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Lit We Hav to Go on an Adventure with Jello

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Do No Harm comes to us from newcomer Erin Endom. A pediatric emergency medicine specialist, Endom obviously put her career to work for her in this story of a Rebel medic; it's the only Star Wars piece she would do, but it was considered good enough to be reprinted in Tales from the Empire. It's illustrated by a young fellow named Chris Trevas, who was still mastering his craft, as indicated by the lead image of young Steve Buscemi.

    [​IMG]

    It's a first-person story, which makes for a nice change of pace. Our narrating heroine is Dr. Aurin Leith, the daughter of Coruscanti bureaucrats who attended the University of Byblos Academy of Medicine and then practiced on Ralltiir until her annoyance with the Imperial regime's impositions gradually led her to join the Rebellion. She's been serving on the hospital ship Pharos, but when our story begins she's summoned to meet Lieutenant Koris Haslam, a famous Rebel commando with a bland appearance and a con man's facility with impersonation. They have a mission to rescue Gebnerret Vibrion, an elderly Rebel cell leader (nothing less than the former senator from Ghorman, in fact, who went into hiding at the same time Mon Mothma did) with a kidney disorder. He needs regular administration of Clondex, which he may not be getting from the Imperials who have captured him. If he goes into delirium, who knows what he might say? If they can't get him out, they're going to kill him before he can talk, since they know he'll die in Imperial custody anyway. Nice to see a little darker side of the Rebellion.

    There's a whole team. A small woman named Melenna Seltrayne (an ice-cold Ord Mantell street urchin recruited after trying to pickpocket Haslam; she now has an on-and-off casual thing with Enkhet), a small Wookiee named Liak (always calm and with an uncanny sense of direction, he was captured by slavers who killed his best friend Zherriak, but he and his fellow captives took over the slave ship and escaped; he joined the Rebellion for revenge), a big guy named Gowan Ch'lessan (a quiet, idealistic young black Chandrilan who happens to be a very good slicer despite also being a big dude and a good fighter), and a scrawny kid named Barsoulentiniel Enkhet (a lanky, emo-haircut nineteen-year-old pilot who learned to fly during his time as a smuggling group's cabin boy -- I don't know why they had a cabin boy, either -- and now flies for the commandos because he's not disciplined enough for a fighter squadron). They'll infiltrate the prison facility, located on an otherwise dead world, by posing as stormtroopers escorting prisoners. After the briefing, Haslam asks Aurin if she'd be willing to euthanize Vibrion if they can't get him out. She refuses, based on her medical oath, so Haslam reluctantly takes on the responsibility; he's not as cold about this as she'd thought. She agrees to sedate him before Haslam kills him, but only if the decision whether they can move him or not is left up to her, as a medical decision.

    They land without incident; Aurin is strapped with her medpac and a holdout blaster, playing the part of one of the prisoners. Haslam easily bluffs his way past just by showing up, which raises the question of why there don't appear to be any records of anything in the Empire. Just show up and say you're supposed to be there; no one will question you. Shouldn't there be some paperwork involved with dropping off prisoners? Or at least a we'll-take-it-from-here transaction? Instead, an officer just assigns them some cell numbers, and Haslam gets them to take off by claiming he's Intelligence and his prisoners are so top-secret that he can't have anyone else around. He even gets them to turn their surveillance off. It's a smooth con.

    Gowan slices into the records and finds Vibrion; they head to his cell and Aurin starts treating the old guy. She's able to get him on the move, and they head out through access tunnels. As they come to the hangar and prepare to bust out, Aurin spots a stormtrooper getting ready to ambush them inside the access tunnels. With a mixture of instinct and the knowledge that she's the only one with a shot, she pulls her holdout and kills the trooper. Everybody starts firing, they toss a concussion grenade into the hangar to clear it, and they make it to a shuttle and blast off.

    It's after they've escaped and she's treated the few minor wounds that the adrenaline comedown starts to really hit her, and she freaks out a little about the fact that she killed a guy -- just a kid in stormtrooper armor. Gowan sits and talks with her a little about it, about how it can be necessary to kill, but that doesn't mean she's cut out to be a killer. She sits, comes to some peace with what she did, and moves on. She gets a medal for completing a field mission, but she hasn't looked at it since; this was her first and last combat mission.

    It's not the best-written story. It happens all in a rush (though with an admirable refusal to get bogged down in world-building exposition, as most of these stories do), there's no meaningful challenge or twist to how the mission plays out, and the prose is your usual amateur stuff, not bad but not polished. But I really enjoyed the fact that it has a distinctive perspective, exploring the moral dilemma of a doctor thrust into war with sensitivity, nuance, and a really well-considered emotional throughline. It's got something to say, something a little powerful, and there's an ethical and emotional complexity to it not found in your usual Rebel storylines. I'd take something this interesting any day over another Han Solo knockoff or generic commando mission.

    Next up is A Free-Trader's Guide to the Planets, which describes several worlds with tangential connections to the Bantam novels.
     
  2. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Timothy O'Brien, one of the excellent longtime contributors to the Adventure Journal, wrote A Free-Trader's Guide to the Planets.The selection of planets here is interesting, with writeups on Chad, Gamorr, Kubindi, and Toola. These are all homeworlds of OT extra species, but ones that are too tangential to ever get much of a writeup in West End Games sourcebooks. They're also tied into the Bantam novels in ways likewise too minor to justify writeups or in books that never got their own dedicated sourcebooks: Chad is Callista's homeworld, Gamorreans play a major role in Children of the Jedi, and Toola appeared in The Courtship of Princess Leia. Kubindi less so. But these are all good candidates for O'Brien to run with and expand on in the Adventure Journal, highlighting the way the Adventure Journal can work around the edges of the WEG sourcebooks to fill in gaps if they let it. And by expanding on established locations, it gives the piece a bit of heft and a feeling of relevance that it wouldn't get from writing up four new made-up locations nothing else will ever revisit.

    We open with a vignette of some free-traders using the Free-Trader's Guide to the Planets, a publication put together by the Lantillan Spacers Brotherhood, sourced from members, slightly verified, and with more advanced information available with membership in the Brotherhood. So it's basically smuggler Wikipedia, long before Wikipedia was a thing. These traders are looking for places to lie low, and narrow down their search results until they get a handful of entries, which ours are among.

    They first take a look at Chad. Chad's not a man, it's a system. It's a humid world, home to the Chadra-Fan, dominated by large oceans and mountainous continents separated by expansive marshlands. Low axial tilt means little in the way of seasons, and most of the variation comes from the wildly variable tides, influenced by the complex interplay of the planet's nine moons. Storms are frequent, and rain and fog are daily occurrences across most of the planet. I really like this idea of a marshy, rainy, dynamic planet with uplands and oceans; it's not a straight swamp planet and it has a lot going on while being a distinctive concept and not just an Earth-type world.

    It is home to about one Romania's worth of Chadra-Fan, plus fifteen thousand humans, living in a largely pre-industrial economy. The Chadra-Fan have no predators, despite being small, but they suffer from the dangers of the planet's tides and live a mostly subsistence lifestyle. They are industrious, building complex arboreal villages for shelter and tinkering with machinery that doubles as an art form. The villages are temporary, being constantly rebuilt after storms. They live in clans, with most villages consisting of a handful of loosely related familial clans. Occasionally interconnected villages will merge into cities, which become booming sites of trade until the next storm wipes them out; however, cities are frequently rebuilt nearby. There is no government, because nothing on the planet is permanent; public projects are conducted on an anarchic basis in which a Chadra-Fan shares his plan to build something like a bridge with his neighbors, and they help him or don't, and it gets completed or it doesn't.

    Out on the oceans live ocean ranchers, mostly human, who herd semi-domesticated bildog and proop from barge fleets. These are also mostly family-based affairs. It wasn't intended at the time, but this remote existence certainly explains how Callista could go undetected as a Force-sensitive until adulthood. There are writeups on the various ocean species involved: two herd species, two predator species, and two species of mount, one of which, the tsaelke, is considered possibly a "sentient precursor species," meaning I presume that they're evolving intelligence.

    Chad has no spaceport, but landing facilities will be built on a temporary basis by Chadra-Fan hoping to attract trade. There's also a well-known mesa that serves as a natural landing pad, around which several villages are frequently built and rebuilt. There are no local supplies, though ample local methane can be processed into fuel, and trading opportunities are fairly primitive, including with the ranchers, who usually don't even have landing facilities and have to be hovered over for some quick bartering.

    This doesn't suit our free-traders so well, so they look at Gamorr. Gamorr is a planet of dense forest and jungle, with lots of fungus, as well as mountains and lots of harsh weather. No large creatures remain in the ecosystem, probably from being killed by the giant vicious man-pigs. You've got morrts, the status-symbol parasites, carnivorous fungi, and even mobile mushrooms the Gamorreans herd. But most importantly, you have Gamorreans, living in feudal clans that are constantly at war. Clans are defined by the matrons who run their councils, descended from the same matrilineage, while young males are exchanged between clans. Most clans run about a hundred individuals, of which half are adult males. The most powerful males are the warlords, married to the matriarchs, and serving as the leaders in battle, with one in overall command. Clan boars are married to matron sows, possessing reasonable status, and make up the core of Gamorrean armies. They can't usually aspire to be warlords, however, as they're already married. It's the household boars, unmarried warriors who attach themselves to clans for plunder and advancement, who can hope to marry a matriarch if they're successful. Veterans are retired warriors, usually from crippling injury rather than age. They train young boards and are highly respected as advisers by warlords. They are constantly fighting over land, almost all of which is claimed by multiple clans. Males do the fighting, while females do most of the work. Twice as many boars as sows are born, but mortality for boars is enormous and most sows will have as many as a dozen husbands over their lifetime. Land is inherited evenly among daughters, which can lead to more wars when matriarchs try to grab more land. Some clans organize themselves as mercenaries, traveling to fight for other clans, and most clans are willing to agree to fight for others for pay at one time or another. There are five hundred million Gamorreans, which would make them the third-biggest country on Earth.

    Gamorrean life is seasonal, with spring the calmest time, as most trading, clan alliances, and mercenary contracts are transacted, boars fight in traveling tournaments, young boars are exchanged between clans, and most planting, training, marriage, and birth takes place. Summer is dominated by war. Fall wraps up campaigns, and sees the harvest and more traveling fairs for exchange, widows get married, and everyone settles in to survive winter, which can prompt desperate winter raids by undersupplied clans. Mostly, however, Gamorreans settle into domestic life that sees boars romancing sows. They live in fortress villages, which usually have trading areas near the gate in which violence is prohibited (winter, however, remains the preferred time to visit). There are no starports, but the biggest clan-towns have landing fields and trading quarters in which offworlders can sometimes be found.

    The traders consider Gamorr but move on to Kubindi. Kubindi is newly discovered (or maybe "newly discovered" the way so many planets supposedly discovered by the Empire turned out to be), a spectacularly hot planet scorched by its unstable blue giant sun. Thousands of years ago, a flare burned almost all life off Kubindi except the insects. One of the non-insectoid species that survived were the Kubaz, who became insectivores and developed sentience and civilization. The Kubaz are slowly reclaiming grassland from the desert, and then developing that grassland into forest.

    The two billion Kubaz have developed a society with little influence from galactic civilization, with their own art forms, including a strong emphasis on insect-based cuisine. They're family-centric, with all Kubaz being considered members of the families descended from their eldest member, as well as their spouse's family. The family elder is in charge, while his first three children run most of the family business, with the eldest in charge. If one of these three dies, the other two move up a spot while his firstborn takes on the third spot. Younger members of Kubaz families generally marry older members of other families, and vice versa, with the younger partner usually being the one to move out of their own family compound. Primary family loyalty is considered to belong to the family you live with, not the one you're genetically part of, which can create tensions within family dynamics that drive a lot of Kubaz art and literature. However, because most families are interrelated, it largely keeps the peace within society. Families also don't gain too much power because when the elder dies, they split their assets unevenly between the Three and the rest of the heirs, with all the children now becoming the elders of their own smaller families. Most businesses are organized along family lines, though the Kubaz only industrialized within the last three hundred years. They independently discovered atomic energy a hundred years ago, however, and even colonized other planets in their system before the Empire discovered them. That discoverer, Admiral Spitar P'ton, was a gourmand who developed an appreciation for Kubaz culture, especially their cuisine, and spread it throughout the upper echelons of Imperial society. The unusual Imperial appreciation for Kubaz culture has spared it much Imperial repression. They're largely kept from traveling offworld on their own, however, and few traders have been allowed to visit independently.

