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Chapter 24:

 

Han discourages the team from going through the front door when they approach Mount Tantiss. Four Imperial stormtroopers walk past them without looking up, leading Luke to believe that something is going on. There seems to be no indication that the Imperials know the team is here.

 

A group of Psadans seems to be meeting in the town square. Luke uses the Force to enhance his vision while he looks through the macrobinoculars. He finds they are holding a datapad.

 

But it’s the mountain that troubles him. He admits to Han that it feels dark, like Myrkr did. He can’t tell whether there are ysalamiri here, though. Not until they get closer. Han would rather not, but the only alternative is to get back to the Falcon and get out of here. They could be walking into a trap.

 

If it is, Luke doubts it was intended for them. If C’baoth is here, the ysalamiri could be for him. Han reminds him that C’baoth is supposed to be working with Thrawn. Luke wonders if that has changed. In his friend’s mind, that doesn’t make a difference anyway. Han explains that, regardless of who the creatures were intended to ward off, they will block Luke just the same. Luke believes that he and Mara can do this with or without the Force. They’ll just wait to tell her until they’re closer.

 

Mara is still trying to levitate stones when they approach her. She admits she doesn’t know much about the air intake system and the path to the mountain will only get harder. Luke thinks that the Noghri will help them find a way.

 

At Bilbringi, Karrde’s people arrive and prepare to wait. It’s about three hours until the New Republic attacks Tangrene. Ellor arrives and moves into position. Gillespie wonders if they’ve heard from Karrde. Aves knows what he’s getting at. He reminds Gillespie that Karrde had something more important come up; they’re not being deserted.

 

Rogue Squadron takes off. Janson wonders if Aves went straight to Thrawn, but Wedge hopes not. He suggests the smugglers could be doing something else and, if it distracts the Imperials, it helps the New Republic. After all, Luke thinks Karrde may be on their side.

 

As they enter hyperspace, with 2 ½ hours til Bilbringi, Wedge thinks it’s a shame that they won’t be able to see the Imperials’ faces.

 

Pellaeon scowls at the information regarding the rebels’ movements toward a system that Thrawn is leaving undefended. Thrawn, however, persists in believing that this is just an illusion. If he’s wrong, they lose a base, which isn’t a minor loss, but nothing they can’t recover from. If he’s right, though, they have a chance to destroy two rebel sector fleets. Their enemy will have a much harder time dealing with that.

 

It’s not necessary for Pellaeon to believe this, but he will have to prepare to be proven wrong.

 

Luke was right. The Noghri are able to find a path up to Mount Tantiss. While Han muses about the type of security they will deal with, Luke has hit a blind spot in the Force. He wonders if Mara is having the same problems. A blaster further down the mountain gets his attention, but he cannot tell where it came from.

 

The Noghri report that a group of Myneyrshi want to speak with them. Han takes C-3PO with him to translate. Lando and Mara both heard the blaster, as well. They decide to see if they can get the air intake valve open. R2 plugs into the outlet.

 

Mara makes Luke promise that he will kill her if it looks like she may end up on C’baoth’s side. He assures her that she cannot be forced to his side with her cooperation. When she presses him to say whether or not he’s sure of that, he admits that he isn’t. She reminds him that C’baoth told her she would serve him. She will not risk that coming true.

 

Luke will only promise that she will not have to face him alone. The voice she hears is just a memory the Emperor left behind. Her destiny is in her hands, not in Palpatine’s or C’baoth’s.

 

Han returns to tell them that the Myneyrshi want in the mountain to fight the Imperials. While contemplating the offer, C-3PO reports that R2 has been able to determine that a group of Psadans have attacked the front door of the fortress, demanding the release of their Lord C’baoth. This confirms that the master is a prisoner. It also explains the datapad that he somehow managed to get to them and incite them.

 

The attackers are armed with modern weapons that Lando isn’t interested in investigating so long as it gives them a diversion. R2 has also found all the intake operating systems have been shut down.

 

Which leaves the Myneyrshi. Their primitive weapons won’t last long against Imperials, so Luke requests that Ekhrikhor send two of his people to help them.

 

On the Wild Karrde, Leia reaches out to find Luke and is unsuccessful. They’ve arrived too late. Ghent reports that there appears to be a problem at the front entrance so they’re being diverted to another location.

