Thrawn Trilogy Retrospective: Heir to the Empire Chapters 21-23

In our last installment, Talon Karrde and his crew picked up Luke Skywalker and is holding him on Myrkr against his will. And Han and Lando are on the way. The chapters are getting really long now, and so are the recaps! Here we go! 

Talon Karrde's Myrkr base

Talon Karrde’s Myrkr base

Oh phew, Chapter 21 starts and we’re back to Karrde and Mara! What can I say–I’m predictable. Karrde tells Mara her that Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are on their way to Myrkr, which obviously has negative implications on the current “kidnapping Luke Skywalker” scenario. Mara tells Karrde he has no obligation to speak to them, but Karrde informs her that his associates debts are his own, and she should know that by now. She has a horrible thought, and asks if he’s going to give them Skywalker. Karrde seems disinterested in the matter, but she can sense the truth: he wants more than anything to know why she hates Skywalker. (Because he loves information more than anything!)  She refuses to say why she hates him; they bicker some more about why Han is there and what to do with Skywalker.

Finally Karrde asks Mara to move Skywalker to the number 4 shed (which just happens to be connected to where Artoo is) and to move his X-wing back into the forest. He also reminds her to make sure she takes his lightsaber off his belt. (Interesting that she’s taken to carrying it around.) A nice bit of characterization: when Karrde asks her if she can fly an X-wing, she replies “I can fly anything.”

Mara fetches Luke, and he’s wearing the same outfit as he was when he came to Jabba’s Palace–the day she stood by and watched as he destroyed her life. (Really? The exact same outfit?) This is a nice misdirect by Zahn, by making you think Mara’s issues with Luke stem from Tatooine and Jabba the Hutt. After some more harsh words, Mara locks him in the shed, blasting the lock to make sure there’s no way he can get out.

We transition to Luke’s point of view. He immediately realizes moving him was a quick decision and tries to figure out how to escape. He think he can hotwire the lock if he can find another power supply. He finds a multi-socket power outlet and starts picking at it with a triangular piece of metal from the blasted-out door. He also hears Artoo on the other side, but the droid is unable to help. As Luke is working on the outlet, he touches the wire but doesn’t get shocked. Boo, the power is out. Mara and Karrde are pretty smart, after all. Now Luke has a bunch of wire but no power source…until he realizes that he has a dual power supply inside his prosthetic right hand.

Before we move onto the next chapter, I want to mention how they refer to each other in their different POVs. Luke always thinks of her as “Mara,” while she thinks of him as “Skywalker.” I love that Zahn did this; it’s a tiny thing, but it means so much characterization-wise.)

Ghent

Ghent

Chapter 22 starts out with Han finishing his presentation to Karrde. Unfortunately, Karrde isn’t interested. He has many clients who wouldn’t appreciate him working with either the Empire or the New Republic, and resolves to remain neutral. Fine, Han moves on and asks if Karrde has a slicer he can loan them. He says his best slicer will be at dinner, and invites Han and Lando to join him. At dinner they meet Ghent (the slicer), along with Karrde’s associates Chin, Wadwarn, and Mara, who’s glowering at them again. Let me pause for a moment here to say “Yay, Ghent!” I love that baby slicer.

Dinner is kind of awkward, with some small talk about a “Zygerrian slaver” incident which provides some backstory for Han. Karrde gets called away, bringing Mara with him. As they leave, Lando tells Han that he’s seen her before, and she wasn’t a smuggler at the time. Between this and the mention of Jabba’s Palace, Zahn is firing the misdirect on all cylinders here.

We move over to Karrde who’s speaking with Aves, another awesome associate. There’s just a tiny bit of bad news: the Chimaera arrived in the system and Pellaeon signaled them, asking for Karrde. Well, crap. Karrde orders Aves to cover up the Falcon with a camo net. Mara reassures Karrde the timing is not her fault; she didn’t call them (but she should’ve thought of it days ago).

Karrde answers the hail, but it’s not Pellaeon on the other line. It’s Grand Admiral Thrawn. Double crap. He asks for Karrde’s permission to harvest more ysalamiri, and requests a talk on the planet. The empire is in need of more warships and he hopes Karrde can help him acquire them. Thrawn then brings up Karrde’s refusal to help search for Luke Skywalker, Karrde almost slips when he implies the search might have ended. He recovers quickly, though, and Thrawn informs Karrde that there’s still time to help the search. They’ll discuss it in their talk…and Thrawn is already on his way to the planet. TRIPLE CRAP.

Karrde doesn’t freak out when the call ends, just starts doling out orders. Because he’s awesome. Mara suggests giving Han and Lando over to Thrawn, because she’s not very good at being neutral. Karrde refuses, saying they’re guests and require his protection. Again he has an odd sense of morals. While Luke is not under Karrde’s same protections, he’s not turning Luke over yet. With a Star Destroyer they have no bargaining power, and he tells her to asking Calrissian about the peril of making while stormtroopers are strolling around your territory. (This is the kind of sly movie reference I love.) Mara asks what he thinks about Thrawn wanting more warships, but Karrde says he’ll tell her later. (FORESHADOWING.) Mara heads off to carry out his orders and hide Luke’s lightsaber in the number three shed.

