When we last left off, our heroes had come together on Nkllon and the Empire was plotting to capture Luke Skywalker. In today’s installment, Luke proves he’s not one to go down without a fight.
Chapter 15 starts with leaving Nkllon without incident (surprisingly) and everyone going their separate ways: Leia and Chewie to Kashyyyk on the Lady Luck; Han, Lando, and Threepio to fly around on the Millennium Falcon; and Luke and Artoo to Jomark in his X-wing. Han is understandably worried about leaving Leia, but Lando assures him everything will be okay. The Wookiees will take good care of her. They decide to go visit Talon Karrde, as Lando has a contact who can get in touch with him, and Han wants to propose a business deal to him.
Next we jump to the Imperials, who’ve been monitoring the situation around Nkllon through probe droids. After analyzing the data and watching the videos, Thrawn concludes that Leia and Chewbacca switched to the Lady Luck and are headed to Kashyyyk. What. How. Arrrgh! *shakes fist at Thrawn* I appreciate a competent villain, but lord could the heroes have had at least one chapter to feel safe? Eh, this is Star Wars so I guess not. Pellaeon is a little uneasy about Kashyyyk, and it’s mentioned that he was on one of the ships that enslaved the Wookiees. Interesting. With the Noghri commandos taking care of Leia, they turn their attention to capturing Luke. They set up an ambush for him with an Interdictor cruiser, which they’ll make to look like an ambush on some random freighter.
On the way out of the room Pellaeon passes a real live sculpture. Thrawn says it represents his one failure, when studying art didn’t give him any sense of insight for that culture. He tells Pellaeon that he ended up destroying their world. Eeeeeeenteresting. I honestly can’t remember if this is a red herring or not, or if it’s revisited later on in the Expanded Universe. I guess I better read on! (This is also a nice bit of foreshadowing to Thrawn’s ultimate fate.)
Chapter 16 starts with Luke being roused from a hibernation trance. Those things must come in handy during long hyperspace flights, especially in an X-wing. How Luke doesn’t get claustrophobia is beyond me. He soon sees the reason why Artoo roused him: the ship was pulled out of hyperspace right on top of a Star Destroyer attack.
Luke’s first instinct is to make sure the freighter is okay, because he’s a farmboy like that. But he can’t sense anybody on board. He hopes they all got out okay, but we the reader know it’s because this is a trap. The Chimaera hails him, but he ignores it and tries to bolt. Unfortunately the Interdictor keeps him from jumping to hyperspace before the tractor beam can pull him in. Then he uses a crazy maneuver involving proton torpedoes and his inertial compensator to get out of the tractor beam and jump to hyperspace. This is a fantastic action sequence showing Luke in his flying element. I absolutely love it. Unfortunately, his escape comes at a price…
Thrawn is just a little bit upset by Luke’s escape. He questions the tractor beam operator, and asks who trained him, and why he wasn’t prepared for the maneuver Luke pulled. Then, in a surprising act of ruthlessness, Thrawn has Rukh kill the operator and promptly orders the officer to train a replacement, in order to fix the error. Even more ruthless? Thrawn knows that the maneuver Luke pulled will cause his hyperdrive to fail within a light-year, so it’s not like they can’t find him again. And people say that Zahn makes Thrawn too “nice.” Bah!
Because the fleet is busy preparing for Sluis Van, Thrawn offers bounties to local smuggling operators to find Luke, and sets the bounty at 30,000. WTF! That’s all he’s worth? He should be worth, like 10 million. Double bah!
So Chapter 17 starts out with Luke pulled out of hyperspace again. His radio and hyperdrive are completely dead. He tries some on-the-spot maintenance to get at least one hyperdrive motivator working, but it’s no use. The casings are cracked. Next step is to try to fix the radio, which he does with Artoo’s help. This is when I thank Timothy Zahn for remembering that Luke was a pilot before he was a Jedi. There’s something about him working with his hands that gets me all…oh, um, I’m sorry. I got carried away there for a moment. Moving on…
There’s yet another flashback to Cloud City as Luke tries calling out to Leia through the Force. But there’s no response. And then we have the most depressing line of the book: “He wondered if she’d ever find out what had happened to him.” Jeez, Luke! Way to bring down the audience. But, he’s a Jedi, and he’s not going to fall into despair. Knowing that it’ll take awhile for Artoo to get enough wiring to fix the radio, he decides to go into a hibernation trance so the life support will last long enough for him to survive. He tries calling out to Leia one last time before going under, and then, “The last thing he remembered before the darkness took him was the odd sense that someone, somewhere, had in fact heard that final call…”
Oh yeah, you bet she did. But that’s in the next chapter.
Moving onto Leia, who actually did hear Luke’s call, but chalks it up to a dream. She arrives on Kashyyyk, worried that the Wookiees hate humans enough to help her, and also self-conscious about not being able to understand them. She wishes she had Threepio with her.
When they get to the main city, Rwookrrorro (how am I supposed to remember how to spell that), Leia is amazed at how the city is set up and the size of it. This was our first glimpse at Kashyyyk besides the Holiday Special, which we all know doesn’t count. I love how Zahn portrayed the Wookiee planet, even though it’s different from what we later see in Revenge of the Sith. We meet Salporin, one of Chewbacca’s old friends.
She’s also amazed that she can understand one of the ambassadors, Ralrracheen (Ralrra). Apparently he has a speech impediment which makes it easier to understand him. Neat! And convenient. He was a slave along with Chewie, before Han freed him. Ralrra again reassures her that the Wookiees owe her a life debt, as the New Republic helped free them from slavery.
They go to Salporin’s house, where she’ll be staying. Along the way she sees one of those gray alien dudes that have been trying to kill her. Oh no! But a search turns up none of the aliens, even though Leia is certain she saw him. I’m glad nobody tried to convince her she was going crazy, but instead took her words seriously. The chapter ends with Leia wondering if she’ll ever be safe again. Because both of the Skywalker twins are incredibly chipper in this chapter.
That’s about it for this installment! Stay tuned for our next episode, in which Luke Skywalker meets the woman of his dreams…except right now, she wants to kill him.