The Ralter Quaternity


 Madam Sosostris Foretells of the Force-Awakened Fisher King


In early December 2015, Dak and Ezra were in New York for WinterCon along with other Star Wars guests, the other three Fetts and the voice of Salacious Crumb, Mark Dodson.  On the Friday before the con, Topps had the pair visit their Lower Manhattan headquarters for a box break and podcast  At the very end of the taping, when asked to comment on The Force Awakens by Topps Talk host Alex Birsh, they both demurred and spoke only in clipped platitudes.

Dak had continued to do the right thing for well over a month.  Adrift off Scellecc, he played the Phoenician sailor and wrote with alphabets other than Aurebesh.  To those who asked about the film, he reduced his comments to mutterings about the Bōjutsu talents of Rey’s doppelgänger Chloe Bruce and being home with Chewie.

He revealed nothing—until that post-con dinner party in Park Slope, around the corner from Artie Bucco’s Food Co-op on Union.  All through the breaking of bread, his inquisitive hostess had studied him between the flickering candles on the refectory table that separated them.  Through his craggy visage, she had read his anxious and unspoken ruminations.  Finally with a mind trick, she occasioned a spoiler of sorts.  “Speak to me of the Fisher King.”

Madam Sosostris is a Brooklyn Brazilian, a Jungian analyst, given to Candomblé.  After several glasses of jabuticaba, which we and the others had freely consumed, she followed the greater plan.  Knowingly she responded by walking him across the narrow catwalk over the fiery chasm beyond good and evil.

“Let me take you down,” she breathed, “‘cause you’re going to where nothing is real.”  Peering into the future and its awakening force, she intoned, “There’s nothing to get hung about.”

Madam Sosostris, a most adept Jungian, free associates across scores of worlds with a knowledge that’s remarkably catholic.  Where most of us see the random scatter of breadcrumbs, she sees patterns on the table and gives expression to their meaning.

After clearing the crumbs and remains of strawberry tops and place setting before her, she does her own box break.  She has a wicked pack of cards.  It’s true.  All of it.  Giving voice to the cards, she tells of a solitary island monastic.  The Fisher King is wounded.  In his possession is the ace of cups.  Perceval climbs to him to present her healing sword.  It’s a portent.  Another new hope, perhaps?

Madam Sosostris pushes from the table and asks rhetorically whether all the hype is just about a $4 billion franchise.  A tale that’s new wine in old wineskins, told by an anointed producer and her clever director, knowing and experienced screenwriters or a storied Story Group.  Have you noticed how all the world-weary chit-chat has been only on the technicalities, the narrative, story arcs, diverse casting, the marketing, what will make money, what have you?  Reaching forward and turning another card, she relates how this all merely feeds the beast.  We could be talking about football—yes, American football.  Elections.  Who’s winning the debates.  Ah, but all these supposed savants are merely conduits for a deeper mythos.  On the one hand, they—you—all are cyphers.  On the other, you have all become gods who strut and fret for us your hour upon the screen.  But a greater power, she allows like Pope Joan, finger pointing upward, plays you all…so we may all apperceive.  Then, catching a deep breath, she looks into the dancing flame of the near candle and exhales with Nietzschean finality, “The time for petty politics is past: this very century will bring with it the struggle for mastery over the whole Galaxy.” 



 Madam Sosostris Channels Kylo Ren and La Forza del Destino


 After a time of brooding into the sinister candle, that is to say the one on her left, she returns to the here and now.  Awakened again by the Force, Madam Sosostris considers the table before her.  The chain of her amulet growls against its edge, as she reaches to turn a far card, The High Priestess.  She studies it in the context of the other previously upturned cards.  Taking us to the heart of Starkiller Base, she tells of The Oedipal Marine, a bookkeeper’s son who crossed his old man back in Oregon (as similarly recounted by the Finse SAR team that assisted Dash Rendar in Dak’s retrieval on Hoth:

Behind his steely mask, inside the mechanized hum of another world where no sun is shining, this dan of questionable rank blindly images Slave Leia.  A man of his mind can do anything.  Removing his mask, he confronts his father on the catwalk over the chasm of fire.  And the father, himself a cocky son of Erin, dares him insouciantly to release him from this franchise—be careful what you wish for.  And lo, this conflicted Longinus doth pierce him with a lance to his side.  With a look of utter pity and surprise, the smuggler Jack Ryan flies solo as he descends into the inferno.  And in an instant this Nietzschean creature, this mannish boy of muddied waters now knows who he really is.  Knows his destiny and how his action on that bridge of truth and fiction will rebound upon him.  No matter, no mind.

Holy Mother of Rey!  Name this child!  Son of the Right Hand.  Son of the South, your moment is a prelude to a philosophy of the future.  Oh, ye gods, Madam Sosostris now chants, embrace the glory of the royal road to the unconscious!

At this point, unmindful of our spellbound weary, she enters the spirit of the bear of Bern as he descends backwards on a ladder from Ochwiay Biano’s Pueblo roof.  She speaks in Churchillian riddles, each wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  She looks again into the near future, channeling the author and finisher of our work as he semiotically tells of the Hutts and white slavery in the name of the Rose.  And how the elders of the tribes came to the emperor of mice in Sarayburnu who thereupon decreed an alchemical council in Nicaea to assay canon and legend.  This cupellation will continue into Episode VIII and beyond.  Si lunga tratta di gente, those spirits on London Bridge in life know neither good nor evil, she tells us.  Yet upstream kinked together on another bridge, destined for Paradise, Terry and Julie gaze on a Waterloo sunset.

