewie does.

Eventually Luke has everyone’s attention, and calls out the rather obvious differences between a Ssi-ruu and a Mon Calamari. One Bakuran agrees, but another is belligerent, and when Luke says this part of the spaceport is reserved for Rebel crews, the asshole replies:

“This is our planet, sword boy. We’ll thank you to keep critters like that fish–and that hairy one–off of it.”

Lovely neighbors.

z: Where’s Threepio with an explanation of the health benefits of not enraging and already pissed-off Wookiee? Oh, wait. They wouldn’t listen to a droid, either.

will: Luke decides he needs to know if this is really a random incident or not, and probes the asshole’s mind, “certain his motives were good enough” to avoid the Dark Side…ahem.

z: I’d almost feel better if that phrase wasn’t included, because it parallels Zahn’s evocation of ethical considerations whenever he has Luke do or consider something like that–but it doesn’t have enough gravitas here, especially considering the cases before where that was skipped.

will: Anyway, to the shock (“gambling in this establishment?”) of no one, the ruffians were promised “a little something, direct from the governor’s office,” if they hung around Pad 12 and “made certain the Ssi-ruuk didn’t infiltrate Bakura.”

I don’t know who’s dumber: the agent of the governor who figured that counted as subtle deniability, or these idiots who didn’t realize this was a massive setup.

z: *opens mouth*

*closes mouth*

*reaches for keyboard*

*pulls hands back*

*looks southeast towards DC in despair*

*really doesn’t say anything else*

will: Hmm. Good point.

Luke tells them to get out, Chewie backs them up, they do, the lights (which were previously off) flicker on…and Luke tells Chewie, let’s go have a look at the Falcon and make sure nobody messed with her.

And we’re not done yet! As much as I would like to skip completely over this next scene by the rules we set up, they aren’t all Leia and Han failing to be, you know, Leia and Han.

Leia wakes up early, sees Luke’s message, which just vaguely mentions overseeing ship repairs at the spaceport or something; she heads to the bathroom (called such here–“refresher” came later), comes out…and sees a tall human standing there, a la how Luke said he sometimes saw Ben Kenobi.

This doesn’t look like him though. She eyes her blaster, but “it probably lacked a certain threat against apparitions, if this was one,” and asks who he is.

He says not to fear him, and to tell Luke that Luke must remember that fear is of the dark side…yup, you guessed it, but Leia doesn’t:

I am your father, Leia.

Leia shivers all over as Vader–he may be Anakin to others but he’s still Vader to her–says that he may have been forgiven but he still must atone, including “clearing your heart and your mind of anger,” which is after all of the dark side.

She’s not interested, and tells him to leave.

z: The tiny bit of amusement in this scene comes from the various ways Leia tells him to leave, repeatedly: “Disincorporate. Fade out. Dematerialize. Go away.”

I would normally like this, because I do like Tyers’ humorous voice, except if there’s one scene in the book which needs absolutely no tone-shifting humor, this one is it, so…

will: He responds, please, wait. He is not the enemy she knew, can’t she at least see him as a stranger?

No, Leia says, and her fear of Vader at least cracks against her anger:

“You can’t restore Alderaan. You can’t bring back the people you murdered, or comfort their widows and orphans. You can’t undo what you did to the Alliance.”

Anakin (I’m not Leia, I’ll call him by his name) says he strengthened the Alliance, even if he didn’t mean to, and that seems a bit self-serving, but enh.

z: It’s true enough, but that really wouldn’t be the answer Leia would be looking for, and I can’t help thinking Anakin would have known that. Darth Vader wasn’t an idiot.

…what “prequels”?

will: Leia thinks that he doesn’t sound like he should–this isn’t the man under the mask. Anakin says he might not be able to visit again.

“Good.”

Anakin begs Leia to believe that Luke saved him from darkness, and Leia says she isn’t Luke, “or your teacher, or your confessor. I’m only your daughter by a cruel trick of fate.”

Anakin corrects her (you walked into this one, Leia): not fate, the Force.

z: Also you’re Luke’s sister by the same cruel trick of “fate”, so there’s that.

will: Anakin doesn’t ask for absolution, just forgiveness (I’m not…really sure what the difference is here, I admit).

z: This is totally my own personal connotation dictionary speaking, but: Forgiveness would be “what you did is still wrong, but I am not going to hold it against you any more” vs. absolution, which would be “I do not think you did wrong any more.”

In that light, of course Darth Vader can’t be seeking for absolution.

will: Leia says, what about Han? Can Anakin/Vader ask Han for forgiveness?

Only through Leia.

And then Leia says that she can “almost forgive” her own torture, and the evils done to others if only because it drove a lot of worlds into the Alliance, but forgiving Vader for torturing and freezing Han? Never, not through Leia.

z: Sure, then, let’s get Han Force-sensitive so that he can also see Jedi-ghosts and then… wait.

I know what Leia means there, but I read Anakin’s “only through you” as “only by you telling him that I’m apologizing” and not as “I want you to forgive me in his name,” so Leia’s response gives me a bit of a twisted-mouth.

will: “Never is too large a word, my child.”

z: …and also there’s that.

will: Leia says leave, and Anakin does, though he says he will hear if she calls to him, even if he cannot return.

He vanishes, and Leia shakes with rage and confusion. How does Luke deal with this, she wonders.

z: That is a good point, though. I mean, from one point of view, Leia has known for a long time and accepted that the ghost of General-Kenobi-to-her has been talking to Luke and telling him things to do, and from another point of view, that means she has known that a dead guy keeps speaking to Luke. In the normal course of things that would be… not so much with the normal.

will: She stalks back into the other room. Han says she’ll be late, Threepio asks if she’s okay–she turns him off, saying “he can’t do this to my life.”

