The Truce at Bakura, Chapter 21

will: Welcome back to Force Visions, and the end, at last, of The Truce at Bakura. We made it, people.

z: We did? *checks book* So we did!

will: Well, assuming we survive this. Let’s find out.

z: Oh, sure, rain on my parade.

will: Leia catches up with Luke, and the first thing out of his mouth is that Dev is strong and young enough to apprentice.

z: Leia, you know, the sister who discovered she’s a sister three days ago or so, only responds with “I’ll help if I can, But, Luke…” before Luke interrupts her again. But Will has wisdom about this:

will: Look, gang, we have one more chapter and we’re free of this, I promise, and at this point we’ve established that anything involving wider concerns than the Bakurans and the Ssi-ruuk just feels tonally off in a dozen ways (and the Bakurans and Ssi-ruuk seem editorially neutered in another half dozen)…

z: I will seek your indulgence in listing a few of those wider concern things though: The Force; the relationship between Han and Leia; The Force; the characterization of Luke; The Force, acceptable uses of; the characterizations of Han and especially Leia; The Force, the whole point of; what the droids even are and what they’re for; and the Force are a few that come to me off the top of my head.

will: …therefore we’re just going to put that on the List and move on, like so:

The medic from Thanas’s ship is basically giving Dev an internal bacta wash, tube down the throat and all, and has drugged him for the pain. Luke gets close, and Dev removes the tube…

And Luke decides to say that hey, Dev can start his training even before he heals, to “keep him occupied.”

Where’s my tea… oh, right here. Phew.

Dev says what’s bloody obvious to everybody: he can’t possibly train. He’s maybe not literally too old, but he’s too compromised, his mind scarred by years of horror and torture. And, he’s dying–at least he gets to die free.

Luke tries to point up the advantages of modern prosthetics, but of course, Dev think that’s just entechment by another name. The medic tries to restart the bacta wash at that point, and Luke reaches out to Dev’s spirit in the Force.

And, inevitably, but in a scene I have to admit is reasonably well-crafted:

Abruptly, light flooded out of the Dev-spot in the Force. Luke flinched at its brilliance […] The flash faded. Dev Sibwarra’s presence vanished with it into a vast, surging sea of light.

Requiescat in pace, Dev. You were a mess of a character, but you got a decent death scene.

The medic says he didn’t have a chance, and Luke wants to scream that Dev could have been–but he imagines (better to believe that it’s a Force ghost) Yoda shaking his head no.

z: Shout out to the medic, by the way: He starts the scene by warning Luke not to let Dev talk too long, near the end he interrupts them to shut him up, and even shoves Luke (the Scary Jedi Rebel, remember) physically out of the way to try to restart the bacta. And sounds genuinely disturbed afterwards that he lost his hopeless patient nonetheless.

…he is never given a name, has maybe ten lines overall in the book, and I like him better than any original character except Eppie Belden. That probably means something but I don’t quite know what. Maybe because he always gets to act out of the natural motivations of a medic dedicated to his job, rather than out of The Plot Wills It at any point?

will: Finally, Luke’s body catches up with him, and he drifts into somewhere between sleep, a coma, and a trance, until Gaeri shows up, breaking him out of it. She helps him up (his leg is still hurting), shrouds Dev’s face with her shawl (Luke thanks her; she counters that she did it for Luke, not Dev), and asks why he wanted to save Dev.

“He’d known suffering. I wanted him to know strength.”

“I’m not sure it was just strength you showed him. You also gave him human compassion.”

And finally, Gaeri justifies her existence, and gives Luke the right to be sad. Sure, she couches it in her religion (“you’ll have joy later, the Cosmos balances”), but the point is, even a Jedi must cry. And Luke does, “flinging pretense aside.”

z: There is one throwaway line that could have been developed into something that made sense of that whole Cosmic Balance thing if it had come earlier, but alas: “Maybe seeing him like this [crying, unguarded] would balance her memories of his powers.” I like that, I could write at some length and go a number of different places with that, and yet, again, alas, for all I want to do right now is move on and be done with this.

will: Eventually, they establish and dismiss the Trichoid thing, and get to the rest of the point: killing the romantic plotline. It boils down to, Gaeri is going to stay on Bakura, and Luke of course can’t. She isn’t going to be part of the Bakuran envoy to the Alliance, she’s going to be the heir presumptive to the Prime Ministership (since she’s a Captison, and once again, can I point out how an oligarchy that calls itself a republic is not really much of an improvement?).

Gaeri asks about POWs, but Luke says taking them would make the Alliance liars–now, the non-prisoners will spread stories of how they were defeated but freed. He doesn’t say that also they don’t have the facilities to house them. Which they don’t.

And Luke and Gaeri have a first, and last, kiss. A farewell.