Fail not to seek Paradise, Madam Sosostris concludes in character, point final.  She knows she has wearied us all with this postprandial gibberish that has collectively bound us to her hyper-reality.  Do the exegesis, she commands.  Follow my thread from the heart of the Minotaur’s maze, then follow the bantha tracks into the twin sunsets of your Tatooine.

Wilder, her partner offers to us in an offhanded pedagogical tone, he too found his destiny on the Bridge of San Luis Rey.  Blank stares around the table.  Rather like Eliot after the Great War, he hastens to elucidate.  I mean, that is his Samuele met with the Cabala in the City of Seven Hills, and after that he was compelled to seek Hanan Pacha on the finest bridge in Peru.

Upon that unnecessary and matter-of-fact footnote, Dak politely steps forth to take his leave.  And later passing the Park Slope Food Co-op on his eleventh-hour walk to the car, he returns to his own quest that at times seems increasingly like yet another Artie Bucco errand.



 The Force Awakens Another Who Interprets The Han Child


In this Galaxy, we people of the dream are drawn to one another.  A fan stands before Dak’s autograph table at the December 2015 WinterCon.  He’s an Upstate Iroquoian who wants him to sign his Black Series Boba Fett totem.  He’s come to the Big A, where punters gamble not just on horses.  On wheels and machines they now do risk their credits.  On the WinterCon level, however, the trade is in oral histories, sacred objects and other repurposed items scoured from the Western Reaches to the Moriches in the East.  Beside him is a young yakonkwe with a long braid in her hair, his daughter.  I ask who is her favorite Star Wars character.  Pulling herself upright, her eyes flashing, her face is a map of the world.  Rey, she replies.

Hanging from her neck, I note, is a large fragment of a tooth fossil.  Her father says it’s Pleistocene.  He’s a collector; she, a Padawan scavenger—both in pursuit of fossil legends.  They are from a clan of followers who trek after uki prints in the sand.  He points to the Mandalorian Krybes on my ring.  We are of the same clan, he says; we hear the buffalo thunder.  When you entered the Mandalorian form on Bespin, he continues, you became my brother.  And as brothers, not of blood but of the spirit, we can enter each other.

Last week on his latest quest, he found me in Tierfon.  He just appeared.  He was passing on his way south to the waters off the Matoaka Cliffs.  Carrying his wetsuit and snorkel on his back, he was in search of a megalodon tooth he said was the size of his hand.  He spoke of what he knew and of what he knew not—which had until now unsettled him.

Sometime after we met in South Ozone Park, the Mother of Rey had appeared to him in a dream.  With the voice of Ondinnonk, this stone-faced apparition is not of the New World.  She is an exotic dancer of the Middle Kingdom.  And speaking in a Scottish accent, she tells of her Han Child possessed with jade-like power and nobility who once took the form of blind dancer, a rebel of the House of Flying Daggers.  Yet this daughter of canon, the Holy Mother tells him, had in his world taken the form of a fleet-footed warrior who famously battled a short-faced bear, the monster of his people.  They call this creature of fossil legend nya-gwahe.  And after the daughter of canon killed nya-gwahe, she entered into the spirit of a falcon and flew to present one of his tusks to her father who was in exile on the island of the turtle.

In his dreams, he says, he too has battled Nephilim in the realm of the known.  And now, the Holy Mother of Rey calls him to enter the spirit of a thunderbird to fly below the blue cloud that is the shadow of the shark.  She calls him to leave the epic conflicts that are in the comfort zone of his people and delve dangerously in the realm of the unknown.  And so he will dive into the waters off Matoaka to do battle with Dagon, so as to kill him and surface with the prized tooth.  Such tusks, he tells me, are magic medicine.  They make the warrior invincible.  The Han Child’s arrival at Scellecc is a sign, he says, he must pass along to others.  And as swiftly as he appeared, he leaves, saying that’s why I’m giving it to you.

Until then, I had followed the tracks, as Madam Sosostris counseled, only to find they are not those of the Tatooine bantha.  They are the footsteps to the future in Jakku sand.  They go alongside the unbroken trail of a small magnetic-driven all-terrain vehicle.  They are the Han Child’s prophesied first steps.  They lead to the scrap trading settlement at Niima and ultimately Takodana where these visions of Johanna now conquer my mind.

Yesterday morning, I stop by Tierfon Base to walk around the hanger that in my day housed the Y-Wings on which we Yellow Aces trained.  I am a phantom familiar from another century.  A young trainee offers her view that Plutt’s mechanic is a chic geek.  Looking over her shoulder while she and her astromech work on their X-Wing, she teases me.  If she’s got the power to be, power to give, power to see, she says with a wink, she’ll not be stressing your now compressed hyperdrive flow, Dak.  Suddenly I see.  We have entered the era of Helens on their heroine’s journeys that promise to rebalance the Force.  Madam Sosostris would approve.

Yeah, so last night, the Holy Mother of Rey enters me, dancing to the music of time.  With her left hand, her darkling yin leads my sundance yang.  Quiet, girl, the junk boss shouts into my ear, anxious to quell my rising anima within.  To my right is my fellow clansman who waves the menacing Crolute away.  He reassures me: we are in another country where on the plains of Lothal the sinews of the Amazon network have supplanted those of the iron horse.  The sky powers, Thunder and Lightening, he says, have imprinted themselves anew on his daughter’s uki rocks.  It’s a world where urchins and orphans, young Ezras and Reys, do use the Force before knowing what it is.  The sky is darkening above Taos, he tells me.  Can you hear the buffalo thunder in the distance?