So now we’ve got Luke, Han and Lando, and Thrawn all at Karrde’s base. Way to ramp up the tension to 11, Timothy Zahn!

Luke, oblivious to all the commotion, gets the door open and rescues Artoo from the shed next door. They head toward the X-wing when he sees Mara set out of the main building. There’s a bit of a tense moment when he wonders if she’s going to see him, but he makes it without being spotted. Luke’s X-wing is gone, but that’s no matter. He takes one of the other fighters and flies out into the forest.

We jump to Mara’s POV with one of my favorite lines ever:

“…And as she stalked her way glowering across the compound toward the number three shed, Mara decided once more that she hated the universe.”

How perfect is that?

Mara’s glowering because she’s mad she doesn’t get to make the decisions about Skywalker when she was the one who found him. She’s also wondering why she didn’t just leave him out there. BECAUSE SHE’S SUPPOSED TO MARRY HIM. And also so she could have the satisfaction of killing him herself, I guess. Mara looks at the lightsaber in her hand and thinks that she could kill him right now, and without the Force it wouldn’t be difficult, even for someone like her who hadn’t picked up a lightsaber more than a handful of times. (Ooops, that’s been retconned by Zahn himself.) She doesn’t owe Karrde anything, and yet…

Her thoughts are broken when she hears the whine of a repulsorlift, and sees one of their Skipray Blastboat rise above the treetops. She realizes Skywalker is the pilot, but she can’t call Karrde without the Imperials overhearing. She takes the other Blastboat and screams off in pursuit.

Mara watches Luke take off in the Skipray Blastboat

Mara watches Luke take off in the Skipray Blastboat

The chase is on in Chapter 23! Luke sees both the Star Destroyer in orbit and the other Skipray pursuing him, and he quickly realizes it’s Mara following him. He stays close to the treeline so the Star Destroyer can’t sense him, but it makes it difficult to fly. It’s also funny that even during this chase he realizes Karrde hasn’t betrayed him, and is also thinking about someday asking Karrde about his decision not to turn him over to the Imperials.

There’s not much I can say about this beginning chase scene, other than it’s totally awesome and they crash very very quickly. Almost like it was fate…

The Imperials land, and Karrde and Aves are there to greet them. Thrawn asks Karrde about the Skipray chase. Karrde comes up with some cover story about a disgruntled former employee taking off and another employee named Jade following him, and Thrawn informs him that the ships crashed. He offers to have his stormtroopers investigate the crash site. How generous of him. Karrde doesn’t really want to accept, but he doesn’t have much of a choice. He can only hope Mara will figure things out on her own.

Han and Lando are watching Thrawn’s arrival from afar, even though Ghent was supposed to take them back to their ship. That’s hilarious, Karrde. You thought Ghent could control those two? Ghent also slips out that Karrde was holding a prisoner, but he doesn’t know who it was. Han is understandably pissed when he sees the Noghri with Thrawn and wants to know why Karrde is dealing with kidnappers. Lando comes to Karrde’s defense, saying he might not know about the kidnapping attempts. They ask Ghent who “that guy with the red eyes” is, and Ghent replies that he’s some kind of Grand Admiral. Han thinks no wonder the New Republic has been having trouble lately. He resolves to get out of there and get back to Coruscant even if they have to blast out of there with the camo net still hanging off the ship.

Luke wakes up, surprisingly uninjured. He and Artoo leave the ship. Mara’s Blastboat is more damaged than his, and he can’t help but go check on her. She’s fine, of course, and pointing a blaster in his face. She knew he’d come to check on her. See, Luke, she knows you so well already. Luke is nonplussed by the third death threat and instead asks if she’s hurt. Gawd, Luke, why must you be so perfect?

Stormtroopers land on Myrkr to search for Luke and Mara

Stormtroopers land on Myrkr to search for Luke and Mara

An Imperial shuttle arrives to investigate the crash site, forcing them further back into the forest. Luke contemplates surrendering to the Imperials, thinking he’d be able to fight if he could get the Force back, but Mara shows him her blaster again, telling him not to even think about it.

Once they’re gone, she calculates the distance to Hyllyard City, at the edge of the forest, knowing she can’t go back to base without first knowing Karrde’s cover story. Then they debate whether or not Luke will with her. He tries to appeal to logic, saying they need Artoo to sense predators, but she’s not won over. She tells him he destroyed her life, so it’s only fair that she destroys his. (God, I really hated her. In general I hate the angry girl trope, but she’s got so many layers and we find out the truth about her soon enough.)

Luke finally gets through to her when he explains how they can use Artoo to send a message to Karrde that can only be decrypted in his X-wing. Luke says he needs to cut a travois to carry Artoo, but Mara isn’t about to let him have his lightsaber back. Instead she cuts the branches. Luke is amazed she knows how to use a lightsaber. Ha, if you only remembered that one time during Choices of One! Mara says she wanted him to know she could handle it, just in case he got any ideas of grabbing for her blaster. Then they set off across the forest.

Oh, I can barely contain my excitement for the next installment, when Mara spills her guts to Luke. And we return to Leia on Kashyyyk, who has one of the most frightening moments in all of Star Wars books history. Stay tuned! 

 

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