The Thrawn Trilogy: Dark Force Rising
" This one is constantly thinking, analyzing, strategizing. He showed no fear, but was curious, studying me in turn." ―Emperor Palpatine
Much better art now.
It starts of course with the blue text, and there's a scrolling intro on the next page.
"DARK FORCE RISING"
The Empire has been defeated but is not yet dead. The remainder of its forces have come under the control of Grand Admiral Thrawn who seeks to regain power over the galaxy. In an attempt to fully rebuild the Empire's fleet, Thrawn mounts a series of attacks aimed at capturing new vessels. To aid him in his quest, Thrawn enlists the forgotten Jedi, C'Baoth. In return for his help, Thrawn promises to deliver the last two remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia Organa Solo, into C'Baoth's hands.
Narrowly escaping Thrawn's clutches, Luke and Leia work to reinforce the fragile government of the New Republic and crush the last vestiges of the Empire. As Luke searches for clues to the identity of Master C'baoth, Leia turns her attention toward swaying the interest of the Noghri, a brutal and mysterious race dedicated to the service of the Empire.
In a bold move, Thrawn attacks the shipyards at Sluis Van. Defeated, he retreats to the planet Myrkr hoping to find Talon Karrde, a smuggler who holds the key to finding the fabled lost Katana fleet. Having helped Skywalker escape Thrawn's clutches, Karrde knows he will face certain retribution and cautiously watches for the Grand Admiral's first move. But Thrawn is cunning, and patiently waits for Karrde to make a mistake...
The AT-ATs walk through Karrde's abandoned base, scanning for life forms. The assault troopers find nothing but twenty ysalamiri, and they tell each other that the Grand Admiral wants the place taken apart.
I had to cut out the entire middle of the comic. Summary time!
Karrde tells Mara to relax, they can't possibly know where they are. But Mara starts up the engines, and none too soon, as the Interdictor Constrainer comes out of hyperspace, launches TIEs, and gets them in a grav cone. The comic's not too clear on it, but in the novels Thrawn planned this out beforehand, knowing Karrde would stay and watch.
Mara gets them away and into hyperspace. Thrawn finds this interesting, and in his usual fashion asks Pellaeon if he noted the sequence of events, rather than spelling it out himself. Pellaeon says it was powering up before Constrainer got there. It was either leaving anyway or it had been warned. Then Pellaeon tells his Grand Admiral that there's another message from Jomark, and Thrawn tells him to make it clear to C'baoth that if he keeps doing this he can forget about Skywalker or Organa showing up. Pellaeon says that he's been warned repeatedly that he can't predict Skywalker's arrival. Thrawn sighs and tells his Captain to tell the Jedi Master that he'll personally oversee Organa Solo's capture. He's calling off the Noghri; even if they don't like leaving a job undone, they'll do what they're told. Now it's time to start surveillance of Karrde's people in Hyllyard City. It's a big galaxy, but Karrde can't hide forever.
On Jomark, C'baoth thinks "This is not Wayland, which I wrested from the Dark Jedi... this is Jomark, and I am waiting for someone. A flicker in the force... Imperial Star Destroyer entering high orbit... soon I will have my Jedi... and then even Grand Admiral Thrawn will bow to my power." Cut to Luke on Sluis Van, taking a call from Wedge, who says that no one will fix his (Luke's) X-Wing, and don't forget he can always take his (Wedge's) snubfighter. Luke thanks him and goes to see Lando, musing that he has to get to Coruscant, but the attack two weeks ago left Sluis Van in confusion. A man smokes behind him.
So it turns out Lando will be able to reclaim his mole miners and leave. Lando smells a particular type of smoke on him and says it's got to be the infamous ship thief Niles Ferrier. He describes the man and Luke uses a Jedi technique, realizes that he saw someone of that description while talking to Wedge, and pinpoints his location with the Force. He's got friends. Luke and Lando start after him, weapons drawn.
Lando tells Ferrier to make his goons stand down, since he's facing Luke Skywalker. Jedi knight. The guy who took down Darth Vader. Stand down, maybe they can deal.
Ferrier doesn't shoot, but he's unimpressed that they caught him trying to steal a New Republic ship. He says that the Empire's paying a bounty of twenty percent over market for any warships over a hundred thousand that can fight. Lando says he could call security, but if Ferrier leaves now he won't drop the hammer.
