The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 14

will: Welcome, gentlebeings, to Chapter Fourteen of The Truce at Bakura, in which…look, if you know what the letters “RSA” mean, you might want to skip this for the sake of your sanity. Or grab a drink.

In personal news, I’m still living the bachelor life, which was useful when I had to stay late at work a couple of days this week, and I’m finally achieving some flow state with Mass Effect: Andromeda. But really, it’s not as good as the trilogy was, and even the multiplayer won’t be as regular an occurrence as Overwatch. I mean, I’ll play when my friends are playing, but that’s about it.

z: On my side of personal news, I had all of… four? Yes, four days of inter-season respite before I crashed right into “Small ensemble repertoire? What small ensemble repertoire? Oh, you mean this small ensemble repertoire…” But once that’s set, rehearsals aren’t going to begin for another month, so I will have an actual respite.

I may even play Andromeda, believe it or not.

will: Han goes all action-movie-driver, giving Luke a setup to jump out of a barely-stopped speeder before jetting away. He has a bit of trepidation about leaving Luke alone, but he’s on the Alliance’s designated pad, the shuttle from the Flurry is on its way, and there are Rebel pilots in the barracks…and it’s Luke, “lightsaber and all.”

As Han drives away, he gets what amounts to an emergency holotransmission, superimposed on his heads-up display of the city map.

Wow, talk about your traffic hazards. Don’t text and drive, nothin’.

z: And just to be absolutely clear about this, this isn’t a private transmission either, it’s the public authorities that are broadcasting.

will: Anyway. The message reports that there is a “curfew”–read, lockdown–in effect immediately, leaders will be killed and followers will be stunned. Because, you know, the Prime Minister and a senior Senator have been arrested, along with “Rebel ringleader Leia Organa.”

Han ignores the rest, even managing to spout a cliched “I’ll get you for this” as he makes tracks in the air to his suite.

z: Yeah, I laughed at the “I’ll get you, Nereus.”

But some of the rest I’m not so clear about. Did the Bakurans decide to rise when they heard the arrests? Why a curfew at all? I mean, yeah, the Ssi-ruuk are going to attack and Nereus may want to protect the populace… or something… no, I don’t get it.

will: Han arrives, and sees Threepio–who says Gaeri dropped him off, but took Artoo with her–Han cuts in and says, “find Leia.” Threepio presses that the Ssi-ruuk are coming for Luke, and then attacking within the hour. (So, the phrase we’re looking for is “Nereus, you idiot.”)

Han’s brain catches up with his mouth as he starts to say Luke knows they’re gunning for him, and he asks how Threepio knows about the attack, then stops and says it’ll keep, where’s Leia?

Threepio starts to explain that Leia left him with Captison, but Han cuts that short, explaining the arrests, and tells Threepio to tap into the central computer–with the buttons and keyboard-equivalents, since he doesn’t have a direct tap–and tell Luke about the attack and then find Leia.

We then get told that Threepio can use a keyboard-equivalent faster than the human eye can follow, which…feels wrong. Anyway, Han goes through the calming ritual of checking his weaponry, notices that there hasn’t been any sign of a struggle in the apartment, and Threepio calls him back.

z: Threepio isn’t Data. I mean, it is okay that he’d be faster than a human. Droid and all. But that’s not… his characterization, you know?

will: Threepio first says he left a message with the cantina staff for Luke–

–look, I know this book was slightly pre-cell phone, but we’ve already established that comlinks are a Thing in the Galaxy Far Far Away, in the movies for crying out loud, this really does not ring true, and are you saying you literally left a message that the planet is about to be attacked with the barstaff at the local watering hole?

z: Oh no no no, it’s a military barracks watering hole, so that’s…

…all right, I’ve got nothing.

will: –and Leia was basically placed under house arrest, in a place that Han recognizes as a private hunting lodge of the type any Imperial governor would keep. Think the mad scientist’s ski chalet-slash-hideout from a Bond film and you’re in the right mountainous neighborhood.

Threepio can apparently control the entire security system of that chalet from the computer in his guestroom–and it’s going to get worse, folks!–but points out that Han’s first idea, killing the entire security system, might put the human guards on alert. So Han limits himself to saying to shut down the radar, and check the number of guards.

