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chapter 21:

 

Mara struggles to control the ship before landing. Afterwards, she wards off another attack before finding R2-D2 nearby. She tries to tell him that she needs Luke’s help rescuing Karrde from the Empire. R2 doesn’t fully trust her but finally acquiesces when she says that Luke needs to know that C’baoth is working for the Grand Admiral.

 

She encounters the Jedi Master quite quickly. He knows she’s not been sent here by Thrawn despite the presence of the ysalamir. C’baoth could read it in her mind as she landed. The intent to steal Skywalker from him was there.

 

She knows this man is mad, but she’s not going to waste any more time. He can do nothing to her in the presence of the ysalamir. Mara pulls her blaster, causing him to warn her he’ll retaliate for that someday. He’s seen her in his meditations, wandering the galaxy after the loss of the Emperor, her powers waning. He has foreseen her kneeling before him someday.

 

Luke appears, having felt a disturbance in the Force. C’baoth tries to tell him she’s come to destroy them. Mara sees that Luke is having a hard time believing that. Luke somehow knows that there’s something wrong with this man. He tells C’baoth that the means are just as important as the ends. Forcing his will on people that hate them and don’t want their guidance is not a path he chooses to follow.

 

She steps forward with the ysalamir, breaking the hold through the Force that C’baoth has been manipulating Luke with. Then the Master sends rocks her way. Luke steps out of the ysalamir’s influence and batters the rocks before having to deal with Force lightning.

 

R2 handles the rest with a laser bolt from the X-Wing. C’baoth is knocked out by the shock wave. Mara wants to kill him, but Luke explains that he feels the man is sick and needs help. She insists that he was talking the way Vader and the Emperor used to, this is not someone Luke wants to leave alive.

 

Nevertheless, it’s his back the knife will go into. For now, Karrde has been captured and needs their help. Surprisingly, she gets no argument.

 

After R2 is sent back to Coruscant with the X-Wing, Luke sits with Mara aboard the Skipray and can sense her controlled hatred of him. Part of him wonders if this is a trick. It’s not like he could sense C’baoth’s deceit right away. That embarrasses him.

 

Clearly, the Master has emotional instablities, but he doesn’t know if that means he’s insane. And Mara told him that C’baoth was working for the Empire. She also relates how the Imperials followed her to Karrde’s hideout via a homing beacon on her ship.

 

Luke remembers that the Empire found the Yavin base the same way. She doesn’t think much harm was done considering what happened there. The Emperor was so angry that Vader nearly died after the Death Star was destroyed. He ended up only losing his right hand.

 

Based on information from the Chimaera’s computer, the ship will be at Wistril in four days taking on supplies. They’ll have to get there ahead of time, steal a supply ship and go up to the Star Destroyer with the others.

 

Standard Imperial procedure five years ago was to lock all shuttle crews down while the Imperial crewers unloaded. They'll need a diversion then. They have four days to figure something out.

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  • Mara’s information is flawed. Vader did not lose his right hand after the Battle of Yavin. He lost it when Count Dooku battled Anakin Skywalker on Geonosis. It’s possible Mara was given the wrong story or simply made an incorrect assumption. It’s also possible that Palpatine caused him to lose the original replacement hand and replaced it with yet another, but I don’t know why he would. Unless…Vader was very unhappy with the replacement limbs he was given after losing them on Mustafar. In Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, it was mentioned that the replacement arm he’d gotten after Geonosis felt more real to him than anything else. Maybe, Palpatine took that arm and gave him a worse one then!
  • And I would think that people would stop being surprised when there’s an Imperial homing beacon on their ship. It seems to be SOP every time a ship is grabbed by them. I would think pilots would just assume they’ve got one aboard their ship if they manage to get away or are allowed to leave.
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chapter 22:

 

The shuttle lands in the Chimaera’s hangar bay. Luke and Mara are warned that cargo is unloaded before any of them can leave. Luke worries that Karrde may have been transferred off the ship but she is certain he’s still here. Luke cuts through the bottom of the storage room to the bay deck. He finishes cutting and they pull the section of deck up into the shuttle. They drop down and head to a service supply area to get some uniforms.

 

Finding an empty room is difficult, especially with Mara wanting to shoot whoever they encounter.

