In our last installment, we left Luke drifting in hyperspace. Let’s see if he can find his way out of this mess–or, rather, if a Force-sensitive former assassin and current smuggler can get him out of his mess. Shall we?
Artoo wakes up Luke to inform him a ship is approaching–a mid-sized Corellian bulk freighter. The freighter hails him and the lady on the comm identifies the ship as the Wild Karrde, and asks if he needs assistance. Luke says yes, I surely do, can you tow my X-wing too? Karrde is very generous and offers to do so for a small fee. Luke is suspicious about how the ship happened to come upon him, but he decides to take a chance and just be alert. I mean, he doesn’t really have much of a choice. Once he gets on the ship he tries to sense the crew aboard, but finds the aft section dark. He passes it off as lingering effects of the hibernation. Bad move, Luke! Bad move.
Luke goes to meet the captain of the ship, Talon Karrde, who is described as a slender man, thin-faced, with short dark hair and pale blue eyes. So nothing at all like he’s depicted in the comics. He must’ve gotten extensions for the adaptation. Luke is surprised that Karrde recognizes him, which is just adorable. Like he wouldn’t know who you are. You’re the hero of the Rebellion. Luke reminds Karrde that he’s a private citizen now, having resigned his Alliance commission nearly four years ago. (See: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor.)
They have an awkward conversation in which Luke asks if they were expecting to find him out here. Karrde says that one of his associates, Mara Jade, was the one who led them to find him. Luke stretches out to the bridge and senses her there, and is jolted by the hatred he senses.
“Yes, that’s her,” Karrde confirmed, almost offhandedly. “She hides it quite well, actually–though not, I suppose, from a Jedi. It took me several months of careful observation to establish that it was you, and you personally, for whom she had these feelings.”
It took Luke another second to find his voice. Never before, not even from the Emperor, had he ever felt such a black and bitter hatred.
Luke tells Karrde he’s never met Mara Jade before, so he has no idea what he’s done to make her hate him so much. Karrde is disappointed, as he’d been hoping Luke could explain it all. He says he’s very sorry it has to be this way…and then Luke is hit with a stun bolt from behind. His last conscious thought is how in the worlds Karrde had done this to him. Don’t worry Luke, it all ends up okay. Eventually.
I apologize in advance for the copious amount of squeeing that will take place during this recap of Chapter 19. It’s really hard to read this chapter and not flail all over the place, knowing what’s going to happen between Luke and Mara later on. (As a note, 11-year-old Nanci HATED Mara Jade at first because she wanted to kill Luke. I was a very protective tween. But it didn’t take long for me to warm up to her–by the end of Dark Force Rising I was shipping them.)
But I digress…Luke wakes up, realizes he’s off the ship and been moved to some kind of room, and concludes he must’ve been drugged after being stunned. He tries to run through Jedi techniques to clear his head, but nothing works. He ends up falling asleep again.
When he next wakes up, he’s fully aware. He tries to gain a sense of his surroundings when he hears a voice saying, “Finally awake, are you?” (I honestly could quote this whole first meeting, but I’ll restrain myself.) It’s not a voice from a comm thought, but an actual living being sitting in the room. And he’s unable to sense her presence. Then he realizes he can’t sense the Force at all. The woman mocks him by saying, “Don’t like it, do you? It’s not easy to suddenly lose everything that once made you special, is it?” Luke correctly identifies her as Mara Jade, and thanks her for the rescue. She tells him to save the gratitude and then, for the first time, she points a blaster in his face and threatens to kill him. EEEE can you sense the love! Even though she’s threatening him with bodily harm, Luke can’t help but notice the hatred in her eyes, but also a deep and lingering pain. Because he sees the good in everybody. That’s what he does.
Instead of killing Luke, she tells him they’re going to talk to Karrde. This is really important because it shows that once Mara gives someone her loyalty, she does it fully. It also shows that while she thinks she must fulfill Palpatine’s last command, she’s also capable of defying him, or else wouldn’t she have immediately killed Luke? This first scene between them is short, but oh it packs a wallop, and it launched a thousand shippers. I just love all the delicious tension.