 Maz Kanata and the Land of Phoenician Dust


The true depiction of fantastic reality is often mistaken, yes, for the bogus renderings of the Yaqui way of knowledge.  The poet among the lunatics is the traveler who sees what she sees, not the tourist who sees only what she has come to see.

Last night brought with it another visitation.  This time, she appeared as a Steampunk E.T., a faded Takodana rose from millennia gone by.  A Luo traveler, once enslaved north of the bayou country, she comes from a distant tribe of fishermen.  She gives voice to our shared unconscious.  For countless generations, she has followed the bantha tracks.  She has entranced the shaggy lizard of the Iroquois.  She has romanced the Wookiee.  She has communed eye-to-eye with big cats.  And she has seen the same eyes in different creatures.  Needing adventure, she has sailed the seven seas.  In search of treasure, she has lived on grander dreams.  That is until the end of her pirate days when the first woman of all gifts opened her reliquary box, and evil took on many forms, and lightsaber visions rained down on Perceval when she prematurely reached for the sheathed Excalibur.  And yet—this bespectacled Force sentient assures me—remains Elpis.

Grandly, this diminutive pirate captain then passes me a sabre-tooth and bids me take it.  She says such prizes inform our imaginings and play, even our futures.  Sailor, she now whispers.  Come home.  We abide within a magic circle, where we children play our games of chance until we are become warriors who can cross the rainbow bridge of imagination.  In her airship, she says, she will take me to the mansion in the sky that I may comprehend all in its magnificent totality.  In an instant, we are on the quarterdeck.  And as we ascend, I look down and see I have left behind my shadow selves at the artist’s ghost ranch in the sands below.  She eyes me reassuringly.  They’re never coming back, she voices.

I am Marian, the New Eve, and I tell you: this epic story we are all in informs now all peoples.  We owe it to ourselves and to them to understand fully what it means.  Only a fool ignores this truth.  We are stardust.  We are golden.  And we may not know who we are, but life is for learning.  Yes, learning, as long as the line of our clan continues, primally proceeding through the waist-high waters of the marsh until the end when we traverse in majesty alone as the tallest of creatures on this Earth.

And thus she spoke as we did fly over antres vast and deserts idle, spying creatures of the air beside and creatures of the land and sea below—all on the move, all making their tracks in all their glory—as all the while her kinsman did sing of our dream of `afar, the land of Phoenician dust.

Dak’s First on TFA: Madam Sosostris Foretells of the Force-Awakened Fisher King

Dak’s Second on TFA:  Madam Sosostris Channels Kylo Ren and La Forza del Destino

Dak’s Third on TFA: The Force Awakens Another Who Interprets The Han Child

Escape from Kalist

“If you don’t like where you are,” he shouted under his visor as he paused to study the mine face we were working on, “what are you going to do about it?”

From the moment he got assigned to my sector, Breg was into challenging me.

“Never said I don’t like where I am!” I shouted back.  I loved my work.  I was glad I was down here.  He was making me impatient again.  So I just torqued my drill hard with another shot to the face.

“You don’t have to!” he yelled through the noise.

I ignored him.  I was suspicious.  Until you get to know somebody on the face, you keep your mouth shut.  Anyone new down here could be a snitch for the Imps.  So I only talked when I was training him how to use a laser drill.  Breg picked it up too fast.  Like he knew his way around things.

My previous partner was too slow.  Part of the face came down on the poke and mangled his leg.  So he became a buro.  Another bureaucrat punching keys in front of a holo.

So along comes this Breg.  He’s a lot older than me, but I’m the head guy of our two-man team.  It felt good.  I’d been working the mine face for two standard years.  Mining is what Kalist is all about.  And I’m working the business end of it—with a laser drill.  Blasting away the Lommite ore that’s the main component for transparisteel.

Kalist is a small planet in the Outer Rim Territories.  It’s a planet of labor colonies, and Kalist VI is a mining colony.  Kalist is one of the corporate planets for Para-Imperial Industries, the new name for the folks that bring you transparisteel. The Empire took over the planet when it decreed transparisteel a strategic material.  After Order 66.

Kalist is its solar system’s closest planet to its sun.  It doesn’t rotate.  It has no atmosphere to speak of either.  On the sun side, you got desert, where almost everything burns up.  On the dark side, it’s deep cold, and the sky is black, except for a thin, yellow-orange-red glow all along the sun-side horizon.  That’s something to see.  The mines and a few of the industrial plants that manufacture transparisteel are encased in domes dotting the planet.  See, once PII found all this ore underneath the surface, it decided it could colonize it in a big way by building these huge transparisteel domes all along the strains.  And most—not all—are just inside the dark side.  So you got these domes lit up all along the cusp, that is, the region just inside that spectacular nightline.

Mineworkers and buros live and work in these artificial environments where we do the business of mining.  Once the Empire took over these domes, it turned Kalist into a forced-labor colony, minimum security.  A place where the Imps send their not-so-bad guys, like my parents—Aion and Carnn Ralter.

Fa’s family was all Republic Navy from Alderaan, but they had lived for generations in Coruscant.  Ma’s family were Alderaanian academics.  Fa rose fast in the Navy and became one of the youngest commodores of his generation.  But he got so angered by Palpatine’s Military Creation Act he resigned and took my mother back to Alderaan.  Probably saved his life later when Palpatine did his first purge of the Imperial Navy.  So Fa became an Alderaanian diplomat who went all over the Galaxy on cultural missions.

Ma was a circuit engineer.  She designed the new circuitry for the Metropole, and then she taught at the University of Alderaan.  This one time when Fa got sent on some extended cultural mission, she got to join him.  So off they go on this trip, cruising through the Galaxy on some Lady-class luxury liner.

