The positioning of the characters here is relevant, in that it always had to be Tarn who aids the prisoners in the machine rooms. I didn’t want someone from outside to come in and be the saviour, regardless of how well-intentioned. Tarn’s path was always going to lead him back here. This is the moment when he embraces who he was and who he has become.
Meanwhile, we have our core protaganists meeting Kraisa for the first time. Every other occasion of Kraisa in action has seen her be overwhelmingly powerful: first the attack on the Black Scree, then her battle with Pienya. This time we have Tarn going on the offensive and launching the fight: but we don’t yet know how it’s going to go – he’s going to have his work cut out for him. Aera’s whisperings in his ear in this chapter are there to undermine his confidence and raise the tensions for the reader, making the point that even with all his newfound powers he’s going to struggle to get the upper hand against Kraisa.
This chapter is also the moment when Tarn reaches a more nuanced understanding of the forces at play, seeing Pienya as more than just an enemy. Tarn has always struggled to comprehend the layers of complexity of the outside world and here we see him starting to grapple with some of the implications. He’s no longer stumbling about in the dark, but is forming his own thoughts on matters.
We get here the most overt display of Tarn’s powers since the Bruckin battle. Here he flies – or propels himself, at aleast – and the fight is heightened and fantastical and unlike anything we’ve really had before in the book. Hopefully it’s all been seeded sufficiently so that this doesn’t feel like a major stretch of believability. It was also critical to emphasise that this is not something Tarn can maintain forever; he’s tapping into a limited supply. The logic behind-the-scenes is that he has a limited energy supply which is drained as he uses it, though he is able to replenish it over time, or make use of additional resources in the environment.
And, yes, that final line in the chapter is a direct reference to a scene in Babylon 5. I just can’t stop myself.