The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 20, Part 2

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Part 2 for Chapter 20 in The Truce at Bakura, wherein if mind control won’t work, emotional control will have to suffice, and also gah.

will: And also, how easy everything ends up. Z mentioned the ridiculously low maintenance of the sic semper tyrannis wrap-up of Nereus last week, and it’s almost weird to be complaining because (at least at this point, 1994 or so) Star Wars was deep into The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified territory, but this all feels so…clean.

z: In personal news, this is the first three-rehearsal week of the season, but it won’t be the last. This is not a complaint. I have described one of the pieces I am playing in to a friend as “It’s a musical baby Groot”: It’s small, it’s cute, and it’s sassy in places. More rehearsals equals more times I get to play it, so…

z: Thanas hears Luke’s command to lay off the attack on the Dominant, which makes him flinch, I presume because he understands that Luke intends to capture the cruiser rather than destroying it.

will: I read that Thanas was hearing “there’s been enough killing today” from Luke, given his mental reference back to Alzoc III.

z: So he gives the general staff the order to evacuate the ship, and starts planning for self-destruct. The bridge crew, from what he sees, gets ready to die bravely, while others head for the escape pods.

will: Because apparently Imperial doctrine is for the entire bridge crew to go down with the ship. An attitude that is remarkably consistent with the “Imperial machine” formulation of the Empire–but isn’t consistent with what we see before or since.

Then again, most of what we see of the Empire in this close a view is after they’ve had more time to adjust to the Battle of Endor. Maybe that was standard practice when they were the supreme power but got broken when they did.

z: But he’s not certain in his own mind–he thinks he could either die bravely here for “an uncaring Empire, the legacy of a dead Emperor,” or… admit that his entire life so far has been a mistake, dedicated to the wrong ideals.

I actually like the implication that the Empire has not been able to instill a belief system and ideals strong enough in Thanas that he will continue serving it; compare and contrast Pellaeon, who as far as we know kept on keeping on until Thrawn found him and the Chimaera. But I have to deduce this in a somewhat convoluted fashion from what he’s written to be thinking. Which, oh, well.

will: One aspect of the fiction set after Endor is the variety of how forces react to the Emperor’s death. Claimants to the throne, splinters, breakaways…we don’t see them here, but we can if we squint.

z: Then Thanas remembers the last orders Nereus apparently gave him, and asks the comm officer to find Commander Skywalker. When the officer gets a channel through, he warns Luke that Luke is very dangerously infected. Luke tells him that it’s been taken care of (“Remember, I am a Jedi,” which makes me hear Yoda laughing in my ears even as I roll my eyes); as proof, he points out that he’s right now on a ship with the people he cares about the most.

will: I can see Luke doing the “remember, I’m a Jedi” thing as a shortcut, but yeah, eye roll.

z: Thanas starts saying “if I surrender The Dominant to you–” which precipitates an attack by the Imperial Security spy planted in the bridge crew. We’re meant to understand that Thanas knew saying those words would flush that person out and was ready, because he sees movement out of the corner of his eye and stuns the guy.

will: Ah, political officers. Though really it’s more like the GRU mole in The Hunt for Red October. I can absolutely see the Empire wanting to have–especially in cases like Thanas’s, far from home and less than directly accountable–a security system.

That said…that was their idea of a security system? Hell, Thanas shouldn’t know about the guy.

Good idea, bad execution. Par for the course.

z: Then he asks Luke if his crew would be given safe passage to Imperial-held worlds if they so chose in the event of that surrender. Luke guarantees this, provided that the personnel all get a chance to choose to defect if they wish. Upon which, Thanas surrenders his ship and himself in particular to the Alliance.

Whee.

Now if only I cared more, which I should have been able to, given all the merciful-to-miners backstory Thanas has. But… I haven’t been able to.

will: And we aren’t given enough of a sense of the adversity. We’re just told this is difficult.

z: Luke asks Thanas to come to the Falcon and bring a medic as well, saying that there’s another human on board that’s badly burned. Thanas divines that this is Dev, doesn’t like the idea of healing him, but then decides he should be brought to justice.

will: Human justice, specifically.