    Our traders are not fans of bugs, so they'll pass on this one. Toola is last up. It's an icy world, where life is largely restricted to the tunda of the tropics. It is bitter winter two-fifths of the year, spring for one fifth, a summer of vibrant life on the tundra for one fifth, and then fall for another fifth. Life gathers around hot springs, where Whiphids do not hunt or pursue vendettas. The Whiphids are one Switzerland's worth of powerful, stone-age predators living in small nomadic tribes. They are led by a spearmaster, who moves them between a permanent summer camp and nomadic hunting in the winter on tuggle-pulled sledges. Tribes aren't family units; family doesn't mean so much to Whiphids. They're strictly survival-based, and Whiphids will move between tribes as they are successful or unsuccessful. Tribes gather at hot springs to trade and to combine forces for hunts. Tribes don't go to war, as they don't have the manpower for it, but individuals can hold long-lasting grudges that sometimes lead to violence. Whiphid entertainment is mostly oral storytelling, usually hunt stories or sagas of great vendettas.

    While Whiphids are in contact with the galaxy and trade for some technology, they seem largely content with their lifestyle and aren't looking to "advance." Some travel offworld. Most contact is done at small trading posts at hot springs. The Great Hoary Mastmot Trading Station, a set of prefab buildings run by retired scout Haaken Baranar and a rotating staff, is a good example. It gets fairly busy over the summer.

    Our traders ultimately settle on Gamorr, which will be a good hideout from bounty hunters. We get a writeup of the two characters: To'iir is an elderly but wise and patient Twi'lek trader trying to pass his knowledge onto Liadden, an eighteen-year-old human female he treats like a favorite niece.

    It's a very solid piece. I already explained why I like it conceptually, and the execution is right up there, too, making all these worlds come across as interesting, unique locations with thought-out cultures and planetary dynamics. I think it's one of the best sourcefile features we've seen. It also introduces the useful overall concept of the Free-Trader's Guide, and even manages to make an interesting dynamic out of the two seemingly throwaway expositionary characters. Really good work. Some great art too, from Steve Bryant. Creative images like a Kubaz chef, Chadra-Fans aboard a paddleboat, Gamorreans herding mushrooms, and Whiphids fleeing a mastmot. Up next is a Cracken's Rebel Field Guide on slicing technology.
     
  3. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Cracken's Rebel Field Guide: Slicing Aids continues this issue's unusual density of recurring in-universe report pieces. Cracken's Rebel Operatives, Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, and Wanted by Cracken all appear in this Crackenlicious issue. This is the second appearance of Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, which was first adopted in issue four, and the final one.

    We begin with an explanation of how the Rebellion has greatly benefited from modifying equipment to help in slicing and computer- and droid-related missions, as well as an out-of-universe note on other places where details on this kind of equipment can be found, including the Cracken's Rebel Field Guide sourcebook, Galladinium's Fantastic Technology, Galaxy Guide 11, and The Last Command Sourcebook.

    The first bit of technology is the UniTech Patch. It's not to get you off cigarras. It's to get you onto a network without being detected. It's designed to be connected to a computer network and to reroute traffic and emulate signals so that the breach is undetectable. Its legitimate design is for emergency repairs of damaged networks, but the Rebels have figured out how to use it to cover their slicing. Cracken notes, though, that while it can fool automated security systems, it's not very good at keeping up with inquiries from an actual user into the network's status, meaning slicers can't get dependent on its doing all their work for them.

    The TerexComm DataSearch 9C can be used to quickly search through thousands of data-screen units. With a power boost, it can be used to target low-level encrypted files, but it comes with the side effect of shredding all the files it searches through, making its use pretty noticeable. I have no idea how this is supposed to actually work in ways that make any computer science sense.

    The TerexComm DataSearch 12C-A is an even more powerful version of the same thing that can search for specific search terms very quickly, but the power condenser modification doesn't work. It's very fast, and it doesn't ruin any files. So I guess in Star Wars you have to bring along your own special hardware box if you want to google stuff on the enemy's network.

    The AccuTronics Encryption Package is a civilian encryption tool. Its encryption isn't the highest level of security, but with Rebel modifications it's good enough for many lower-level Alliance purposes.

    Analysis/encoding computers are part of Imperial Intelligence's network operations aboard Plexus droid vessels, receiving files, decrypting them, analyzing them, and then reencrypting them for transmission. Rebels have a lot of theories about what they could do with these computers, but nobody's ever captured one.

    The Rebels have modified TranLang III protocol droid translation modules to deliver secret messages to Rebel spies, and successfully implanted them in about a dozen espionage droids. They'll slip special keywords into conversations at designated intervals that convey information to Rebel agents. It sounds like an awkward system, but Cracken insists it's useful. The modification to the droid, however, is fairly easy to detect if you're looking for it.

    I like the subspace tight-beam transmission core better. You can install chips into an espionage droid without its knowledge that subtly reprogram it to store certain information it comes along and periodically upload it by tight-beam transmission, which is very difficult to detect. Cracken notes that these droids are very useful against the Empire, especially in the Core, but the same espionage droid techniques have been used against the Rebels as well, to significant effect.

    The Intellex IV is the internal computer powering R2 units and many other powerful droids. On its own, it can be used to slice computer systems, since it's very good at scanning large amounts of data, looking for patterns and flaws. Or I guess you could just use the astromech.

    Finally, the TaggeCo TC-40 Padlink remotely links a datapad to a terminal, allowing the user on the go to access systems with greater convenience (cue laughing at this needing a separate hardware solution). Rebels have started installing these comm units on terminals so that they can remotely slice them.

    An effective collection of equipment for players, even if all the hardware appears pretty outdated for an advanced society just a few decades later and some of it clearly betrays the fact that it's written by somebody who knows little about computers. There's not a lot to say about it beyond that. Up next, a bunch of droids.
     
  4. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Toria Tell's Droid Journal is here to tell us about droids. Tell. Get it? Tell. Anyway, there's a droid inventor and collector named Toria Tell and she privately distributes a small journal among friends and fellow droid aficionados on the topic of droid models, because she is a nerd. This is one of her publications.

    The TelBrinTel Science Research Droid is a droid that researches science. The Empire commissioned its creation for the purpose of arms research. It's designed for scientific purposes, with sensitive sensing instruments and ports to plug in additional scientific tools. The droid came out shortly after Hoth, but many have been captured by Rebels. One of these is Geth, a research droid stolen by General Reesen Jivrak, formerly of the Rebellion before he was kicked out for unethical behavior. The extremist general is currently based on Ohratuu with his followers, where he uses Geth to concoct compounds to make his troops' deripor mounts more aggressive and useful in battle.

    Lovolan makes the Supreme-class Servant Droid, an elegant model with the ability to speak many languages. The droids are also programmed with knowledge of aristocratic hobbies and tastes, as well as being linked to galactic databases to keep up to date on news and the financial tickers. They're very popular among the pampered rich, a demand that made Lovolan churn out as many as possible, leading to shoddy construction that has them frequently break down. They're also so obliging that they'll sometimes let users manipulate their high-end comms connections to the databases to launder money, illegally bet, or eavesdrop on comm feeds. Our individual droid here is Threna, a droid who was misrouted to rural Grathus. There, a tavern owner named Xig Rollem is using her as a server, and her courtesy has proved surprisingly popular among the rough-and-tumble crowd, improving their manners.

    The Scavenger Series Labor and Recycling Droid was put together by several cooperating outlaw groups to salvage war debris. It's basically just grappling arms and tractor beams with a big processing plant, on treads, though it also has repulsors as an alternative. Bruthus is a droid operated on the edge of the Corporate Sector by Torsteen the Svivreni. Bruthus has developed the unusual habit of saving some of the junk he collects for himself and hiding it away, preserving pieces he feels attached to.

    The Ulban Arms Class I Defense Droid was designed by Captain Kist of the Imperial Army, but Imperial engineers rejected it. The design then ended up produced in the Corporate Sector, either because Kist sold it or the plans were stolen. It's a big, heavily armed droid on short legs, with lots of weapons and sensors. It's having some success in the Corporate Sector despite having a few vulnerabilities to sabotage.

    The Publictechnic Model 850.AA Public Service Headquarters and Maintenance Droid is basically a huge street sweeper that can deploy smaller droids from inside itself to perform all kinds of maintenance for municipalities. The various droids inside are taken from existing publications, including worker droids, power droids, maintenance droids, and Treadwells. Enell is an individual droid responsible for maintaining a spaceport on Lo'Uran, where she's treated as a valued part of the community. Enell resented her treatment by the Imperial regime, and when the corrupt governor was hauled away by the Empire and replaced with self-rule under an Imperial prefect, Enell has been a big part of keeping things running, and would attempt to stymie the Empire if it ever came back.

    Lastly, there's a writeup of Toria Tell. Tell is a droid inventor, collector, and historian with a massive collection of droids at her home on Tebru. She travels the galaxy learning about the various types of droids she comes across and collecting rare models. She likes droids more than people, and has a reputation as a troublemaker, but no one knows how she funds her droid hobby. Some think she's a rich heiress, but the Empire suspects she's a Rebel agent.

    There wasn't too much there in the feature; it's mostly just an excuse for writer-artist Christian Piccolo, who works in industrial design, to show off his (quite good) droid art. That said, there were a few interesting features to the droid designs, like the idea of luxury servant droids attuned to make aristocratic small talk, giant street-sweeper droids deploying maintenance droids, or scientific research droids with built-in instruments, and I liked getting some examples of individual droids to give the thing more personality.

    This is followed by The Capture of Imperial Hazard, a short story with a grammatically impenetrable title that is probably not a Dukes of Hazzard riff.
     
  5. JediBatman

    JediBatman Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 3, 2015
    A droid named "Geth" huh?

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Nora Mayers contributed only one story to the Adventure Journal: The Capture of Imperial Hazard. Let's find out if it's any good.

    The story opens by talking about how hard the Rebellion is finding it to keep their leaders hidden from the Empire, almost as hard as it was to hide the Jedi from the Empire, which obviously didn't work out. Intriguingly, the phrasing suggests that the Rebels were trying to hide Jedi Knights during the Purge, which is not entirely inaccurate as far as Rebel-precursor/component organizations go, but it's certainly a bold assumption for Mayers to stake out. Mon Neela is one of those leaders at risk, probably because the Empire keeps confusing her with Mon Mothma. Neela was an assistant barrister general for the Republic, and also in the Senate at some point, opposing Palpatine. And now she's a Rebel tactician, because it makes total sense for a lawyer to be a great general. I don't know why she can't just be a political leader. Also a senator-turned-general: Polo Se'lab, a Bothan who's trying to get her off Horob now that the Empire's found them. Neela doesn't want to go, because she's convinced the base needs her or something. And she's sick of running away, and her sons have died fighting for the Rebellion, so now she wants to make a stupid stand. Se'lab convinces her to hit the road and let him worry about the base, and also gives her the experimental sensor the staff of the base, an engineering outpost, has been developing.

    She heads outside in disguise with her humorless bodyguard Stasheff (from a CorSec family -- it's nice to see X-wing getting quickly pulled into the WEG picture), where the natives are rioting because they know the Empire's about to invade their planet because of these damn Rebels. They make it to a yacht she's going to escape in, which is operated by Captain Heedon as a luxury cruise yacht for rental. The dandyish, aristocratic Heedon happens to be a Rebel, mostly because he's upset that the Empire is suppressing his customer base. Heedon is such a wonderfully silly, random character that I already like him. He also complains relentlessly to Neela that she's running late, and says she looks old. This guy. I like this guy.

    Then as they're leaving Neela randomly decides that she's going to fight again anyway rather than go hide on the Outer Rim. God she's self-important and obtuse. I hope the Empire gets her. Instead, she's going to stick around and distract the incoming Imperials long enough to evacuate the base. She also says, "There's a way to turn every trick," which I don't think means what she thinks it means.

    When the ship shows up (a Victory-class -- I always appreciate a good VSD), Neela calls up the Star Destroyer and tells them to surrender to her. She and Heedon claim that their ship is rigged to blow and can take the Star Destroyer with it. And since the yacht is too big to fit in the Star Destroyer's docking bay, they'll dock via umbilical and she'll come onto the Star Destroyer. To accept their surrender, see.