Ten. Apparently Nereus is keeping his guards with him. Han, bless him, wonders if it’s a trap, or if this is a way of letting the Alliance have Leia back, or maybe Nereus is as stupid and cowardly as Threepio thinks:

Sometimes it took a coward to spot a coward.

Han, that’s really low.

z: Yyyyup. And unfair.

will: And out of character.

z: Yyyyup. And unfair. Han complains about Threepio’s complaining, which, fine, but he’s seen Threepio under literal fire and even in pieces how many times?

will: Han starts to go guns blazing, but Threepio says maybe he should “minimize your risk,” make a plan this time. A deception, maybe?

But of course, Threepio isn’t creative, so Han will have to–Han says shut up, inventories his resources, and comes up with this: he has Threepio create a master electronic skeleton key, which is illegal everywhere and impossible to create anyplace that knows about droids, but here, Threepio can just drop a code onto a computer chip, because Bakura has no anti-droid security.

Aaaaand I’m out. I think I can hear Bruce Schneier howling in pain from here.

z: You can hear me too, because he just yanked “the master chip” out of a repulsor couch and gave it to Threepio to reprogram.

I… chips… reprogramming… that’s not how any of this works!

will: Not to mention that apparently Han is more concerned about the existence of that computer chip in his pocket than the fact that he’s about to mount a semi-subterfuge attack on an Imperial house-arrest facility to rescue a prisoner.

Further, deponent sayeth ow, my brain.

z: I mean, he’s done that already before and worse, right, but carrying contraband, banned things, now that’s serious, he can get into real trouble with that, it’s not like he’s ever smuggled anything befo–

–wait.

will: Anyway. Threepio asks whether they should warn the populace about the attack–like he hasn’t already done it, with the whole “I left a message at the bar” thing–and Han says Gaeri knows, right? She’ll handle it.

Han sets his blaster for stun “only out of respect for Leia’s wishes,” and has Threepio run out into the lobby to distract the stormtroopers long enough for him to drop them both.

Then, he removes Threepio’s restraining bolt, because yeah, it’s not like he’s making friends on Bakura anymore.

z: …which frankly is the best part of the chapter so far. But it’s going to get worse again, shortly.

will: Then, he says Threepio is supposed to go make sure Luke knows about the attack, because Han is going after Leia. The plan becomes, dress Threepio in stormtrooper armor, and have him first appear to be chasing Han, and then get into a speeder and go to the launch pad.

z: So this is going to be tangential, but there’s a throwaway line there that really sat badly with me, especially given the treatment of the droids in the rest of the book. When Han first gets the idea to put Threepio in stormtrooper armor, Threepio catches on, and says “Oh, no. Sir, please don’t order me to–”

It’s meant to be funny. It’s meant to maybe invoke one of those cinematic cuts where the character says “I’ll never [X],”–direct cut into character doing [X]. But it’s not funny. No sentence that starts with “please don’t order me to–” with the implication that the person being ordered would rather not do it and yet won’t be able to refuse the order is funny.

Yeah, I just called Threepio a person, because guess what.

Rant over.

will: If you want a better example of the Gilligan Cut (that’s what That Site calls that), check out the Red Four on Adumar.

Anyway. At this point Threepio asks for Han’s comlink so he can contact Luke.

I–but–gah.

Skipping ahead. This plan works, apparently, and we’re scene shifting to Luke.

z: Thank you. For the skip.

will: Luke is in the cantina, looking at their public comlink system, the only–Deep breaths.

Anyway, Luke gets in touch with the Flurry, but Wedge is busy. He gets Lieutenant Riemann, described as a famous artist who went into hiding from the Empire and then joined the Rebellion, and gets an update: nothing has really changed, and the next shuttle will land in 30 minutes–wait, Luke just said the shuttle was late? Thirty minutes?

Luke wonders what he’ll accomplish in thirty minutes stuck in a dingy cantina, but remembering the whole “he will learn patience” thing, he sits down and waits. And then his comlink goes off. It’s Threepio, spelling out the whole story, and my god but the pacing in this chapter is abysmal.

z: There’s even a bit where the text literally says “By interrupting and asking questions, Luke got the whole story.”