 

Luke persuades her to let him try his approach instead. He walks in, uses the Force to deflect any real attention away from him and brings three uniforms out. He holds onto the effect to make sure they forget about him.

 

He jumps into an access panel that leads to the trash compactor and rides the garbage up while Mara manipulates the controls, all the while hoping she doesn’t give in to her hatred for him, until the walls stop and he climbs between them to the garbage chute on the detention level.

 

The guards, according to Mara’s reading of the schedule, change shifts right on time. Luke cuts through the grate, heads down the corridor and opens Karrde’s cell. The man can’t believe his eyes. Luke takes him to the grate and tells him they’re sliding down to the masher.

 

On the way to the access panel, Luke explains that Mara is waiting for them. She says she was not in on the trap that captured him. Kardde suspected as much since the Imperials tried really hard to make him think she was. He does wonder if she told Luke what Thrawn wanted him for.

 

Luke assumed it was in retaliation for not cooperating with the search for him. Along the way, they encounter no one. Karrde is amazed at how Mara is able to adjust orders to keep people out of their way. He suspected she’d been in Imperial service but she’s appears to have been higher up than he’d thought.

 

After meeting up with Mara, they start working toward the hangar bay where they’ll have to get back into the shuttle and weld the hole in it back. But it appears that they’ve made it.

 

On the bridge, Thrawn appears to make one more survey before he retires to his quarters. He’s told that the patrol at Endor picked up a smuggler who was only trying to sift through the Death Star debris. He advises a thorough check be done as he’s convinced that Leia Organa Solo will come back for her ship eventually.

 

In the meantime, he wants the Falcon transferred to deep storage so the scanning crews can spend their time working on the Chimaera. The only other item of interest to report is that a Skipray blastboat apparently crashed near the supply base.

 

No bodies were there but one ysalamir was found.

 

That’s enough for Thrawn. He orders an intruder alert and for Karrde’s cell to be checked. He’s to be moved if he’s still there, guards should be put around the supply shuttles and the Chimaera’s main computer is to be shut down.

 

He explains that their intruders would have had to know where to find the Chimaera which means someone tapped into the ship’s computer. That person was likely Mara Jade. If she has access to codes that allow her into the system, they will have to deprive her of it.

 

When he’s told Karrde is not in his cell, Thrawn orders stormtroopers to begin a search between detention and the hangar bay. They are to retrieve Karrde alive, but he understands if the rescuers are not.

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  • We were not provided with the story of Luke and Mara’s arrival at the supply base where they stole a shuttle. Apparently, they crash landed, left the ysalamir and stole a shuttle that they took up to the ship. Here are my concerns. One, why crash the ship rather than hide it? Crash landing a ship just draws attention and Mara should know by now how detail-oriented Thrawn is. Leaving it there with an ysalamir on board was sloppy.
  • Second, what happened to the crew that was supposed to take the shuttle up to the Chimaera? Was the shuttle not reported stolen? Was there a crew left down on the planet shuttleless? A stolen shuttle report would certainly have gotten Thrawn’s notice, too. It would have had to have been one of the base’s shuttles with cargo aboard, otherwise the Imperials would have wondered why there was nothing on it when they started unloading. Of course, they would have gotten away with it had Thrawn not decided to show up on the bridge one last time that night.
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chapter 23:

 

Their turbolift stops as the alarms wail, so Luke cuts through the doors and they exit into the tunnel. Through the access tunnel, they reach a driod storage room and a computer terminal. There, Mara finds that the computer has been shut down.

 

Since they’re near the hangar bays, Karrde suggests they go down to deep storage and steal a ship from there. It’s not likely the Imperials will think to look for them there anyway. There’s a brief firefight with some stormtroopers in the tunnel before they decide to take Karrde’s idea.

 

Pellaeon dismisses a report about the cut-open grate but Thrawn is more interested. In his inquiries, he realizes that a lightsaber has been used in both battles and in damage. He alerts all units that Luke Skywalker is aboard. Obviously, C’baoth couldn’t manage to keep him on Jomark as he’d claimed he could.