    Captain Sergus Lanox of Imperial Hazard, which doesn't make any more sense as the name of the ship than it would in any other context, agrees to let her come aboard. He's pretty much making fun of her the entire time, and holds Stasheff rather than let him into the meeting. He rambles on about the glory of the Empire, and they trade sarcasm and I think maybe they're flirting? But anyway her proposal is that he should surrender to her, and just keeps bluffing that obviously her gambit has to be true because why else would she do something this stupid and crazy? And they're definitely flirting. Mon Neela is fifty years old, used to be super-hot, is currently just regular hot, and has sexual tension with literally every single male in the story, which I find hilarious and enjoyably different.

    Then she goes back to the ship, where Stasheff rants about how stupid her plan is because she's withholding the actual nature of her plan because she is, as established, a pompous idiot and maybe related to Admiral Holdo. It turns out she planted that experimental sensor on Stasheff without him knowing (again, pompous, withholding idiot) and it recorded all the codes and everything on the detention level, which I'm pretty sure isn't how sensors work. And also she didn't know for sure that the sensor even works, but hey, let's hang our whole plan on that. So somehow she gets the tractor beam control codes off that.

    Cut to Lanox, who is ardently admiring a holo of Neela while obsessing over her beauty and admirableness and what a great Imperial she'd have made, when the ship lurches. He's got a cup of coffee but I'm not sure about his other hand. It turns out the computers in the detention level have been corrupted with some kind of loop, and it's spreading to compromise all the systems in the ship, and the Star Destroyer has started losing altitude from orbit. It turns out this is an unintentional side effect of the experimental sensor chip sending a constant stream of data to the tractor beam computers way too fast. Also they can't actually turn off the tractor beams or undock, so they're getting dragged down with the Star Destroyer, and the blast door back to the Imperials is stuck open. Neela keeps demanding Heedon do something about this, and he keeps explaining that he's not a computer guy, lady, and this was her damn chip and her damn plan.

    With his ship deteriorating, Lanox leads some troops to the umbilical to capture Neela, since he knows enough to blame her for this. Stasheff gets shot defending her, but Lanox gets out ahead of his troops, and she doesn't shoot him. Then there's an explosion that knocks Lanox down and sends him sliding down the umbilical, and the blast doors conveniently close. Lanox can now escape, but Neela is locked out of her ship. The umbilical is leaking air, so Lanox flees while Neela tries to open the door. But then Lanox reconsiders, and goes back to capture her, figuring if he escapes without her but his ship goes down he's toast anyway. But then he gets to her, and all that admiration just wells up inside him, and he pries the door open for her, makes one last smartass remark, kisses her, and lets her go before making the escape back to his own ship.

    Now that the story's over, the Star Destroyer suddenly just stabilizes and decides it's going to make it, and the chip stops being an issue, and Neela escapes. Stasheff survives, everyone gets awards for buying the base time to evacuate, and Neela strolls around a different base telling Se'lab about how she kinda likes Lanox after all. Then she starts hitting on Stasheff, which is definitely workplace sexual harassment. Then they watch a just-released holo of Grand Admiral Takel awarding Lanox the Distinguished Medal of Imperial Honor for not surrendering his ship at the risk of his own life. I think Mayers is trying to set up some kind of star-crossed romance thing for a sequel that never came.

    I can't say the nonexistent sequel is a big loss; it's a goofy, rather dumb story. I was entertained by the rampant sexual tension all over everything, the way Neela lines right up with Holdo, and some of the humor of the banter, and I liked that there were some original ideas scattered around in there, but the story never really came together. I would also like to note for the record that Imperial Hazard was never actually captured and I want my money back.

    There is also a Fragments from the Mind's Eye that consists of a drawing of a Rebel trooper loading laundry into a washing machine with a Starbird on it. It is labeled "Rebel Appliance." It is, like this entire feature, not actually funny.

    Up next is the sequel to that one story about the Rebel X-wing pilot prince that no one was clamoring for.
     
  7. Landb

    Landb Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Mar 7, 2017
    Self-important, prone to demanding others fix her screwups, and a fan of inappropriate treatment of subordinates? She does indeed sound like solid Empire material.
     
    Daneira and JediBatman like this.
  8. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    After extensive delay, we return with our second short story in a row. Longtime fanfic writer and fanzine contributor Carolyn Golledge had previously contributed the short story Firepower in Adventure Journal 8. Two issues later, we get the follow-up, Desperate Measures. You may or may not remember the original story, about Mak Makintay, the Rebel pilot who was also a swordfighting disinherited prince who once led a failed rebellion against his Imperial father and rescued his Imperial metallurgist girlfriend who had given him a sexy swordfighting scar. Makintay's ridiculously fanficcy background was my main takeaway from the story, anyway.

    We open with Makintay back at Eyrie Base shortly after the events of the first story. Ketrian, his girlfriend, is in the med bay, slowly dying from being poisoned by Imperial officer Niall Pedrin out of suspicion she'd defect to the Alliance, as one often does when the Empire decides to poison you. Mak decides that he's got to go back to his homeworld of Hargeeva and capture Pedrin himself to force him to give up the antidote. Unfortunately, to do so he needs the approval of Commander Baran, the base intelligence officer Mak despises as short-sighted and foolish (and who resents Makintay for being an actual aristocrat instead of him). This approval is not forthcoming, for sensible reasons, so Mak punches a superior officer unconscious and takes off anyway. He's intercepted in the hangar bay by his longtime buddy and crew chief, Sullustan Merinda Niemeh, who actually followed him into the Rebellion from Hargeeva. She's totally fine with assaulting superior officers and going AWOL on unauthorized missions because you don't like people's attitude, so she's already prepared a freighter for the two of them to take off covertly in; she's invited herself along.

    Cut to Major Pedrin, who's brooding over his impending demotion and transfer to someplace even more insignificant than Hargeeva in punishment for the loss of Mak and Ketrian, who were freed en route to Coruscant. He figures they'll still have to send someone back for the antidote, though, so he's setting a trap.

    Mak and Merinda haven't had too much difficulty posing as technicians delivering Mak's R2 unit to a Hargeevan factory that makes a lot of equipment for the Imperials. The droid slices into the Imperial files there, but finds nothing on the poison, though it does find out that Pedrin is being shipped out tomorrow to his new posting. So Mak's new plan is to wait for Pedrin to visit his mistress one last time that night and ambush him there. He catches Pedrin in the middle of slapping his lady friend around, because I guess he needed to be an even bigger villain, and stuns him. The woman, Thera Capens, offers to help him get Pedrin back to his ship, and now he's got a new Rebel recruit.

    Pedrin wakes up and realizes that his plan didn't quite work. He'd had a transponder implanted in his arm so that his security team could hit whoever kidnapped him and then interrogate them to find out the location of Eyrie Base; he realizes that his higher-ups must have taken the much more sensible, but less Pedrin's-ass-covering route of just letting the Rebels take him back to their base and using the transponder to find the base's location that way. Mak starts beating him, and when Pedrin insists that he just used the standard drugs and the antidote they've already tried should have worked, Mak pulls a blaster on him. But Pedrin insists he's telling the truth; something else must be wrong with Ketrian.

    So Mak goes with his alternate plan, which is not to go to Eyrie Base, in case they're being tracked (also, Baran might have something to say about it), but to send a message to sector headquarters to send out a professional interrogation team. Thera notes that Pedrin had a bump in his arm; they figure out that he had a tracker implanted, and go to cut it out. Thera has an idea about how to play it, though, and after they remove the tracker, space it, and make another jump, they convince Pedrin they're about to let Thera torture him. He cracks and agrees to oversee the administration of the complex cure to Ketrian, if they'll let him go. They'll have to take him to the base, but can keep him from knowing its actual location. Of course, Pedrin's lying just to save his life. He really doesn't know what's wrong.

    Mak gets back into Eyrie Base by contacting the deck officer in the middle of the night and landing secretly; apparently he's been able to foster a rather wide movement against Baran, and nobody seems to have a problem with low-level mutiny because they're all convinced Colonel Farland, the regular commander, will be totally on their side once he gets back from visiting sector command and make everything okay by retroactively approving of mutiny against his deputy. He takes Pedrin to Ketrian's bedside, where the doctor notes that Baran "had it coming" when Mak gave him a concussion, and goes off to get some equipment to run the tests Pedrin is BSing about. It's just Mak and Pedrin, and then the assistant medic comes down the hall. Pedrin and Mak hide behind a divider while she comes in and starts conveniently monologuing to the comatose patient about how it's actually her revenge plot to poison Ketrian for the loss of her family to the Imperial occupiers Ketrian's work brought to Hargeeva. This Hargeevan nurse, Astina Griek, was introduced at the beginning but I ignored her because she and her m'lord manners (and some kind of lower-class accent/speech patterns we're seeing with the Hargeevan-peasant characters in this story) just seemed to be a way to note Mak's knock-that-off egalitarianism. She's about to administer the cure so that Ketrian's work can save more lives, but notes that she still plans to kill her eventually, once the Rebellion has her work. There's no explanation how she can concoct more complex poisons than the doctor can detect. Mak, being a dunce, chooses this moment to intervene, and bursts out before she administers the cure, only to get scalpel-stabbed by Pedrin, who takes his blaster. There's some back-and-forth as Pedrin monologues, Mak tries to get the cure, and ultimately the doctor comes back with some guards and Merinda. Griek grabs for the blaster while Pedrin's distracted; he kills her, but gets knocked off balance by Mak and stunned by Merinda. Ketrian gets the cure, and Mak gets medical attention.

    We end with a healed Ketrian waking up Mak, who's now healed. He's also still in legal trouble; Farland's kept him from being court-martialed, but he's still likely to be demoted and restricted to base. Though Ketrian's using her new alloy as leverage to keep him from even those minor repercussions, because heroes are above such things. Baran's going to be shuffled off to some other post, and Pedrin is a valuable prisoner.

    It wraps things up with a reasonably solid happy ending, which is good because Golledge never returned to these characters, or indeed to the Adventure Journal. Both stories have been competently written but unexceptional by-the-book adventure. This one at least leaned less heavily on expositing Mak's extravagant backstory and trying to make the standard star-crossed lovers thing relevant, but it still had a pretty simplistic plot and lacked any meaningful presence from Ketrian, who was the most interesting character in the previous story. It's a fairly disposable sequel to a fairly disposable story and doesn't do much of anything except wrap up a loose end by giving Mak victory over Pedrin (Ketrian's illness wasn't even an actual loose end, since she got the antidote at the end of the first story; it was just re-loosened for this one).

    You can tell we're getting close to the end of this issue, because the NewsNets, complete with overhauled look, are up next.
     
  9. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    The Galaxywide NewsNets are a familiar and treasured part of the Adventure Journal going all the way back to the third issue. For the first time, the NewsNets get an overhaul, with each story now preceded by a logo graphic for the news service providing it. I like the introduction of the logos, which helps provide some more visual flavor and immersion, but I confess to being surprised, since it eats up a lot of real estate on the page.

    We begin with Cynabar announcing his (their?) return in typical swaggering style, with new offices said to be near some ISB office, and with the last three heads of the hunt for Cynabar prematurely retired by enthusiastic hitman supporters. Nada Synnt, we learn, is now operating under new pseudonyms, including Tosin Dise and Benner Dunnit, flying Pareesh D'Thot and ripping off Imperial rawmat shipments. The profusion of awful punning aliases certainly suggests this is meant to be Karrde. Meanwhile, Bettle and Jaxa are running guns to Ralltiir again, and Platt is lying low for the time being.

    Holonet Free Republic reports from Iziz that the Alliance managed to blow the ordnance depot on Onderon, destroying two-thirds of the Imperial munitions stored there with the help of sabotage to the defense systems from the Onderon Resistance. This is a major blow to the Empire, since this was their main ordnance depot in Airon sector. HFR casts this as evidence that the Rebellion is increasing in its capability to stage direct military attacks on the Empire.

    Cynabar then returns to note that the Empire is cracking down on illegal shipments out of Kessel, closing squatter mines that supply smugglers and arresting thirty regular smugglers en masse. The market for glitterstim is thus poised to skyrocket, but Cynabar cautions against getting involved, since this crackdown smells like an inside job, and advises avoiding Kessel until the mole is caught.