Next thing they know, this liner gets pulled over by an Imperial tractor beam.  Stormtroopers board with Imperial Intelligence officers.  When they come across Fa, they introduce him to one of their interrogation droids.  Well, as the story goes, he’s got to answer—if that’s the word—a whole lot of questions.  The Empire must have figured my father, being a diplomat and former Imperial Navy man, was the kind who knew things.  Secrets.  But the droid probes a little and decides he didn’t.  Then they get to Ma.  Now she has some things they want.  So on some pretext they send them to Kalist where she gets forced into being an operations manager at the Kalist VI site.  Anyway, here they are on Kalist, leading their cushy lives as two prisoner buros.  Then I come along.

They say I had a brother, but I think he died in delivery.  The colony doesn’t really put its medical resources into babies.  If the Imps care about anybody, it’s healthy workers, not because they like them, but because they want us to produce.  It’s all about production.  If a worker gets seriously injured, he or she disappears, and someone new takes their place.  You never see them again.  You figure the worst.  Modified Lambda-class shuttles, Sentinels, would always come in shuttling new bodies off those huge passing Imperial prison barges to do the work.  They always go out empty.  Nobody leaves Kalist—alive or dead.  The only ships that go out full are the Imp hopper barges loaded with ore going out of the near mega-spaceport at Kalist 1.  Life in the domes.  All I know.

“You call this a life?” Breg asks me.

I guess I got to feeling comfortable talking about things.  Only stuff about me I know the Imps already know.

Anyway, after all the things my parents used to say about Alderaan when I was real young and what they stood for, I looked up to them as heroes.  But I’d reached the point where I saw them as just another couple of buros who didn’t seem to be doing anything about it.  That made me real moody—no, angry.  Our family issues got real bad about the time Tarkin blew up Alderaan.

“How do you feel about that?” Breg asks.

“Feel?  I dunno.  Nothing.  It’s not real to me.”  Ok, I said the words, but I’m just playing the tough guy.

“‘Real’ to me is this,” I tell him, slapping the face in front of me.

Truth is, my folks changed after the destruction of Alderaan.  What was left of their passion kind of went.  I just wanted get away from them and all that druk.  Do the most manly and dangerous thing going, with nobody always on my back.  I wanted to work the mines, where it was just me, my drill and the mine face.  And hey, if I die young, who cares.

“You’re a natural-born rebel, Dak.”

“Too kriffing right.  I’m not about to spend the rest of my life sitting in front of a holo talking about the good old days of the Republic while basically being an Empire stooge.”

So I’m finally telling Breg all this on a lunch break, just the two of us.  As usual, the rest of the shift is doing the easy work way up the cavern.  After he swallows his last handful of ruica, he looks over and says, “Hey, hot shot.  We’re all stooges for the Empire.  You’re just hiding down here.  Just like any buro in front of a holo.”

I finally had enough of his taunts.  I grab my laser drill and swing around, a little too recklessly maybe, and into the face opposite, just past his shoulder, I pump a series of blasts sending molten sparks and ore in a hundred directions.

“Maybe a hot shot,” he says, unfazed, slowly turning to see the effect, “but no marksman.  Just an untrained peedunky who knows nothing.”  I go from anger to feeling ridiculous.

Breg got his kicks setting me up.  He never told me much about himself.  Just that he’d screwed up as recon guy who flew for the Imperial Surveying Corps.  Over time, Breg did succeed in making me curious of life in the great beyond.  I’m sure he saw rising in me a frustrated longing, as he played the swashbuckler, dazzling me with his talk of adventure as an ISC pilot.  He’d been all over the Galaxy.  “I know it like the butt of my drill,” he’d say.  Later he asks me what I’m going to do with my life.  “Zap rocks in underground caves?”

“It’s better than becoming like my parents.”

“They’re not your enemy here.  Grow up, Dak.  Before it’s too late.”

“Too late for what?”

“You’re all talk,” he says.  “If you don’t like the Empire, what are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing.  I’m free.  I’m down here and nobody—‘cept you—bothers me.”

“What about ideals?”  I just give him a look of cynical disgust and return to picking through my sack of ruica seeds.

“You mean the things my parents use to control me?”

“Ideals are more than that, peedunk.”  Shaking his head, he gets up and grabs his laser drill.  “A lot of species throughout the Galaxy are prepared to die for their ideals.  Talk is cheap.  If you really believe all the things you spout, get into the battle.

“And do what?”

“Escape from Kalist.”

“Never happen.”

“On your own, sure,” he continues.  “But you’d stand a better chance of success by working as a team.”

“With who, you?”

“Dak, you bring inside knowledge of the colony.”

I laugh.  Sure, I’ll play the game.

“To do what?”

“Hijack a Sentinel from the spaceport, while she’s on layover.”

“Sentinels require two-man crews.”

“You fly the thing out.  I play your droid and program the astrogation.”

“I’m not a kriffing pilot.”

“I’ll drill it all into you.  Right here,” he says, rotating a finger into my forehead.  “Takeoff basics, instrumentation, controls.”

“And go where?”

“Let me worry about that.  Your only concern is to figure out how to get us to the spaceport.”

For the next series of shifts, I have fun impressing him with what I’ve observed from a lifetime of growing up on Kalist.  I throw him a plan; he picks it apart.  I come up with others; he shoots them down.  I toss out a lame idea to steal armor from the stormtrooper barracks and create a disturbance so we can use the confusion to board the shuttle.  And he says, “That’s just dumb enough to work.”