Also, a line I can’t quite figure. Thanas first balks at the idea of treating Dev, and then:

What irrational, supernatural agency had raised up Luke Skywalker to judge his scruples?

Which…one answer would be “the Force,” but another is “wait, who’s judging whom?” I feel like Tyers was trying to say something she didn’t manage.

z: Luke sends a skeleton crew to the Dominant and Han tells Thanas to come unarmed in a survival pod or else.

Thanas does, with a medic, and Han decides to handcuff him to Threepio and stuff them in a hold, because being chained to a talkative droid is punishment, you see. I’m supposed to find this amusing, but I’m just plowing through at this point, so no, sorry. The medic, who did come along, scans Luke and verifies that he’s clean of parasites.

will: Though suffering bronchitis, no shock.

z: But he isn’t sanguine about Dev, whom he pronounces “might live for a day, and would suffer if he regains consciousness.” Luke says that the boy is in a Jedi healing trance–is he, now–and please try, because he’d changed his mind about the Ssi-ruuk. The medic isn’t especially impressed by that, but attempts to do his job anyway.

will: Thus being more professional than what, ninety percent of the characters in this book?

z: In the meantime, Han and Leia have contacted Salis D’aar to try to figure out what all that chatter about riots and revolutions and whatnots there were about. They greet Luke upon his return to the cockpit that Eppie Belden, now in the Bakur complex with Gaeri and a prisoner (Nereus, they correctly decide), have invited Luke to come over. Luke asks, what about reinforcements as they’re going in; Han says that he’s having the Dominant towed to position for a planet-side bombardment–of the Imperial garrison, to be particular, which, heh. Luke thinks to himself that since he’s known to be a Jedi, as long as he doesn’t stumble visibly the Imperials will also think of him as a threat too, so that’s good.

…no, it isn’t. Yes, it gives Luke an edge in a confrontation, but I can’t help but think that “He’s a Jedi and therefore scary” is not completely equivalent to “He’s a Jedi and therefore can handle himself” or “He’s a Jedi and therefore can sit in judgment, see also the random tapcafe incident in Dark Force Rising.” But since I’m still plowing through, we won’t stick around discussing the finer points of Force users and philosophy here either.

will: Well…the point here is that we’re talking about the Empire’s forces, so yeah, I can actually see it holding up. Especially days after Endor.

Note also that Luke asks if Han can land the Falcon on the roof, and Leia laughs that Han can “land the Falcon on an ice cube if he wants to.” That almost qualifies as a nice callback!

z: They land on the roof of the Bakur complex, and once more Tyers gets something right: The first thing Luke notices and recognizes and remarks upon is not Gaeri, but Artoo (although Gaeri comes right in the next sentence). There’s a number of people there, including Prime Minister Captison and “an unbound, defiant Wilek Nereus.” Who, Leia remarks, doesn’t look like a prisoner, and will probably not be surrendering the Salis D’aar garrison directly. Han reaches towards the dorsal gun controls, because obviously the clearly right move here with a zillion allies and one captured enemy is to threaten to spray all of them with laser fire until the captured enemy capitulates upon something, and I throw the book at the wall and then go and retrieve it while Leia gets to Captain Obvious that this is a point for diplomacy AND ALSO CAN WE STOP HITTING HAN WITH THE IDIOT BALL JUST SO LEIA CAN CORRECT HIM OR SOMETHING THIS IS NOT HOW YOU BUILD A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHARACTERS GAH okay better now.

will: I mean, she’s not wrong, folks.

z: Plowing on.