 

The fact that Skywalker is rescuing Karrde certainly leads him to believe that Karrde is complicit in the escape from Myrkr. Thrawn has Rukh gather a team to bring ysalamari to the hangar bays. Assuming they will be using the turbolift tunnels, he orders all but a few put back into service and the remaining ones moved to a cluster point and locked. He is hoping to herd them.

 

Pellaeon suggests they may not go back to the supply shuttle, but steal an assault shuttle from the forward bays. Thrawn muses that Skywalker might do that, but starts to consider what Karrde would do.

 

He asks where the Millennium Falcon is. Pellaeon ordered it into deep storage but doesn’t know if it’s been done yet. Thrawn tells a stormtrooper commander to find the ship and move a squad there, too.

 

In deep storage, they hide behind a ship while a turbolift comes down. Luke recognizes the ship as the Millennium Falcon. Mara mentions she’d forgotten that Thrawn found it deserted above Endor. Luke insists on taking it and, after they get rid of the techs who exit the turbolift, he and Karrde board the ship.

 

Mara keeps trying the ship’s computer which lasts until stormtroopers arrive. After Luke helps her dispatch them, she joins the men on board. Karrde flies the ship out of the Star Destroyer and, after a few shots from the Falcon’s bay cannons, they are away.

 

Karrde is going to take Luke to Coruscant and, in gratitude for saving his life, has an offer for the New Republic.

 

Thrawn isn’t too disturbed by this setback. Pellaeon feels differently, seeing as Karrde will probably give the Katana fleet to the New Republic now. Thrawn points out that a man like Talon Karrde will negotiate for it first and that will take time considering the precarious political position the government is in. For now, Niles Ferrier is following Solo and Calrissian and, thanks to the work he’s had Intelligence do on Karrde’s background, Thrawn knows exactly who they will be meeting.

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  • Just how quickly did they get the Millennium Falcon down to deep storage? It was only a few sentences, at most, between the time he gave the order to do that before he realized there were intruders aboard. It was right after that he ordered the main computer shut down. Can they move the ship without the main computer being online?
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chapter 24:

 

Leia’s intentions had been good, coming here to Honoghr to try to help the Noghri. She’d thought she was being prompted by the Force. Now she wonders if it really was the light side leading her.

 

Luke has brought out some of Leia’s potential, but she cannot forget that her father had succumbed to the temptations of using those same abilities for evil. As the babies kick, she remembers the sad face of her mother picking her up out of a trunk. Strangers talking. Her mother dying and her holding onto Bail Organa, her father.

 

While her real father caused all of this pain.

 

 

The maitrakh arrives and asks if she can foresee the end of their clan. Leia admits she cannot see anything, but fears for her unborn children. The maitrakh explains that it’s never easy to see death, especially for one’s child. She herself sent all four sons off to Imperial service. Only one returned, a cripple, to live out his days in dishonor.

 

Leia had assumed that Khabarakh was her son, but is stunned to learn that he is, in fact, her great-grandson.

 

Leia asks how long ago the disaster happened and finds that it was 44 years ago. The Rebel Alliance didn’t do this, after all. This happened during the Clone Wars. Leia is furious to realize the Noghri have been manipulated for that long.

 

She calls for Chewie and asks him to get some samples of the kohlm grass. If she gets the information she thinks she’ll get, they’ll go to Nystao not just to rescue Khabarakh, but to meet with the dynasts.

 

After Chewie returns with the samples, the maitrakh and Leia board a speeder and they travel through the night to Nystao while Leia does the analysis. They are ushered to the Grand Dukha, past Khabarakh who is being publicly displayed in stocks, to greet the dynasts.

 

She is informed that the Grand Admiral has ordered them to bring her to him. A debate erupts over whether to do that before she is allowed to speak. She explains to them what the maitrakh told her about the story Lord Vader gave them. About the ship that crashed, leaking chemicals into the ground which destroyed their crops and brought natural disasters to them. About the service the Noghri have performed in return for what they needed to survive.

 

She holds up the kohlm grass and tells them how she’s analyzed it only to find that it’s not really the same grass that grew before the disaster. It looks different and smells different, not because of the disaster, but because it’s not really kohlm grass at all. The Empire seeded the planet with it to prevent anything else from growing here, probably under the guise of survey or rescue efforts.