Lando then suggests trying the Amorris system. Ferrier's Wraith ally, basically invisible but for its shadow, is clumsily shoehorned into conversation. Lando then gets Ferrier to hand over their slicer access codes before letting them leave, and he tells Luke that if Ferrier could use the codes to divert personnel out of the corridor, there's no reason the two of them couldn't use them to bump Luke's X-Wing to the top of the maintenance list. And then they'll hand the codes over to the Sluissi.
On Coruscant, the Falcon lands and Han hugs his wife and says hi to Chewie. He's told that Fey'lya is trying to frame Ackbar for embezzlement. Leia takes him to the Council.
Mon Mothma asks him to describe his role in the Sluis Van attack, and Han does, but Fey'lya interrupts repeatedly and rather snidely, generally saying that he did more harm than good, even if they succeeded in keeping the Empire from getting those ships.
No transition to talking to Ackbar, I see.
Luke got there pretty quickly.
They look it up and find that the only thing that really qualifies was a battle off New Cov. So that's where they'll start. Then Chewie tells them what hapened on Kashyyyk, how Leia agreed to go to the Noghri homeworld. Han is shocked that Leia would promise that, and Luke excuses himself to go check on his X-Wing. Han can't believe Leia is so willing to go alone to the planet of people who have been trying to kill her for months. She says that Khabarakh knows she's Darth Vader's daughter. The Noghri need help. Maybe she can convince them over to the New Republic's side.
Han wants to at least come with her, but she promised to come alone. He tells her to take the Falcon; Han will take Lando's ship to New Cov. Chewie decides to go with Leia, and insists despite the promise. Leia takes Threepio too, since she doesn't want to depend on their translators.
And then there's this whole thing where Mara goes out into the streets, is stalked, hides and stalks the stalker, and finds a bounty hunter type. She offers to double what he's been offered, and he says "Why settle for twice of nothing?" She uses the Force to make a pipe fall, distracting him long enough for her to shoot him in the face. "There's your twice of nothing. Enjoy it." She looks through his clothes and comms Karrde with the news. He's flattered that he is now worth twenty thousand. She wants to know what he's planning to do now.
Thrawn observes that A-wing fighters are ill-suited for guarding a convoy. Must be the result of his campaign against Ackbar. Pellaeon wants to know about their Bothan. Can he be trusted to push things to the breaking point? Thrawn says yes. And the information came from Delta Source.
The Falcon arrives in the space over Endor. Khabarakh's not there yet, and Leia tells Chewie that if this was a trap, there would be a Star Destroyer waiting for them. Threepio, over the comm, says he's found the problem in one of the ship's systems and asks Chewbacca to take a look, which he does, complaining all the while. Leia looks down at the planet and talks to her belly, telling her children that that's Endor - where the Rebel Alliance triumphed over the Empire - and the New Republic began. Then she blacks out.
Lando and Han fly out in the Lady Luck to Ilic so they can meet Luke at a cafe. Lando is unhappy about coming and wants to know what the "hook" is, and Han says there's no hook, but he might be able to unload those spare metals he's got lying around. (see, in the novel, the metals Lando is mining on Nkllon currently have basically no market value.) Lando angrily says that Luke must have told him. "Jedi or not, I'm going to strangle him!" Then Han notices a Bothan.
Luke, waiting in the mentioned cafe, sees a droid telling a Barabel "No blasters!" and getting shot. The Barabel, arguing with a Rodian, appeals to Luke for judgment, since he's a Jedi. Luke gets them to put away their weapons and listens to their story; the Rodian hired the Barabel for a job and paid him in Imperial scrip, no good outside the Empire (Imperial credits won't do fine.) Lando shows up and translates for the Rodian, who was paid with Imperial money. Neither Luke nor Lando know the Republic-Imperial credit exchange rate, but Luke, sniffing the air, asks Niles Ferrier to come forward.
I wish the Expanded Universe had more scenes like that.
The woman who took Han hostage, Irenez, brings him to that Bothan and another woman, with dark hair. Breil'lya accuses Han of being an impostor and a spy and wants to kill him, and the dark haired woman, Sena, tells him not to do anything rash. There's this whole interplay of suspicion that would take too long to transcribe. At any rate, the picket line reports Luke coming, and so the dark-haired woman tells them to guide him over. And then an Imperial raid starts, and there's mention of the Commander being notified.
The Commander tells them to help; long story short, stormtroopers are in the hangar where Luke's X-Wing and the Lady Luck are, Han gets Lando to use his beckon call (Luke found one of those on Dagobah in the first book, and the comic omitted the scene where Lando explained what it was) to take off and cause a distraction, then pick them up while Luke takes off. Another ship joins them, and they see a Star Destroyer in orbit.