Next scene, Luke and Mara go to talk to Karrde. Luke is astonished to see a huge tree growing in the middle of Karrde’s base, not like the delicate saplings that lined the halls of the Imperial Palace. (THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR LATER.) Karrde’s vornskyrs are a little too focused on Luke, so Karrde calls Chin, who has a Froffli-style haircut, to take them out. I only included this bit because I love the phrase Froffli-style haircut. What the hell is that?
Luke asks for Artoo, because duh, of course he would, and Karrde tells him the droid is safe in one of the storage sheds and Luke can see him later. Then there’s a lot of back and forth as the two men debate what to do with Luke. Luke suggests that Karrde send him home, and the New Republic will pay double whatever the Empire would offer. Mara says the Empire has already offered 30,000, and Luke replies “I had no idea I was so valuable.” How adorable are you!
Karrde says he’ll tell Luke why his Jedi powers aren’t working if Luke will tell him why the Empire is so interested in him. He explains hat they had plead prior commitments and weren’t actually out hunting for him, which of course begs the question of how they found him if they weren’t looking. It was a bit of luck as Mara dropped them out of hyperspace to do a nav reading. No, no, that’s not luck, it’s fate!
I actually kind of feel bad for Karrde in this situation. He tried so hard to be neutral and that didn’t help at all. Luke says he’ll keep quiet about the whole situation if they let him go. He even says they can dump him out in empty space again, right where they found him. Karrde suggests coming up with a compromise–a way to let Luke leave while still giving the Empire what they want. But Luke will have to stay there as Karrde’s guest thiel they figure out how to do that. He warns Luke not to try to escape, mentioning the vornskyrs and ysalamiri. This is a really odd “kidnapping” situation, and it does a good job at showing Karrde’s character. He’s a mercenary who looks out for himself, but he also has an odd sense of morals.
Mara escorts Luke back to his quarters. He says he doesn’t know why she dislikes him so much, and she tells him to shut up. Stop flirting, you too! She says she’ll kill him if he tries to escape, then leaves him there alone. He thinks that he hasn’t felt so hopeless since facing the Emperor, to which I say COME ON. What about all those other books that happened since then?
Before we start Chapter 20, I’ll give you another confession about 11-year-old Nanci. When I first read Heir to the Empire I skipped all the chapters that didn’t have Luke in them. Even when I finally got around to reading the entire book, I kept thinking, “Just go back to Luke already!” Sometimes I still feel that way about Star Wars books. Just thought I’d warn you.
Anyway, Chapter 20 heads back to Han and Lando, who are still flying around pretending Leia is on the Falcon. They’re talking to Winter, though, who isn’t easily fooled because she’s Winter. She and Han have a very cryptic conversation about when Han will be returning and she casually mentions shit’s going down with Ackbar and Feyl’ya. After the weird cryptic conversation, Han tells Lando they have to head back to Coruscant after their next stop. Easier said than done, of course.
They land at the Abregado-Rae spaceport and head off to meet a contact. On the way they see that the local security has impounded a ship, and hope it’s not their contact involved. Famous last thoughts…
Once inside the cantina Han joins a sabacc game with Fynn Torve, an old smuggling acquaintance, unsure if he’s the contact but unable to find out since planetary security’s also in the cantina. Some more cryptic talk happens around the sabacc table as Han warns Torve about his ship being impounded. Then Han’s accused of having a skifter, a sabacc card that changes value. After an argument/investigation with security, in which Han comes out clean, he leaves the cantina. He’s not surprised that Lando’s already left, but is surprised that Lando settled the bill. Ha!
Han arrives back at the Falcon to find Lando and Torve already there. After some chatting and gratitude from Torve for the assist, Han tells him he wants to offer Karrde a deal to work directly with the New Republic. Torve can’t accept on Karrde’s behalf, nor does he want to tell them here Karrde’s base is. But as Han reminds him, his ship is impounded. Torve reluctantly lets Han and Lando give him a lift to Karrde’s base. Then Torve reveals he knew the man who accused Han of cheating, and it was all a diversion to get him out of the cantina unnoticed. Double ha!
What’s going to happen when Han and Lando show up on Myrkr, where Luke is being held against his will? Stay tuned to find out!