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chapter 1:


Aboard the New Republic ship Admantine, Chief of State Leia Organa Solo is traveling to the Meridan sector on an unofficial visit to Nam Chorios where she is to meet with Seti Ashgad, head of the Rationalist Party.


A small incident en route concerns a midshipman who abruptly falls ill and dies.


In the meantime, Leia and Ashgad discuss the problem with Nam Chorios. The world had been used as a penal colony centuries ago. The descendants of the guards and prisoners managed to eke out a living farming. About 40 years ago, then-Senator Palpatine had revived the prison world concept and had Ashgad’s father sent there.


Besides the farmers, the world is populated by Newcomers who’ve arrived in the post-Imperial era and the Theran cultists.


Leia had received a message warning her not to come here or to meet with Ashgad at all. Yet, she’s here now, with Ashgad and his secretary, Dzym.


Leia isn’t sure why she feels uncomfortable with Dzym who is a member of the original Chorian species descended from the original colonists. They are called Oldtimers. It is they who are causing some of the problems.


Ashgad is hoping to open trade with the New Republic in order to bring technology to this world. That’s the platform of his Rationalist Party. The Oldtimers oppose even the most minimal change, such a medical clinics or other services designed to help them to live above subsistence level. Unfortunately, they make up the majority of the planet’s population.


He believes the Theran cultists have an adverse affect on the population. They are armed, mobile and been the only source of healing the farmers have known.


They are on Leia’s flagship, the Borealis. Ashgad’s ship, Light of Reason, is nearby. As Leia spots the Adamantine, she notes that a number of lights along the side of the ship are blinking out.


Events aboard the Adamantine are spiraling out of the control quickly. They cannot get through to the Borealis and crew members are becoming ill at an alarming rate.


In the meantime, Ashgad explains that the Therans open fire on any ship over a certain size which means that equipment wears down and cannot be replaced. They are dependent on smugglers and their huge prices.


Leia understands the situation is unfair, but this is not something the New Republic can do anything about. So long as the world is not part of the Republic, they cannot interfere in how the population chooses to live.


She will authorize an investigation team to see what’s going on down on the planet and explore other options.


As Ashgad and his delegation is escorted out, Leia is advised by her Noghri bodyguard, Ezrakh, that Ashgad’s guards smell wrong. She explains that they are synthdroids. Artificial intelligence that has sculpted synthflesh over metal. Their actions are probably controlled from Ashgad’s ship.


The Council had pressured her to stop using Noghri as her bodyguard because of their history with Palpatine’s Empire. However, the strange message she received made her decide to risk their displeasure.


She heads to the turbolift with a couple of guards from the New Republic Space Academy and her Noghri.

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Yeah, there is kinda a vampire in this one. Not sparkly. Just a bug... Who is intelligent and looks humanoid... Because a cook altered his DNA... To make him more tasty for a Hutt... Who is also a Dark Jedi... Who allied with the sentient humanoid vampire bug.

 

You make the call on whether that's an improvement.

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chapter 2:
On the Borealis shuttle deck, Luke ponders the warning message. It had been from Callista and the device sent over containing the message had been manufactured on Nam Chorios. Which means she has been here recently.
It has been a year since she departed from Luke’s life and he is desperate to find her again. He has a modified B-Wing readied to take him out, but greets Leia before departing. She asks him to have a look around and see if the Theran cultists really do coerce the Oldtimers.
They have to be careful in this sector because Moff Getelles still rules the Antemeridian sector and that’s nearby. There’s a strong Republic force at the Durren base in case things get out of hand.
She admits to Luke that there’s some kind of leak in the Council. Minister of State Rieekan thinks it could actually be someone in the Rationalist Party.
Luke promises to keep his eye out, but wants her to stay on top of her lightsaber training while he’s gone.
After he leaves, she gets a comm. signal but no one is there. C-3PO and R2 use the opportunity to repower as she fails to get anyone. She heads into the anteroom and explains to one of her guard, Marcopius, that she has a message light but can’t raise anyone. She asks if he can go down there and check.
While waiting, she sits down, tired with all of the wrangling and maneuvering she has to do. She is cold and sluggish. She can’t be falling ill. Every member of the Ashgad party had been scanned and no viruses, microbes or poisons were present. Then she gets dizzy.

Then Dzym arrives, kneels and pulls off his gloves. Ashgad follows him in with his synthdroids. He orders Dzym to release her from the mental hold he has on her. Synthdroids are taking shuttles over to the escort ships where everyone is either incapacitated or dead.

The droids are helpless to stop them from carrying Leia out. Trying to find anyone who can help, they find dead crewers and Noghri everywhere. The two droids find Midshipman Marcopius knocked out. Reviving him, C-3PO tells him that there seems to be a disease aboard ship that a reminiscent of the Death Seed plague of several centuries ago.
The Adamantine and Light of Reason are moving out of the system. Marcopius grabs the droids and explains that Ashgad wants people to think that Leia was fine when he left her. They’re sending the ships into hyperspace so that they’ll never be found.
He brings the droids onto a scout boat and sets course for the Durren base. Neither droid is able to handle it once they get out of hyperspace, but C-3PO still encourages the tired young man to lay down and rest.
Thirty minutes later, he’s dead.
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  • The time is now 13 years ABY. Darksaber, which took place 12 years ABY and ended with Callista’s departure, was a year ago, according to this chapter.
  • So General Rieekan took over Leia’s previous position of Minister of State, then?
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chapter 3:


Leia dreams of presenting her children to her father on Alderaan and seeing his proud face. Then the children kill him with their lightsabers, telling her they have inherited her Jedi powers and that he wasn’t her real father anyway.


She hears Luke’s voice warning her to learn about the Force.


She awakens and realizes she’s been drugged. Dzym arrives and drags the couch on which she rests into the dark. He puts his hands on the sides of her neck. She knows she’s dying.


Luke feels hundreds of voices dying through the Force. He thinks Leia is one of them but cannot be sure. He tries to call up images of the Borealis, then cuts into the pickup channel and hears her voice reporting to Coruscant that the mission was successful and they are on their way home.


He wonders if he’s getting a sense of the nearby world of Pedducis Chorios instead. Signaling the Adamantine and the Borealis, he finds they are already in hyperspace. He knows he felt death, but Leia is alive somewhere.


He decides he will have to find out as much about Seti Ashgad as Callista has and heads down to Nam Chorios. He is shot at by the gun stations left behind centuries ago and knows Ashgad’s assertion that a minimum mass is necessary to get their attention was false.


He manages to crash-land on the planet.


Leia awakens to find Ashgad’s pilot, Liegeus Vorn, giving her a drink. When he finds out Dzym had been here, though, he gives her water instead and urges her to stay in the sunshine. He goes to get something.


She sits and can hear raised voices. Ashgad is saying they’ll have to go over Larm’s head and talk to Dymurra. She knows that Moff Getellis has an admiral by the name of Larm but doesn’t know who Dymurra is.