He’s impressed.  “How do we get there?  How we get through the high-voltage inner fence?”

“We vault it with the sectional poles we use to replace plasma lamps up there.”

He looks up, stroking his chin as he studies a blown lamp.

“I like it,” he finally responds.  “What about the security systems and layout of the spaceport?”

We’re staring into each other, face to face.  The game just got real.

“That’s where your mother comes in.”

Heretofore, my parents had been the unaddressed issue in the game.

I arrange a meeting at their mod.  Aside from wanting to express remorse for my errant ways, my first inclination was to get them to escape with us.  I introduce the idea, telling Fa we need him to pilot.

“I was a big-ship driver,” he replies quietly, “not a spacer.”

“You flew Delta-7s, Aion,” my mother reminds him.  “When you were first commissioned.”

“Involving us jeopardizes their plan, Caarn,” he insists, waving her off.  “Always go with the simplest plan, Dak.  Less to go wrong once you engage the enemy.”

I can see, after all this time since we last spoke, my father’s not well.  “He’s not up to it,” my mother later confides.  “The long-term effects of that droid interrogation are finally catching up on him.  He’s right.  He wouldn’t make it.  It’s your time now, Dak.  We’ll survive.”

“But if I leave you behind, you could be tortured.”

“We mustn’t think about that.”

Another wave of remorse washes over me.

“You had to do what you had to do to become yourself.  It wasn’t our plan for you, certainly, but there it is.  And as for now, this is a time when one has to make tough decisions and take unselfish actions for the greater good.”

Involuntarily she nods.  She too has aged.

“Now.  About your plan.  Two things.  First, the fences.  If you short the inner fence, you will set off alarms and get trapped in the no man’s land.  That would be the end of you.  But the outside fence you can short.”

Grabbing her datapad from the items on the table beside her, she calls up a map of Kalist VI.  Enlarging the area around the spaceport and admin complex, she points to the screen.

“The power source is on the other side of the compound, here.  And here at Lamp Housing 135—count the lamps to it—is the place along the inner fence that’s the farthest from any of the motion sensors, assuming they are working properly.  You vault here and make your way across the no man’s land to a second point here, where you can indeed short the outer power fence.  This is the point where you want to be to get to the stormtrooper barracks complex and the spaceport beyond, here and here.”

“What about security in the barracks.”

“The new security system inside is not all that integrated.  I should know.  I helped redesign it.”  All along, on the table has been a security pin that she now slides toward me.  “That is the PII master pin for the whole Imp compound outside the fences.  I redesigned that system too.  The Imps don’t know I made a dupe.  So, that pin will get you into the barracks and into the double-locks for the armory where they keep the spare stormtrooper armor, buckets and the stocks of blasters, gas cartridges, power cells, whatever else goes with an E-11.”

And so she finishes giving me a download of everything else she knows.  Not much more can be said.  I have a job to do.  It’s time to go do it.

As we part on the threshold, my mother slowly eases a ring—one very familiar to me since childhood—from a finger.

“Believe in what you already have from us, and put your trust in what you were born with.  What more you need to know is miniaturized in this ring that I programmed and have worn for your father.”

Between her finger and thumb she holds it up.  A thick gold band with a large blue stone sparkles in its mounting.   She shows it to my father.  “Shall we say, Aion, it’s our Alderaanian crown jewel?”  He returns a blank smile.

Turning to me, she continues.  “What’s in this ring is of vital use to the Rebellion.  Your father was perhaps the only one left with the knowledge now therein.  But to protect him, I removed it from his memory before our last mission and put it all in this ring.  And now you must take this opportunity to get it—without fail—to one Engineer Quarrie, the Mon Calamari.  Wherever he may be.  Tell him, it will enable Alderaanians to get another chance.  Remember that: another chance.  Do you understand?”

“I’ll see he gets it, Ma.  Whatever it takes.”

My mother takes my hand and places the ring into my palm.  Then carefully folding my fingers over it, she looks me straight in the eye.  “Now you’ll be able to take on the whole Empire all by yourself.”

“I’ll be back for you.”

“May it be so that we are still here when you return.”

When Breg and I are next alone at the mine face, I relate what I have learned.

He is unusually quiet after he takes it all in.  Curiously, his only query is one: “Another chance, she said?”

“Yes.  Another chance.”


Those two seemingly inconsequential words somehow disturbed him.  He paces back and forth.  Laser drill clutched tightly in both hands, he stops right before me.  “We have to do this, Dak.  It matters.”

From that point on, we steal moments to practice our vaults, working up to a height just above our reach, what we need to clear the fence.

All along, we exchange refinements to our movements that will get us to the spaceport and onto the shuttle.  But we never get fully rehearsed.  In the chow line along the geedunk counter we overhear a conversation.  An overseer tells his buddy a prison barge is ahead of schedule.  A Sentinel is bringing down a full load of prisoners sometime after our third shift.  The overseer confides that on board is a stash of contraband spice.  Tool.

Our three shifts come and go.  At our barracks mod, our shift-mates are in their bunks.  Me, I’m standing in the middle of my cabin, still kitted out in my work gear, my utility belt in my hand.  Except for the distant hum of the power generators, all is quiet.  I strap on my belt.  It’s time to rendezvous with Breg at the corner of the mod where we hid our poles underneath.