    Imperial Defense Daily reports that one hundred Victory-class Star Destroyers sent to Kuat for overhauls two years ago are now finally on the path to completion, five months after they were already supposed to be ready, due to the rawmat shortage leading to their hull plating being diverted to newer ships. Admiral Kendel, overseeing the yards, ordered the plating replaced with havod alloy, ordinarily too difficult to produce but now considered worth the effort. The catch is that havod is red, throwing traditionalists into a tizzy. After the ships are finished around the end of the year, there are no plans to keep using havod, but that doesn't make the natterers upset by the absence of white-gray doonium any happier.

    The Nal Hutta Kal'tamok has a story on Spaaga Core acquiring mining rights to a Minos Cluster gas giant. Originally sold as a move into the tibanna business, it's actually the result of the discovery of a rare new planet producing corusca gems. This is a big deal, not only because Corusca gems are so rare, but because Spaaga is now moving to be the first company outside the Damarind Corporation's consortium to mine corusca gems.

    Imperial HoloVision has a charming story about how the Star Destroyer Motivator destroyed a Rebel base on Maldra IV. It went there investigating a suspected pirate base, and instead found a training base and munitions plant that immediately attacked indiscriminately, not even listening to Captain Briera's offers of surrender. The base's shields finally had to be brought down by Imperial commandos, at which point the fiendish, fanatical Rebels blew themselves up rather than surrender to the gracious Imperials.

    The Alderaan Expatriate Network offers a very different version of the same story: the Empire leveled a refugee camp and safe world for Rebel warriors' families. Their light defenses were quickly overwhelmed by a brutal Imperial attack and the Rebel noncombatants were slaughtered. AEN has acquired a holorecording, which they're releasing to expose Imperial lies.

    TriNebulon News's Andor Javin comes to us with the wonderfully tabloidesque headline "Prehistoric Sullustan Cave Art Prophesied Rise of Emperor!" In old, abandoned caves, Javin claims that Sullustan archaeologists have found imagery not associated with other Sullustan cave paintings, convincing Javin it's really the result of a vision. This "prehistoric" art, claimed by Javin to be eight thousand years old (I love how not a single fact in the entire story appears actually credible), shows a dark-robed figure lifting a glowing orb of enlightenment before the masses while white-armored soldiers drive out Triakk, the Sullustan chaos god. Totally a legit news story.

    Independent Traders' Infonet reports from Rapora Mining Center, Little Capella, on the rush to open up countless new mining facilities to meet the demand occasioned by the current rawmat shortage. It suggests that free traders will see economic opportunities in selling consumer items and entertainment to the booming workforces for these new mines, where few company stores have yet been set up.

    Sektor 242 NewsLine notes that the Khuiumin Survivors have greatly decreased their attacks, suddenly fading from sight over the recent months. Some local authorities on Stend VI, a popular pirate gathering site, opine that they've gone into hiding to refit and enjoy the profits from recent successes, rejecting speculation that the pirates have disbanded.

    On Albrae-Don, JAN has claimed responsibility for a terrorist bombing of the underwater Pica Rim Pipeline monorail, leaving an occupied monorail train trapped in the flooded tunnel in what's claimed to be revenge for the execution of Earnst Kamiel. The train is trapped, Colonial News Nets reports, but has sufficient air to hold out until authorities reach them with the rescue effort currently underway.

    The Corellian Sector Newsfeed reports that the Corellian Merchants Guild has been expelled from the Corporate Sector. The organization, representing the interests of Corellian spacers across the galaxy, is no longer welcome in CSA space. Their offices will be closed within two months. No reason has been provided, and reporters have yet to uncover any potential motive for the move.

    Finally, we have the Core News Digest reporting that the Corula system, including most importantly Corulag, has banned slungerhounds after a spate of attacks on humans. Popular as security pets, they've been found to turn on their owners as well as others in a series of fatal attacks. The Friends of Slungerhounds organization is objecting to the sudden edict, claiming that the problem is poor owners improperly training their animals, and that slungerhounds are perfectly safe in the hands of good owners, who shouldn't be penalized for unsafe practices by others. I don't know why we're ending on an article about space pit bulls, but we are.

    Aside from the introduction of logos, this isn't a particularly notable NewsNets. There's some continuation of the rawmat shortage thread and the saga of Cynabar, but no really big developments in exciting ongoing storylines or standout one-off stories, and only the two pieces on the Maldra IV attack create any real dialogue among the stories within this issue. Fun as ever, but not the feature at its best.

    Up next, we have an article on a big topic -- TIE fighters.
     
  10. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Alliance Intelligence Report: TIE Fighters is yet another piece from the prolific Timothy O'Brien, his second of this issue alone. It takes on what's definitely an important, central subject, very much outside the Adventure Journal's usual focus on original content and only glancing at best contact with the mainstream of canon. The History of R-series Astromech Droids would be comparable, but it's one of the few pieces I can think of on this scale. A lot of it seems to be restatement of existing material on the TIE, but frankly I'm not going to sit around and dig for what exactly is original and what's pulled out of the Star Wars Sourcebook or Imperial Sourcebook tonight.

    It begins with a framing note explaining that it's an introduction to the TIE, which is much better than its reputation among Alliance pilots. TIE pilots are as good as Rebel pilots, and are in craft that are "fast, deadly, and numerous," only a slightly poorer design than Alliance fighters, but in much greater numbers. If it weren't for Rebel tactics keeping TIEs from operating in their preferred fashion, the Alliance Starfighter Corps would be wiped out. A nice dose of anti-propaganda there.

    We start by learning the history; the modern TIE is a third generation design. The original T.I.E. was designed by Republic Sienar Systems for the Old Republic's fleet -- in an effort at standardization after the Clone Wars. I think the modern adjustment would be toward the end of the Clone Wars, still as a reaction to lessons learned but not, you know, after the end. When the Empire came around, there was a call for a more modern starfighter, one with hyperspace capability, and several firms designed snubfighters in expectation of Imperial contracts. Many of these designs, ironically, ended up as Rebel mainstays, like Incom's X-wing. The Empire was spending fortunes on new capital ships and all kinds of other weapons systems, though, so it didn't have the appetite to invest in hyperspace-capable starfighters. They stuck with the cheap T.I.E., upgraded to the TIE under the Empire. Honestly this is a better explanation of the TIE's capabilities than chalking it up to some kind of Imperial philosophy that wants to keep their pilots vulnerable, or doesn't believe in hyperspace-capable fighters. Though it does limit the potential for defections, the article points out.

    A sidebar points out the variants on that initial Imperial TIE model. You've got the TIE/ln, the common TIE fighter we all know. Then there's the TIE/rc recon model, the TIE/gt, an early version of the bomber variant that still sees some use, the TIE/sh shuttle (the description of which warms my nautically-enthused heart by using the phrase "ship's boat"), and then there's the TIE/fc, a spotter ship used for fire control for long-range naval bombardment. It seems unlikely that this mission couldn't be accomplished by the ship's own sensors -- it's the middle of space, after all -- which is why we probably see this design so little, but it's an interesting concept so I appreciate seeing it pop up.

    Though TIEs have a reputation as more fragile than Alliance fighters due to their lack of shields, the section on maintenance reveals that they're actually remarkably sturdy, with robust, well-engineered designs that stand up to sustained wear. Remarkably few TIEs are lost due to standard wear and tear, with much less time spent on maintenance than Alliance techs would ever believe. Would you expect anything less of Raith Sienar? When work does have to be done, however, the dependence on custom Sienar parts means replacements can be expensive and back-ordered, and when issues occur they're often complex enough to idle fighters for extended time. Perhaps this contributes to our report's warning that intelligence on TIE maintenance is contradictory, and Alliance readers should be skeptical of any firm conclusions.

    Then we move on to tactics. The TIE excels in attack, in which it is intended to be supported by the full might of the Imperial war machine, achieving space or air superiority. They also have a key defensive role, screening capital ships and orbital assets from starfighter attacks. Ground-based TIEs attempting to defend against planetary penetration by smugglers or raiding forces, though, face the disadvantage that "gravity diving" is so fast that the ships will likely be down before any scrambled TIEs can intercept. "Sky diving" from surface to jump point is slower and easier to counter, but still difficult to defend. TIEs also serve a recon role. Long-range recon can be accomplished by TIE/rcs or by carriers dropping TIEs that then sweep a system, while short-range recon missions through nearby space are constant when fleets are in realspace.

    TIEs do use tactics in combat -- swarming the enemy is a tactic. TIEs make use of their usual numerical advantage and speed to jump foes, shoot first, and then use their speed to withdraw for another pass. They often use fire control from TIE/fcs or capital ships to target at maximum range and fire effectively first, rather than waiting to engage at optimum range. So they prefer not to get tangled up in dogfights right away, but to make several high-speed attack runs to soften up resistance, and then after these passes take out some of the enemies, swarm in numbers. And while TIEs might not be quite as high-end as Alliance fighters, they technologically outclass pretty much any fighter found outside the Empire and Rebellion. TIEs were actually designed with Adar Tallon's five phases of starfighter combat in mind. They largely outsource detection to capital ships and specialized scout craft, with centralized control of engagements that may be "against the grain of Alliance strategic philosophy," but "can be very effective." Their high speed is optimal for winning the closing phase, though they make little use of deception in approach, because it's the Empire and they don't need to fool anybody. In the attack phase, they hit hard using superior numbers and fleet support. They maneuver well, and always in pairs, with TIE pilots trained to maneuver in tight element. Their speed is also an asset in disengagement.

    The TIE is the most-produced starfighter of all time. They're organized in wings, as the Republic did, but with less variability than that found in the less-standardized Republic, where wings might be two squadrons or six. Now, wings are assigned to attack and heavy attack lines, with Imperial Star Destroyers specifically designed to serve as TIE carriers. Naval wings are six dozen TIEs, made up of three fighter squadrons, one interceptor squadron, one recon squadron, and one bomber squadron, usually. Imperial Army TIE wings are forty TIEs -- two ten-ship fighter squadrons, one bomber squadron, and one recon squadron. There's a lot of variability that goes into that under the surface, with squadrons deploying with mixes of line fighters and fire control flights, or bomber squadrons being made up of legitimate bombers or the gts, depending on resourcing. Most Star Destroyer interceptor squadrons are actual TIE interceptors, while some wings have the interceptor slots filled by a mix of fighters or just another line squadron. The recon squadron may be a mix of rc and fc ships, or they may just be more lns.

    TIE pilots rotate not only through ships, which they thus don't personalize, but also through entire ship types. They will serve in line fighters, bombers, and recon squadrons in shifts. The only exception is interceptors, which are reserved for experienced pilots. The only personalization that comes through is the quiet, unofficial tradition of marking the inside of the hatch of each TIE with a small score for each kill achieved in that TIE; the personalization and kill count are thus attributed to the ship, not the pilot. In the unusual event of a hatch being filled, it's removed and retired from service, welded above the TIE racks, and the fighter itself has a prefix attached to its serial number, with these lucky TIEs highly coveted. "It is assumed, although impossible to confirm, that Darth Vader's personal TIE Advanced x1 Prototype has its own set of kill marks on its hatch." I love the idea of Vader still keeping up with this old fighter pilot tradition. It would be very Anakin of him.

    We end with the TIE's main weakness: it has no shields and it doesn't stand up well to fire, not even by the standards of the Clone Wars-generation fighters it replaced. And while it was quite maneuverable for its time, it's seeing competition now from more recent designs, which are also succeeding in matching or, in the case of the A-wing, exceeding its speed. So while the TIE might not be as bad a fighter as its Rebel reputation suggests, it's not elite, either, and it certainly doesn't outclass the X-wing.

    A solid piece, mostly collecting established information and presenting it in an agreeable package, with a little color from O'Brien. It's still the kind of thing I'd like to see the Adventure Journal try a little more, giving us one-stop writeups on consequential stuff that's unlikely to get such in-depth treatment in basic sourcebooks. We'll end the issue by finding out who it is that Cracken wants.
     
  11. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    This issue has a super-sized Wanted by Cracken, featuring eight bounties.