Lando angrily says that now this is his mission, too?! He knew it! He just knew it! (Another thing the comics dropped. In the novel, Lando didn't want to go on a jaunt like this.) Irenez says her commander was hoping to meet them, and the Lady Luck ends up going into the bay of one of the Dreadnaughts to be taken there. Luke's X-Wing jumps into hyperspace as, echoing ESB, he says "No, we're not going back to Coruscant, Artoo. We're going to Jomark to see a Jedi master."
In Endor orbit, Khabarakh arrives, calling Leia, as always, Lady Vader. Leia tries to get Chewie to stay on the Falcon, but he won't, and when Khabarakh hears about the life debt, he lets the Wookiee come on board with Leia and Threepio. The trip apparently takes four days, and they arrive near a brown world.
Chewie tries to strangle the Noghri, Leia tries to get him to stop, and Khabarakh uses a stun weapon. He hasn't betrayed her. He was going to take her to the main city, but with their Imperial lord holding a convocate of dynasts, that's not possible. It's too late to just turn and leave. They'll go to his home, a little village near the edge of the Clean Land.
Khabarakh leaves first to go to the dukha and announce Leia's presence. Chewie does something to the engines. Then Khabarakh comes back and escorts them out.
Threepio translates some argument between the Maitrakh and Khabarakh, saying that he swore protection and asks that his pledge be honored. The Maitrakh agrees to hide them from the Grand Admiral. They go into the bake house, to hide their body heat from the sensors. Three Lambyda shuttles land, and Thrawn, followed by Rukh and Pellaeon, greets the Maitrakh as Dynast.
So damn much happens in this issue. Picking eight scans was like comic book triage.
A Dreadnaught floats through space, and Sena tells the Lady Luck that they've arrived. The Peregrine, which is this Dreadnaught's name, will drop the magnatic coupling now. Han muses that the Peregrine was an old Corellian ghost story about an old man who'd been cursed to wander forever.
Descending into a sort of town, they notice turrets and wonder if this is someone's private army. Landing, Sena welcomes them to the base of operations. The commander's waiting. She drives them in a landspeeder as Lando says the place looks a lot like one of the old Alliance bases. Sena is evasive, and when she arrives she says the Commander wants to see Captain Solo alone.
He'd asked two pointed questions, and Bel Iblis had kept track on him since then. They go outside to introduce Senator Bel Iblis to ex-General Calrissian. Bel Iblis asks his chief advisor Sena where Irenez is, and she had to go back to the ship to soothe Council-Aide Breil'lya. Han observes that Bel Iblis is on good terms with Breil'lya and wants to know what those terms entail. Bel Iblis says that Han still doesn't flinch before authority. He'll tell them, and then he'll have questions of his own.
On the Chimera, Pellaeon is angry at Rukh for stalking, saying that he has important info for the Grand Admiral and no time for these little games. Rukh says they're not games, and stalking skills must be practiced or lost. Pellaeon tells him to practice on someone else, and walks in on Thrawn looking at holos of Corellian flame miniatures. No one's ever been able to quite duplicate them. Thrawn then switches off the art gallery to show his captain a holo of three Dreadnaughts, taken two days ago off New Cov. He tells Pellaeon to watch closely, then asks "Comments?" Pellaeon says it looks like their old adversaries are back. Thrawn tells him that one of the two ships they rescued was the Lady Luck, with Solo and Calrissian on board.
On Honogr, Leia says hello to some pale-skinned Noghri children who speak very poor Basic and is escorted to the maitrakh in the dukha. The maitrakh says that Leia's machine has graciously volunteered to tell them the last story of their lord Darth Vader. Uneasily, Leia says that it took until the end before he rid himself of the Emperor's deception.
(A slightly meta comment: in Zahn's initial plans, the Noghri were the Sith species, which more recent media say are extinct by this point. In my headcanon, Noghri are descended from the Sith species.)
The aid was food, medicine, tools, and the metal droids to clean the poison from the land. Outside of the tiny Cleaned Lands, only kholm-grass will grow, and even it smells different. Even animals that fed only kholm-grass have died. Vader also sent attendants to teach their children and created peace among the clans. It's an honorable peace, and they will pay any price gladly. Leia and the maitrakh head back inside, and the children run out to help with the work. Later they will learn how to serve the Empire. Leia says no one should have to sell their children in return for life, and the maitrakh says that this is the only way to pay the debt. Even if, as Leia says, they'll never be out of that debt, matters might someday change. Until then, her presence is a danger to both of them, and she has to leave. Leia agrees, and says that one day the Noghri will see what the Empire is doing to them, and when that happens, she will help them. A child bursts in shouting that the Grand Admiral's craft is approaching.