 

When she notices a decon droid in the crowd, she remembers 3PO’s warning and sends several of the Noghri after it. Cutting it open, she finds a cylinder used to help decontaminate the ground. The droids have been destroying the kohlm decoys but not nearly as quickly as they could. She demonstrates how quickly the chemicals in the cylinder destroy the poisoned kohlm grass.

 

They all understand what this means.

 

However, to act against the Empire put their homeworld in the same position it was decades ago, to say nothing about the probable slaughter of their commando teams in current service.

 

Leia will leave now but wants to take Khabarakh with her. The dynasts agree to claim that members of his family conspired to free him and he succeeded by escaping into space followed by commando teams that were here on leave. They will claim the clan Kihm’bar is in disgrace until they volunteer the names of those who helped him.

 

She warns them to have the commando teams be cautious about what they say to other teams not in the know. They cannot risk the Empire finding out what they are up to.

 

She promises to bring back more of the chemical needed to destroy the poisonous plants faster and urges them to be careful about using it conspicuously. The Empire could also notice new cropland where there shouldn’t be.

 

Then she frees Khabarakh, knowing now that the Force is with her.
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  • During the chapter, Leia’s lightsaber blade is described as green. Great, not only did she not get to build it, she couldn’t even choose her gem!
  • Now, see. Leia could have spared herself a lot of guilt if she’d bothered to ask more questions about the conflict that caused the destruction rather than just automatically putting responsibility on the Rebel Alliance. If she had, she’d have known earlier that this was Clone Wars era. Which, by the way, was not 44 years ago!
  • Additionally, I don’t know what Leia was remembering but her mother definitely didn’t pull her out of a trunk! The chapter states that her sad mother removed her from a trunk, she remembers her mother dying and her clinging to her father Bail Organa. We know, of course, that her real mother, Padme, died right after the children were born and Leia has some dubious memories of her. The implication here is that the author very likely was inspired by the novelization of Return of the Jedi which led readers to believe that Luke and Leia’s mother survived childbirth to go into hiding for a short time. The author may have thought that the mother went to Alderaan, possibly married Bail Organa even, or something like that, before dying when Leia was old enough to remember some things about her. Obviously, the author’s original intent was to refer to the woman who we now know as Padme, but I suppose we can retcon this chapter to refer to Leia’s adoptive mother, Queen Breha of Alderaan. At some point, it appears the Queen died, possibly while Leia was a young girl. She would have remembered her dying and clinging to the man she called father then. It doesn’t explain what Breha was doing having Leia in a trunk though!
  • Considering the mood Thrawn was in the last time he was on Honoghr, he may not take the news that the clan is in disgrace to be appropriate punishment for the escape of Khabarakh.
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chapter 25:

 

On Pantolomin, Han and Lando board the luxury casino Coral Vanda and look around for their contact only to find Niles Ferrier again. Judging by the tremors rocking through the liner now, it’s clear he’s not alone.

 

Han and Lando decide to find this ship dealer and get him out in an escape pod. Along the way, Ferrier’s Wraith attacks Han and pulls him into a storage room. The ship is trying to evade the Imperials by diving underwater but it’s only a matter of time. Ferrier wants to cut Han a better deal than Calrissian is going to get, running in vain around the ship trying to find Captain Hoffner.

 

As it happens, Ferrier has the man locked in a suite. Ferrier leaves Han locked in the storage room where he figures he has until the ship is forced to surface to face the stormtroopers.

 

The Chimaera pounds the Coral Vanda from above. Thrawn points out that the ship is full of gamblers who will gamble on the strength of the ship until they find an alternative. It won’t be long now, but he does lament the destruction of the reefs which he considers to be a true work of art.

 

The pounding knocks Han across the room where he knocks the blaster out of the Wraith’s hand and grabs it. Whiskey pouring from crates, Han tells him not to move but has to fire on the whiskey which starts a fire that causes the suppression systems to get in. Han heads down the corridor, searching for Lando.

 

Lando decides to head to the bridge to warn the captain that he knows who the Imperials want. The captain orders him off the bridge as, if the target has any sense, he’s on an escape pod by now.