    First is Mihalik, a Svivreni miner. He's got a five-thousand-credit bounty, but he's got no crimes listed. He hasn't committed any crimes against the New Republic, Cracken specifies, but he's wanted for "unsanctioned police and military activity," which sounds like a crime. He's a longtime Toxis Metals manager at the Qua'Tahc mines on Af'El, and in the wake of a recent meleenium heist, he found the New Republic personnel who were wounded in the heist, tended to them, and then took off in his ship in pursuit of the thieves, and hasn't been seen since. He's not authorized to engage in police activities, under which I guess Cracken includes pursuing thieves, which is not a good look for the New Republic. But he was a mine constable previously, so he's got some law enforcement experience. Cracken does note, though, that he should not be considered a criminal, and he's hoping just for his safe return.

    Now it's time for the perpetrators. Ostan Atur is a twenty-nine-year-old Lowen female with a bunch of sabotage-related charges. The New Republic is offering fifteen thousand credits, plus ten thousand from the government of Af'El. Atur is a prolific saboteur. Growing up on bustling Mid Rim Low'n, surrounded by crooks, she actively chose sabotage as a career, knowing it could pay well. She worked for Ithorian gangster Tolad Dor, which sounds like a story itself, helping kill officials and enable heists, until she split off, and ended up hired by Rani Quanic for this job. She helped disable security and equipment for the theft of one hundred kilos of meleenium, and during their extraction they ran into three New Republic operatives, all of whom were injured, two seriously. Now Airen Cracken wants her locked up; he's almost as pissed about the loss of critical war value in the meleenium as his about his people getting hurt.

    That brings us to Rani Quanic, a Sullustan female who's got the book thrown at her and a thirty-thousand-credit bounty (ten thousand from Af'El, the rest from the NR). She's a longtime smuggler, who used to work with the smuggler and pirate Chordak from Galaxy Guide 6. When she returned to her old stomping grounds on the Ison Corridor, she was arrested, but received a pardon in return for serving as a SoroSuub privateer, hijacking Rebel smuggling craft. After Endor, she continued working for SoruSuub, outlawed as an Imperial-aligned corporation, pirating New Republic supplies for SoroSuub. This doesn't align with the portrayal of SoroSuub as quietly allying with the Rebellion at the height of the Galactic Civil War and openly after Endor, but maybe there was a hardcore pro-Imperial faction in play. Anyway, in that capacity she conceived her big heist and got her accomplices together, and now here she is, wanted. Commander Nunb has volunteered to help bring her in, though it's not clear if that's Aril or Nien. I would think it's actually Nien, which would shine some valuable light on just what the hell he was actually doing between Endor and running Kessel, because he kind of disappears there.

    Talak is the bruiser of the group, with a lot of assault-related charges. His bounty is only ten thousand, though, five each from the NR and Af'El, despite the fact that he's the one who actually seriously injured the New Republic personnel. I guess Cracken doesn't want to pay too much for a guy who's just muscle. A Reigat from Reigalius, he's unusually sociable for his people, since he's known to actually work with others. This is an unusual case of somebody actually reusing a one-off WEG species, in this case from Cracken's Rebel Operatives. They're boring as hell, though, just big humans-that-aren't. He's hired muscle who knows Quanic from shared time in the Minos Cluster, and worked as partners with Atur, which is how Quanic ended up picking them up for the job. When they were caught by the NR personnel, he took them all on hand-to-hand, and seriously injured Agent Oollj and the technician Cith Sninif, and lightly wounding Kichiir the Wookiee, an Eclipse Team operative. Dude beat a Wookiee and two other guys. With covering fire, but still, don't take this guy on lightly. He's gotten cocky now, and Eclipse Team is after his ass too.

    Now, you'd think the feature might stop there, but no, we've still got a bunch more characters coming from Craig Robert Carey, who's made his own small corner of the universe out of these Cracken features. One of these was mentioned in issue eight as a partner of Slar-dan ti Gardi; now we get a profile of Borun Call himself. Call is a seventy-two-year-old Quarren slaver, with a hefty forty-five-thousand-credit price on his head. He's been slaving since Old Republic days, and is thought to have supplied General Tagge with slaves during the Death Star's construction. He's now one of the biggest slavers in the Borderlands. He started out on the rough streets of a mining outpost in Mon Calamari's Murul Trench, where he became a troublemaker. He was arrested, but as a natural leader he ended up put in charge of prison labor details, where he developed skills he'd use as a slave overseer. He got out of prison and into slaving, participating in the enslaving of the Talz. Though he's enslaved over a hundred difference species, he prefers trading in bigger species, ones favored as laborers; he's not above promoting the enslavement of Mon Calamari, though; it seems there's some animus there. He's willing to cooperate with other slavers to make big shipments, and has some involvement with the Zygerrians. He's a big enough deal to have been immediately wanted by the New Republic, but his priority has been upgraded after he and his protege Gardi crossed the New Republic specifically, with Call attacking a New Republic agent to rescue Gardi, who was highly wanted for enslaving two Wookiee NR diplomats. They then sold Sergeant Tauran Nartal, the Vodran SpecForce commando who captured Gardi, into slavery, which is just digging yourself deeper. Call thinks he won't be captured because he's never been in his long career, and he spends most of his time within the Empire, anyway. Airen Cracken, however, wants his ass to burn. He's rich and low-profile, but distinctive through a missing facial tentacle and his Esoomian bodyguards.

    Drolen Antig is a Nalroni crook, age thirty-two, wanted for smuggling, theft, oh, and murder and treason. Reward, twenty thousand credits. He's an experienced smuggler, thief, and con artist who runs a gang of thirty other smugglers. He's smuggled to the Alliance before, and semi-retired to Celanon after Endor, only to return to smuggling. He took a contract with Kuat Drive Yards to acquire materials, and hooked up with some Advozse thieves he knew to heist prototypes and advanced technology from Slayn & Korpil. He delivered the goods, but he and his men killed the Advozsec on the way there to increase their share. His ship might be the Trustworthy, but he isn't. Cracken's hot about the compromise of carefully guarded B-wing gyroscopic stabilizer technology, and Cracken and Madine have made the call to send in a SpecForce infiltrator team to recover the lost technology from Kuat before it can be exploited. Cracken's also sending a team to capture Antig, who's been spotted without his crew in the Ethav Regions, so I don't know why he's putting the bounty out, but whatever.

    Next up is Kea Ra-Lan. A twenty-six-year-old Gran thief, like most of her species she's nonviolent, but has a four-year career as a thief, including an arrest where she refused to resist police. She actually avoided prison by cooperating, netting only a fine. She's rich enough to pay plenty of fines, owning a mansion in Kinyen's forests. She only became a major target a few months ago, when she penetrated the New Republic's blockade of the Imperial forces on Kashyyyk (which I guess dates this pretty tightly to the eight months of Imperial control after Endor), where she made it all the way to the abandoned city of Kamarkiia on the "island continent" (make up your mind!) Wartaki. She penetrated the sacred vaults of Neocomora and stole several ancient texts that were thought destroyed. Some real Indiana Jones stuff there. The New Republic is offering seventy-five hundred credits for her capture and their return, but the Wookiee embassy is offering fifty thousand credits. Don't mess with a Wookiee's sacred texts. Several prominent Wookiee citizens have requested that the contents of the texts not be disclosed, but assure the New Republic that they're just religious texts thought destroyed in the Imperial occupation. Named among those citizens are "Alliance and New Republic benefactors Tarkazza and Motamba," which is odd because this is their first mention I can find. Which is fine, except they both showed up two years later in Rebel Dawn as Wookiee resistance leaders on Kashyyyk. So Rebel Dawn pulled two characters from this super-obscure Adventure Journal feature. This is proving surprisingly frequent; I'm not sure if Star Wars authors were really reading the Adventure Journal and using it for research, or if enterprising staff were actually really good at pointing out obscure WEG material for authors to use. Cracken notes that he's stumped as to why a pacifist thief who won't even defend herself would go through all this danger and piss off the Wookiees; Kerrithrarr suggests she was hired by Trandoshans who just wanted to antagonize the Wookiees, which reminds me a bit of this type of paranoia. But anyway, the Wookiee leadership has sent teams after her, so Kea may well come to regret this decision pretty fast. She may also regret that whole pacifism thing when she runs into a bunch of furious Wookiees.

    Finally, this jumbo-sized Wanted by Cracken ends with Mar Balayan. A sixty-one-year-old Shistavanen, he's wanted for smuggling, slaving, and assisting the Empire, to the tune of twenty thousand credits. Balayan was an Old Republic scout who became a slave trader shortly after the rise of the Empire, enslaving populations from worlds he'd discovered as a scout but not reported. He was thought dead five years ago, before Hoth (so that's a very different date to this report), when he was last seen fighting pirates, but he's just shown back up in the slaving business again. He's selling slaves to the Empire and others in the Periphery Regions. He's ganged up with several other slavers to function as a big-time supplier, but he's very hard for the New Republic to keep under surveillance, operating heavily in Imperial territory. He's suspected of returning to his previous MO, as unfamiliar aliens have started showing up in the slave population of the Periphery. The NR doesn't have a lot of intel on him, but they want him out of business.

    A big feature, but definitely worth it. Carey always does a great job of building some compelling characters, and these are no exception. The last four, especially, are an interesting bunch. He throws in a ton of rich detail that feels like it expands the universe and builds rounded characters out in just a few paragraphs, and all make good targets with some potentially compelling story hooks and individual quirks. I love it, a strong way to end an Adventure Journal that still hasn't quite recaptured the magic of issue seven, but has done a more than respectable job for itself, with several stronger-than-usual pieces. You could make a case for it being the best issue since seven; it's definitely the best since eight.

    We'll be back with issue eleven, which will itself be retooled after returning from a six-month hiatus -- you may remember the announcement earlier this issue that the Adventure Journal would skip the August issue to move to three-times-a-year publication with a greater focus on short fiction. In eleven, you can look forward to a Thrawn short story from Tim Zahn, the return of Patricia Jackson with Inquisitor Tremayne's first narrative appearance, two adventures set at the Farrimmer Cafe and Ando, a Pablo Hidalgo short story featuring Mace Windu, a story about ancient Jedi, Craig Robert Carey's writeup of Scandium Team, Platt Okeefe's writeup of the Klatooinian Trade Guild, and the first (and only official) appearance of Bungo n' Rusti.
     
  12. Sarge

    Sarge Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 1998
    Bungo n' Rusti! Those are names I've not heard in a long time. [face_laugh]
     
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  13. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    [​IMG]

    Adventure Journal 11 is here six months after issue 10, a one-off delay as the Journal retooled to put more emphasis on short stories. Let's see how that worked out.

    At least we have a new opening ad, this one for Industrial Light & Magic: Into the Digital Realm, a book (with a foreword by Steven Spielberg!) about the amazing digital effects of the nineties. It's a sequel to Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects. Both sound pretty interesting. Then there's an ad for WEG's D6 customizable RPG -- a system for creating a game system. They're selling custom RPGception.

    There is no Admiral's Communique this issue. That's the first casualty of the overhaul; it seems that Schweighofer decided it just wasn't necessary to include a message from the editor in every issue. It only saves one page, but it's a fairly easy cut to make, and it's a start.

    New Horizons leads with Bantam. It's been trending that way; when another licensee isn't doing something especially splashy and notable, lead with whatever Bantam's doing, because the novels are the biggest, highest-profile releases driving the franchise. Though LucasArts also seems to be lagging in the video game promo department.

    They lead off with The New Rebellion, the new hardcover novel. We can all share a hearty laugh at The New Rebellion and my well-publicized loathing thereof. It makes the book sound vastly more interesting than it actually is by teasing the idea of a great disturbance in the Force that Luke feels but without knowing what happened, a neat sort of mystery. Then there's a bombing in the Senate and Leia is injured and faces political opposition. Seems kinda rough to call for the resignation of somebody who just got injured in a bomb attack, but they're actually selling the fact here that Han is suspected of the bombing that injured his wife (What is this, Disney canon? Is he supposed to be trying to divorce her?), as if this is a plot point to be proud of, and not perhaps the most spectacular idiocy in the entire Bantam canon, a canon which also includes the time Han Solo kidnaps Leia to make her love him, the time Luke is almost eaten by an interdimensional blob, and everything else that happens in The New Rebellion. But anyway Han and Chewie take off to a place called Smuggler's Run to track down rumors of a secret plot against the New Republic, and Luke takes off to find his former student Brakiss, but wait, the evil is bigger than Brakiss! "But Brakiss is only a small part of the carnage taking place on Coruscant and elsewhere. Luke is being stalked by a master of the dark side who is determined to rule as the next emperor. Luke, Leia, and Leia's Jedi children are targeted to die. Then billions will follow in a holocaust unequaled in galactic history." So it sounds way darker than the execution ever managed to pull off; TNR was always a mix of interesting concepts and childishly stupid execution, but this really makes it sound pretty dark and menacing.

