The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 20, Part 1

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 20 of The Truce at Bakura, wherein sic semper tyrannis, only, in as paint-by-numbers a way as possible.

This past weekend was the Memorial Day weekend in the USA, the highlights of which contain, for me, six hours of yardwork (ow ow ow), at least six hours of piano practice (don’t know the exact length, but after a certain point, you start feeling that yes, this does consume around 100 calories per hour, the same as walking) including learning a piece that was brand new for me (that was composed by a friend, and is lovely), and meeting Will for dinner (which we had at a seafood restaurant at Fells Point in Baltimore, wherein lobster ravioli and crab mac&cheese were had), which is always fun and more than.

will: For me it was Balticon, most of which was spent in the filkroom, or at dinner with Z. And now, holy crap, it’s June. How did that happen?

z: The chapter opens with Gaeriel, still in Nereus’ office, and depressed by the Dominant shooting the alien cruiser that Luke was taken on board of. Nereus tries to console her in very Nereus-like fashion, saying that the Jedi wouldn’t have survived anyway, you know, given the infection it’s much better that he dies up there.

will: I feel like Nereus was more interesting when he was running scared.

z: Then Nereus deploys a number of lines of Classic Villain’s Handbook one after the other: “One single troublemaker remains to be dealt with,” calling for Yeorg Captison to be brought there, telling Gaeri that he might spare her uncle’s life if she gets on broadwave and declares her support as his replacement, telling the same to Uncle Captison himself when he gets there, gloating after the completely expectable “nope, Gaeri, don’t watch,” and then being totally caught off-guard by the sudden but inevitable rescue, duh.

I’m still puzzled as to why he thought asking either Captison to sponsor him was necessary or even valuable, given that whether they do or not, the populace is not likely to feel any better (or worse) towards him, but it gives Gaeri and Yeorg excuses to spout appropriately defiant and heroic lines; in other words, The Plot Demands It, so let’s move on.

will: …OK, let’s. I mean, yeah, this looks to be a sort of avalanche run to resolution, so.

z: Said rescue is of course Eppie. The way she affects the rescue is novel, though, and for once shows some understanding of one of the fundamental aspects of the Star Wars universe, to wit, Artoo-Detoo is everything.

The first thing that happens is that the stormtroopers grasp at their helmets (or yank them off and grasp at their ears) and/or collapse at a piercing electronic whine coming through their helmet comlink speakers. Gaeri and her uncle grab blasters from disabled troopers while Nereus does not draw his, because coward. His console is overridden; Eppie walks in followed by his caretaker Clis. Clis is obviously not being paid enough for this. Nereus doesn’t recognize Eppie, who then introduces herself as “Ord Belden’s revenge.”

will: Sounds like a drink. Something with whiskey and capsaicin, and served on the rocks.

z: I’d try it if you went light on the capsaicin.

Nereus immediately blurts that this can’t be, the neocortex scarring is permanent, because not to use that line out of the Handbook would be against the code of his Villains’ Local #8592. Eppie joins me in rolling her eyes and responding “Tell that to Commander Skywalker.”

will: I admit to complicated feelings. The idea that an arguably-non-Force-using person could be directed to use the Force well enough to heal brain damage?

I mean, are we to assume that Eppie could have been trained as a Jedi? Is that the takeaway? Or that anybody can heal brain damage with a quick tutorial from Luke?

z: I’d taken Luke’s first interaction with Eppie as him sensing some Force… let’s call it tendency in her, so probably the former.

Anyway.

So of course Nereus jumps several steps ahead in the Handbook’s checklist and outright boasts that not only is Skywalker “dead, by now,” but “They’ll eat him alive, inside out–”

Dude. Shut. Up.

Eppie’s understandably incensed, and has got a fine-tuned sense of justice: She says that she had thought of turning Nereus over to a Bakuran tribunal, but now she’ll hand him to the Rebels instead, since if he’s killed “the Rebels’ Jedi,” they’ll probably do much worse to him than the Bakurans would. Yaaay.

Gaeri asks how Eppie managed the piercing whistle trick, which is when Eppie calls Artoo in:

“When the emergency patrol took you [Gaeri] away, he got to a master terminal and called me in. I sent out a friend to fetch him. This little guy’s worth his weight in reactor fuel on the master circuits.”

That last sentence, allowing for the weird value comparison unit, is the best sentence in the book and the truest, hands down. So I’m going to stare at that for a while.

will: Yup. Also, remember: Bakura “doesn’t have droids, so it doesn’t have anti-droid security,” which is sort of like saying “our town doesn’t have thieves, so let’s not bother with a lock on the bank vault.”

z: Immediately afterwards, Nereus realizes it has been twenty seconds since he’s said anything stupidly villanious and, afraid of losing his pension, acts all affronted that Eppie removed Artoo-Detoo’s restraining bolt. And we’re back to normal.

will: FSVO “normal.” And yes, that’s sort of impressive: “you and a droid have just kidnapped me–how dare you let the droid off its leash!”

Plus, remember Nereus is an Imperial, not a Bakuran local. So he should be more used to droids.