 

The ship proceeds until it can drop off Karrde and Leia and will then feign repulsorlift problems. Karrde brings along Sturm and Drang in the hopes that they can use the Force to find Mara.

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chapter 25


The stormtroopers inside the mountain are more alert than the ones outside. Han has to throw himself across to the other side of the wall to avoid blasterfire before Chewie makes short work of the guards with his bowcaster.


Luke cuts through the door. Lando searches to find if there’s anything that needs to be destroyed while Han doesn’t want Mara wandering around alone.


They find themselves in a large cavern with pipes coming down everywhere. Mara isn’t sure they should start blowing things up without ensuring that the Emperor hadn’t installed a self-destruct. She and Luke decide to head up to the Emperor’s throne room to find out.


Han seals off the room with his blaster before being summoned by C-3PO. He lectures the droid about using a comlink before allowing him to explain what he’s learned. R2 has found out from the computer that Master C’baoth is in the throne room. Han immediately thumbs his comlink only to find that it doesn’t work. 3PO explains that the comms are inoperable as he found out when he tried to use his to contact Han in the first place.


There’s no way to warn Luke and Mara except to find them and tell them. He has 3PO keep R2 busy looking for schematics, as well as determining where the jamming is coming from and send Noghri to get rid of it. He must also tell Chewie and Lando where he’s gone.


Aves wonders if the recent arrival at Bilbringi is really Mazzic when he’s told Star Destroyers have turned up. It appears that an entire assault fleet is here with nearly every smuggler ship in the middle of it. He knows that some of the others will think Karrde has sold them out, but, for the time being, they will have to do their best to take out some of the Imperials.


Then he realizes that there are interdictor cruisers being set up further back. They’re going to pull someone out of hyperspace. The smugglers realize that the New Republic could be coming here instead of Tangrene. If so, they have found themselves in the middle of a battle.


Luke and Mara take a private turbolift up to the throne room where Mara is flooded with memories. She has to shake them off by reminding herself that Thrawn will use the technology here to unleash another round of Clone Wars.


The throne turns around to reveal C’baoth sitting in it. He tells them he knew they would come.

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chapter 26:


Luke tells C’baoth that Jedi serve as guardians, not masters. He wants to try to save the madman. He explains that C’baoth is not well and that he wants to help. C’baoth refuses the offer. Luke points out that he’s not the real Jorus C’baoth who died years ago.


He’s a clone.


C’baoth will not accept that. He says that the Jedi doesn’t understand anymore than Thrawn does. The might of the Jedi order is that they can grow beyond themselves. He explains what he did with General Covell’s mind. He will do the same to the army below.


Luke realizes that the clones growing in the cavern share the same minds. If C’baoth can take control of one, he can control them all. The master produces a remote activator, something he had the soldiers prepare for him before they left the mountain with weapons. He presses it and Luke feels a distant agony in the Force as it rushes back to him.


C’baoth pushes Mara’s blaster out of her hand and blasts her with Force lightning. He assures Luke she will survive, but this test is for Luke alone. A dark figure appears. Luke is reminded of the test on Dagobah when he fought an image of Darth Vader that bore his own face.


The face that stares at him now. C’boath reveals that this is a clone of Luke generated from the hand he’d lost on Bespin and wielding Anakin Skywalker’s old lightsaber.


The clone attacks. Forced to defend himself, Luke is distracted by a buzzing pressure against his mind. He doesn’t understand it and knows he could simply leave to get away from it, not knowing whether killing his own clone will affect him.


But he knows that he cannot leave Mara who is in no condition to move.


In the cavern, Lando and Chewie see smoke rising from the cloning tanks after the explosion. 3PO tells them that R2 has found the schematics for the equipment column and suggests a solution. He’s also found the location of the comlink jamming. Lando has the droids go ahead and take the Noghri with them.


Imperials enter the chamber, but can only fire stun bolts for fear of damaging the Spaarti cylinders. Lando and Chewie fire back until Lando can seal the one door Han left open so they could get out.


Chewie wants to feed a negative flow coupler into a positive one. Lando reminds him of the destructive power of such an explosion. They don’t want to bring the whole mountain down. Chewie decides to keep that idea in reserve.


