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Literature / The Truce at Bakura

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Yesterday, the second Death Star was destroyed, and Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader slain... But today is business as usual, and the Rebels have business helping the Empire. A far-flung Imperial system, Bakura, is under attack by previously-unknown saurian aliens called the Ssi-ruuk. With the Empire in disarray following the losses at Endor, only the Rebellion can render aid in a timely manner. Whilst dealing with the aliens, themselves no picnic, Leia struggles to form diplomatic ties with the Imperials, with (or despite) Han's help, while Luke meets a fellow Force-sensitive and starts falling for a girl who considers Force-users abominations.

Written by Kathy Tyers and published in January 1994, The Truce at Bakura holds the distinction of being the tenth Legends novel published by Bantam, released months after The Thrawn Trilogy and The Glove of Darth Vader. It's also set immediately after Return of the Jedi, beginning literally the day after the movie's events, and for that reason is often cited (along with the Thrawn Trilogy) as being one of the best starting points for readers who want to get into the Star Wars Legends universe.

Tropes used in this work include:

  • An Aesop: The novel is all about religious conflict, with the message that you should keep an open mind and not dismiss other religions out of hand. Gaeriel follows a religion called the Cosmic Balance, which believes in balance in all things. When you suffer, an unknown other in the galaxy is elevated, and vice versa. One aspect of her religion teaches that Jedi are abhorrent, as they accumulate massive personal power, weakening their unknown counterparts. She even wonders, briefly, if Luke could be so powerful that the Cosmos had to send in the Ssi-ruuk, reducing hundreds of sentients to mere droid batteries, to balance his power. Gaeriel's good friend Eppie Belden suffers from very severe dementia, and Luke, upon meeting her, realizes that this is not a natural result of old age for her, and that Eppie has untapped Force potential of her own. He shows her how to use a Jedi healing trance, and a few days later, Eppie is back to her old, fiery, lucid self. Gaeriel tries to explain that Luke is "dangerous, one of them," to which Eppie scoffs, and replies, "Our teachers have taught us a lot of wisdom down the years, but also a load of guff."
  • And I Must Scream: Victims of entechment are still aware of themselves, but unable to do anything but power Ssi-ruuvi droids and circuitry, with no control over the technology's functions—except a bit, with Luke's help and urging through the Force.
  • Artistic License – Military: An In-Universe example when Leia intentionally addresses an Imperial officer by the wrong rank as a calculated insult after he gets mouthy.
  • Author Appeal: Kathy Tyers was raised in a Christian background, so she knows about religious conflicts, such as the one between Luke and Gaeriel.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: Gaeriel's religion deals with this primarily. They believe that Force users, Jedi and Sith alike, are evil because they aggregate too much power: for them to have done so, other people lost power. Her religion therefore says the destruction of the Jedi righted the imbalance their having power caused, and thus praises Palpatine (they're unaware he was also a Sith Force user).
  • Blatant Lies: People being enteched don't feel pain. They only think they feel pain, the screaming body is already dead, the life energy transferred to the catchment arc instantly. Dev only thinks he feels their pain in the Force. Entechment is a wonderful thing, freeing you from a fragile human body and putting you into an awesome battle droid (or just the electricity to run shipboard circuits), and you'll never need to feel fear, or pain, or loneliness, or even think for yourself ever again. It's a great joy the Ssi-ruuk bring, isn't it?
  • Book Ends: The opening passage notes that on cosmic timescales, the wars of sentient beings are brief and meaningless. At the end, Luke has similar thoughts as he watches Dev Sibwarra's Burial in Space, which consists of allowing the body to burn up in Bakura's atmosphere.
    Luke stared at the meteor, a momentary flare of brilliance ... like all life. Nothing really, in the sweep of time. But everything, in the Force.
  • Broken Pedestal: Gaeriel has a dislike of Force users, and as such is rather saddened to learn that Palpatine was one himself.
  • Burial in Space: Dev Sibwarra dies "clean," having used the Force to rid himself of his Ssi-ruuvi brainwashing. His funeral allows his body to burn cleanly away as well, shot out of the Falcon's airlock into Bakura's atmosphere.
  • Chestburster: Downplayed. The Olabrian Trichoid parasites Governor Nereus infects Luke Skywalker with before letting the Ssi-ruuk abduct him. The eggs hatch in the stomach, the larvae migrate to the lungs, where they grow and develop before chewing their way over to the aorta to finish maturing in a pool of slowly-clotting blood.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: It comes as no great surprise when the Imperials immediately attack the Rebel task force almost literally the moment that the Ssi-ruuvi fleet starts to retreat.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Both Rebel and Imperial sensor displays show friendly units in green and hostiles in red. This is shown as an indicator of the situation between Rebels and Imperials: when the Rebels arrive at Bakura Imperial and Ssi-ruuvi units are both marked red, when the Imperials accept Rebel help their units are switched to green, and when the Imperials turn on the Rebels as soon as the Ssi-ruuk are routed their betrayal is marked by their units switching back to red.