He’s there early, waiting.  Exchanging high-signs, we retrieve the poles and make our way through the sensors.   This part is not so much an issue for me.  The sensors around our barracks mod and between the inner fence I know are no better than useless.  The miners and Imp buros have worked out a deal to disable them for ball games in the open spaces.  The buros often forget to turn them back on, it’s said, so they can sneak out to the geedunk for off-shift drinking binges.  Hey, if they trip and anybody asks, that’s what we’re doing, and ok, we have to face the consequences.  Anyway, eventually most—if not all—of the system has stayed down, a victim of habitual buro abuse.  Despite the reports and requisitions, barracks sensor system repair is another one of those priority jobs that maintenance never gets done.  Proving that not everything at the deckplate level of the Empire works in perfect accord with Palpatine’s plan.

From our vantage, we dash across the open space.  Once at the inner fence, we furiously dig a troth into the rocky sand.  We step way back, poised with our poles, and then sprint to the fence, slam the poles into their troths and vault.  Over we go in two smooth arcs, and after casting backward our poles at the apex of the vaults, we both land in the sand and rock of no man’s land.  No turning back now.

We scramble to the outer fence, where we pull our knives from our belts.  In a controlled frenzy, we begin cutting the cabling.

We crawl the fence, cut the razor wire at the very top and we’re over.  I drop my belt and follow Breg in a sprint to the stormtrooper barracks complex, our utility knives, our only weapons.

At the main hatch, I produce Ma’s master pin and try it on the locking system.  The hatch opens.  We step through the threshold, take the first right and run down the passageway toward the armory.  Still no stormtroopers to be seen.  It seems too easy.

Once at the armory hatch, again the master pin works the double locks and we’re in.  In short time, we’re able to find armor and buckets that fit.  We undress and get into the gear, with buckets on.  Time to raid the blaster cabinet.  The pin opens the hatch to lines of E-11 blasters on both sides.  We grab the first pair within reach, along with their power cells and plasma gas cartridges.  Breg goes over the mechanisms.

“Power cell housing, here on the left, above the trigger.  Clips go here.  Plasma gas cartridges go like this,” he adds, grabbing one and demonstrating.  “Now you.”

With buckets on, our voices are now mechanized.  I feel we’ve become different beings, almost void of humanity.

“Hey!  Pay attention!  The trigger is just like your laser drill’s.”

I load up and we’re off making the run to the spaceport, darting across another open space, this time disguised as stormtroopers and armed with blasters.  Spaceport security is tight.  Armed stormtroopers—indeed like ourselves—are everywhere.

Our plan calls for Breg to engineer a power outage to enable the Sentinel to clear the magnetic atmospheric containment bubble manually without any passcodes.  Ma’s screen map placed a remote switch panel for reprogramming circuitry to a point left of where we just entered.  We circle the periphery of the landing pad.  Once at the panel box, I open it with the master pin.  Breg then masterfully programs the outage triggering a false reactor alarm.

Alarms go off everywhere.  Stormtroopers rush every which way.  We do the same, working ourselves into position to cross to the shuttle.  Ramp down, wings up, she’s just off the flight line, adjacent to the portside maintenance bay.  Stormtroopers are clustered to our left, circled in animated urgency around a chart table.  Studying a surface screen, they point to what appears to be a floor plan.  One of them looks up, watching us approach the shuttle.

“Hey, come here,” he demands.  I freeze, not knowing how to respond.

“We’ve been ordered to go aboard and secure the shuttle,” yells Breg from behind me.  Now all the stormtroopers are looking.  “Carry on,” Breg barks at them, almost effecting a mind-trick.  The stormtroopers return to studying their screen.

When we reach the Sentinel, we make like we’re casually inspecting the mooring mechanisms around the landing gear.  All the while, we’re figuring out how to manually release the three sets of restraints between glances to observe nearby stormtrooper activity.  Breg starts flipping ratchets free.  I make hand gestures to appear we’re just testing they’re locked and secure.

Breg then walks informally from the port landing gear—our last—to the foot of the hatch ramp and quickly ascends into the shuttle.  Affecting his gait, I follow.

At the top of the ramp, I see Breg making his way forward to the cockpit along the starboard-side companionway around the ramp well.  I take a quick check out to the pad.  Stormtroopers still seem preoccupied elsewhere.

Aft I go to sweep the personnel cabin and cargo spaces.  At the hatch of the very last cargo space, I release the locking mechanism and nose my blaster into the space.  I’m hit with a shattering squeal from an R2 pressed against a bulkhead.  His probe out, he’s got one of his maintenance tools inserted into an open cabling junction box.

“Shut up!” I yell, pointing my blaster at the droid.  “Get away from that box!”  The R2 quickly withdraws.  The box cover pops onto the deck, and several dozen packets of contraband spice cascade over the R2.  The roaring whine of the ship systems kick in.  Breg’s fired up the shuttle.

At that very instant, forward from the ramp well comes this “Hey!” in that unmistakably dehumanized stormtrooper-bucket voice.  “What are you doing?”  Code!”  Breg’s being challenged.  “Give me the security code, now!”

With no thought of whether I’m about to face one, two or a host of Imps, I rush forward to take them out.  Blaster muzzle leading the way, I storm through the hatch into the forward passageway.  At the top of the ramp, a single stormtrooper is pointing his blaster at Breg who’s up beyond him at the cockpit controls.  Hearing me, the Imp begins to make a turn.  Breg lunges for his blaster resting against the co-pilot seat.  Seeing his move, the Imp arrests his turn and unleashes a pulse that sends Breg sprawling across the edge of the seat.  Without looking, he whips his blaster over his shoulder to shoot me, but before he gets off another pulse, I take him out with a kill-shot to his side, sending him falling backwards down the ramp to the landing pad.

“Close the kriffing ramp!”