Rogue Squadron is surprised to find themselves pulled out of hyperspace too far out and confronted with Interdictor Cruisers and TIEs.


Han nears the throne room when he realizes he’s being followed. He’s surprised to find Leia with Talon Karrde and the two vornskrs. Leia explains that the ysalamiri are gone. C’baoth must have arranged that. With the Force accessible to him, as well as Luke and Mara, they’re going to be in trouble. Karrde explains his presence and that his people are waiting with the ship to get them out.


Han decides they’ll have to help Luke themselves and tries not to think of the last time he faced a Dark Jedi on Bespin.

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  • Again, Han thinks of Darth Vader as a dark Jedi when he really wasn’t. It does appear that Jedi who fall to the dark side are categorized this way.

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chapter 27:

 

Mara awakens to find a grotesque version of what she’d seen in her mind in the Emperor’s throne room. C’baoth warns her that this fate is hers if she doesn’t bow to him. Knowing that he’s insane, she tries a technique the Emperor had taught her to hide her thoughts from other Force users like Vader.

 

C’baoth will have none of that. She distracts him by talking about how she’s not bowing to him and it doesn’t look like Skywalker will either. Luke is having trouble as C’baoth will not allow him to disarm the clone. He uses the Force to send something into Luke’s shoulder, knocking his lightsaber blade astray. Mara realizes it’s her blaster.

 

Then C’baoth is distracted again by the arrival of Leia Organa Solo, her husband and Talon Karrde. The master happily greets his new apprentice, knowing she would come to him.

 

Han has other ideas and shoots at him. C’baoth uses the Force to knock the blaster aside, then goes berserk. He launches Force lightning at the group and pulls the catwalk down. Luke tells C’baoth that he will stay if the others, including Mara, can leave.

 

Lando’s comlink buzzes. 3PO explains that R2 has unblocked the jamming and wonders if they need assistance. Lando doubts that they or the Noghri will get here in time to prevent the Imperials from blasting their way back into the cloning chambers.

 

Then Talon Karrde comms him. He is up in the throne room with Leia, Han, Luke and Mara. The Jedi Master is here, as well. A catwalk has knocked out Leia and Han was hit with Force lightning. Luke seems to be fighting a clone of himself. No one is paying attention to Karrde, though, so he thought he’d take the time to see who he could reach. Leia had told him there might be ysalamiri in the cloning chambers If Lando could bring some up, they might be able to stop the insane C’baoth.

 

Lando has to tell him that C’baoth appears to have killed them all.

 

Which means they’ve got one option left. Lando tells the droids and the Noghri to leave and take their associates with them. He and Chewie will have to destroy the entire storehouse to prevent C’baoth from getting loose.

 

Mara cannot believe the offer Luke is making. C’baoth refuses the request to let Mara go, however. She is part of his vision, too, and will serve him.

 

The duel continues with Luke backing up against a wall. Mara looks around for an idea. Karrde is speaking to his vornskrs, trying to calm them, but he does incline his head to indicate something. She spots Solo crawling slowly to reach his blaster.

 

C’baoth, energy expended on the lightsaber duel, does seem to have enough to toy with his prisoners as he uses the Force to repeatedly pull the blaster away from Solo’s reach. He also pulls Karrde’s blaster and Leia’s lightsaber to him before turning his attention back to the duel. Mara takes advantage of the moment of inattention to intercept Leia’s lightsaber.

 

That’s when the clone attacks Luke who ducks and the lightsaber hits, not a wall, but a viewscreen, causing the clone to shriek in anger. Mara uses Leia’s saber to parry the clone’s attack, hearing the Emperor’s voice in her mind and, at long last, killing Luke Skywalker.

 

With the death of the clone, her mind goes silent and she’s finally free, having fulfilled the Emperor’s last command.

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chapter 28:


Thrawn orders all warships to engage the rebels. Once again, Pellaeon wonders at the Grand Admiral being right. He does suggest that some be allowed to escape so they can return to Coruscant with news of their defeat. Thrawn agrees, especially as the rebels will probably decide they were betrayed.