  • Crapsack Only by Comparison: Bakura is considered a primitive, rural backwater by many of the characters in-universe (something brought out even more strongly in the RPG supplement), and the educated young upper-class Bakurans can't wait to get away from there to the Core Worlds. For all that, it's still a peaceful (until recently) planet with technology and living standards far more advanced than anything real life has produced.
  • Distress Call: The plot is kicked off when the Rebel fleet, licking its wounds after the Battle of Endor, intercepts a message drone from Bakura meant for the Death Star they just blew up. It contains a message from the planet's Imperial governor begging for aid against the Ssi-ruuk invasion.
  • Distressed Dude: ...Wedge has to be saved by Luke a lot, doesn't he? This time, he's pinned holding apart a message drone's self-destruct mechanism, and Luke has to figure out how to both get Wedge clear and disable the bomb.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Dev Sibwarra, Luke's almost-first-padawan, is mortally wounded while helping Luke escape the Shriwirr.
  • Easily Forgiven: Downplayed. While Luke forgave Vader/Anakin somewhat easily in the preceding film, Leia (who was personally tortured by him and had her family and whole culture killed by him, etc.) is realistically rather more reluctant to do so. However, she still makes her peace with his ghost in the end, only days or weeks after Luke first revealed his secret to her.
  • Enemy Mine: The whole point of the truce at Bakura is an Imperial world being threatened by alien invaders and the Rebels helping the Empire beat them. It's later revealed that Emperor Palpatine invited the Ssi-ruuk to attack Bakura before his death, hoping to trade the Bakurans' lives for Ssi-ruuvi entechment technology to use against his enemies. Palpatine was kind of an asshole.
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: The Rebels' motive for intervening in the conflict. Besides the propaganda value of getting an Imperial world to switch sides with the Emperor dead, Bakura is a small-scale producer of repulsorlift engine components, and gaining the system's allegiance would be a major asset for the Rebellion.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The Ssi-ruuk have a strict caste system where members of their kind are divided by profession, which also corresponds to the color of their scales. Blues are the rulers, Golds the clergy, Silvers scientists/technicians, Reds soldiers, Greens manual workers, Blacks spies or assassins and Browns are outcasts (born from unions of different castes, which is forbidden) who do the most menial work in their society. P'w'ecks are below even this, a slave race used as cannon fodder by the Ssi-ruuk military.
  • Fantastic Drug: Bakura's namana fruit, its main export after repulsorlift coils. It can be rendered into several different forms, including nectar (diluted in water to create a kind of liqueur) and candy. It directly stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, creating a euphoric sensation. Bakura's governor strictly controls his "namana habit," only having nectar in the evenings and limiting himself to two candy breaks per day.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Bakuran humans hate all nonhumans, mistaking Mon Calamari (who are fish) for Ssi-ruuk (who are reptiles!) infiltrators. It's unclear how much of this is native and how much is Imperial "Human High Culture". Bakura is also said to have indigenous Rubber-Forehead Aliens who are a subject race.
    • They also despise droids for historical reasons (sabotaged droids during the settlement's early days led to deaths and the near-destruction of the colony) meaning the Ssi-ruuk entechment is particularly loathsome to them.
    • The Ssi-ruuk, for their part, believe they're superior to all other species, regarding them as being fit only for entechment and slavery. P'w'ecks, a very closely related species, are the slave race of the Ssi-ruuk. All this is justified and taught by their religion.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Entechment rips out one's life force and implants it in a Ssi-ruuvi machine as a power source. The enteched soul is still somewhat aware, but helpless, and in constant agony for the remainder of its short existence.
  • Happy Ending Override:
    • As this novel starts about 24 hours after Return of the Jedi ends, it's the first story to deal with Han and Leia's Relationship Upgrade. The road is bumpy.
    • Despite their victory at Endor, the Rebel fleet is battered, beat up, ships and soldiers in desperate need of rest and repair. They can only send one small cruiser/carrier and a few gunships to help Bakura, against a fleet with five cruisers, numerous support ships, and a practically infinite number of battle droid fighters (which are more powerfully shielded, smaller, and more maneuverable than anything the Empire or Rebellion has).
    • At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke joins the Ewok/Rebel celebration looking no worse for the wear despite being Force-electrocuted within an inch of his life by the Emperor. The opening of this story reveals that Luke is indeed suffering some serious side effects, and he has to get emergency medical treatment.