    Also upcoming is the third anthology, Tales of the Bounty Hunters. Content is as indicated by the title. The writeup is pretty badass, though. "In a wild and battle-scarred galaxy, assassins, pirates, smugglers, and cutthroats of every description roam at will, fearing only the professional bounty hunters -- amoral adventurers who track down the scum of the universe . . . for a fee. When Darth Vader seeks to strike at the heart of the Rebellion by targeting Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon, he calls upon six of the most successful -- and feared -- hunters, including the merciless Boba Fett. They all have two things in common: lust for profit and contempt for life . . ." Damn. Bantam was not paying their promotional writer enough. Hell, they should have been hiring that guy to write the damn books.

    Also coming out is Tyrant's Test, the final Black Fleet Crisis book. This New Horizons is especially rich in things I never get tired of talking about, since it mentions the Han hostage video prompting Chewbacca to "[take] on an urgent mission." The promo writer is falling down on the job here, because Chewbacca does not take on an urgent mission. Chewbacca takes on AN EPIC WOOKIEE RESCUE MISSION OF PURE YEVETHA-SLAUGHTERING BADASSNESS. But back to that Han hostage video, which I never tire of pointing out is one of the greatest moments of antagonist badassery in the history of the EU. It's truly an amazing scene that brings home just how real and dangerous a foe Nil Spaar is, and how our heroes are genuinely vulnerable here in this adult story, long before the NJO.

    Now that's a ****ing scene.

    Anyway, the main notable thing about the rest of the promo is that somebody's feeling playful; it toys with giving away the climax twist of Luke showing up to help defeat the Yevetha with Fallanassi illusions, stating that "the New Republic battles a deadly enemy with a new weapon: the illusion of defeat," and "Luke takes a desperate gamble with an invisible weapon." Heh heh heh, get it, Luke's going to use illusions.

    Also people who aren't Bantam are doing things, but Dark Horse's publicity department has been locked in the bathroom for the past two years or something because they haven't gotten any promotion in here in forever. So it's just Bantam and WEG. WEG's bringing you the Tales of the Jedi Companion. It features a bunch of stuff about Tales of the Jedi, and also "a comprehensive listing of all Force powers ever featured in Star Wars roleplaying game products," which could be pretty useful. And who wouldn't be into the idea of running a campaign set in the Tales of the Jedi era? Its roving Jedi and golden-age adventuring are practically made for RPG campaigns.

    We've got a new feature after this: Featured Artist: Kathy Burdette. The Featured Artist piece is a nice way to show off art, since the Adventure Journal only has sixteen of its two hundred eighty-eight pages in full color, and there's a lot of art submitted in color that gets printed in grayscale. Featured Artist reproduces some of that art in full color while giving us a bit of information about the artist. I suppose you could also say it kind of functions as a companion to the interviews that have long-since disappeared from the Journal, but in much lesser form, highlighting the creatives behind the work. This particular one features Burdette's art from last issue, her renderings of characters from Wanted by Cracken and Cracken's Rebel Operatives. Burdette, we learn, has done quite a bit of work for the Journal, including portraits for Swoop Gangs, which was written by two of her RPing friends and based on one of their campaigns. Burdette does freelance art and writing, both fiction and source material, while also working for the College of William and Mary. Things I didn't notice last issue because I wasn't paying attention: pacifist Gran thief Kea Ra-Lan is depicted holding a blaster.

    That gets the opening out of the way. We've got a big one up next, when the issue really kicks off with Timothy Zahn's Thrawn(and Voss Parck!)-in-the-Unknown-Regions short story Command Decision.
     
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  14. jSarek

    jSarek VIP star 4 VIP

    Registered:
    Feb 18, 2005
    I can't believe how far I fell behind on this thread as a result of my several month hiatus from the boards. After talking it up in several posts, I completely missed the greatest Adventure Journal of all time, SWAJ #7 ... and also 8, 9, and 10. So much catching up to do! I just read through all of #7 (as I'm sure Havac knows from the giant honking wad of "Like" alerts he just had to wade through) and have refrained from resurrecting any of those nearly year-old conversations. Dunno if I'll go back for the rest of the Journals or not.

    I'm just happy I made it back in time for Command Decision, which I think may be the best short story in the Journal.
     
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  15. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    Lots of comments ahead for me because I used most of the recent articles in my RPG game.
     
  16. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Please resurrect any conversation you want! Talking about these babies is the point, and it’s not like the thread is overflowing with other discussion for you to distract from.
     
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  17. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Timothy Zahn returns to the pages of the Adventure Journal for the third time with Command Decision. He last gave us Thrawn's origin story with Mist Encounter; now, we get more of Thrawn in the Unknown Regions, both stories clearly indicating the direction Zahn would ultimately go with the Hand of Thrawn Duology.

    We start aboard the Star Destroyer Admonitor, laying out some geography. They're a dozen jumps out of the Core. Four jumps ago, they left the Outer Rim behind. Now they're through Wild Space, and about to enter the Unknown Regions. We're with Captain Dagon Niriz, who's sulking about the fact that he's stuck captaining a Star Destroyer into exile, caught up in Admiral Thrawn's banishment to the insignificant duty of a mapping expedition into the Unknown Regions. With him is General Larr Haverel, commander of the ground forces aboard, and no more excited to see his career end like this. He's not a big fan of Thrawn, either, sharing prejudice against an alien who is "basically man-shaped" but definitely and unsettlingly inhuman. Thrawn had risen rapidly through the ranks and been a major player at the Imperial Court before whatever crushing political loss brought him this exile. Voss Parck, the man who sponsored his career, was caught in the fallout too, demoted to commander and assigned as Niriz's first officer for this expedition.

    Thrawn can tell Niriz isn't enthused about their assignment, and Niriz says as much -- it's a waste of resources to go out mapping the Unknown Regions with a fully equipped Star Destroyer. Thrawn, however, insists that the Empire's future is out in the Unknown Regions. He isn't happy with the launch time of the TIE scouts, though, and tells Niriz to have them go over pre-launch drills.

    Fifteen systems later, they finally find some intelligent life in the Unknown Regions. Three twenty-five-meter ships. Niriz starts giving orders, but Thrawn countermands them, setting up a TIE escort and generally infuriating Niriz, who can't understand what the hell Thrawn is playing at with all these weird, insufficiently defensive moves. You know, the usual Thrawn routine. Thrawn identifies the ship as a colony ship in an open broadcast; he gets a reply from Creysis, overlord of that system, who is outraged that they have invaded his space, and summons a whole swarm of these jumbo-sized fighters. Thrawn pulls back the fighter escort rather than keeping them out front to draw fire, the standard tactic to reveal the unknown ships' capabilities. Thrawn has to remind a pissy Niriz that yes, he's familiar with standard Imperial tactics, thank you, but he's confident Creysis won't attack until he has a better idea of the Star Destroyer's own capabilities. The funny thing is that Niriz knows the whole reason Thrawn ascended so rapidly was because he was supposedly some kind of tactical genius; I guess he just doesn't think this weird snooty alien could really be that smart, or know better than Dagon Niriz and his book of standard tactics. Thrawn tells Creysis that he didn't intend to offend and will withdraw, but is looking for an uninhabited world to settle that won't intrude on anyone. Perhaps Creysis might suggest such a world? Creysis suggests they speak personally, and Thrawn invites him aboard the Star Destroyer.

    Creysis comes aboard, a big ugly tentacle-faced alien dressed in furs, so you know he's an Unknown Regions barbarian warlord. Creysis demands a gift before speaking; Thrawn gives him a golden statue, but Creysis wants a TIE. Thrawn can't give him one of his "exploration ships," but he offers more sculptures if Creysis wants them. Thrawn will convene the Council of Colonists to give Creysis the exact parameters of the kind of world they're looking for; meanwhile Creysis returns to his ship, insisting they bring payment along with the list if they want him to help once they're ready. Creysis leaves, and Thrawn and Niriz exchange impressions of this new civilization; Niriz is largely dismissive of them. Thrawn asks for three particularly cool-under-fire TIE pilots and six similarly composed troopers to report to him.

    Three hours later, they finally get things moving, with Thrawn sending out a shuttle with the "Council of Colonists," composed of the troopers and Commander Parck, escorted by three TIEs. As soon as the shuttle lands aboard Creysis's command ship, though, his fighters turn on the TIEs. Thrawn ignores every suggestion from Niriz like he's done all day, countermanding his order to close the gap and ordering them ahead at only point one, since colony ships shouldn't be too fast. Thrawn even ordered the TIEs not to shoot back; one is disabled, grappled, and towed back while the other two escape.

    Niriz is furious, on the edge of insubordination at Thrawn's apparent indifference to the situation. Haverel approaches him, pointing out that Thrawn insisted his troopers go completely unarmed. He thinks Thrawn has made a deal with Creysis to sell out their technology. He had crews working on the shuttle and that particular captured fighter for hours; who knows how much other technology he's packed in there to give these pirates. Thrawn's from the Unknown Regions; maybe he's been in league with Creysis for years. Haverel wants to relieve Thrawn of command. Niriz isn't so sure about what he thinks would just be mutiny. Niriz argues to give Thrawn more time, but Haverel basically says he's going to go through with it. Niriz goes back to Thrawn, who discusses a bit of what he thinks Creysis is likely to do, and ultimately just flat-out says that Niriz needs to trust that he knows what he's doing, that the people who promoted him knew what he was doing, that the Emperor knew what he was doing when he sent Thrawn out here -- and that not everything the Emperor or Thrawn does may be as it seems. Suggesting he wasn't really exiled. Niriz isn't sure if he believes him. But ultimately, Niriz is a by-the-book guy, for better or worse. He can't countenance mutiny. He tells Thrawn to summon guards, but Haverel is already walking onto the bridge with half a dozen troopers, and he demands Thrawn relinquish command. Thrawn just stands there calmly and explains how any rescue mission for the men Haverel would want him to mount would be stupid and dangerous. Niriz tells Haverel that he won't go along with a mutiny, and he doesn't think the crew would either. But Haverel's already committed.

    Just then, they get word that eight of the fighters have jumped on different vectors. The sensor-stealthed assault shuttles observed vectors for all of them, though not even Niriz knew they'd been launched. Thrawn transmits the message "now" on the frequency he'd had set up beforehand, and whatever plan he clearly had is off and running. He orders Haverel to deploy three platoons to the hangar bay, where he already has two platoons of stormtroopers waiting, and Haverel just kind of folds and carries out orders.

    We finally get a different POV, with Parck aboard Creysis's ship. He's been held with the others while Creysis's troops go over the TIE. Now Creysis finally comes out and gloats; he's convinced that the Star Destroyer really is the weak target, filled with exciting new technology, that Thrawn's made him think it is. Now the Ebruchi, his people, will take it; he's sent messengers to all his people to gather for battle. Parck laughs in his face. Thrawn predicted exactly what Creysis would do. At about the same time that Creysis gets called away by reports that the Star Destroyer is suddenly accelerating and generally revealing itself to be a freaking Star Destroyer, the side of the shuttle blows off and out step a dozen stormtroopers out of the hidden compartment. They pretty effortlessly take everybody out, and get everybody back aboard the shuttle to take off.

    Back on the Star Destroyer, as Creysis's thirty fighters move to attack, Thrawn deploys a single squadron of TIEs to take them out. He thinks it'll be almost overkill. Niriz asks if they shouldn't be more worried about the Ebruchi knowing the TIEs' capabilities -- he's finally taking things a bit more seriously. Thrawn says that they only know the capabilities of Lieutenant Klar's fighter, the pilot he specially selected and briefed. Niriz quickly puts together that Thrawn was having critical technology removed for three hours, not added. He's catching on. They take out the fighters, while Thrawn has the command ship tractored even while he's plotting a jump down the first vector of Creysis's primary messenger. They reel the ship in and board it. No casualties in the whole operation. Then they jump to lightspeed.