He is talking to Dzym and lamenting the cost of the synthdroids. Dzym explains that it’s the only way they could bring the Death Seed aboard the ships undetected. The plague wiped out entire civilizations 700 years ago.


A Hutt explains that Dzym is right. It was the best way to handle the situation. They could just send Leia’s message and leave it at that. They couldn’t destroy the ships without leaving debris that would be investigated.


The cost is worth getting rid of any evidence of where she is and, once Rieekan goes into a coma, the Council will be battling over who will be her successor. The Hutt’s name is Beldorion and he doesn’t want to be lectured. He has ruled this world longer than the Empire existed.


He extends a hand and a cup floats to him. Leia can sense the Force.


She has to warn the New Republic , but the drugs in her system try to convince her to lay down for now. She reaches into her pocket, hoping to find something to help her. Her hands close over her lightsaber.

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  • Ruling a world longer than the Empire existed isn’t saying much. Just a thought.

  • Leia considers that Beldorion was trained as a Jedi. Maybe, maybe not. Hutts are long lived so it’s not impossible that he was trained a couple of centuries ago, as we never heard of a Hutt Jedi in any of our previous books. Or maybe, he was just Force sensitive and learned to control it on his own.

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No, he's not a very good character, is he?

 

chapter 4:
She ignites the saber and can hear Luke’s voice telling her to keep up with her practice. But she can also hear the voices of her phantom children, corrupted by the power. Palpatine’s power. She turns the blade off, knowing that R2 had given it to her in those last moments of her consciousness.
She has to be on Nam Chorios. She doesn’t even know if Luke is still alive. The Death Seed plague may have gotten him, too. She hears Ashgad order Dzym to leave her alone. Liegeus told him about the secretary’s visit. If she dies, her brother will sense it and they cannot take the chance that the Council will name a successor too soon.
Luke senses people approaching. He tries to get out of the ship quickly before 20-25 attackers hit the ship. He uses the Force to cough up a lot of dust and uses the cover to run for the best-looking of the Theran speeders.
Out in the clear, he uses macrobinoculars to watch part of the Light of Reason’s hull land, avoiding the old gun emplacements. Then he spots the ruins of one of the old prisons and heads toward it.
On board the scout ship, C-3PO puts Marcopius’s body in a dignified position and, since they are due out of hyperspace shortly, fast-forwards through the entire memorial service.
When they come out hyperspace at the Durren base, they find it’s under attack. Converted freighters are hitting it and they are responding with nothing larger than E-Wings.
He contacts the base and finds that there’s a rebellion going on. The insurgents on the planet dispute the agreement with the Republic and is attacking government centers on the planet, too. The two largest ships were diverted away from the base last night to investigate pirate activity. No one can land on the planet.
C-3PO tries to communicate with the base about the situation with Leia and the Borealis but can get no response.
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chapter 5:


Luke senses life on this planet and knows that Callista had come here seeking it. A huge storm rages for a few minutes and he can feel the Force behind it. At the old prison, there is a human presence and he finds an old speeder hidden nearby. A young man sits there and asks if Luke was aboard the B-Wing. Luke introduces himself as Owen Lars and the young man says he’s Arvis Scraf.


B-Wings can sometimes get through the automatic guns but the Therans can use them, too. They must have been at the base when the sensors picked him up.


Arvid explains that the Therans have villages all around. The farmers’ kids will sometimes ride with the Therans to see new things but they usually return home and build families. They won’t accept change, however, because the Therans infiltrate their dreams and convince them that anything coming in and out is bad.


Moving Luke’s speeder in to attach to Arvid’s, he notices bite marks on himself. Arvid explains they are drochs and they are everywhere. They reproduce quickly but sunlight kllls them. He advises Luke to stay out of shady areas and keep clean.


After a time, they head back to the B-Wing and confirm it’s been scavenged to pieces. On this world, everything is used. Arvid offers him a night at his aunt’s house and he can sell her his speeder which should be enough to get him off-planet in the town of Hweg Shul.


They don’t get many strangers here. Arvid is a Newcomer and hasn’t heard much about how things in the Core are. Luke spends time entertaining the young man about the adventures of his friends, adding news and gossip wherever he can as he would have wanted someone to do for him back when he was a bored farmboy on Tatooine.


They find later that someone is attacking the gun emplacements. Using his macrobinoculars, Arvid identifies a big water seller named Gerney Caslo and a smuggler named Umolly Darm. She’s the one who can help Luke get off-planet. Her or Seti Ashgad.


Arvid is disgusted when the Newcomer raid is repelled, wondering what harm it is to bring in technology. Luke considers that it’s the Oldtimers’ planet, not the Newcomers’.


They meet up with Arvid’s Aunt Gin who invites Luke to stay the night. They talk about the Force storm that happened a few hours ago. The Therans were said to have some kind of special power. Luke realizes that his use of the Force to save himself during the crash alerted the Therans and caused the storm.


Caslo grouses about the shipments of chips and droid parts the Oldtimers prevented them from getting. Gin takes the young men off to dinner, telling Luke that he can stay and work here if he wants. He thanks her and says he just really needs to find out if a friend of his came through Hweg Shul.


Luke knows the Newcomers have a hard life. They should be able to have better medical care and not deal with subsistence agriculture. However, he does notice that, though everything else they have is second-hand, every one of them has the latest weaponry.

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  • Oh, how cute! Despite the fact that Luke has been told the Oldtimers’ minds are being manipulated by the Therans, he’s still politically correct enough to fall under that provincial thinking that it’s their planet and they can decide for everyone else. Yeah, I agree it’s their planet and they can make their own decisions. What if the Therans are making their decisions for them?

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chapter 6:


Leia is very late. Han, Chewie and the children are on the resort moon of Hesperidium. He cannot go asking about her because she’s supposed to be with them. Ackbar won’t be able to tell him anything because the Rationalists and the Rights of Sentience Parties are ready to split the Council in half.


She never should have gone in the first place.


He is told there are two visitors waiting but they will not present credentials. Han tells the droid to let them in. When he sees one of them, he’s knows there’s trouble.


At the airlock, Captain Bortrek of the Pure Sabaac is surprised to find two droids waiting. C-3PO explains that their pilot is dead. He believes whatever it is is contagious. The droid is offended when young Marcopius’s remains are unceremoniously dumped.


He explains that their ship has been damaged. They need passage to Cybloc XII where they can arrange a reward for him. R2 reports that there are revolts all over the sector and a plague has broken out on Durren base. Bortrek decides to get out of here and tells the droids to wait for him on the bridge of his ship.


It becomes very clear that Bortrek is looting the remains of Durren base and has no intention of taking the droids to Cybloc XII.


Mon Mothma explains to Han that the entire mission has disappeared. They are keeping the news quiet as long as they can because Minister of State Rieekan has fallen gravely ill. Han is unhappy to learn that a plague has been reported in the Meridian sector at Durren base which was attacked while its two cruisers were out on an investigation.


They’ve sent a message to Ashgad, but Han notes a response means nothing if he’s in on this. New Republic law requires a pro tem leader to be selected in the absence of both the Chief of State and Minister of State, but the fighting has already begun. Ackbar has called a 12 hour hiatus. Han suggests that they put together fake holograms to keep things going.