Oy. Let’s get out of here.

z: We shift to Luke, and, look, if you’re squeamish skip the rest of this paragraph. He senses the parasites’ minds, or what passes for minds, and feels their hunger and their drive to eat towards fresh blood, so he forms a thought of how fresh blood smells and offers it to the bits of living awareness he senses, pulling them bit by bit, like a fisherman pulling on a line, away from their original path towards his heart and, well, ew, up his windpipe and throat ew ew ew and he coughs them up one by one and okay you don’t need the descriptions any more he squishes one of them can’t find the other in the dark fine done.

will: I have to admit that as squeamish as this part makes one, at least that’s a strong reaction, lacking from a lot of the rest of the book. Maybe Tyers would have done better with more xenobio and fewer droids?

Wait. I just remembered where that path goes. Never mind.

z: …yeah, let’s not.

Then Luke sort of semi-passes out, which, who can blame him? He comes to, seeing lights in the corridor and hearing Leia’s voice. Han and Leia show up when he calls back, although his throat burns. Han says that the Ssi-ruuk left the landing bays open, that’s how they got in. Luke spots Dev, lying beside him, with massive burns across his arms and face and presumably body.

Leia sees the other parasite, makes a disgusted sound and steps on it, yay.

will: One thing I could never figure out: how the parasite’s life cycle would let them infect the Ssi-ruuk off of Luke. I mean, I compared these things to Trichinella, but that requires eating undercooked meat. How would this have gone, apparently, airborne? Spores?

z: Han fireman-lifts Luke, and Luke tells him to bring Dev along. Han’s reaction is, of course, you’re kidding? …but Leia is already trying to lift the boy. Chewie takes over and picks Dev up easily, and they traipse away.

will: Yeah, I feel like Han’s reaction here is just impulse. A second’s consideration and Han would go, “…well, of course.”

z: Back on the Falcon, Luke lies on a bunk with Leia resting her head on his shoulder for a bit, and draws some strength from her to help with his healing. He wonders where he’s picked up those parasites, which is supposed to be funny, or ironic, or tense, or something, I don’t even know.

will: I think it’s just Luke reacting, finally having the space to for a second. Honestly, maybe he doesn’t know. He should, but.

z: Leia regretfully agrees that Luke can’t really rest yet: The Dominant is still out there to be dealt with, though it’s disabled, and from the comm signals there’s a revolution going on planetside. Leia helps him to the cockpit so he can reach the communication nets. Han and Chewie greet him, Han’s line sounding naturally in character and voice enough that I feel like replicating it: “Hey, youngster, you look pretty good for a dead man.”

will: It’s not as evocative as “…strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark,” but it’s also not that line, so I’ll take the win.

z: Luke asks if they’ve heard anything on the comms about Gaeri, Han says that there was a mention of a group claiming to have Nereus in custody. They’re passing over the Dominant, and Han wants to destroy it. He’s angry. Leia tries to soothe him down a little, and Luke says to wait. He reckons Thanas must be planning to auto-destruct the cruiser rather than letting it go to the Alliance. All TIE Fighters have gone away, and the shields are shut down. Han goes into an attack run anyway, because apparently Luke saying “wait” once didn’t mean anything, so Luke repeats it and this time explains that if they could capture the cruiser it would be a prize. And yes, he does use small words. I sigh. Then he goes on the command channel and orders all Alliance forces to cease fire.

Han asks “What?” and Luke starts dashing his own head against the Falcon‘s thick cockpit viewport glass until he starts seeing starlines not unlike the hyperspace jump streaks, and passes out. …no, I made that last up. A few of the younger pilots also complain, which is in character for them.

will: Han’s anger doesn’t quite track. I think it’s supposed to be a reflection of his feelings of betrayal at Thanas’s double cross. But he’s been suspicious the whole time. Not suspicious enough, witness the (say it with me) Flurry getting destroyed, but it doesn’t track that suddenly he’s this sort of bloodthirsty.

z: Then Luke tries to “touch Commander Thanas,” fails, because “he’s too weary to use the Force,” so he tries something else: Projects calm and peace into the Force, the idea that peace is possible, and that this is Thanas’ last chance.

By which the only thing I can deduce is that the first failed attempt was to try to mind-control Thanas directly, again, and gaaaaaah I’m glad that it failed except what he just did wasn’t supposed to be the last ditch effort, it was what he should have tried in the first place, gah gah gah where’s my viewport and gratefully, scene change.

This is another one of those long chapters where a lot happens, and frankly, a more natural stopping point would be after this Thanas point of view that is coming up. But there’s another bit of The Plot Wills It coming up again, and I don’t want to face another such section just yet. So I’ll cravenly hand this off to Will and slink away, for now; next week I’ll be leading in again.

will: I’m not much better. Shortened week, the aforementioned holy crap how is it June, and frankly, I think it’s book fatigue. Z and I have started looking at what we’re going to do next, and I’m hoping it’s something we like more. But then, I have to temper enthusiasm with caution: we didn’t remember this book accurately.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen with our next choice.

But anyway, that’s all for us this week, we’ll be back with the rest of Chapter 20 next week. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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