 

He runs to see if he can check Ferrier’s room when he encounters four large men escorting the short white-haired gentleman between them. They fire at him and are able to get behind a locked access door before Han shows up. With more of Ferrier’s men on their tail, they jump into an escape pod as stormtroopers begin boarding the Coral Vanda.

 

Lando tries to tell Han that they did all they could. They couldn’t fight off three squadrons of troopers anymore than they could’ve destroyed the liner and killed hundreds of people. At least they can warn Coruscant to expect the Dark Force to turn up in Imperial hands.

 

Han isn’t sure how much help that will do them. Lando points out that the Empire can’t possibly have enough crewers to man 200 Dreadnoughts at 2000 staff required for each. Han thinks that the Imperial call for more warships means that they’ve got people somewhere.

 

They will have to keep the Empire from getting those ships somehow.
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  • Han considers that alcohol fires aren’t very hot and assumes the Wraith will be dangerous once he gets out. Is alcohol different in the SW universe? Alcohol fires here are pretty hot!
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chapter 26:

 

Mon Mothma can’t believe the Katana fleet can actually be found. But hers is more of astoundment whereas Borsk Fey’lya is just suspicious. He doesn’t particularly believe Talon Karrde, thinks Solo and Calrissian were fooled by their unnamed source and that there are plenty of Dreadnoughts out there that aren’t Katana ships.

 

Karrde explains that he had thought he was the only one who knew about the Fleet. Obviously, Captain Hoffner recognized them, too, and pulled the coordinates before Karrde deleted the records.

 

Han points to the attack on the Coral Vanda where the Imperials were obviously after something. Fey'lya believes that this could just be a smokescreen by Han’s contact who could be working for the Empire himself. Karrde asks what the Grand Admiral would gain by pulling something like that.

 

Fey’lya argues that the reassignment of Republic personnel to go after the Fleet would leave many systems undefended. Karrde counters that the Empire has a great deal to gain if the Republic doesn’t act.

 

Mon Mothma believes this is worth looking into. She tells Fey’lya to send an Escort Frigate and some starfighters to Karrde’s coordinates to check out the story. Karrde will provide those coordinates when the ships are ready to leave.

 

As the meeting is dismissed, Leia tells Han that she gets the idea Karrde wants to speak with her. Han will take the opportunity to talk to Fey’lya and promises to be diplomatic.

 

He catches up with the Bothan and confronts him about hiding his dealings with Senator bel Iblis. He warns Fey’lya that he has to back down from all of this opposition to Ackbar or he will only cause division within the New Republic. Fey’lya doesn’t see it like that and advises that Han stick to smuggling.

 

Mara stands in the Imperial Palace where she hasn’t been for five years, hearing the voice of the Emperor telling her to kill Luke Skywalker. There really isn’t any excuse to keep him alive now.

 

Karrde enters the room and tells her that resistance from Borsk Fey’lya has put off any serious retrieval efforts until Mon Mothma can verify that the Katana fleet is actually out there. Since the Imperials already have Capt. Hoffner, they will likely retrieve the Dark Force before the Republic can.

 

He wants her to meet with Aves and gather everything they’ve got to go after the ships themselves. Ghent needs to come to Coruscant because Karrde wants to find out how that transfer into Ackbar’s account happened.

 

Leia Organa Solo arrives, knowing that he wants to see her. He explains that he needs Mara to take a fast ship on an errand. Leia offers a Y-Wing. He also suggests that she send a tech team into space tonight to grab the Katana fleet. He would rather have crewers not handpicked by Borsk Fey’lya and, of course, the need to trump the Empire is understood by them both. He gives her the coordinates, not telling her his own people will be there, too.

 

He does, however, caution her that he’s not doing this out of loyalty to the New Republic, only in gratitude for her brother saving his life and to eliminate the Grand Admiral’s reason for chasing him around the galaxy.

 

Luke comms Wedge and asks if he doesn’t mind getting his people in trouble. He’s got a transport that can carry X-Wings on a trip of a few days.

 

By morning, the departure of the X-Wings, as well as the midnight transport of tech people is known to Fey’lya and he’s outraged. Mon Mothma is more subdued. Karrde explains that the Katana fleet does not belong to the New Republic and he was the one who asked Leia to investigate it.