    Thrawn explains that he's expecting at the other end of the jump to find Creysis's master. He isn't the independent warlord he posed as; no warlord would risk himself as cavalierly as Creysis did, coming aboard a strange ship, nor run so long. He was exposing himself to learn the Imperials' capabilities before he called in the others, hoping to win advancement. Niriz is taking it all in, understanding just what level Thrawn is playing at -- but he still doesn't know how Thrawn knew which of the messenger ships was the primary one to headquarters. Thrawn explains that Creysis would want to send as much information as possible, trying to win favor, and Niriz quickly realizes that he would have send evidence of the target's riches, too. The sculpture. Which had a transponder inside. Thrawn's a little impressed.

    Obviously they blow away the headquarters; it's not even worth depicting. Afterward, Parck comes to Niriz in his cabin. Niriz has attempted to resign as Admonitor's captain, embarrassed at his lack of faith in Thrawn and borderline insubordination, and insistent that for discussing mutiny he should be court-martialed, but Parck tells him that Thrawn has refused it. Thrawn does trust him. Thrawn's always trusted him, confident that a captain with his distinguished record, from his background, would follow orders and do the right thing. Thrawn deliberately tested Niriz anyway, not to prove to himself that Niriz could be trusted -- but to prove it to Niriz. Now Niriz knows he can do the right thing, and he can trust Thrawn. And, Parck explains, he's in on something big here. There's so much out in the Unknown Regions -- worlds to conquer, threats to subdue, species to encounter. They're on a mission to destroy those threats and to bring the Empire to the Unknown Regions. Thrawn has intended this for a long time, and once the "brush-fire revolts" of the Rebellion are subdued, they'll be getting more support. They'll be establishing bases, maybe even colonies. And Niriz is into it.

    A lot of writeups end the piece. Thrawn's bio explains Mist Encounter, then says that he was privately trained, with Parck first as his mentor and then his aide; actually exploring that shift in dynamic would be really interesting. Thrawn even ended up playing the political game, but got "exiled" to a mission where he seems excited, involved, and unusually knowledgeable about just where he's going in the Unknown Regions.

    Parck, we learn, introduced Thrawn, mentored him, and then rode his coattails as Thrawn surpassed him, becoming his loyal assistant and earning fame and power in his wake, which made him many enemies. He took the exile right along with Thrawn, with complete confidence in Thrawn's plans; he seems to be about the only person Thrawn lets in on his plans.

    Niriz, like Parck, is a generational officer. He's largely by-the-book, having learned from the Imperial manuals and acted strictly by them. It got him reassigned from his first Star Destroyer command to a plum staff job on Coruscant analyzing reports and advising high command. He gained some tangential connection to Thrawn and Parck's faction on Coruscant, and was caught up in their exile, when pretty much everybody associated with their careers was dumped aboard Admonitor. Though he resented the exile, he's happy to be back in command of a Star Destroyer, and he's now willing to learn some less conventional tactics from Thrawn.

    Haverel, on the other hand, is being shipped home. A fussy officer who likes to nose in on everything whether it affects his purview or not, he's especially resentful because he's got no real connection to Thrawn; he was just stationed aboard Admonitor when it was reassigned.

    The Ebruchi Pirates also get a writeup. They're a large, aggressive group of bandits patrolling along the edge of the Unknown Regions. There are several packs prowling, preying on traffic and collecting tribute from nearby settled species. They're accustomed to living nomadically aboard ships, with only a few depots groundside where they don't mix with the locals and still prefer to live in grounded ships rather than open space. Most are of the Ebruchi species, though they have also taken in some other renegades from other species. Creysis is the captain of a scouting squadron for one Ebruchi horde, who relies mostly on intimidation to get his way.

    It's a really good story. It's short, but in a quick and efficient way, rather than being rushed. It's a good portrayal of Thrawn at work impressing a subordinate with his Sherlock Holmes routine, and the actively hostile Niriz makes a good Watson with a different dynamic than Pellaeon. There's a bit less explanation of how exactly Thrawn is making his conclusions than Zahn gives us at his best, but at least the focus isn't solely on Thrawn; it's also on Niriz and his whole arc of being converted to Thrawn's mission. It's really neat to get to actually see Thrawn out in the Unknown Regions, doing his threat-destroying thing, with Voss Parck at his side. And frankly I think it's a more effective story of Thrawn doing his thing than Choices of One was. I do wish we'd got to see a bit more of Dagon Niriz and how he fit into the Empire of the Hand (indeed, more of the Empire of the Hand in general); the only time he reappears again is as Thrawn's captain in Side Trip.

    Next up is an adventure at the Farrimmer Cafe.
     
  18. comradepitrovsky

    comradepitrovsky Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 5, 2017
    I love the trope of "fur-clad space barbarians," but I don't think it's a great Star Wars story. Honestly, this seems closer to a episode of Star Trek Voyager then anything Wars related, but I find that the more Zahn I read, the less and less I think he's a good Star Wars writer.
     
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  19. Charlemagne19

    Charlemagne19 Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Jul 30, 2000
    My thoughts:

    1. I was a big fan of Neela during all of this story and I think of THE CAPTURE OF IMPERIAL HAZARD as one of the most Star Wars feeling of the stories in all of the Adventure Journals. It's just such goofy fun with an overthetop Imperial antihero and an equally so Rebel Commander. I don't have any problem with the idea of a lawyer turned military commander either as Lando is a professional gambler and Han Solo is a bandit. The Rebellion makes heroes out of regular people and you don't have much choice in terms of people who have experience commanding and organizing people. I also appreciated the ending where they avert "The Imperial who screws up gets executed for it."

    2. Mak Makintay was a long time NPC in my Star Wars RPG games. Notably, he was also a love interest character for the female player. Alas, this meant his love interest had to die horribly. So sad. But yes, I like the duality of the character that he's a stereotypical Star Wars handsome prince but he's from a medieval backwater brought up to speed by the Empire (who doesn't care one lick about the world). It's an interesting dictonomy.

    3. The TIE article kind of reflects the fact the authors really don't want the Empire's iconic starships to be complete shavit but the simple fact is that I think they should be. There's a lot of armchair military people who point out the benefits of TIEs but I really think they should be what they are: Incredibly cheap mass-produced garbage the Empire put out because he needed the galactic coverage but didn't care about casualties. It's not like military contracts haven't been awful before.
    Look at the Osprey.

    4. I think there's a joke about Mihalik that you missed. You can't really arrest someone in Star Wars for unauthorized police action because the PCs are Rebels and do that sort of thing all the time. Besides, even if the PCs aren't Rebels anymore, Wanted by Cracken is specifically his private hit list for bounty hunters and independent contractors.

    5. The New Rebellion is awesome and I don't know what you're smoking.

    ====

    Is there any reason this isn't credible? I mean, it could refer to Vitiate instead but it's entirely possible.

    I suspect it's because the CMG is a "u" word in the libertarian Bioshock's Rapture-esque world of the Corporate Sector.
     
  20. jSarek

    jSarek VIP star 4 VIP

    Registered:
    Feb 18, 2005
    Fair enough. I'll start with this one:

    It was indeed a particularly groundbreaking game. The brilliant "Flow of the Force" mechanic, where your deck of cards served as your resource pool AND your "life" counter, combined with the Destiny mechanic where your deck also served as a semirandom number generator, was elegant in a way no CCG had ever been before. Even people who weren't Star Wars fans were drawn to the game by its mechanics, and once Decipher lost the license, they even made a new game using most of these mechanics, creating a whole new setting from whole cloth (with input and short stories from Michael Stackpole, no less) for it.

    This was a big draw for Star Wars fans, true. And the lore also dropped a ton of clever references and in-jokes; for instance, the card for Lieutenant Sheckil, an Imperial played by Boba Fett-actor Jeremy Bulloch, notes that he's a native of Concord Dawn and "twin brother of a famous mercenary." My favorite was the lore for Visored Vision, a card with an image of Han and Chewie in welding goggles from The Empire Strikes Back: "It's 15 parsecs to Kessel, we've replaced the negative power coupling, it's dark, and we're wearing welding goggles. Hit it." (It's probably only funny if you've seen The Blues Brothers.)

    As I mentioned above, this is probably my favorite short story in the Adventure Journal. I love the levels Thrawn is playing here. Sure, he's got a pirate group on his hands that need a little Imperial order brought to them, and he's going to do it in his own inimitable way, but at the same time he's got a bigger problem that he's going to solve with the same gambit: a captain experiencing a crisis of faith. The final reveal that Thrawn was pushing Niriz's buttons in order for the captain to prove he's trustworthy wasn't for Thrawn's benefit, but for Niriz himself, is a wonderful stroke.

    I also wish we got more of Niriz.

    While the superficial "starship boldly going through unexplored space" theme might be reminiscent of Voyager, I think the comparison ends there. The Empire isn't the Federation, and nothing about Thrawn and company's approach to the situation, from the first subterfuge to the final offscreen subjugation of Creysis' pirates, is at all reminiscent of Janeway and crew. There's no Prime Directive here.

    Well, thankfully, your wrong opinion hasn't been supported by this or other written works. :p

    Seriously, this article is the bedrock of looking at the TIE as more than just its on-the-face inferior combat stats would suggest, but as part of the bigger logistical picture. A single TIE is going to get creamed by a single X-wing with comparable pilots in combat, but the Empire is going to try to make sure you never encounter a single TIE. Moreover, if your single TIE and your single X-wing *don't* wind up in combat, like happens in the vast majority of sorties, the TIE is going to cost a lot less to operate on that mission, experience less wear and tear, and be turned around between missions faster. That's a *huge* advantage.

    Because it's kriffing Andor Javin. The man is a certified nutbar who wouldn't know proper journalistic practice if it crawled up his leg and bit him in the choobies.
     
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  21. JediBatman

    JediBatman Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 3, 2015
    The comparison is more accurate if you subscribe to the SF Debris "Janeway the mad tyrant" theory. :D
     
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  22. jSarek

    jSarek VIP star 4 VIP

    Registered:
    Feb 18, 2005
    Thrawn is sane and competent. Even if I give you "tyrant," that's still only one more point of similarity. :p
     
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  23. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    The Farrimmer Cafe is the first adventure of issue 11, by fantasy writer and gaming editor Jean Rabe and game writer J. Allan Fawcett. They specify that the adventure episodes can happen over one day or multiple days, and can be lifted from the Farrimmer Cafe into any other establishment the GM has going, which is the kind of flexibility I like.

    This cafe is, we learn, fairly nondescript. It's deep within Mynock 7 Space Station, a stopover point along the galactic trade routes, no destination in and of itself, with a transient clientele and no regulars. It's owned by a Filvian (incorrectly spelled Flivian throughout), H'nib Statermast, who bought it after retiring from the shipping trade, but now is thinking about moving on again. He's got a partner, the Vaathkree Grosteek. Both are passing-mention Zahn species developed in The Last Command Sourcebook. I really like that, reaching out to incorporate a small element that might otherwise be ignored, both giving those creations more life and avoiding making yet another one-off species instead or just recycling a well-known species. The two do pretty well, since they claim the goods of anybody killed on-premises (it's that kind of place, I guess), and all the staff are droids. There are two protocol droid waiters (M-3PO, nicknamed Maitre 'd or Treedee, who loves to chat and is a general busybody, and H-9PO "Silverhand," a very old model formerly owned by a gambler who reprogrammed him to help him out at the casinos and who is now saving his tips for the casino that's about to open across the way), two chef droids, and a reprogrammed assassin droid as a bouncer.

    We start with the players entering the nondescript, time-worn cafe full of repurposed furniture. There's a write-up of the various patrons inside if you should choose to talk with them. There are six human tourists off a liner that's being refitted. Three Mrissi archaeologists are looking for backers for their dig, where funding ran out but they're convinced they're onto something big. There's a Devaronian who complains about the wife he ran out on. Then there are a pair of smugglers, a Quarren and Twi'lek, looking for work.

    There's a bit of a commotion when three Corellians walk through the front door with the unlikely names of Renthor, Kym, and Ulbert. None of them are Force-sensitive, but they studied philosophy from a very old Force-user who was no longer sane. The guy hated machines and rambled around with nonsense versions of the Jedi Code, and these dopes took him at his word and now like to wreck machinery, leading the droids to beat a retreat. The guys come around to your table and ask if you believe in the Force. If not, they leave, disappointed. If you say yes, they ask to see your weapons so they can improve them in the ways of the Force; they just want to destroy them. Obviously you get into a fight, and have the option of having them arrested when you win.