Mon Mothma explains that, besides being a precedent she’s rather not set, two fake holograms of Leia have already been sent by parties that are trying to get their agendas pushed.


Han asks about Luke. Mon Mothma didn’t know he’d gone on the mission, too. They’ve been trying to reach him on Yavin IV. Han decides to get Lando, Mara Jade, Wedge and Kyp Durron to help him. They’ll use unrecognizable ships.


She provides him with Leia’s and the two ships’ last transmissions, the sensor readings on Ashgad’s ship and the coordinates for the jump point where they disappeared.


Winter had arrived with her and is now with the children. Han prepares to head out with Chewie to find Leia.

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chapter 7:


Bortrek’s made some alterations to R2 to make him work the bridge. He doesn’t care who they’re registered to. He claims them as salvage. He wantsPO to itemize the value of the goods he looted. C-3PO already had time to do that while they were trapped inside the hold. They are headed to Celanon which is a pleasant world.


The droids find that Bortrek is a drinker to whom the universe has not been fair. He rambles on about his life and his needs which appear to be whatever he desires regardless of what anyone else wants. As he rambles on and on, C-3PO finds that the oxygen content of the hold is lowering.


He does protest when the hold appears to be locked. But R2 assures him everything is fine. C-3PO is not at all sure the captain will approve of him undoing the modifications to R2, but doesn’t want to put up with the little droid’s nagging.


He’s furthered surprised when R2 informs him they are not going to Celanon, but to Nim Drovis in the Meridian sector. The captain will not help them and they need him when the ship comes out of hyperspace.


In fact, Bortrek is awake and slamming on the hold door. An apologetic C-3PO is forced to translate for R2. If he does not agree to take them to Nim Drovis, land and let them out, then R2 will flood his compartment with carbon dioxide and and send out a distress signal to the Galactic Patrol.


It will take the captain about 25 minutes to rewire the closed door which is much more time than he has before the ship comes out of hyperspace and they risk drifting forever if he’s not at the controls of the ship. Of course, that would be fatal for him long before the two droids would even get bored.


Bortrek is forced to acquiesce and doesn’t stop cursing all the way to Nim Drovis’s landing pad and probably as he takes off after leaving the droids there.


Umolly Darm confirms that a ship landed here eight months ago that contained a human female under the name of Cray Mingla. Some ground lightning knocks out her computer, but she says, compared to the Force storm, this isn’t anything. The Oldtimers aren’t even bothered by the ground lightning.


Luke feels guilty when he hears of people injured or dying because of the Force storm that he caused.


According to the Oldtimers, the Force storms were more common long ago. The last ones were centuries ago and even the Theran Listeners don’t talk about them. They only took place for about a hundred years. There weren’t any before or since then…until yesterday.


He asks if there could be hidden beings on this world, but is told the place has been scoured for centuries. There’s nothing hidden here. Luke considers a Jedi could have landed here who may not have known about the storms or tried to control them.


The loneliness overwhelms him again. The last eight months have been painful. He feels he’s walking alone. Relaxing his mind, he tries to find Callista and senses the presence of a Jedi.

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  • Chapter two said it had been a year since Darksaber. This chapter says it has been eight months. Just to be clear, both chapters measured the amount of time since the Knight Hammer fell into Yavin. I’m still dating this book 13 ABY.

  • BTW, I love R2-D2. He’s the smartest character in any of these books.

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chapter 8:


Leia watches one of the synthdroids and is angry when she thinks of how they were used to release the Death Seed. She is standing on the balcony per Liegeus’s orders to stand in full sunlight for 15 minutes each day at noon.


He’s obviously more than just a pilot.


Right now he is working on the synthdroids while Dzym argues with him about how he has not yet received what he was promised for doing only what he could do.


He comes into her room now, the only one who ever chimes first, then checks her water pitcher. They all do. She dumps it over the rail when they aren’t looking. She’ s flirting with dehydration now but she wants to keep her mind clear.


She understands that Liegeus is a prisoner like she is but he has the run of the house. He explains that he has no place to go even if he does leave. She claims not to have overheard his conversation with Dzym. She does understand that this creature has the ability to call the Death Seed into being and even take it away.


She offers to help Liegeus if he needs it.


Luke checks out the house of Seti Ashgad’s father. It’s a ruin now and Callista isn’t here. But someone else is. Her name is Taselda and she identifies herself as being from the Knights.


He still calls himself Owen, thinking that the name Skywalker would frighten her.


Taselda explains that she is Callista’s teacher now. She has been waiting for Luke ever since Callista told her about him. She sent Callista to a cave nearby where the Force is strong. The wine she gives him is not very good but it seems to clear his mind for the first time ever.


He chastises himself for being disgusted by her ragtag appearance, reminding himself that Yoda was not the most attractive being after living in the swamps. She asks if he has a speeder and weapons. He admits he has both, but thinks about how he had intended to sell the speeder to get funds to leave the planet.


Taselda doesn’t think this is enough and they need to wait. She explains that she came here on a minor mission many years ago and intended to leave after accomplishing it. But she saw how the people lived here and knew she couldn’t leave.


She lent her skills to the people and taught them how to live better, but her ship was destroyed one night. She was made their ruler.


Many years later, another Jedi came because he heard the Force was strong on this world. He was selfish but not strong in the Force. His name was Beldorion. He worked lies until everything she’d done here was corrupted.


Her friends turned against her and Beldorion stole her lightsaber, since he was not strong enogh to make his own. He ruled Hweg Shul like a king and she was forgotten.


Eventually, though, Beldorion was usurped by Seti Ashgad who was sent here by the old Emperor as punishment.


Ashgad took over for Beldorion and in that house lies her lightsaber. She cannot make another because of her injuries. Ashgad would not let her inside. She’s tried to recover it since, but the drochs get her every time.


They will be vulnerable in the cave where she sent Callista. Ashgad’s servants are not really human. She doesn’t know whether the lightsaber is here or at the house Ashgad has it at another house. She cannot go with Luke to find Callista.


He offers to get it for her and she thanks him, giving him a map of the house where she thinks the saber is. She knew he would help her as Callista had told her all about him. When she spoke Owen’s name, there was a light in her eyes.


Luke starts to head off, excited about seeing Callista again, then realizes that she would not have called him Owen. There was something in the wine he drank, such as a mood enhancer. Taselda is using him.


He turns back to find her eating drochs. He is suddenly attacked by a group of Oldtimers. He knows he cannot use the Force because it would create a storm that might kill an innocent person. The attack is broke up by an Ithorian and a human both in the uniforms of the Hweg Shul police.


The man is Grupp and the Ithorian is Snaplaunce. They explain that the group keeps attacking Ashgad’s house. They killed the last of Ashgad’s servants this year and are probably responsible for kidnapping a young woman around the same time.


She called herself Cray and was dragged off by the group of Oldtimers. Later, she said they were her friends. She left Hweg Shul a week later of her own will.