He sees her off the ship, and runs into the Imperial medic, who “assures [Luke] his sympathies are neutral.” Well, yeah, medics treat the patients in front of them and all that rhetoric. But I can’t help but wonder: what if it was Chewie who needed medical attention? Or a Ssi-ruuk? (Though I grant a bit of leeway on that one only because the medic probably wouldn’t know how to treat one.)

z: Hey, no impugning my friend the Decently-Characterized-Medic! (…your point is well taken, though.)

will: Anyway. Luke lies down and submits to the tender mercies of the medical profession, and reflects that it’s good that nobody knew the surrendered Dominant was no threat to anybody. It has a skeleton crew (well, jellyfish crew): two young Calamarians who weren’t on shore leave.

z: And I see that you’ve managed to make me get another WILL, NO in.

will: If this is supposed to mirror the scene with the Calamarians who were sent on shore leave, it falls flatter than a boneless sea creature.

z: WILL

REALLY

NO

(…though once again, your point is well-taken; it’s so weak that I hadn’t even thought that there might be a parallel.)

will: Pfeg. We shift to Thanas, watching his entire Imperial force board a “large but ancient Bakuran space liner.” You know, the whole “this is a relatively recent colony world but it feels like it has been here forever” thing works better when you don’t try to have “ancient” for a colony of twenty years…

Anyway. Bakura has decided–somehow I doubt they had a plebiscite, but hopefully at least the Senate had a vote–that they want the Empire gone. Many Imperials are gone; dead, deserted, or defected. All the Imperial materiel is being left behind to become the nucleus of the Bakuran system defense force.

They board, the ship launches, and Thanas does what we all knew he would–defects. He uses that folding knife that we kept getting told about to cut his rank insignia off his uniform, and asks to be taken to the Prime Minister. Yay?

z: Oh look actual foreshadowing for once, so yay.

(I mean about the knife. The defection was technically foreshadowed, but with anvils.)

will: Back to Luke, who is flying a TIE fighter over to the captured Ssi-ruuvi cruiser–officially , it’s now the Sibwarra, but it’s going to be the Flutie to its crew, of course–and hating it. He’s always wanted to–he never did during the war?–and compared to an X-wing, it’s unstable, finicky, and dangerous.

Z’s played a lot more piloting games than I have–care to weigh in on this one?

z: I guess he might never have during the war; I’m not even sure if they had many emulators? But from what I recall of said piloting games, yes. They are lighter and have no shields, and are faster and more maneuverable–which, if you’re used to a ship with a bit more resting inertia, translates to “oops I breathed on the controls wrong and now I’m 45 degrees off course from my intended vector and why am I going so fast and why is that capital ship so close all of a suddeWHACK.” The unstability I’m not sure about though. It may again be a misperception of its extra sensitivity.

will: Anyway. It isn’t just that he’s always wanted to fly a TIE, he needs to do a walkthrough of the cruiser. He also feels like there is still a darkness clinging to him, and wonders how many times he’ll have to reject the Dark Side.

Every day, Luke. That’s the hard part. It’s like adulthood.

z: If I had more faith at this point, I could think that that was the implication Tyers intended to evoke with Luke having that thought. As it is… I’ll give it a 50-50 chance.

will: Luke docks, heads to the bridge, and takes in the crews retrofitting the ship for non-Ssi-ruuvi operators. It’s not stated outright, but the sense I’m getting is that so much of technology in the GFFA is built along similar lines–hyperdrives work the same, for example–that while there’s some control replacements to do, the fact that this is a ship built by an alien species is more of a matter of jury-rigging replacement, at least in the short term. (A long, long, long time from now we’ll encounter truly foreign control, and even drive, systems, but other than that I think I’m justified.)

Luke then walks every inch of the cruiser, deck by deck and room by room, and emerges knowing the ship is clean of soul batteries: it is just metal, plastic, and fusion generators now.

Final scene shift. Han and Chewie are arguing as Luke heads to the cockpit. Chewie growls as he bangs on the ship. It’s time for a repairs-on-the-Falcon sequence. Seems Chewie disengaged the automatic decoder system, so when they received a coded subspace communication from Ackbar, Han had to do the decoding on the fly, which 1) that’s what you have droids for, and 2) cryptography does not blah blah *deep breath, tea* two more pages.

The message is, speaking of blah blah, something about a small Imperial battle group that’s probably making trouble. Luke has one more thing to do, and Han–calling her “Leia,” not “Princess,” which is a nice touch–tells Leia to strap in, and Threepio is giving the story of how he got himself shot by Chewie this time…

Luke heads to the airlock, where Dev’s body, wrapped in shawls and blankets, waits. He thanks Dev, backs out, and heads to the cockpit, where Han hits the outer door. The body ejects, turning into a meteor in Bakura’s atmosphere.

A momentary flare of brilliance…like all life. Nothing really, in the sweep of time. But everything, in the Force.

And, with what I have to admit is a nice bit of symmetry with the introduction to the book, we end.

We made it, everybody.

Have a drink.

(Mine is still tea. For now.)

z: Mine is a caffeinated flavor powder in water tonight, since I’m already sleepy and I’ve got More Stuff to do.

will: I think that anything I could say here would either repeat what I have said, or preempt what I’m going to say next week, so I’m turning this microphone over to my partner in literary crime. Or at least, fellow witness in same.

z: But the same goes for me too. Still, I want to add that there’s a bit of necessary closure in the last few paragraphs that still manages to feel stuck on with double-sided tape: Luke thinks that he’s lost Gaeriel and Dev both, and yet both had touched and taught him, so he’s thankful to them.

I have to admit that resonates, since it is not unlike my own attitude towards lost friends. Gratitude does make the pain of parting easier.

…but it’s a single sentence on the very last page, and what he’s learned from either hasn’t been very clear, so…. okay, actually, that’s one thing I want to talk about next week: Does Luke have a character arc here? Does anyone?

But I also have to leave myself material for the retrospective. Given that, and given also that I have to figure out what two unnamed Irish lullabies are (long story) by listening to lots of Irish lullabies if Shazam can’t help me, I’ll also sign off. Until our summary next week, may the Force be with you.

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