We shift to a Leia point of view as the Falcon settles to a landing. There’s a nice moment when she looks at Luke and sees “almost two Lukes:” the A Winnar Is I version he’s projecting and the tired, worried, hurting one which may make mistakes with the condition he’s in. She asks if he’d like to stay on board until the direction of the proceedings becomes clear, and he agrees to this.

will: Plus, he’ll be a useful ace in the hole.

z: Threepio shows up with Thanas, and we get an actual nice callback that is then immediately shown to be inadvertent: Thanas comments that Threepio tells interesting stories, while repeatedly insisting that he’s not much of a storyteller. Anyone who’s watched Return of the Jedi knows that’s not true, and will remember Leia watching and seemingly enjoying his story to the Ewoks too, which was… all of three days ago, at this point; so Leia thinking “Thanas had probably gotten an earful of Alliance propaganda” makes no sense whatsoever, so we move on.

will: Yeah, I actually don’t see Threepio (heh) as a propagandist. He isn’t capable of slanting things like that. He’d end up actually telling Hidden Fortress first.

z: As they descend the main hatch, Belden, the Captisons, Nereus and Artoo start moving toward them. Thanas is expressionless as he stands at attention, and Nereus actually walks over and starts dressing him down. Leia points out that Thanas isn’t Nereus’ prisoner, but the Alliance’s, and, uh, so is Nereus? Right? Nereus doesn’t think so, and to be frank, the Bakurans aren’t exactly reinforcing that mode of thought either, presumably because Nereus still has the 3000-person Imperial garrison under his command, and people from the fleet landing all over Bakura in escape pods. Leia counters with how they are bringing the Dominant into position for orbital bombardment of the garrison, and is rightly grateful to Han for getting ready for this.

will: The sense that this is all over but the shouting isn’t universal. This, I think, is actually reasonably well done–it’s an entire bloody planet, it’s not small.

z: She also says that even if they let Nereus go, he couldn’t hold Bakura against the will of its people, and Nereus points out that that has been standard Imperial policy which has worked so far. Maybe Leia would have retorted “yeah, you and what Death Star now?” but… Gaeriel interrupts.

Just like Threepio speaking up in the council chamber that first meeting they attended, which seemed to have no other purpose than having the Bakurans react to him, Gaeriel’s action here seems to have no reason for its timing other than “the Plot demanded it.”

Anyway, she shoves past Leia, gets in Nereus’ face (although stays out of the line-of-fire for Han, which, clever girl). She’s supposed to be looking fierce, so that Leia “finally guesses what Luke saw in her,” but what I read in her description is that she’s done something incomprehensible with her shawl and long skirt which makes it sound like she’s about to get tangled in both and choke herself, and she’s “wedged a blaster rifle under one arm. It dangled, ready to use.” That bit, I can’t parse at all.

will: I guess…wearing it openly is a threat?

z: But anyway, she declares that she’s resigning from Imperial service. Which is a grand gesture that.. means absolutely nothing, the way things are at the moment. Not that you can tell that to Nereus, who reacts in the Plot Puppet way with “You cannot. You belong to the Empire.” Ow the eyeroll. Gaeriel turns to congratulate Leia on the victory. Her eyes are puffy, as if crying. She in turn is interrupted and stiffens as Luke steps onto the hatchway.

Nereus is frightened out of his mind, which, can you blame him–when he yells at Luke to get back on board before infecting everyone, instead of telling him that the infection is taken care of, Luke starts declaiming “Gaeriel Captison belongs to Bakura, not the Empire.”

will: Well, he wouldn’t be focused on easing Nereus’s fears.

z: Oh.

Oh.

Right. Of course. How can I be so stupid. Luke would have to grandstand and declaim nobly about the woman he loves, so Nereus had to have responded that stupidly to Gaeriel, so Gaeriel had to have non-sequitured a resignation okay I’m done here. Nereus yanks the blaster from Gaeri’s hands, which I guess was why she was carrying it dangling under one arm so he could yank with little trouble, tries to shoot Luke because I’m sure the dead host would make a lot of difference in preventing infection… or… something, and Luke whips out his lightsaber and deflects the bolt back to Nereus, who is thereby killed by Poetic Justice, as visited upon his head by at least three characters behaving in the Mechanical Moron Mode, as opposed to, like, being tried in a Bakuran court. Or something.

will: Yeah, it’s an attempt at a Disney Death, but it just…

z: Let’s see how quickly I can get through the rest of this.