  • Hate Sink: Imperial Governor Nereus. Apart from being a backstabbing villain, pompous grandstanding nobody and generic Smug Snake in general, he is also an implied rapist, borderline Sissy Villain and monstrous sadist who infects people with exotic alien parasites for his own amusement. Oh, and he collects human teeth. Even among the Star Wars tie-in books, he stands out as one of the most ridiculously over-the-top, evil-Evil-EEEVIL Imperial characters ever written.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: The Imperial forces go from hating the Rebels to mistrusting them but working together to betraying them to making a new truce. Part of this is due to different authorities within the local chain of command having different ideas about how the situation should be handled.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Prime Minister Captison compares the Imperial oppression of Bakura to "boiling a butter newt," and has to explain the expression to Leia—like the myth about real-life frogs, butter newts placed in cool water and heated slowly do not perceive their danger and are boiled alive. (Presumably they're called butter newts because they taste good cooked this way.) Governor Nereus's repressions have been slow and gradual, so that most Bakuran citizens are not roused to rebellion.
  • Immediate Sequel: It begins shortly after the destruction of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. The Rebel Alliance is still camped on Endor's Sanctuary Moon, and still battered from the battle. Leia and Han share some Ewok wine, and Luke has to spend several hours in bed in order to recover from the Force Lightning he'd been zapped with on the Death Star.
  • Lizard Folk: The Ssi-ruuk are more or less an Expy of raptors, only intelligent and spaceship building.
  • Love Interest: Gaeriel provides a short-lived one for Luke. He even briefly contemplates raising a family with her at one point.
  • Ludicrous Precision: After listening to recorded Ssi-ruuvi speech, Artoo is able to imitate it since it sounds like his own "Droidspeak" (which is somehow then used to translate the language). Threepio complains that Artoo didn't do it right: he missed a full four vibrations compared to the original.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Averted. The Ssi-ruuk are decribed early in the novel as being Force-blind as a species, yet Bluescale has almost supernatural hypnosis powers.
  • Mind Rape: Bluescale keeps Dev Sibwarra properly "renewed" for his joyous service to the Ssi-ruuk, which involves blocking out many of his memories and hypnotizing him to tell them things he'd rather they not know. Even Luke can feel the pull of the Elder Ssi-ruu's powerful personality.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands:
    • Luke is able to communicate with parasitic lung worms and get them to crawl out of him. Though this isn't really a new power, so much as using the movies' mind tricks and telepathy in a creative way.
    • Turns out Force-sensitives can drain the life energy from others at a distance, very useful in concert with a specially-designed entechment rig. Who knew? (This never appears again with the Ssi-ruuk specifically, but the more general "Force drain" power continues to be used by Sith and Dark Jedi in both Legends and the Disney EU.)
  • Nobody Ever Complained Before: The Ssi-ruuvi show off their Life Energy tech with pride, because they think humans will want to become vampirized batteries.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: Played With. When non-action girl Gaeriel finally gets the upper hand on Governor Nereus by snatching an incapacitated stormtrooper's blaster rifle, she orders him to discard his undrawn blaster pistol. Nereus doubts Gaeri even knows where the safety is, but keeps his hands in plain view and well away from his blaster until Gaeri's backup arrives to disarm him.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Commander Thanas is an upright military man and not averse to Rebel help against the greater Ssi-ruuk threat. He has a conscience, and it's why he's posted out in the Imperial backwater in the first place, after he refused an order to massacre a village of alien civilians. At the end of the novel, he defects to the Rebellion.
  • Operator Incompatibility: Dev's ion paddle beamer is custom-built for him as he cannot use the standard Ssi-ruuvi ones.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Governor Nereus is not merely a backstabbing Smug Snake and generally awful person, but a (strongly implied) rapist and Straw Misogynist, too.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Most Ssi-ruuvi tech uses Life Energy as a Power Source, which needs to be extracted from sentient creatures via the "entechment" process. (Humans provide more energy.)
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Gaeriel Captison ditches her shoes whenever she can, even when sitting behind her desk in the Bakuran Senate. At one point, she wonders when she last walked barefoot in Satuary Park. Luke actually notes that her frequent barefootedness indicates a free and lighthearted personality... except when he's around.