Luke realizes that Callista came here to find the Force, found Taselda instead and, recognizing what she was, fled.

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  • Taselda refers to the old Emperor sending Ashgad here. According to an earlier chapter, it was Senator Palpatine. He wasn’t Emperor yet. Since she’s been here since before even then, how would she know anything about events on a Galactic scale? How long has she actually been here?

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chapter 9:


Leia is invited to tea with Beldorion by one of the synthroids. The flesh is decaying, no doubt due to its contact with the Death Seed.


The Hutt explains that he was the better ruler of this world when Ashgad came but he was too tired because of the constant fighting with Taselda. They had come here together and she became jealous of him. She wasn’t very powerful and tried to discredit him.


Leia asks what brought him here in the first place. Beldorion thinks she knows. It was the light. The ocean of brightness that fills the universe and each of their Order. Ashgad cannot be trusted. Liegeus appears and quips that Ashgad never sold one of his slaves to Dzym.


Beldorion uses the Force to cripple Liegeus with pain. Leia comes to his aid and they race down the corridor together. Liegues tells her not to trust the Hutt as he likes to influence minds. Beldorion cannot protect her from Ashgad or from Dzym. Even when Ashgad first came to this world, Beldorion was no match for him.


Leia starts to wonder about the original Ashgad but realizes Liegues has given her more information than he should have. She heads to her room and dumps the new water out, so thirsty that she’s afraid she might forget later that she shouldn’t drink.


Lando and Han land on a planet where they find the wreckage of one of Durren cruisers. They bring survivors aboard the Falcon and download the ship’s logs before taking off.


They are hit by small ships who have come out of nowhere. They cannot be scanned, there are no bases nearby and they couldn’t have come out of hyperspace alone.


The Falcon escapes into hyperspace.

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Characters like Beldorion are the reason I am not sad that a lot of EU was relegated to Legends.

If you don't follow the EU anyway then why the hell does it matter to you whether it's considered canon by Lucasfilm or not? It shouldn't, unless you're one of those people who takes pleasure in the misery of others.

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chapter 10:


Leia thanks Liegeus for his help. He explains he is here because of his ability to design artificial intelligence systems for spacecraft, as well as being an expert holo faker. He has been put to work by Beldorion to edit and retape his huge collection of Huttese pornography. Liegeus offers to make up some holos of her husband and children; they might bring her comfort.


She explains that she thinks it would hurt too much. One of the synthdroids arrives and tells Liegeus that Ashgad wishes to speak with him.


She heads to the balcony where she hears Ashgad reveal that he’s leaving for three days in order to start things in motion in Hweg Shul. The Reliant is almost ready. He heard about Beldorion’s meeting with Leia yesterday and they all know he was hoping to influence her mind. Ashgad warns Liegeus not to let the Hutt anywhere near her again.


Liegeus tries to convince him that neither Beldorion nor Dzym will listen to orders.


Luke comes back and tells Umolly that he didn’t find his friend. She is working on removing crystals that they sell to Loronar Corporation. Luke is surprised as that’s a fairly large company and he’d got the impression this was a small time operation.


Umooly tests the crystals in a recharger and Luke gets a disturbance in the Force. She explains that they are all going to meet Seti Ashgad in the place the old Hutt used to be in. Someone there might’ve seen Luke’s friend, though.


He touches the crystal, hoping to find out what happened earlier.


On the way to the meeting, no one knows what it’s about, but Luke thinks it’s strange that the Hutt would be Taselda’s enemy. Was it a Force-sensitive Hutt? He wouldn’t have thought that was possible a few years ago. It’s also possible that Taselda tried to trick Callista into getting her lightsaber for her.


Caslo invites Luke to come along for a drop later. When Ashgad arrives, he explains that he was optimistic about getting some help from the New Republic. He’d thought that the work they’d put into this planet would count for something, but it would seem that the New Republic is only interested in the Oldtimers’ squatting in this world for centuries.


He produces a holorecording of Leia Organa Solo, who was not at all enthusiastic about meeting with him anyway. The recording has Leia dismissing the wants of a few colonists in comparison to the amount of credits it will take to battle out the problem.


They cannot be seen as supporting any majority.


Luke sees that the chair is nothing like what’s on the Borealis, though her outfit is correct. He realizes this is a fake, but pointing it out only compromises his identity. He knows, however, that these people are like he was on Tatooine, never understanding how skillfully images can be doctored, believing what they see.


Luke releases his anger and decides to ask himself what Ashgad has to gain by this.

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chapter 11:


On Nim Drovis, Han brings the survivors of the cruiser to the med center where he himself is handled roughly by security which fears armanents being brought in by their enemies.


The doctor on duty explains that they’ve lost 40 to a plague at the base so far. They are trying to contain the plague but no one seems to have anything wrong with them. No viruses, bacteria or allergies. Bacta just accelerates their slow loss of life.


Han pulls the logs of the Corbantis battlecruiser and asks for an unscramble. He’d like to know who attacked the ship and why. He warns Lando not to take the Falcon’s engines all the way down. If he’s not back in two hours, Lando should take the ship out of here, telling Chewie whatever he has to, but they have to find Leia.


Meanwhile, C-3PO and R2 are raising money in a bar by playing musical pieces for the patrons. A Chadra-Fan rescues them from being stolen and introduces himself at Yarbolk Yemm, a reporter.


C-3PO explains they are trying to gt to Cybloc XII. Yemm explains no one’s heard from there in about 30 hours. Two cruisers were sent from there to deal with pirate activity and nobody’s heard from them either.


He gives them some credits and tells them to be careful, to book their passage under a human name and thanks them for the music.


After he walks away, the droid recognizes Captain Solo in the midst of an attack. Solo comms Lando and explains they need to get off this planet. The rival tribes here in in revolt. Lando tells him they’ve already had to clear out the landing bays of them.


After he, the security officers and the medic make their escape, the droids lose sight of them. R2 spots them again and C-3PO tries to get Han’s attention to no avail.


They decide to head to the docking bays where they find the Millennium Falcon waiting there. But the firefight has been brought here, too, and, after Solo rolls up the boarding ramp, the ship takes off, leaving both droids behind.

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chapter 12:


Luke was about to withdraw from Caslo’s drop job, but Arvid happened to mention that Caslo was Ashgad’s business agent in the city. Obviously, Ashgad is doing what he can to rouse the Rationalists’ fury. As the wealthiest man on the planet, he is in a good position to act as a middleman for the community once trade is opened up.


But this planet doesn’t have anything really that would be beneficial to other worlds. When he gets to the rendezvous point, he starts wondering what else could motivate Ashgad. Very few people seem to realize the Force is here.


The people here resent the Therans for keeping outside influences from their world and Luke understands that. None of the moisture farmers on Tatooine would have stood for any thinking that the Tuskens and the Jawas utilized their majority to decide for the entire world.


Ashgad is providing his followers with new weapons. Could he have a supply of funds coming from somewhere? Could Callista have found out and that’s why she fled?