 

Fey’lya would prefer to have both Han and Luke arrested as they do not have clearance to know the coordinates. He insists that he go along with the ships originally planned for this mission. Karrde is fine with that as both he and Leia will be going, too.

 

The Dark Force is his until he allows the New Republic possession of it.

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  • You know, I'm going to disagree with Karrde on two points here. The first is that getting the New Republic the Katana fleet will eliminate Thrawn's reason for coming after him. Thrawn was already after him for concealing Luke on his visit to Myrkr in the last book. While knowing that Karrde knows the location of the fleet is certainly an additional motivation, giving the fleet to the New Republic is not likely to cause Thrawn to give up the quest. If anything, it will just cause Thrawn to add to his desire for retribution against Karrde. Secondly, Karrde considers the Dark Force his. Is that just because he found it? Captain Hoffner obviously saw it, too, so would the Dark Force be considered just as much his? Clearly, the fleet belongs to no one...except maybe the ones who get to it first.
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chapter 27:

 

On the way out of hyperspace, Luke notes Han’s grim demeanor. Han complains that he hasn’t seen Leia for a month and didn’t even get a day before he was sent away from Coruscant to help with this scouting mission.

 

She looks twice as pregnant as she did when he left, he has no idea what happened with her and Chewie beyond the fact that she says the Noghri are on their side now. Luke reminds him there are few people who can be trusted until Delta Source is exposed.

 

The Dreadnoughts are sitting in space. Han and Luke meet Lando, Chewie and a four-man tech team to go check out the closest one. They end up on the ship Katana itself, but its engines are not good.

 

The Republic task force comes out of hyperspace and Captain Virgilio of the Quenfis comms them to tell Han that his party is under arrest. He orders Rogue Squadron back and Wedge initially refuses until Han tells him not to risk a court-martial.

 

Han cuts the comm., Fey’lya turns to Leia and tells her to get him back on the line. She tells him that Han won’t listen to anyone in his mood. That’s when an Imperial Star Destroyer shows up.

 

Fey’lya orders their own X-Wings recalled. The Rogues are moving back toward the Katana. Captain Viriglio is surprised that he is being asked to abandon both Captain Solo and his team, as well as Rogue Squadron. Leia insists they try to help, but Fel’lya points out this is a lost cause. He pulls a blaster and is adamant that the Quenfis withdraw.

 

Captain Brandei of the Judicator, noting that the X-Wings are protecting only one Dreadnought, orders the TIEs deployed.

 

On the Katana, Han makes the one shot the ship still has left count as he fires the turbolasers and destroys several drop ships with TIEs along with it. They’ll have to prepare for boarding now.

 

In the meantime, Leia tries to explain to Fey’lya that they cannot risk losing Han, Luke and the Rogues. Karrde points out that the Councilor has other priorities, dropping a datapad telling her to turn on the intercom in front of her. While Fey’lya’s attention is on Karrde, Leia uses the Force to turn on the communications switch.

 

Karrde explains that Fey’lya is leaving the battle because he’s filled this ship with all of his military supporters, from the captain on down. He will not risk them when he’s outgunned, regardless of who is left behind.

 

Fey’lya confirms that those who are not his supporters are his enemies, even if it means they abandon Rogue Squadron. After all, that’s all the military is good for. That’s enough for the Quenis’s starfighter pilots which turn back to help their comrades. Even Captain Viriglio orders all hands to battle stations and requests that Fey’lya return to his quarters.

 

He tells Leia that not everyone considers loyalty to be outmoded. She thanks Karrde who assures her he didn’t want Mara and his people facing a Star Destroyer alone.

 

Pellaeon recommends sending another Star Destroyer to assist the Judicator when the report comes in. Thrawn decides the Chimaera is going and orders course set. That’s when the nav officer freezes and a message comes in from C’baoth who is approaching them in a Frigate.

 

He wants to speak with Thrawn right now. Thrawn doesn’t know how he got the ship, so agrees to bring him aboard and sends the Preemptory instead. Since C’baoth seems to be able to control people from over several light years, it may be time to reconsider their arrangement with him.