There's no time. Chewie carries Threepio up into a sort of hanging lamp thing and Leia tells him to shut himself down. Leia and Chewie hide themselves in a booth, through which they can look out. Thrawn greets the maitrakh and says it is convenient that her thirdson Khabarakh is there. The maitrakh says she's honored. Thrawn thanks her and asked if Khabarakh is also pleased by his presence, and after Khabarakh says yes in the wrong tone and apologizes for disrespect, he demands to know the Noghri penalty for lying to their overlord. He wants Khabarakh to tell him about his imprisonment on Kashyyk; he did not escape as he claimed, he was captured and interrogated, does that jog his memory? The maitrakh says her thirdson would not lie. Thrawn disagrees, and tells Ruhk to arrest Khabarakh. The maitrakh says this is a violation-
That's something more people should remember about Thrawn. He's fascinating. He's much less evil than your average Imperial bigshot. You could even call him morally ambiguous. But he is not remotely one of the good guys, not at this point in time.
Luke flies low over Jomark, mentally calling to Master C'baoth. He lands near a building, tells Artoo to stay put, and gets out, meeting C'baoth soon after. He was expected long before now. Luke apologizes and says that circumstances lately have been out of his control. C'baoth asks "Why?"
While they ride down to the village, C'baoth tells him there is another. Besides Luke's sister. Not yet a Jedi, but he felt the ripples. Luke knows he means Mara Jade, and asks about the Outbound Flight project. What happened to the other Jedi Masters? They died. It changed C'baoth. He's not going to talk about it. In the village, C'baoth says he's been coming there less than a year; they were slow to accept his wisdom, but he persuaded them. Now, Skywalker, reach out and tell him what's happening in a house that's surrounded by villagers. They go in and find two people with weapons pointed at each other. C'baoth tells them both to lay down their weapons.
They do, and they try to explain, both talking at the same time. C'baoth instantly makes his judgment in one's favor, to Luke's surprise, since he thinks a compromise would have been better. The unfavored guy picks up his weapon again, and C'baoth electrocutes him with Force Lightning, to Luke's horror. C'baoth says he's not permanently damaged, and pain is the one teacher no one will ignore. Would Luke have preferred to let him kill the other man? Luke says he could have been stopped some other way. C'baoth says that he will remember this longer. "If you allow your justice to be forgotten, you will be forced to repeat the same lessons again and again."
(Sigh... In the novel, we know that C'baoth is a clone. I don't think the comics ever saw fit to mention that. Also! Outbound Flight, which is good if heartbreaking, shows that young Anakin Skywalker agreed wholeheartedly with the original C'baoth. Admittedly Original C'baoth wasn't quite as... off, but it was still one of the best "This boy isn't going to turn out right, is he" bits of characterization I've seen from the EU.)
Speech bubble tails get confused on the next page. The gist of it is that Fey'lya publicly thinks Mon Mothma has altogether too much power, and Bel Ilis agrees. Lando wants to know why Bel Iblis chose to run his own private war against the Empire instead of joining, and he says security's one reason. For a while, it seemed like every fifth rebel base was being lost to Imperials through sheer sloppiness, and that problem still hasn't been solved. There's a leak right in the Imperial Palace that the Grand Admiral is using called Delta Source. Lando wants to hear the other reasons. Han tells him to ease off, Bel Iblis says he'll explain later, since it's getting late.
Lando and Han head off towards their quarters, Lando sarcastically expecting Han to chew him out for not bowing and scraping to the Senator. Han says he wasn't just not bowing and scraping, he was rude. Lando says they were lied to. This place clearly isn't ready to pack up and shift offplanet on three minute's notice. It might all be an Imperial scam. Han thinks that all this is too much effort just for them. They go into their quarters.
It might be for Fey'lya's benefit. Fey'lya takes advantage of Ackbar's troubles, convinces he's got Bel Iblis's army backing him up, and the Empire snatches some sectors back in the confusion. Lando examines the upholstery, saying that this looks like furniture pulled off one of the Dreadnaughts. Under the gray paint it's blue-gold. The fleet only ever did that once. With the Katana fleet; Lando researched it pretty extensively for a scam and he's certain. They need to go back to the headquarters lounge to let him look closer at the repeater display.
Han distracts the bartender by requesting a particular vintage and both of them going into the back. When he comes out, Irenez is there with a blaster, saying Sena assigned her to watch them. She tells them to come outside.