Weapons are handed out and he gets one that is the lastest BlasTech which had been handed to the Honor Guards on the Borealis less than a month ago.


This weapon had come from there. He checks the other weapons, realizing most have come off of Borealis and Adamantine, including one of Leia’s personal weapons.


Leia has to escape. She has three days to do so. The water brought last night was clean, a gift or an oversight, she doesn’t know. Her mind is clear. She reaches through the Force and calls for Luke.


She thinks. Dzym can control the Death Seed as he did on the synthroids and did off of her before she was brought here. Why are they doing this? Is Moff Getellis strong enough to control the sector?


What is the Reliant? So far as she knows, it’s just a midsize freighter.


Liegeus arrives and is glad she’s feeling better. He notes the empty pitcher and explains he couldn’t bear to see her suffer in this climate. He’s brought her some holovids to pass the time.


She asks what happens to her now that he’s gone. She doesn’t accept that Ashgad isn’t a bad man. Liegeus explains that he understands what’s making him do all of this. He can’t really explain it but asks her to trust hi. He brings out a comlink and explains he has to have it back before Ashgad returns.


He’s changed the combination on the doorpad. If someone tries to get in, she’s to comm. Liegeus and he will come. Leia tries to press him for answers but he will give none. He only tells her not to accept any more invitations by Beldorion and to spend as much time on the balcony in the sunlight as she can.


After he leaves, she starts picking the door lock. She writes down every failed combination until she finds one that works, tests it and then sneaks out into the hall.

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chapter 13:


Luke had told her that the eyes are the most dangerous of the senses because you’ll believe them first. Leia walks through the house, reaching out with her senses.


She passes into rooms that must be Seti Ashgad’s and uses the computer to view information about the business dealings and about the synthroids. She prints data about Dymurra, Getelles and Reliant before heading out and down steps into a reception area. On the access stairs, it is dark, so she pulls out her lightsaber.


Beldorion had described to her how the great Masters would summon light. She laments how Luke is agonizingly trying to find information of the type that Beldorion has and is using for his own pettiness.


She walks through the shadows that remind her of Vader, of Palpatine or of one of her children when they reach the age where they choose between light and darkness.


She sees something ahead, sitting and waiting. It seems like an evil that cannot be fought. As she views the crablike thing, something drops to her shoulder and pain stabs through her.


She starts to drop, then uses her lightsaber to swing around at the crab thing. A couple of more bites and she feels like she will faint. If she does, they will find her. She has tried to call Luke but can’t be sure he has heard.


She wills herself to climb to her room and falls on the floor to sleep.


Using a fake name provided by the reporter, C-3PO is disguised and books passage on a Gamorrean ship for Cybloc XII for himself and R2.

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chapter 14:


Leia goes over the information she’s printed. Seti Ashgad communicated with Moff Getelles to destroy the gun stations on Nom Chorios in exchange for weapons and the first cut of the profits when Loronar Corporation moves in to strip mine it for crystals.


The CEO of Loronor in the Core is Dymurra who has provided a list of which groups will cause revolts at key places to split the New Republic ’s peace-keeping forces long enough for Getelles to move in.


A meeting with Councillor Q-Varg which included a payoff, coordinating her disappearance with the poisoning of Rieekan so that the Council would be hopelessly deadlocked.


There is no direct mention of the Death Seed, only Ashgad’s assurances that he can control it so it only affects Republic ships and bases. Leia is furious, knowing that there could be an accident that would certainly affect his ability to control the spread of the disease.


Thinking of the dead on her own ship, she is full of rage and wants to kill these evil beings. Just like Vader had done.


She knows it’s better not to have this power than to deal with how she might use it. She searches further and finds that a a new facility will be built by Loronar for manufacturing Synthdroids and Needles which are miniweapons controlled by the same crystals found on Nam Chorios.


The Reliant is a ship with a modified hull that was designed by Liegeus Vorn. He was also assigned to digitalize holos of her and her escort. She is angry for liking Liegeus, a man who had been kind to her, though he must have known what was going on.


Of course, even Tarkin must have been kind to whatever wife or children he might’ve had.


She finds the water pitcher full which means Liegeus had been here while she slept. She had felt as though the Death Seed was in her while battling the crab in the stairwell. But there’s no sign that Dzym had been here.


She grabs the water, two blankets and the shirts Liegeus had left for her. She purges herself of her anger at him, as he may not have known what he was getting into until it was too late. The doorlock combination had been reset while she slept, so she uses her lightsaber to free herself.


She heads to Ashgad’s office where she finds maps of the area and makes a plan. Then she hears voices and realizes Ashgad is back early. The man is arguing with Dzym about how he is supposed to stay away from Leia. If she dies too soon, the Council will choose a successor and ruin their plans. He seems much older than before.


Dzym denies doing anything to her, but Liegeus explains he found her passed out yesterday afternoon, barely breathing. He’s checked on her the entire day and she hasn’t awakened.


Dzym demands they check on her now to see if Liegeus is even telling the truth. The man leaves, but Ashgad holds back Dzym and apologizes for not taking him. He should have gotten the woman in Hweg Shul and kept her from talking, but he’ll resolve that after Larm’s troops land. No one believes the woman anyway.


He had to get out of the meeting late last night and come back. He reminds Dzym that they need Liegeus for awhile longer. After the Reliant’s launch tracks are in and Larm’s troops arrive, Dzym can do with him what he wants. He begs Dzym to not be angry.


Leia risks a peek and finds Dzym using his tongue to produce a trickle of blood from the man’s neck. Something has passed between them and Ashgad moves like a young man again.


She gets out, taking down synthdroids on the way and getting into an equipment shed where only one repulsor cart is working and that at only half charge. She spots the Reliant sitting close by guarded by synthdroids.


A sheer drop three hundred meters down awaits her and she knows she cannot use the repulsorlift like this. She has no other options, especially when lights start going on in the house.


She checks the unit and doesn’t think it’s enough. But something tells her it is.


Luke wakes up and hears Leia calling him. Taselda had told him Ashgad’s other home near the Mountains of Lightning could be where her lightsaber was, but he will not go to her to find out where the house is. Arvid or Aunt Gin can tell him.


He sends Leia back through the Force that he’s coming.


The captain of the Gamorrean ship notices something wrong. The sounds of a riot erupt everywhere. The captain leaves the ship under C-3PO's protests before the Chadra Fan Yeem shows up and jumps into the ship. The captain barrels in and tells everyone to strap themselves in.


After taking off, she turns to the droid and asks him what Yeem is doing here as he has a reward out for him in seven systems.

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chapter 15:


Luke senses the invisible watchers who had been the planets original inhabitants. He calls for them and tells them they don’t have to be afraid of him. Pale shadows surround him.


Yeem tells C-3PO and Arto othat the Loronar Corporation is sponsoring the riots in the Meridian sector and he has proof. They’d already avoided being destroyed by the Republic cruiser Empyrean which was set upon by a cluster of invisible opponents.