I punch the thick red button beside me on the bulkhead.  Through the narrowing slit, I see stormtroopers running toward us.  The ramp squeezes shut and locks.  I bolt to the cockpit.  Breg’s slumped against the controls, wrestling to remove his bucket.

Agitated, he scans the starboard bulkhead in the tiny engineering compartment just behind the co-pilot seats.  “I can’t see the navcom.”  I lift him by the shoulders.  “There,” he points, fighting to stretch his arm.

The crackle of blaster plasma starts slamming against the wings of the shuttle.  The stormtroopers on the pad have opened fire.

“I can’t reach it!” he cries, dropping his hand way short.

“It’s ok.  I found us a droid in the aft cargo hold.”

“Good.  Do we need him ever,” he splutters.  “Get me into the co-pilot seat and help strap me in.”

“Droid, Spicehead, whatever your name is!” I shout toward the aft passageway.  “Come forward to engineering.  Ready ship systems for takeoff!”

Bleeping an unintelligible response, the R2 rolls from the passageway hatch up the companionway.  Into the engineering console, he extends his probe to insert his data key.

Breg coughs the order for me to take the controls.  Rapid-fire, he goes down the takeoff tick list.  “Your basic Lambda-class shuttle,” he says in between short breaths, “modified to a Sentinel.  We can do this.”  Monitors and instruments ping to life.

A sudden staccato of plasma shots explodes against the surface of the transparisteel viewshields before us.

“Hit the deflector shields!” Breg roars.

“My generator meters read they’re not fully powered up.”

“Punch it!” he insists.  “It’s got enough to protect against blaster rifles.  Let’s just hope they don’t shoot grenades.”

I engage the four shields.  Simultaneously, data from the R2 begins to appear on each of our top righthand screens.

“Ignition!” Breg commands.

I flip the switch on my console.  “Ignition,” I repeat.  The revs of the repulsorlift generators vibrate the ship.

I look out the viewshields.  Several stormtroopers are hurrying toward the shuttle firing at the wing hinges, hoping to disable them so the wings can’t lower.

“Lift her off, Dak!” he shouts.

I shift the repulsor control forward.  “Lift off, aye,” I respond.  The shuttle bursts from the chocs.

I slam the thruster controls forward, and we go into a spin, hovering just above the landing area.  Varp it!  I’ve lost control.  Through the viewshields, I see stormtroopers all over the landing pad shooting wildly.

“Focus, Dak!  Calibrate!”

Desperately I toggle calibrations until the thrusters finally balance.  Now in control, I angle the shuttle nose at the bubble.  Stormtroopers continue to splatter the Sentinel’s upturned wings, now pockmarked by the exploding blazes of plasma.  So much for the deflector shields.  Jamming the controls forward, I accelerate headlong into the bubble.  Finally, we’re through and clearing the spaceport.  I turn the craft to align her course with the droid’s bearings on the monitors.

“Drop the wings!” Breg reminds me.

I hit the wing control button on the monitor panel.  A green light appears on the panel.  “We got wings down.”  Time to shoot us away.  Zip.

“Nice job, ace,” Breg gurgles with effort.

I glance over.  He’s not looking good.  Blood from his mouth trickles down the left side of his face and neck.

Breg still soldiers on, now pecking on the co-pilot keypad.  “Squeaker!  I just sent you destination coordinates.  Give us your route calcs and jump plan.”

He grimaces, his wound probably worse than he’s letting on.  Yet he guides me swiftly through the procedures for the first jump.  Despite the tension, I recall all from our rehearsal drills.

He looks out the viewshields then to his instruments.  “Ok, we’re approaching our jumping-off point.  Confirm heading.”

The R2 chirps a response.

“Stand by to jump.”

“Hyperdrive engaged,” I reply.

Squeaker’s countdown data appear on the display.  The read-out hits the coordinates. “Jump!”

“Jump, aye,” I respond, hitting the button.  The ship jolts forward.  Through my viewshield, I see stars melt into tracers that pass 360° around the ship.

In no time, we begin our return to space.  A massive lurch throws us forward along with the R2 and everything not secured on the ship.  Breg winces against his restraints.  A myriad of different stars appears before us.  He programs the next set of jump coordinates and presses send.  “Here, Squeak, plot the route.”

The R2 reprograms the navcom.  Coordinates pop up on the monitor.

“No, no, no!” Breg spits.  “That’s Western Reaches, dimsquat!  You got it completely backwards!”

The R2 emits a series of mechanical mutterings, and our monitors start spinning through triple-zeros.  Breg leans forward to study his readout until it stops and another set of coordinates appear.

“More like it,” he says to me with a nod of weary relief.  “I’ve been everywhere, Dak.  Stand by to jump.”

“Hyperdrive engaged.  Where we going?”

“Rebel Base Tierfon.”

“Where’s that?”

“Expansion Region.  Sumitra Sector.  Ready jump, and jump!”

Through the next jumps, Breg keeps fading in and out.  When he’s out, I worry over contingencies, tractor beams, gravity wells, asteroids, mechanical failures, unknown unknowns.  When he’s lucid, he puts to rest all doubt.

During the last jump, I study him.  His eyes are closed.  Is he resting or this time actually slipping out of consciousness?  Whatever, can I do a landing without him?  Another glance.  Thankfully, his eyes are open, looking into the hyperspace before us and its thousands of tracing stars.

Almost as if he’s in my head, I hear him struggling to say, “Trust in your own ability to reason, Dak.”  He’s now turned toward me.  “Then train till you can go on instinct.”

Breg rolls his head against his headrest.  He’s looking distantly through his viewshield.  I watch him slowly shut his eyes.