will: Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed!

z: Leia formally offers Prime Minister Captison the choice to align with the Alliance or stand alone, and he points out that the Imperial garrison probably won’t surrender. Luke goes over and… lies… that they have accepted Thanas’ surrender of himself (true), of the Dominant (true), and the landbased forces (…huh?) and Thanas doesn’t… contradict… this because reasons. I mean I guess it wouldn’t have worked to say “Hey, dude, you the ranking Imperial officer on the planet now, are you surrendering the garrison too? Yes? Right-o, keep on keeping on.” Because… reasons. Threepio releases Thanas, who gathers the stormtroopers that were out there with Nereus–wait, this is the first we’ve heard there are stormtroopers, no? But anyway.

will: Yeah, with Nereus dead, I can see Thanas’s surrender being considered to apply to the garrison. But I can’t see Luke saying it like that, exhaustion and bronchitis or no.

z: Leia is surprised that Luke is just going to trust him, so of course, asks “what did you do,” meaning to Thanas, with the Force, and hang on let me get the book back again.

If I ever met Kathy Tyers, I’m setting her to write down “The Force is not a mental remote control device” five hundred times in cursive.

will: Just be careful about the quill.

z: For once, Luke has done nothing, he just has a feeling that he can trust Thanas.

will: Because sledgehammer of Good Man. Oy.

z: The Prime Minister says that now Bakura will probably choose to join the Alliance, so he’ll make a broadcast and consult them, and leaves. Bye.

Leia has a reconciliation that is Pastede On Yay, which I’m going to have to quote in its entirety because there is no connection there that works for me:

Still watching, Father? Leia glanced over one shoulder, but all she saw… or sensed… was hazy gray sky. Every world she took from the Empire was another defeat for the ghost of Darth Vader.

On the other hand, if Anakin Skywalker cared to look on, that wouldn’t bother her in the future. She’d made her peace in the midst of battle.

Well isn’t that nice.

will: Because she was willing to die for the sake of the Alliance, basically. Yeah. No. Not really so much with the working.

z: Gaeriel brings Eppie over to Luke, who is very happy and cheerful and is a real ray of sunshine. Then she talks to Luke. Or tries to: “[Gaeriel] said to Luke with heartfelt relief, ‘You’re alive. Did you–‘

‘Can we talk later? I’ve got a very sick… friend on board, being treated for burns.'”

For.

will: (At Z’s request, I’ve blanked out the next word for family friendliness. Highlight to read.)

z: Fuck’s.

Sake.

Can I have any character showing consistency of personality or purpose for ten seconds at a go please? Other than Artoo? Please?!

Of course Leia has the internal reaction of “If you want this girl, go get her,” even as Gaeri is all like “sure, I’ll wait.”

will: She’s willing to wait for it?

z: Exactly.

will: You know, it’s less funny when you agree. Well, less funny for me anyway.

And now that I’ve said that I may have handed her my secret weakness.

(The double secret is that it’s less funny, but not really by much. I mostly joke to amuse myself. Making my friends groan is a bonus.)

z: Normally, yeah, but… I didn’t quote the line exactly unwittingly myself {grin}.

will: Pardon me, are you Skywalker, sir?

(See also.)

z: Luke stumbles back up the ramp, Gaeri tells Leia that she’s never met anyone like him, and Leia finally decides to act with “You never will again, if he leaves you here” and goes back into the ship after Luke and scene and boo–

Nope, there’s one more chapter. Bah.

I’m falling asleep and besides the poor keyboard hasn’t done anything to me but I’m basically playing a Rachmaninoff prelude over it given how hard I’m hitting the keys by this time and stage of irritation. I’d better sign off. Will?

will: Well, it’s hard to top Z actually cracking her composure that far, and it’s also late enough that I don’t have a whole lot to add. This book has been a rancid treat, like a chocolate assortment filled with spoiled fish. One more chapter and we’re finally out–well, not counting the retrospective, which will be…interesting…and then we need to pick something new to read. (If you have any thoughts on that, let us know! We’re making plans.)

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