Yeem thinks that the ships are being controlled by some central processor. Unfortunately, the weapons do their job and destroy the ship, leaving the Gamorreans the pleasure of looting the debris. This results in all of them being arrested by the Quarantine Enforcement Cruiser that appears. C-3PO, in disguise, is put under arrest while R2 is just impounded.


The little droid gives Yeem a small cube that he recognizes as a shielded transport shell, thousands of which were transferred to a dummy corporation of Loronar’s a few months ago.


Loronar sold to the Rebellion but made a much bigger profit than it should have, which means it was selling to the Empire, too.


Yeem explains there have been three attempts on his life since he started this story. With half of Loronar’s contracts coming from the Republic, they cannot afford for this story to get out.


The Quarantine Bay opens and C-3PO is ordered out. They have realized he’s really a droid and are about to fit him with a restraining bolt. They do not believe that he works for the Chief of State or that she’s been kidnapped because they’ve just gotten contingency orders from her. The droid tries everything to convince them of the truth of his statement.


They ask about the Chadra-Fan whom C-3PO identifies. Yeem jumps up and races for the doors, but is stunned by the captain. The droid’s audio sensors pick up her telling her guards to take the journalist to airlock three.


Leia shields her eyes and can’t tell if they are looking for her. She doesn’t know how she got down the mesa without crashing. She is trying to get to the nearest gun emplacement, not knowing if there’s any water or anything that can send subspace messages.


Trying not to think of how much her feet hurt, Leia cannot get her mind off of the Death Seed. Others have tried to use plague as a weapon, but no one ever considers mutations or human error or equipment failure.


She worries about Beldorion sensing her if she tries to contact Luke again. She frets over not spending as much time in her training as she should have.


She finds the gun station and climbs up it, heading through darkened staircases, looking for anything that could help her. Nothing but drochs.


Dizzy, she wants sunlight but she understands that she can also be hungry or exhausted just as easily as droch-bitten. She hears crashing furniture and knows she must have left tracks in the dust.


She pulls her lightsaber and a figure comes down followed by several others. Another lightsaber ignites. Callista calls her out.

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chapter 16:


Callista explains that they are weapons of the Force and she doesn’t think Luke understands that. The others with her are Therans. They prepare supper and spread blankets out.


Callista points out that people have tried to use Luke since the moment he could call his lightsaber to his hand. Luke has a single purpose and a pure heart. He doesn’t hunger after power, so he doesn’t understand those who do.


But Leia does and she understands why Callista had to leave. Like Luke, Callista never wanted power but those who have the power of the Force are constantly used by others. Vader would have used Leia if Luke hadn’t tried to stop him. Thrawn tried to have her children kidnapped so C’baoth could use them. Though Leia is trying to teach them well, they are young and it’s easy to influence children.


Leia wants them to be happy and to be innocent children but they can’t just follow any path they want because they have the Force. She wants to protect the next generation from the mistakes her children may make just as she wants to protect this generation from herself. Callista tells her she has to embrace the way of the Jedi and not flee it.


She goes on to tell Leia that Beldorion and the Jedi Taselda came here centuries ago seeking power. Neither of them were very powerful and only one could build a lightsaber. No one knows which ones. They probably don’t know themselves as they’ve lied to themselves and to others for so long.


Callista had been tricked by Taselda and then ended up so desperate and hungry that she ended up enslaved to Beldorion. So long as she lacks her own power in the Force, she can be used and would be vulnerable to the Dark Side. She will love Luke until her dying day, but Leia must make him understand that she will not pull him into the shadows with her.


The Falcon finds another wrecked ship, this time on Exodo II, the crew dead. That’s when an invading fleet comes out of hyperspace and heads their way.


C-3PO doesn’t understand what R2’s up to. He thinks the cables and extra jacks Bortrek put on the unit have confused him. R2 just wants him to remove one panel so he can save Yeem.


Then the droid disables the opening mechanisms on the door of airlock three and causes the system to believe the doors have been opened. C-3PO doesn’t see how this will help them get out of the hold and refuses to help any further.


R2 does the rest of the work himself and, soon, Yeem shows up and thanks them. He doesn’t know who paid the captain to try to push him out of the airlock. As he pops off the restraining bolts, C-3PO explains that there is some information leak on the Galactic Council.


Yeem already knows this and cautions them not to tell anyone else about the Chief of State’s abduction or they risk her being killed. He assists them in stealing an Aqualish ship. He has a plan to get them the funds they need to get to Cybloc.


C-3PO frets over hiding himself again, but he is tired of being treated like the property of every being who finds them. Yeem thinks he can get around them having to pretend to be something they are not.


Luke looks up to the Ashgad compound and tries to sense Leia. He considers using the Force to hide himself from any sensors and hope that he doesn’t trigger a Force storm.


He breaks into the hangar bay and senses the rotting evil in here. Leia has to be here somewhere. He climbs the steps, dislodging drochs from his clothing. Some of them have gotten bigger, grown pincers or tentacles. He feels pain and an urge to sleep.


Something strikes him from behind and he flings back against the wall. He feels weak. He spots the largest droch and thinks it’s nearly sentient. Luke cuts at it and summons the Force that tears them aside with a strong wind, knowing that someplace else will suffer for this.

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chapter 17:


Leia hears a sound. They spot one of the grenade launchers dislodge itself and begin crashing against the black shielding before dropping to the ground. Callista tells her that someone is using the Force.


Leia wonders if it’s Beldorion. Callista says it could be. He has the power within but he can’t control it like he once could.


Callista goes on to explain that Dzym and the drochs are lifedrinkers. They are the Death Seed plague. The original prisoners here were supposed to die but the light of the sun that fragments through the crystals creates radiation that weakens the electrochemical bonds of their tissues which prevents the larger drochs from doing too much damage and kills the small ones fairly quickly.


The prophet Theras knew this but not much is known about him. He didn’t know the drochs carried the plague but he knew that no ship large enough to carry heavy shielding could leave the planet. Over time, they just extended it to larger ships.


She thinks the drochs are sentient enough to mimic shapes down to the cellular level which is why they can’t be detected. The larger ones can draw life though the smaller ones without even attaching to the hosts which is when they become dangerous.


The drochs in Ashgad’s house were ones that had grown big from eating each other and absorbing their energy. People used to eat them, too.


Callista thinks what’s going on outside is bigger than Beldorion searching for her. Something else is going on. The storm gets bigger and bigger until it begins crashing their surroundings and ripping items, firing weapons that aren’t disabled and Leia can sense Luke in the midst of it.


Luke stops and hears Leia’s name being called. A man rushes down and falls, pursued by Dzym, Ashgad’s secretary. Dzym relishes in the larger drochs as he chastises Liegeus for not honoring the boundaries of Ashgad’s home. Liegeus protests that he’s not finished installing the launch vectors.


Dzym pulls off his gloves and begins stroking Liegeus’s face as the man whispers Leia’s name. Luke ignites his lightsaber and uses the Force to pull Dzym away from the man.


After Dzym escapes, Leigeus warns Luke that Dzym can use the drochs that have already bitten him if he’s not careful.


Leia has escaped either to a canyon in the hills or to one of the gun stations. He doesn’t know where.


