In the last installment of the Thrawn Trilogy retrospective, the Empire attacked Bpfassh, there was another kidnapping attempt on Leia, Luke had a vision of Mara Jade at the sail barge assault, and Mara Jade was thirsting for Luke Skywalker’s blood. Let’s get on with the show as everyone congregates on Nkllon.
Chapter 12 starts with Han and Leia arriving in the Athega system, right off the bat we get a rather annoying callback to their arrival on Cloud City. I guess I can give it a pass because Leia lampshades the reference and, again, first post-RotJ book and all that. Because Nkllon is so close to the sun, all the space traffic need to be escorted in with shield ships. Normally they’d slave ships together and do a quick hyperspace jump, but the Falcon doesn’t have a slave circuit, of course, so they have to take a 10 hour trip with the sublights. There’s some tension in the air as the shield ship says they’re waiting around for ship that also doesn’t have slave circuits, but it’s just Luke. What a coincidence! Han worries it’s another trap, and asks Leia to sense Luke on the other ship. She says she’s almost positive it’s him.
And this is where I have to give another WTF because Leia should be absolutely certain it’s Luke inside that X-wing. C’mon, Timothy Zahn. But whatever. Leia brings in Threepio to talk with Artoo and then everyone’s minds are put at ease. Han reflects that he’s glad he has a wife who can think faster than him, so I guess this is where I forgive Zahn for earlier indiscretions.
Finally they’re coming into Nkllon. There’s a bit of dialogue between Han and Leia where they discuss how Lando got control of Nomad City. I like that Zahn remembers that Lando is a businessman and an administrator, and not likely to stay involved in the military longer than he has to. While we’re at it, can we talk about how cool Nomad City is? Because the planet is so hot, the city has to travel across the planet to always stay on the dark side. It’s basically a dreadnaught sitting atop a bunch of AT-ATs. Pretty darn awesome.
Han and Leia chat with Lando, and everything’s hunky dory for them to land on the planet. Then an Imperial Star Destroyer shows up in the planetary shadow. DUM-DUM-DUM!
Moving forward to Chapter 13, we switch to Luke’s point of view. Artoo clears the Imperial’s jamming, because he’s awesome, and he formulates a plan with the others. They discuss Luke confusing the TIE pilots’ minds, and we get another reference to the movies, this time when Luke confused the guards at Jabba’s Palace. (Okay, we get it, the movies happened.) He’s not really keen on the idea, but he does it anyway and wonders if this is the way the Old Jedi Order fought in battles–or if they even fought at all. Oh, if you only knew! He’s also nervous because this is his first space combat as a full Jedi.
This is where I step in and say really? Really? This book is supposed to take five years after RotJ and Luke hasn’t flown in space combat since then? Has this been retconned? I know he’s in charge during Shadows of Mindor and lands the ship–isn’t that considered space combat?
Anyway, I digress. This is all just more perils of writing the first book of a 100+ book series and having people fill in the timeline before you.
Back to Luke. While he’s fighting he gets a Force message from C’baoth, like you do. C’baoth tells him to come find him on Jomark. Luke is confused and tries to get more out of the crazy old clone, but it’s to no avail. You’d think that Luke would sense this is a trap, because C’baoth is kind of a controlling jerk, but whatever. That’s for the next book. At least Luke vows to look into things very carefully. Which is good, because he has somewhat of a history of rushing into things and reckless, in case you’d forgotten.
Next thing Luke knows, Han and Leia are hailing him and asking what’s going on. Turns out 30 minutes have gone by without Luke even knowing it. Cue The X-Files theme here.
The next scene jumps back to the Chimaera, on the outskirts of the Athega system, where C’baoth informs them that the attack to steal the mole miners was successful. He also reveals that he was chatting with Luke Skywalker. Thrawn is a little pissed that C’baoth had Luke in his clutches and didn’t launch an attack, but C’baoth tells him there will be time for that later. There’s more squabbling about their plans and what gets the highest importance. (Their squabbling is really getting old. Thank God they don’t spend much time together for the rest of the series.) Thrawn decides to escort the Judicator (the Star Destroyer that got fried in the attack) to the rendezvous, and then take C’baoth to Jomark.
Once C’baoth leaves the room, Thrawn asks Pellaeon to chart a course from Nkllon to Jomark. He wants to know how long it’ll take Skywalker to get there, because he’s sure that’s where Luke will go first. He wants to capture Luke to disabuse C’baoth of the idea he’s indispensable. (Although he kind of is, Thrawn. Make up your mind.)
Pellaeon is surprised by this, as they promised C’baoth they’d have Luke alive. I really like this bit of characterization for Pellaeon–he’s not a man to back down on a promise, even to a crazy clone. It shows him as a very loyal person, which makes sense due to his many years in the fleet. Pellaeon convinces Thrawn not to kill Skywalker outright, as they need to keep C’baoth from returning to Wayland as long as possible. Why? What are you doing there? THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING ME.
Chapter 14 jumps to our heroes on Nkllon. Now it’s Lando’s turn to be pissed about his stolen mole miners. Poor Lando. Han and Leia tell Lando they’ve come to ask for help finding a slicer. Luke appears halfway through their conversation without any mention of him being in the room. Continuity oops.
Luckily, Lando is able to identify that object Luke found. It’s an old pre-Clone Wars era beckon call, that Luke thinks belonged to the Dark Jedi who fled to Dagobah, and that he died in the cave. This is where we get our first mention of the Katana fleet and slave ships, which is VERY IMPORTANT FORESHADOWING for later.
The conversation turns to hiding Leia. Unfortunately Lando doesn’t know of a good slicer who might help them, but he mentions Talon Karrde might be able to help. They’ve met once, and he describes Karrde as honest in his dealings but a pretty cold fish. That sounds about right.
Chewbacca jumps in as a reminder that he’s still alive, but also with an offer to hide Leia on Kashyyyk. There’s some back and forth about this, because Wookiees don’t trust humans thanks to that whole slavery thing, but Chewie assures her that his life debt to Han extends to her, and that the Wookiees owe the New Republic a debt for defeating the Empire. Han, meanwhile, says he’ll fly around on the Falcon and pretend Leia is with him. (For the record, Padme Amidala, this is a much better plan to hide than going back to your home planet.) Lando offers to go with Han, as he’s got some off-world purchases to make, and they can switch ships once they leave Nkllon. (It’s really just an excuse to get those two back together, though.)
The conversation then turns to the Jedi contacting Luke, and how a Jedi Master might be able to hide him- or herself without being detected. Luke thinks that Yoda could stay on Dagobah because the dark essence of the cave kept him hidden from the Emperor. Perhaps a similar situation happened with the Jedi who contacted him. (There’s a nice bit of prose as Luke thinks that a full-scale Force war between Jedi Masters must have been terrifying. Yes, something similar happened in the Galactic Senate and it was awesome.)
Leia mentions the C’baoth rumor, and tells Luke he has to be very careful. It could be a trap. (It IS a trap!) Luke says he has to go, that the Force is guiding him. (You know why, Luke? So you can meet your future wife! But I’m jumping ahead of myself a few chapters.)
Then, the best and creepiest thing happens, when they reprogram Threepio to sound like Leia, that way they can send messages from the Falcon and be more convincing about Leia staying with them. All in all Chapter 14 is pretty much a set-up chapter, although I’ll take it in order to get all the Rebels back together again.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Thrawn Trilogy Retrospective, in which our heroes go their separate ways and Luke survives a Star Destroyer attack only to be lost in spaaaaaace!