  • Raised by Orcs: Dev Sibwarra got some basic training from his Force-sensitive mother before he was kidnapped by the Ssi-ruuk, so he maintains some human sympathies, but most of that is buried under Ssi-ruuvi brainwashing. He has been taught that though he is an inferior and strangely-formed creature, his Ssi-ruuvi masters love and care for him, though in reality they see him only as a tool. And he fervently believes that entechment is a wonderful fate to be shared with the galaxy, and his greatest wish is to be enteched himself and spend the rest of his life powering a droid starfighter.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Ssi-ruuk, which are nothing so much as evil sapient raptors.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Ssi-ruuk are the first major example of this in Legends. Essentially sentient alien velociraptors, they rule a dwarf galaxy that orbits the Galaxy Far Far Away. Much like the Yuuzhan Vong, they are religiously motivated conquerors with a strict caste system, but while the Vong are incredibly technophobic, the Ssi-ruuk power their technology with the stolen life-force of their slave races. They also tend to use droids to do most of their front-line fighting, as their religion teaches that if they die outside of their already-consecrated territory, they'll be doomed to wander the galaxy for eternity, and as such they're a Proud Warrior Race on their own turf and Dirty Cowards off it.
    • Their entrance is also hyped up to a degree on the level of the cosmic Force. Obi-Wan makes a Force ghost appearance (relatively uncommon throughout Legends stories) to consult Luke and implore him to the level of danger the Bakura situation poses to the galaxy, and later on, after Dev sends him a warning that the Ssi-ruuk seek to harness his powers to enhance entechment, Luke meditates on the ramifications and forsees a hypothetical outcome where the alien empire could easily overtake the galaxy.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Imperial warships are revealed to have one, consisting of two levers to be pulled together to trigger an immediate reactor overload. The commander and the first officer are supposed to trigger it if capture is imminent, and failure to do so will cause the hidden Imperial Security Bureau Mole to reveal themselves, ready to execute the commander and trigger it themselves if they attempt to surrender.
  • Space Is Cold: When Wedge is hanging in space with his hand crushed, he's suffering from both blood loss and advancing hypothermia/frostbite. Of course, he was out there for some time in a pilot suit presumably not designed for extended EVA. Long enough for Luke to dress, jump in his X-Wing, and get into orbit, at least.
  • Spell My Name With An S: The name of the villainous aliens' species and assorted terminology. Given correctly, it should be something like the following. Singular: Ssi-ruu. Plural: Ssi-ruuk. Genitive: Ssi-ruuvi. Different authors get it wrong.
  • Spirit Advisor: Alongside Anakin's appearance to Leia, Obi-Wan appears early on to inform Luke of the dangers the Ssi-ruuk pose, which strengthens his resolve to join the task force to Bakura despite his lingering injuries. Uniquely he brings up this meeting when discussing the matter with his Rebel colleagues as reason for him to go, in spite of most of them not being familiar with Force ghosts (though fortunately Mon Mothma is fairly accepting of it).
  • State Sec: In what might be the first mention of the Imperial Security Bureau, an ISB mole attempts to attack Commander Thanas when he orders crew of the Dominant to surrender to the Rebels rather than trigger its Self-Destruct Mechanism. The ISB would go on to have a larger role in later Legends works.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Subverted. The Rebels send a substantial military force to aid the Imperials, and only ask for their cooperation and friendship in return. Played straight later, as the Imps turn on them as soon as the enemy fleet is in retreat. Not that the Rebel intervention was completely altruistic either. Bakura is a small-scale producer of repulsorlift engine components, and gaining the system's allegiance would be a major asset for the Rebellion, as well as being the first world they'd liberated from Imperial rule after the Emperor's defeat. Leia's job is to get Bakura to join the Rebellion, Luke's job is to defend them from the Ssi-ruuk. Mon Mothma is also tentatively hopeful of making an alliance with the Ssi-ruuk, imagining how effectively they could challenge the remaining Imperial fleet with that alien military force on their side. That plan is dropped when the full evil of the aliens becomes apparent, however, and it becomes clear they want to entech everyone.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl: Inverted. Leia is visited by her father's spirit. She's horrified. He wants her forgiveness. She won't give it. Though later, she decides that she still hates Darth Vader, but if Anakin Skywalker wants to look on her and be proud, she can live with it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Ssi-ruuk are beaten back from Bakura, but this was only one of their fleets, they're still out there, still aware of the galaxy at large, and the deal Palpatine made with them to keep them out of the galaxy is still void (since Palpatine is, you know, dead). They are never heard from again until very late in the New Jedi Order series, although the X-Wing Series and Jedi Academy Trilogy state that the New Republic mounted at least one counterattack against them offscreen (another story indicates they were beaten to the punch by the Chiss, Thrawn's species, whom the Ssi-ruuk attacked later).
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Leia's attitude toward her father's ghost.
  • You're Not My Father: While grappling with the revelation that Darth Vader is her biological father, Leia states in internal monologue that she will refer to no man other than Bail Organa by the title of "Father." Period. Enter Data. End Program. Later, Anakin appears to Leia as a force ghost. She all but says this verbatim.