Pellaeon mentally notes what sounds like a rumbling sound nearby, but doesn’t hear it again. Verbally, he thinks that the though of betrayal could work to Imperial advantage. Thrawn suggests that they allow Ackbar’s cruiser to deliver the bad news. With Borsk Fey’lya’s accusation in the recent past, it’s unlikely the Admiral’s career will survive. Pellaeon catches Rukh the bodyguard in his eye and wonders if the Noghri’s unsophisticated mind can experience the irony of all of this.


The Rogues do their best to fight off the TIEs. The Star Cruisers are still holding together, but that may not last long. Eyeing the Golan II battle stations, Wedge is distracted by a message that tells him there’s a signal coming through on an encrypted diplomatic channel marked urgent.


It’s Aves. He wishes the Rogues had told him they were coming here instead of Tangrene. Wedges counters that he wishes the smugglers had mentioned their plan to come here, too. They fooled everyone except Thrawn.


The smugglers are planning to grab the CGT array and leave, but it doesn’t much matter which way they go so he is contacting Wedge to find out if there’s a direction that would make a difference to him.


Wedge wonders Aves and his team might consider hitting a couple of Golan IIs on their way out. Aves agrees so long as there’s an escort. Wedge arranges for that while contemplating that a battle once again falls to trusting someone else’s instincts.


The buzzing sound is gone. Leia is up and the group decides to leave. Mara will not until she finishes what she tried to do on Jomark. C’baoth will not allow it. He brings the throne room down on them, trapping Mara in rubble. He plans to bring her down to the clone chambers. Whether it’s her or her clone that does it, she will bow down to him.


Lando and Chewie get the ahrythmic resonance going when the stormtroopers break through. Han contacts him to explain what’s going on in the throne room and urges them both to get out. Someone will have to help Winter care for their children.


Trapped by heavy stone, Luke appeals again to C’baoth who argues that the Jedi of the Old Republic were betrayed by the people they served. Now the galaxy will have to accept his rule or die. Luke had the chance to rule beside him, but has chosen death, too. Mara isn’t his concern anymore either.


Mara disagrees with that. She had used her lightsaber to cut through the floor so that the rubble that trapped her would fall to the level below. She raises her lightsaber and charges. Catching his burst of Force-lightning on the blade, she backs him to the throne.


He responds by throwing stones at her. Luke tries to free himself from the stones so that she won’t have to fight alone. Her face changes, then Luke can hear Leia’s voice in his mind. Leia urges Mara to listen to her voice because she can see and will guide her.


C’baoth screams. Luke struggles to pull his lightsaber to him, then realizes that Karrde’s vornskrs are straining at their leashes. He uses the saber to cut them loose and they throw themselves at C’baoth – drawn by his Force connection as they had to Mara in the forest on Myrkr. C’baoth tosses Force lightning at them, but it gives Mara the opportunity to cut through him. His body, like the Emperor’s, explodes in blue fire.


The combustion rips a hole in the throne room where Karrde’s people will be able to grab them.


The battle at Bilbringi is more of a stuggle than Thrawn had thought. A Golan II goes dark, but he assures Pellaeon that they’re not through yet. Then a priority message comes through from Wayland. Mount Tantiss is under attack by rebel saboteurs and two groups of natives, which includes Noghri.


At that moment, Rukh reaches out and grabs Pellaeon’s throat, whispering that they have been betrayed and have now avenged themselves. When the captain is able to breathe again, he sees Thrawn sitting in his chair with Rukh’s knife in his chest.


The Grand Admiral can only comment on how artistically it was done.


The comm. officer tells Pellaeon that the other ships need orders. Thrawn could have pulled a victory out of all of these unexpected events, but Pellaeon is not him. He orders a retreat.

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chapter 29:

As the sun sets on Coruscant, Mara watches from the roof of the Imperial palace. Luke approaches her, wondering how she feels. She admits that this is like coming home but really isnt. She never took the time to actually look at the city. She doubts the Emperor actually saw the people either.

Luke asks if shes made her decision yet. She thinks hes a worse idealist than Karrde who will never be able to hold a smugglers coalition together. Luke thinks hes got a better shot than she does. After all, theres a lot of information out there that the New Republic doesnt have access to. This conflict with the Empire didnt end at Endor and its not ended with the death of Thrawn either.

Luke wants Mara to be the representative between the smugglers and the New Republic. Mara doesnt think that working with them will be any more fun than Chewie and the reps being sent to transplant the Noghri to a new home will have.