The hyperdrive generator begins its deceleration, and the ship emerges from hyperspace above the planet Tierfon.  I turn to Breg.  He’s still out.  I begin my descent from our orbit, no idea where I’m going.  I check the terra-monitor.  Breg has left coordinates for “Rebel Outpost.”  Much relieved, I take the rest of the orbit to go through our well-rehearsed landing procedures.  In the end, I make a controlled crash on the Tierfon runway—undercompensating for the effect of the unexpectedly dense atmosphere on the Sentinel’s damaged wings versus my one-time experience taking off through Kalist’s comparatively thin.  The bad news: I can tell I’ve totaled all three of the shuttle’s landing systems and undercarriage.  The good news: I can see I haven’t hit—much less destroyed—any modules, the hanger or starfighters on the flight line.

We slide to a halt.  The ship systems go quiet.  I release my restraints and set to reviving Breg.  As I do, I hear the shouts and sounds of the ground crews and pilots as they wedge open the damaged ramp beneath us.

Someone—a pilot—is by my side in the cockpit.  He helps me move Breg off the seat to the deck.  Immediately, he takes a pulse.  By this time, others are circled around us.  When he slowly looks up, I know.

“He’s gone, kid,” he says.  “Who was he?”

“His name was Breg.”

“Breg, huh.”

“What a loss,” says someone in the crowd.  “That guy’s legendary.  He gave us more vital intelligence on the Empire than all the other covert pilots put together.”

Suddenly the pieces of his mystery fit together.

“Yeah.  I just know him as the guy who taught me to pilot.”

“You must’ve learned pretty good,” says the pilot as we both rise from Breg’s side.  “What’s your name, kid?

“Ralter.  Dak Ralter.”

“Mine’s Janson.  Wes Janson.  May the Force be with you, Ralter.  Welcome to the fight.”




Eds. Note:  A condensed version of Dak’s story first appeared in West End Games’  Star Wars Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back that was designed by Michael Stern.  Legends have it that this version came off a datacard found on Dak when he was pulled from his crushed landspeeder immediately after the Battle of Hoth by Dash Rendar and his SAR team.

Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars Rebellion

In the last few years, board games have had a real resurgence in american culture.

Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo, and Settlers of Catan sit side by side classics such as Monopoly and Risk. It has created an industry that truly is willing to put money into these games and create some unique experiences.

In 2011, a board game company by the name of Fantasy Flight acquired the license to Star Wars. Disney acquired Lucasfilm a year later, and FF lucked into Disney’s want to make new media in that setting. It was obvious from the get go that FF had decided to go all in with this license with its first showing of Xwing miniatures in August of 2012.

From there we have had 5 other offerings. Imperial Assault, Star Wars CCG, Star Wars RPG, Armada, and now Rebellion. Each offers a tight, fantastic board game experience with unique play styles to appeal to different types of board gamers.

With Rebellion, its most recent release, FF has finally given us a game that gives the true feeling of a galaxy at war. With our inaugural article here at Tapcaf’s gaming section, I thought I would give some thoughts on the game, and show you what to expect from our little sector of the site.

The first thing that you notice when breaking open the game is the production values. Yes, the cardboard pieces are all very nice looking, with the heroes from each side looking especially fantastic, but it really is the 100+ plastic models that shine here. From the different Rebel Fighters, Mon Cal cruisers, Super Star Destroyers, and Death Star, every piece is excellently crafted. It really adds immersion to the game when you see so many models spread out across the galaxy map. Even the map board, a collection of planets and boxes that tell you where to place specific cards, is so well done that it is enjoyable to just stare at. Fantastic work, FF. You really nailed the look of this game.

With the aesthetic nailed, you have most of what a Star Wars fan wants in a board game. So much of what Star Wars is comes from the look, locales, and lore. The rest of course is the flow of the game, the rules as written, and how enjoyable the game is. After playing the game a few times since I got it last week, I can honestly say it is one of my favorite board games I have ever played. However, there are some problems with the rules in how they are written. Small things overall, but I will get into that as I explain the basic flow of the game.

The flow of the game is as follows. The Empire is trying to find the hidden Rebel Base and destroy it. The Rebels are trying to get enough galactic support via objectives before they are found. The asymmetrical nature of the game means that the play experiences are completely different between the two factions. Both sides however, use their heroes for almost everything they want to do. Want to move people from one
system to another? How about run missions? What about keeping your opponent from achieving his mission? All of it is done with heroes. You start with 4, and as the game progresses you get more, but it makes them a commodity that you have to truly think about.

Combat is done with 5 black and 5 red dice. The different dice denote who can hit each other; only people with the same color dice can score hits on each other. It’s my only gripe with the game, and that is the dice combat often slows the action down. The instructions on how combat works is also not entirely clear either, with some small rules only being vaguely talked about. When it comes to combat in these games, you have to make sure everything holds equal weight in the instructions. It’s a small misstep, and after a few times playing the game, my play group easily understood the rules. I do worry people new to these games might not do so well, though. Another problem has to do with destroying planets with the Death Star, and whether you can still use the missions in those systems. Fantasy Flight is saying that a ruling on that is coming, but for now you have to make a house rule.

With Rebellion, you get a Civstyle game set in the Star Wars universe, and it absolutely drips the setting. With only a few niggling rule clarification holding back the excellent pace of the game, I really cannot say enough good things about Rebellion. Fantasy Flight is also excellent in the support of their games, so I am sure we will see errata for the rules, as well as expansions to the game. With Disney helming such great projects, and making so many great allies in various companies, it really does look like only bright skies ahead for Star Wars fans.