Luke must use the Force but doesn’t want to hurt anyone else. He opens himself up and hears Obi-Wan remind him to trust his feelings. Luke pushes the stairway away, dragging Liegeus with him.


In the hangar, he pulls Liegeus into a ship and takes off.


As Leia, Callista and the Therans take refuge in a grotto deep in the hills, Leia asks about Dzym. She knows he’s keeping Ashgad alive.


Callista confirms this. He also had dealings with Beldorion and, probably, Taselda, too. He is the key to this plot because he can set the drochs to drink the life out of ships’ crews at a certain moment. And he can do this because he’s an altered, mutated, and overgrown 250-year old droch.


Liegeus tells Luke that ground lightning kills the drochs. If they can rig a circuit field through the crystals, they might be able to push electricity to the point where they are weakened and aren’t able to kill Luke or Liegeus or transmit the energy to Dzym.


Luke asks if Leia is alright. Liegeus explains that Ashgad ordered Dzym to stay away from her and he generally did because the pilot is his way to get off this planet where the crystals cannot kill him. Liegeus tried to keep her away from him, as if that mitigates what he’s done but it’s been such a long time since he cared for anyone. She was kind and brave.


Luke asks who he is. Liegeus answers that he’s the black sheep of his family, but with a talent for holo-forgery. That is beneficial in the entertainment industry, but worth a fortune to Ashgad, especially since Liegeus is a man without a family to miss him.


He tells Luke that Beldorion had his chef experiencing with insects so they’d be more fun to eat. The chef got the idea of mutating a droch raised in the dark. But it backfired when the droch got intelligent and enslaved the chef. In the end, the droch – Dzym – enslaved Beldorion, too.


That allowed Ashgad to take over, who stepped into Beldorion’s power, household and Dzym, too.


There’s probably not much left of Ashgad to the point where he can go against Dzym and he’s done his best to convince Getelles and Loronar that the drochs aren’t related to the Death Seed. They really don’t want to know that anyway.


Liegeus himself didn’t want to know until he was forced to. He thought he should do something, but that always gets pushed back. Then Leia arrived and she fought so hard that he did not want to appear so pathetic to her.


Unfortunately, he lied to Dzym. The Reliant is ready and the first load of crystals can be shipped.


R2 and C-3PO arrive on Cybloc XII at last via parcel post. R2 breaks them out of the crate which is addressed to Calrissian. They avoid thieves and get into the Port Authority where they find nothing but dead bodies and looted equipment.


R2 gives him instructions to send one message out in six million languages for help.

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chapter 18:


Han is frustrated that they’ve got no response from Cybloc XII at all. There are ships stationed there but no signal at all. They’d had to dodge their pursuers all the way to Durren where chaos reigns anyway.


They have barely contained the plague, the planetary government has just regained territory in the capital and the insurgents have access to vessels that have already attacked the station. She cannot release more forces without contact by the Chief of State or the Inner Council.


Han decides to try a private line, then sends Lando to make a deal with Wing Tip Theel who is the best forger they know. Han wants him to make the best holo fake of Leia possible and tells him what he wants her to say.


Liegeus asks if Luke’s her brother. He thinks the planet draws Jedi. Beldorion says he’s one. Taselda says his lightsaber is hers and sent her girl to steal it back. A young woman named Callista.


Beldorion took her prisoner, but she was no match for him. She thought Taselda could make her a Jedi and Beldorion just wanted to enslave her. He ended up giving her to Dzym when he realized she had no Force power.


She escaped and no one knows what became of her. Luke tells him he has to find her. Liegeus asks what he’s going to tell her…that he loves her? She already knows that. Liegeus loved a woman once many years ago. They were wanderers with passionate hearts. She had her own road to follow. She didn’t love him less but it was a road he couldn’t follow.


Sometimes you have to let them go.


Luke says he can’t do that. Liegeus admits every case is different, but he did go after his love. He thought he was the only person who could ever teach her what she needed to know in life. All he did was hurt her. He finally understood that the most loving thing he could do what to let her go and let her follow her own path.


Luke has a vision he doesn’t understand of his Aunt Beru’s kitchen and the stormtroopers killing Jawas there. Callista appears to him and tells him it’s their world and then walks away to a destination he cannot see.


Leia dreams of Palpatine’s audience hall where some horrible music by Jabba’s band is playing. Her father warns her not to be afraid as the Emperor plays tricks to make you think he’s more dangerous than he is.


She sees a woman on the throne in the robes of an Empress. A slave girl is there. The Empress tells her to give her lightsaber to one or the other. Leia says she doesn’t have to give it to either and walks away.

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chapter 19:



Callista says Luke had to confront Vader to accept that he was his father. Leia never had that chance. To her, he was a dark figure tagging after the Emperor every time she went to Court. She’ll never accept that he was her father.


Callista tells her that she’ll always be a slave to his shadow, then.


Leia doesn’t know what it means to make him a part of her the way Luke has. Callista reminds her she cannot afford not to be strong or else this kind of thing will happen to her again. Callista challenges her to spar with her.


On the way, she tells Leia not to watch her footwork. She’s watched herself all her life. What is she afraid of? Leia doesn’t want to hurt someone. She doesn’t want to be another Vader.


Callista tells her she won’t be. But she won’t be another Bail Organa either. She is Leia and no one else.


The Theran healer tells them that movement is headed toward the gun stations. Callista tells Leia the Therans are strong in the Force. She had heard about this place from Altis who’d told the story about two young Jedi arriving centuries ago. They know what she found here instead.


She guesses Leia didn’t get her message. Leia did but it was too late to call the mission off. Callista thinks she should have feigned sickness. Leia admits Luke is here, too, to look for Callista, but she doesn’t know where he is.


Callista says she found nothing to help her here. The Force is here but she cannot touch it. She plans to work her way off-planet in a cargo lifter and wonders if Leia will tell Luke she saw her here.


Leia says she won’t if Callista doesn’t want her too. She does think it would be best if she did. Callista will allow it but asks that she try to make him understand that he cannot be part of her life.


Another Force storm is coming and it’s directed. Probably by Beldorion.


C-3PO is broadcasting his distress signal again and again. When a ship arrives, they head into a hangar bay where they find a sleek Imperial ship…doubtless one that will not be willing to take them to Coruscant.


The Imperials, wearing uniforms with no Imperial markings, are ordered to look around by their admiral. R2 thinks it’s a clandestine mission. When C-3PO and R2 approach the landing party, they are taken to the leader.PO takes one look at the woman and tells R2 he thought Daala was dead.


She replies that she is.


When Lando returns, Han prepares to head to Nam Chorios because the fleet has arrived virtue of a pretty good fake recording. The Fleet is headed there and it just happens to be where Seti Ashgad lives. He doesn’t know what anyone wants with the planet but he’s headed there to find out.


He wonders if he’s crazy to head to a sector where there are Star Destroyers, Interdictors and weird cloudy space needles ready to cut them to pieces.