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  • Even if Leia had not turned on the comm., from what we saw, Captain Viriglio would likely have ordered his squadrons back into the battle after hearing what Fey’lya thought of the military. I know Fey’lya didn’t know the intercom was on, but I would have thought he’d be more careful what he said on the bridge.
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chapter 28:

 

Rogue Squadron is joined by Gold Squadron in space but cannot prevent a drop ship from landing on the Katana where Han, Luke and their team have set up booby traps. They run into a smaller version of a scout walker that one of the mad crewmen must have dragged out before the hive virus finished them all off for good.

 

Luke and Han get it working and use the weapons to rake the boarding party.

 

Captain Brandei doesn’t want to get his ship any closer to the Dreadnought’s turbolasers, but the Preemptory isn’t going to get here for several more minutes. He’s advised that a new group of ships have emerged from lightspeed.

 

Karrde’s group use Z-95 Headhunters to provide escort for the Wild Karrde. Mara contacts Karrde who tells them that the Star Destroyer is avoiding the Katana Dreadnought for fear of the turbolaser blast it got off earlier by the tech team board. There’s an Imperial boarding party on it now.

 

There is a Republic Star Cruiser coming, but Mara cautions them that the Empire will have backup soon. She advises them all to get out of here while they can.

 

That’s when three more Dreadnoughts arrive, causing some panic until Senator Garm bel Iblis comms everyone and offers help.

 

There’s some awkwardness when bel Iblis realizes that Han’s previous communication to him was not an official New Republic invitation, but Leia, who he knows and remembers well, makes it official. Karrde recommends that this battle not go on for very much longer. He thinks they should retrieve the tech team and leave. Leia protests that they cannot allow the Empire to have the Dark Force, but he points out that he’s counted only 15 Dreadnoughts left. It would appear that the Grand Admiral got the location out of Captain Hoffner much more quickly than thought. Although, to be blunt, a lot of credits were probably sufficient.

 

The only consolation is that the Empire doesn’t have enough staff to man the ships. Leia asks Viriglio to send a landing party over to the Katana to retrieve the tech team. He has to tell her that the Imperial back up has arrived.

 

Karrde’s people are about to withdraw when Mara’s ship is hit. She tries to control it before ejecting and finding that she was too close to the Star Destroyer and is caught in its ion beam. When a TIE fighter explodes nearby, debris hits her and knocks her unconscious.

 

On the Katana, Luke tells Han that Mara is in trouble. There are still ten stormtroopers from the boarding party in the anteroom and two of the tech team have been hit. Luke decides he’s handling this, ignites his lightsaber and tosses it into the anteroom wall, opening it to space.

 

However, there’s still a battle out there and people will die if they don’t help. Han remembers that they are aboard the Katana, of course, so eases power to the drive and gets a course for the Preemptory and lets it run into the ship which doesn’t have time to get out of the way.

 

With the loss of his other ship, Captain Brandei orders fighters recalled and a jump to lightspeed.

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chapter 29:

 

After a repair party from the Quenfis starts work on the hull breach, Luke takes a ship out to find Mara. She is found, unconscious and suffering from a concussion, and Aves takes her to the newly-arrived Star Cruiser’s medical bay. Luke doesn’t know why he was compelled to save her.

 

Han comms him to come back to the Katana. He knows what the Empire is up to.

 

Thrawn lectures C’baoth about costing him the Preemptory. C’baoth doesn’t care about the ship. The Chimaera itself might be gone if he hadn’t shown up. He’s done so to make sure Thrawn doesn’t conveniently forget about him.

 

He is returning to Wayland and assuming control of the Mount Tantiss project which he knows all about despite Thrawn’s attempt to conceal it. Thrawn explains he wanted to spare the Master unpleasant memories.

 

C’baoth is adamant that he is the Empire now and wants to discuss this new arrangement.

 

Meanwhile, the stormtroopers that had comprised the Imperial boarding party are lying dead on the Katana. There’s a genetic test being done, but the same face on each of them confirms what the test will tell them anyway. They are clones.

 

Someone has a set of Spaarti-cloning cylinders and has gotten them working. This means the Empire won’t take years to find and train crews for the Katana Fleet.

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  • It was my understanding that most cloning techniques were kept secret so that no one else would do it. How did Han immediately think of Spaarti-cylinders when confronted with clones?

 

End of Book 2

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