But, until she decides, he does have something else for her. He gives her Anakin Skywalkers lightsaber. He also invites her to come down to the conference center when shes had enough time to think.

She ponders how he has given her one of the last links to his past. Mount Tantiss cut her links to the past, too. Its time to think of her future. She tells Luke to wait so she can come with him.
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The End

I will be on vacation this week. Chapter summaries will resume when I return.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest El Chalupacabra

Thank you JC for reviewing the Thrawn Trilogy. It literally has been 2 decades since I read those, not counting the graphic novels which don't adequately do the novels justice.

 

That said, for me, it is very clear that TZ was brilliant in coming up with the characters that he did, which was a tall order for the first real attempt at a Post-ROTJ narrative, aside from comics.

 

Mara Jade being a unique and interesting character. Both a dynamic character who might be the first character who's story is in some ways the inverse of Luke's, and is ultimately redeemed.

Thrawn being a worthy Tarkin-like character.

C'Baoth being a new take on a darkside force user: a literal crazy old wizard (in fact, I believe he was originally intended to be the clone of Obi Wan).

The idea of Talon Karde filling the vacuum of Jabba, and being a very different underworld boss, almost more of an anti-hero.

 

You also had the assumed natural progression of Han and Leia's relationship, Luke being a lone jedi still trying to find his way and simultaneously being more confident and more unsure of himself, and the idea that after ROTJ the war DIDN'T end: the rebellion and what was left of the Empire were still at war.

 

All that was very imaginative and a very worthy attempt at a post ROTJ world, with some good characters and ideas. That said, Story-wise, maybe not so much, however. I was also reminded how cliche and tedious the Thrawn trilogy was, and how it has become inconsistent with the movies and the EU sources that followed. As novels, they are far from perfect, and I have to say the rose-colored glasses are definitely off!

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All that was very imaginative and a very worthy attempt at a post ROTJ world, with some good characters and ideas. That said, Story-wise, maybe not so much, however. I was also reminded how cliche and tedious the Thrawn trilogy was, and how it has become inconsistent with the movies and the EU sources that followed. As novels, they are far from perfect, and I have to say the rose-colored glasses are definitely off!

Agreed. Really liked Heir to the Empire, kinda liked Dark Force Rising, but by the time I was a few chapters in on The Last Command, I knew I was only gonna finish it for the sake of completion (if I pay for a book, I'm gonna finish it unless it is absolutely terrible).
Some neat ideas and sequences, though, liked many aspects of the lost Katana fleet storyline, found Luke more likable here than in the movies, and I still laugh at "Luuke" jokes, so that's something.
Hit or miss with the characters. It's been a long time, so bear with me, but:
Thrawn started out as scary smart and perceptive... then started making some miscalculations that seemed beneath him (and oddly convenient to the plot). Went from genuinely intimidating bad guy to... typical scheming bad guy. Great concept... faltering execution.
Mara Jade and Talon Karrde were serviceable templates with just enough added quirk and backstory to rise above their cardboard origins. Neither character is terribly compelling, though.
Joruss C'baoth was the only laughably bad creation, but to be fair: when you've got at least 10 new characters and only one is God-awful, you've probably beaten the odds.
Gilad Pellaeon was strangely comforting. Have always suspected he was modeled after a certain real life high-ranking Nazi, but am too lazy to look up the origins of the character.
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I also remember thinking this: the last two Dune books were obviously influenced by the hours Frank Herbert sat watching Star Wars and Empire with his lawyers; the faster pace and cosmopolitan galaxy we get in those books has a definite Star Wars flavor sprinkled in. But, while they are funner, faster, and flashier than the first four books, it's still clearly Dune, and they still work as satisfying novels.
DFR and TLC felt to me like an attempt at bringing a little more Dune into Star Wars. But here, the scheming, politicking, and "wheels within wheels" plot layers just feel ham fisty and plodding. I'm not sure if this is due to a lack of facility on Zahn's part, or if Star Wars just stops feeling like Star Wars after reaching a certain level of complexity and introspection, but whatever the reason, it doesn't work.
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Not a problem at all. Chapter Discussion Thread is what it is, after all. I'm always glad when people make additions or corrections or have some insight into what I'm posting here.

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