Han is very confused and asks about that Alderaanian captain, and Leia unloads on him about his petty jealousy.

Which is fair, but at the same time, Han is definitely behind on this conversation. So yeah, honestly, this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Especially because…

The moment Leia says this is about Vader, that “Vader’s been here,” Han’s stance pivots. He tells her Vader is really dead, he saw the ashes–Leia says, that was the body, this is the rest.

“Either you’re getting stronger in this Force stuff or Luke’s a bad influence.”

“Maybe both.”

z: Okay, heh.

will: She says that she “could’ve put up with that Yoda of his,” and would have enjoyed talking to General Kenobi…but no.

z: I want the fanfiction of Yoda visiting Leia now, guys. Make it happen.

will: She punches a wall, and Han says “it’s not my fault,” which…is a bit of a shoehorn, but I’m willing to accept that it’s Tyers’s attempt to do the “discuss this in committee” bit, phrases taking on life of their own.

Anyway, Han asks what Vader wanted, and snorts at the response of “to apologize.”

Now Han says that maybe she could let some of her anger and anxiety go, now that she’s faced him again. She says he’s still here, and she’s…she trails off.

This conversation is a bit of a downturn as far as Han/Leia conversations go–the point is here, but muddled. Han says that Vader was powerful, and skilled, and Leia has similar skills, using them to different ends; she’s pissed, clearly not interested in his (well-pointed out, in my view) opinion; he tries to apologize about the captain, she isn’t interested in hearing it, he gets pissed that she’s being angry, starts to leave, and she says wait, and says that’s the Vader in her.

And finally we get where all of this is going: “No. It’s the Skywalker in you.”

And that gets Leia, finally, to think: what was Vader like when he wasn’t Vader?

Took you long enough.

But it also took Luke a while, so.

z: Yeah. And after all Leia only learned about this whole Anakin Skywalker thing, like, four days ago.

Also, full confession time: Han’s line, “No, it’s the Skywalker in you” did raise a lump in my throat. For once, well-played, Tyers.

will: Anyway. They start to shift to canoodling. Han says that people need each other as well as governments do, and starts playing with her hair; she insists she won’t forgive Vader. She says “I love you,” he says “I know,” she asks if he really does, he asks what makes her doubt, she apologizes…and just as they start kissing, the phone rings.

For the second time, Han is interrupted, if not in flagrante, at least in warmante, and he is not happy. Leia laughs in semidespair and asks if she should get the call; he takes in her deshabille appearance, and says she’s lovely, but not exactly presentable, and takes the call.

z: Ille respondit.

(I have no idea if that’s correct or not, but why should you be the only one to make up stuff in other languages? I don’t have time to check, anyway.)

will: Luke’s on the call, saying there’s trouble, so Leia joins. No need to worry about image with Luke.

Luke gives them the news from last night, and Leia (through despair, frustration, concern, and planning about things like formal apologies to the families of the deceased) eventually manages to make Force contact with him–and senses his fear about Dev’s warning, though she of course doesn’t know about the warning itself. So she asks what is going on, and he points out that this isn’t a secure channel.

Leia and Han plan: she’ll go to the Prime Minister as planned, if late, and then continue. Luke is leaving Chewie to lock down the spaceport pad and going to see Senator Belden: “I have a feeling.”

Leia says that she’s almost relieved they were late, it meant they got Luke’s message, and as we close, she thinks about Vader’s apology.

“Anakin’s. Whoever he was.”

She shakes a fist at thin air, but at the same time, there is progress.

And we’re out.

Sometimes, you can see what somebody was trying to do, the bones of a good idea through the mishmash of execution, and you both appreciate the idea and mourn the failures. This chapter is all sorts of that.

Hell, this book is all sorts of that, but it’s so visible here. Dev and the Ssi-ruuvi mind control, the Bakuran/Rebel tensions, and Leia’s ongoing reconciliation with Vader…all of them are interesting ideas, presented haphazardly. I’m working a bit harder here to be positive, I think, after the slog of last chapter–it helps that the largest problems aren’t present, even the Han/Leia interactions aren’t as Dorothy-Parker-inducing.

I’ve been talking plenty, though. Z?

z: You’ve been encapsulating why I’ve always been a bit disappointed in the Anakin-Leia meeting even from the first time I read this, though. Although I hadn’t analyzed it this well back then, of course, or at all.

There’s a sense that things are a bit paint-by-numbers, or outline-ish, and that Tyers tried to build up a background there, but it really didn’t work. Leia’s jumpiness at anything that reminds her of Vader was meant to be the background for how she would react at their first meeting, but so much of it was told-not-shown that I didn’t really feel it connected. And reading through this scene and the aftermath, I could almost see the bullet points in the book outline: “* Leia is not ready to forgive Anakin yet and is not receptive to his ouverture.” “*Leia softens up a bit with an outside perspective from Han. “*All crises resolved, Leia will forgive Anakin, check.”

(…I hope no one considers that a spoiler.)

I think my favorite part of this chapter, or rather this section, is Han’s reactions; of the spaceport sequence, all the humor in Luke’s “why am I dealing with idiots?!” reactions; and of Dev’s scene, where he willingly accepts a very, very deep renewal just so that the Ssi-ruuk don’t find out that he’s warned Luke.

And that’s all she said, too.

Next week, for once, there’s a scene I’m looking forward to, where Luke gets to be, wait for it, a Jedi. Until then, may the Force be with you, too.

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