…that’s the kind of line you put in an outline. Not that I wanted to read the whole dialogue either. One way to write it so that it would, you know, work would be Threepio’s voice coming out of the comlink and then cutting to somewhere else, because we already know what Threepio is going to tell Luke, because Threepio himself said what it was going to be two pages ago.

will: Anyway, Luke tells Threepio to head for the Falcon, Threepio says please tell Chewie that the stormtrooper coming is indeed Threepio himself, Luke starts thinking of how to help Han, before finally he remembers that he’s in command, and he gets back in touch with Riemann. We cut away with no clue what the hell is going on.

z: And with the worry that Chewie is going to blast 3PO apart, because Luke gives no indication he even understood the droid’s request.

will: Han is flying, and pulls an “Immelmann”–I think you mean a Koiogran there, Han–to dodge a security craft before heading to the lodge. He plans a whole two minutes ahead, thinking “Threepio would be proud,” he jumps out of the speeder, sending it into a wall on the other side of the compound.

Genius! What tactical skill!

My head hurts.

z: Well, at least the Imperials react as expected, converging on the burning speeder and leaving gates entirely unguarded.

(Yes, sarcasm.)

will: Han’s paranoia remains on overdrive as he makes his way, skeleton key in hand, to Leia’s room, slips inside, shoots the security droid (yes, here, the Empire is using droids), and…Leia is floating near the ceiling in a repulsor chair, having prepared to bring it down on whoever walked in the door. But Han speaks up in time.

z: That was the second bit in this chapter that I liked, that Leia was given initiative, and did something clever with it.

will: Leia explains that Nereus was planning to present Leia to the next emperor as a gift, but in the meantime, “insisted that [she] will enjoy his hospitality,” yeah, this is classic Bond level chicanery. Delicious lunch, fireplace, “the guest who’s not allowed to leave.”

We get some familiar dialogue, marginally less tin-eared than it was last time Tyers tried:

“You, ah, found your way in. I don’t suppose you’ve thought of a way of getting back out.”
“Not yet.”
“Not again.”

Han says that everyone is on alert on the other side of the compound where the speeder blew up, they can just wait for–ah, booted footsteps.

Han can’t pull a Reverse Santa Claus all the way out, but he does hide up the fireplace chimney as the stormtroopers ask Leia if there’s been anything suspicious. Leia plays the angry but in-the-dark prisoner, and the troopers apparently look around the room and leave. Han drops back down, and sees her expression before getting soot rained down on him. Han also notes that Leia has thrown a few pieces of clothing–which she got where, in the room? In the seconds between Han jumping up the chimney and the troopers?– over the damaged guard droid, as Leia comes out with a towel and cleans him up.

And, in what must make the third “realization to scene shift” moment in the chapter, Han has an idea looking at Leia’s repulsor chair, and we get to escape this chapter.

If you didn’t notice, I didn’t like this chapter at all. Idiot balls bouncing around, massive pacing problems, and the worst depictions of computers and security I have ever seen–and this is Star Wars, so that’s saying something.

I think I need a cup of tea to calm my offended sense of technology. Z, help me out here?

z: You know, there were entire halves of books in the Thrawn Trilogy that was ultimately meant to bring pieces on the chessboard to where they needed to be for the next stage, and while we sometimes remarked on it, we never complained about it because those maneuver-sections were worthwhile in their own right, and we didn’t have to dodge Idiot Balls, as you put it.

This chapter is short, shorter than the last two or three that were longer than usual monstrosities, but that’s because it reads like a hastily-fleshed-out outline in places. Which also explains the pacing problems. Things that are not funny are played for laughs, things that are meant to feel relevant don’t (unless the hapless Lt. Riemann is going to die spectacularly somewhere in the rest of the book, his background slipping in there made no sense and broke the flow, and if he does die spectacularly, it still won’t have the full effect because sorry, I’m not going to feel all that much for the person whose entire background is two almost-as-you-know-Bob sentences).

will: Interestingly, if memory serves, while it isn’t said here, Riemann is officially female.

z: Sorry. She, then.

Also, I don’t remember what Han’s idea re: the repulsor chair was, but I guess we’ll eventually find out, and I don’t think it’s going to do anything to soothe your offended sense of technology, Will. Sorry.

But skimming through the next chapter, apparently it won’t be next week. Instead we’ll get a part of the book that I will actually enjoy (I believe), and a Jedi being a Jedi. Which may be good. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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