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chapter 20:


Luke feels the Force storm. The Mobquet flies through the canyons. Liegeus admits he’s never seen Beldorian wield the Force like this. Luke can’t believe all of this is happening just so Seti Ashgad can create a corridor to fly a ship through.


All of this just reeks of wasted abilities in the Force, just like Taselda. It’s almost worse than Vader and Emperor who at least had dreamed big.


He backs up the assault speeder to the canyon and tells Liegeus to hold on tight. Luke accelerates quickly and takes off over the mountain, filling the gap until he stops in the middle of the fighting. He spots Gerney Caslo in the crowd.


Luke urges them to stop. They are being used by Seti Ashgad who wants to sell the planet to Loronar so it can be strip-mined. He doesn’t care about any of them. Arvid. Aunt Gin. The familiar faces look at him.


Someone yells out to shoot him. Luke pulls the blaster away with the Force before it could hit him. Leia appears through a hatch and announces that Luke is right.


She was grimier, but the videos Ashgad had faked made her face known to everyone. She produces computer printouts that are copies of Ashgad’s correspondence with Loranar and Moff Getelles and others in the Republic Council.


Booldrum recognizes the codes in the printout as coming from Ashgad’s computer. Leia is accused of planting the material herself, but enough of the printouts are making their way around the crowd that people are starting to see the plans being made for them and their neighbors. Luke points out that an occupation fleet is in orbit now.


He tells Leia that he knows about Dyzm. He will probably try to get away with as many drochs as he can. Leia spots Liegeus and throws her arms around him. He is glad to see her safe.


Leia explains to Luke that Seti Ashgad designed the Z-95 headhunters. He’s the original Ashgad. Dzym’s being keeping him alive all these years. He is very capable of installing the software he needs.


Gerney isn’t giving up. He insists Ashgad is well-intentioned. When the crowd doesn’t see it that way, he jumps up and tosses grenades at the building which destroys the cannon.


Liegeus isn’t sure he can fix this. He assures them the synthdroids are gone; he decommissioned them before he left. Callista steps out and asks Liegeus if he has any tools. Aunt Gin gives him a tool box. Liegeus follows her up, tells her he’s sorry he couldn’t take better care of her, but that she was right about him. Callista is glad he took care of Princess Leia. He tells her that her young man is searching for her. She knows.


C-3PO can’t tell Admiral Daala much. She doesn’t believe him. She and Tarkin would have ruled the Empire together, but she doesn’t even remember why they wanted to. She just wants someplace to live out the rest of her life without being bothered by the idiots who are fighting over the remnants.


And now she shows up to take up a position offered to her by the Pedducian warlords only to find droids who are not being forthcoming with her. She knows how to deal with this. She flips an analysis switch on R2. He begins to wail. She wants to know what’s happening in the Meridian sector.


Lando doesn’t understand what these needlelike attackers are. Chewie is trying to fix the burned out wiring. Lando tells Han that he thinks they are like synthdroids, but the Antemeridian fleet isn’t near them so it really can’t be guiding them.


Han argues that synthdroids are expensive. Lando wonders if these are synthesized crystals.


Daala is furious when she finds out that Moff Getelles is behind this. She remembers the fool from the Academy and his crony, Larm. The man was promoted to captain over her. Now he’s selling out to a corporation. She pities the Chief of State of the New Republic. She was the daughter of Bail Organa, a man of honor. In those days, honor and courage were the norm.


That’s why she joined the Imperial fleet. To see it now would make Tarkin die of shame. She was a fool to think she could leave all this behind. She orders her aide to give her a conference with the captains of all of those ships. She explains to C-3PO that she is the President of the Independent Company of Settlers. They are over three thousand loyal to the old ways, the order and efficiency of the New Order. They just want to be left alone. They made a deal with Warlord K’iin for land on Pedducis Chorios to colonize.


She is not going to allow their investment to be ruined so that Moff Getelles can live in comfort off of Loronar Corporation. Even if that means saving Leia Organa Solo and her alien Council from being deservedly embarrassed.


When she gets her conference, she tells her friends that they have one more battle to fight.

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Chapter 21:


Events have transpired that forces Leia to ride in a vehicle piloted by Luke, something she normally avoids. But the situation makes her glad he’s such a good pilot. She wonders how this Loronar Systems vehicle got here.


Luke explains that Arvid told him the corporation must have made several drops before getting past the gun stations. Aunt Gin has found pieces of wreckage that she’s made repairs on. All of this is happening while Q-Varx was arranging to meet with the so-called Head of the Rationalists. She didn’t fully trust him, but he’d seemed like he was sincere.


Luke suggests that he sincerely thought risking a galaxy-wide exposure to the plague, as well as open warfare was worth it. Besides, he couldn’t have known it was the Death Seed.


Leia argues that he was in a position of responsibility and should have made it his business to know the facts.


Luke is focused on something he knows he’s missing. There is life on this planet. He gets a message through the Force, telling him not to let them. He doesn’t understand. Nor does he understand why he had a vision of stormtroopers, Jawas and someone watching him, waiting for him.


He tells Leia that, at least, Q-Varx doesn’t know about Dzym.


At Ashgad’s home, they break in, cutting through doors and using flamethrowers on drochs. A shielded gateway impedes them. Leia gets the idea that Luke knows who’s here. Luke can nearly see him in his mind’s eye.


Leia uses her lightsaber to get through the lock of the hangar doors, only to see the Reliant head up to the open corridor caused by the destruction of the Bleak Point gun station. Spook crystals lay on the floor and the Headhunter is there, too, damaged deliberately. Luke thinks he can fix it.


Beldorian arrives. He warns Leia not to underestimate his size and age. Leia still remembers how Jabba could move. She strikes with her lightsaber and is surprised at his strong counterattack. Thankful for the lessons Callista had given her, she takes advantage of his lateral move to cut him open.


Luke jumps into the cockpit of the Headhunter, knowing his vision had represented Leia’s first victory over the legacy of Darth Vader. She is accepting her abilities.


The ship heads up toward the Reliant. A Republic ship is being pummeled by the Needles and, beyond them, the fleet. There are Imperial and Republic vessels, maybe even the Falcon.


His ship is hit, the cabin loses gravity and the heat rising. He crash lands on the planet, managing to get out before the ship explodes. Laying on the sand, he can tell they are watching him. The tsils. They’d used images from his mind of living beings.


They tell him they’ve been alive all this time, throughout history, as the planet changed. The people came and went, not interesting them, until their companions were taken. Luke realizes that the crystals are being enslaved in the Needles and synthdroids.


Through the tsils’ pain, he can see the Reliant cabin, Ashgad at the controls, bleeding and gasping for breath. Drochs crawl over him. Dzym stands behind him. Grand Admiral Larm contacts the ship, greeting them.


Luke isn’t sure what this contact with the tsils will do to him, but he urges them to have those aboard the Reliant destroy the ship. In return, he promises that he will make sure their companions are returned.


They focus their minds through him, causing terrible pain. Luke can see Ashgad struggling to get to his feet, Dzym anticipating devouring worlds and, then, an explsion. He faints.

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