    After that incident, you get an old man walking in with a droid. He's a con artist who gives you a story about how his son was killed and he inherited this droid, but he has no use for it and wants to sell it. If you buy it, though, the droid will just run off and repeat the con. So if you buy him, he'll eventually succeed in sneaking away from you.

    The next hubbub is when the droids in the kitchen use an old, degraded stun gas cartridge to disable the live zdrinbaghs shipped for preparation. Meaning when their container is opened, the kitchen is full of very alert aggressive seafood. They're basically half-meter-tall crabs. They charge out of the kitchen and attack. You have to subdue them.

    Then a Sullustan comes in and says he loves tall tales. If you tell a better story than he does, judged by H'nib, he'll give you a high-end medpac. If he tells a better story, you have to buy him lunch and a case of lum. If you take him up, he tells a story about how a Wookiee friend went to Byss to capture Darth Vader and the Emperor that just kind of peters out rather than ending in a decent punchline.

    Yet more things happen when a tall, striking, becaped individual named Bon Sequors walks in and sits down with you and orders a round. He's actually a streetwise thief with Alliance sympathies who just heisted a bunch of Old Republic artifacts from local crimelord Randar Dowellin. After a while, five enforcers walk in, tracing the chemical trackers on Dowellin's treasure. The drinks Sequors ordered interfere with the chemical, and he tries to play it cool to get the thugs to leave. Obviously a fight eventually breaks out, and you can get involved in the fight, which destroys the assassin droid when it attempts to break the fight up. H'nib is thankful for your help pacifying his establishment.

    Stuff just won't stop happening here, so three humans and a Wookiee come in and start playing sabacc. You can play if you want. The Wookiee tends to win, and is a very sore loser. If you win too many games, he'll accuse you of cheating and it will take some fast talking to get out of this one. Or it could end in a fight. The only really important takeaway here is that "the Wookiee's name translates to Cecil." Yes, there is a Wookiee named Cecil.

    Then a starport security guy walks in. The Devaronian who was there early on is actually an assassin who uses bombs. He's fled the station after pulling off another bombing, and now security wants everybody everywhere he's been to check for more bombs. You can beat it out of there, or you can agree to help H'nib search. Or you can blow the whole thing off and get blown up because there totally is a bomb and that'll show you. He was hired to cause chaos and he's planted a bunch of bombs all over. If you search, you can find some random detritus, a secret compartment in one of the chairs with a tangle gun inside that H'nib didn't know about and lets you keep, a zdrinbagh that didn't get rounded up, a valuable bottle of liquor H'nib might sell you for cheap, and no bombs lying around. To find it, you have to search Treedee, who keeps his tips in a secret compartment in his leg. The bomb is in there, hidden in the bottom of a bag of coins the Devaronian left. You have to disarm it blah blah blah.

    Finally, we get to the last happening. Bnugor the Gamorrean mercenary strolls in with a scanner. He's tracking his beloved escaped pet, Snowball the snuzzleguff. Bnugor offers nothing to help, but snuzzleguffs are tiny, fluffy, adorable, and also poisonous and vicious, meaning you should probably round it up before somebody gets hurt. It also "has a natural immunity to gravity," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. You've got to catch the critter, probably by using food as bait.

    All in all, meh. I like the idea behind having just a collection of incidents that can be deployed, though it would have been nice to have something with some actual story to it. But there really wasn't much of anything to the incidents. They trend silly, weird, and inconsequential, and hardly offer an improvement on whatever random incident any given GM might dream up to enliven a session. There doesn't seem to have been any level of deep thought put into them. What little there is that's kind of interesting, like Bon Sequors or the setting itself, don't really go anywhere. The Adventure Journal could have put this space to better use.

    Up next, we have a Tatooine-set short story from Pablo Hidalgo, starring Mace Windu!
     
  24. Sarge

    Sarge Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 1998
    Not THAT Mace Windu!
     
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  25. Havac

    Havac Former Moderator star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Pablo Hidalgo has done his cartoon for the Adventure Journal, he's written an article, and even done some sourcebook work, but now he's got his first short story in the Adventure Journal, too. Spare Parts is set on Tatooine, but at least it's about Tatooine locals, obviating the issue of galactic events always leading to Tatooine.

    Things start off with Bib Fortuna and Lhojugg arguing in Jabba's Mos Eisley townhouse as Jabba makes a big issue of bounties. After a big party by Jabba's previous guest, CZ-3 has gone missing from the townhouse. After Lhojugg's fear at reporting it, Jabba doesn't seem to take the loss seriously, sending the comically inept Snivvian bounty hunter Takeel to find Mcgrrrr, the ridiculously-named guest, and get the droid back.

    Cut to Mace Windu. Mace Windu has changed jobs to become a droid dealer in Mos Eisley with his Jawa partner Aguilae. Mace drops off a restraining bolt that's caught his fancy and takes a nap, only to be awakened by Aguilae, who's looking for parts and comes across the restraining bolt, much to her shock. She demands to know where he got it: he took it off the droid they just sold. The bolt is labeled property of Jabba the Hutt, which means they're in big trouble. Mace didn't know that, because he can't read.

    Cut to Opun Mcgrrrr, who is somehow a Corellian and not some kind of furry critter, learning from his Lobot-style cyborged Jenet assistant that the droid he stole has gone missing. His people will look for the droid, but there are a lot of people looking for droids right now, including a bunch of Imperial stormtroopers. Oh, so this is set during the movie. Of course.

    Lhojugg, meanwhile, is trying to figure out why Jabba left a business droid with such important data on it lying around the townhouse while Mcgrrrr partied there. Fortuna seems to have figured it out, and prods Lhojugg with the idea that Jabba doesn't actually think the Nimbanel will find the droid, thinking that this will aid his own political position.

    Aguilae, with what I think is the comic relief of her frequently malfunctioning translator, is tracking down information on the guy she sold the droid to, while Mace Windu tags along and gets into trouble by constantly trying to negotiate things and being easily distracted by childish pleasures.

    Lhojugg shows up at Jabba's to explain that there's some kind of conspiracy going on: CZ-3 was transferred to the townhouse and then left out in the open to get stolen by someone using Jabba's own passcodes! Lhojugg is not all that sharp. Jabba, annoyed at this unwanted investigation, feeds Lhojugg to his kayven whistlers.

    Aguilae catches up with the merchant she sold the droid to, and learn that he was upset at the droid's unwillingness to follow him, and sold the seemingly malfunctioning droid to Jek Nkik's Jawas.

    Takeel, slowly blundering his way toward Mcgrrrr's docking bay, happens across the droid instead. He asks it for directions to the docking bay. Takeel is dumb and clumsy, and this is funny.

    Agilae flags down Nkik's clan, scared to deal with them knowing that the rest of the Jawas are hostile to her due to her forsaking their ways. They capture her to sell her rented speeder at the Jawa swap meet and return her to her clan; they want to force her back into Jawa clan traditions. Aboard the sandcrawler, she does a little routine telling Jek she won't bond with him, pulling some cues from the old crappy holodramas Mace likes to watch, and sees Mace take her cue and disappear. He heads off and finds where their speeder is stored.

    The Jenet then finds the droid trying to walk through a wall. It's an old model, and its programming appears to have worn down. He grabs it, puts on a new restraining bolt, and takes it back with him.

    When the sandcrawler stops, Aguilae lures the one Jawa left to guard her by gimmicking her translator, then knocks him out. On the bridge, she spots the Jawas outside being interrogated by stormtroopers. She links up with Mace, who successfully hid from the stormtroopers, and they beat it out of the sandcrawler as the Empire blows it up, the ramp luckily facing away from the Imperial forces. Mace brought an R5 and power droid with him that he repaired a bit, so I guess that means R5-D4 and the gonk droid survived the Jawa massacre. Mace also lets her know that the R5 said that the droid they were looking for wandered away from the Jawas before they'd even left Mos Eisley.

    Unut Poll, owner of the speeder lot the Jenet rented from, notes on his return that there's some rope on the back of the speeder. What there isn't is the droid he tied down. The Jenet then runs off to track this droid, who is ridiculously good at escaping from everyone for being fried. Unut Poll then shouts at his employee Wioslea for paying too much for Luke Skywalker's landspeeder, because the movies are going on right now and we need you to remember that.

    Takeel's found the droid, and apparently recognized it this time, because he's trying to shepherd it home. The Jenet comes across them and pulls a blaster. And Aguilae and Mace, dreading the loss this whole escapade has caused her, come across them too. As the Jenet and the Snivvian square off, the Jenet insists that the droid is Mcgrrrr's property, and points out the marked restraining bolt. At that, Takeel's brother Zutton shoots down the droid, and shoots the blaster out of the Jenet's hand. The droid was so faulty because it was running a recording and transmission rig that collected all the evidence of Mcgrrrr's wrongdoing, and now Jabba's got enough evidence. He tells the Jenet that Mcgrrrr's ship is impounded and Mcgrrrr needs to come in to face Jabba's justice. And since Takeel actually found the droid, Jabba's lost that bet to Ephant Mon.

    Aguilae is relieved to realize Jabba won't care about Mace's theft of the droid. So now she salvages the droid and moves on.

    There are writeups of everybody at the end. Aguilae, born Khea Nkul, abandoned the constraints of Jawa tradition to head to the big city and independence. She's lousy and lazy when it comes to maintenance, though, so she hired Mace Windu to repair her droids. This is where I have to regretfully admit that Mace Windu is not that Mace Windu, as much fun as it has been to imagine this story featuring a senile, surviving Mace Windu. It's Macemillian-winduarte, the Squib. Name stolen from the same early-draft character the famous Mace Windu's name was stolen from. This Mace is a ditzy ex-bartender who was accidentally abandoned by the Squib fleet on Tatooine, and who now works for Aguilae and loves to haggle.

    Lhojugg is the head of Jabba's bunch of Nimbanel clerks. He claims to be a direct descendant of the original Nimbanel to offer service to the Hutts. He's a petty, fairly oblivious bureaucrat who feuds with Bib Fortuna over what he perceives to be Fortuna's outsized influence in relation to his actual responsibilities.

    Mcgrrrr is illustrated to resemble Declan Mulholland as cut-human-Jabba, which with Heater I guess means that Jabba's body double actually looks like the double of the guy who owns the Holiday Towers and is a minor pirate whose success is mostly based on the fact that he inherited it all from his mother, who actually founded the pirate gang, and he has good employees. Namely, Tols Vengra, the cyborged Jenet, whose name only comes up here for some reason. He cyborged himself with the hopes of becoming a Jenet government official, but the process altered his personality and he stopped caring about them, instead trying to become an Imperial official, which obviously didn't work out. He ended up bouncing around the underworld, and now pretty much runs the operation for his imbecile boss, whom he keeps around as a figurehead rather than put himself in harm's way, even as he embezzles a nice sum to retire on.

    Takeel and Zutton were born twins, which the Snivvians took as a terrible omen of continued conflict. Takeel was turned into a dunce through personality reprogramming as an infant, which is fairly horrifying, to prevent the twins growing up into tyrants. He wound up on Tatooine, where he's now a spice-addicted doofus and would-be bounty hunter in imitation of his beloved brother. He was very confused to hear Obi-Wan and Luke talking about droids while he was hanging out in the cantina, until he realized they weren't talking about CZ-3. Zutton is an accomplished artist who became fascinated by bounty hunters, and became one to better paint them. He's careful and respected as a bounty hunter, but wound up on Tatooine minding his brother, whom he feels little affection for, but whose handicaps he does feel responsible for.

    On the one hand, I like the fact that this plays with the established mini-setting of Mos Eisley; most of these characters are taken from Galaxy Guide 7, and references abound to the established denizens of Mos Eisley. Tatooine's galactic significance may be overplayed, but Mos Eisley has always been a fruitful setting for underworld stories, and keeping the stories set in the localized milieu of Jabba and the Mos Eisley gang largely eliminates that issue. Except, as here, when you choose to set the story around the events of A New Hope and keep winking and nodding at them pointlessly. This doesn't really add anything to the story or to ANH except to further overstuff that day. Further, the story isn't much of anything remarkable. It's not much more than a little trifle, and while it's shooting for light, funny adventure, I find the overreliance on comic stupidity by everyone in the cast less amusing than Hidalgo seems to. Much like Fragments from the Mind's Eye, I find Hidalgo much, much less funny than he seems to find himself.

    It's two short stories in a row when we return with Angela Phillips's ancient-Jedi tale.