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"Before the Storm": Book 1 in The Black Fleet Crisis


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Prologue:
Eight months after the Battle of Endor, the Imperial repair yards at N’zoth is ordered to evacuate. The commander is told to destroy the yards and any remaining assets. This is more difficult by the fact that only one of the nine Star Destroyers in the yards is ready for space.
The leader of the Yevethan Underground, Nil Spaar, is aware of this. He puts word out that the Imperials are leaving and that the plan is to be implemented. There are nine prizes to be had.
The commander, Paret, transfers his command to the Intimidator, hoping not to alert the Yevetha, who comprise nine out of every ten workers at the yards, that they are leaving.
Nil Spaar had worked to make sure his men were indispensable to the Imperials so much so that the work slowdown since Endor wasn’t even questioned. They are positioned everywhere and have rigged the Intimidator to show hatches sealed when they really aren’t.
The takeover is simple. They walk onto the bridge, shoot the executive officer and move the ship. The transports bringing Imperial citizens and support personnel from the planet are shot down over the protests of Commander Paret. Spaar kills him and orders that the surviving crew be told they are prisoners of the Yevetha Protectorate. He then wants to speak with the viceroy.
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  • The time is 16 years ABY. Luke and Leia are 34; Han is 44, the twins are 7, Anakin is 5 ½.

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chapter 1:
Twelve years later, the world of Bessimer is the site of live-fire New Republic exercises under the command of a Dornean general. Pilots Tuketu and Skids hit emplacements on the surface.
Admiral Ackbar explains to the Senate Council that the 5th Fleet initiative is going to be instrumental in helping the New Republic defend or hold planets which is something they have little experience with.
Senator Cion Marook of Hrasskis questions putting General Etahn A’baht in charge of this considering how short a time he’s served with the New Republic fleet. It is pointed out that the Dorneans were able to maintain their independence from the Empire so A’baht has considerable experience.
Senator Peramis of Walalla is more concerned about the test site. He wonders why the test was made against a planet with no planetary shield. Ackbar reminds him that it’s impossible to assault a planet with an intact shield and would learn nothing about their new tactics if they tried to do so. Peramis points out that they had been told that their targets would well-armed Imperial worlds. It defeats the purpose to overwhelm an undefended world, such as Bessimer, unless the true purpose of this fleet is to strengthen Coruscant.
He asks Princess Leia which world she is preparing to invade. This causes the ire of Senator Tolik Yar who demands he retract his accusation. Leia answers Peramis that the Fifth Fleet was designed to defend the New Republic and nothing more. She swears on the House Organa that it will never be used against member worlds.
Peramis points out that she can hardly swear upon an extinct family from which she was not really a blood descendant anyway. He believes the Fifth Fleet is a weapon of conquest to be used by Darth Vader’s daughter while his son is being encouraged to expand his power. He storms out in protest.
Chairman Behn-kihl-nahm asks Leia to excuse the outburst. Walalla suffered greatly under the Empire, something that Peramis finds hard to forget and inspires his passion.
General Abaht reports that the operation is deemed a success and that the Fifth Defense Task Force be considered operational.
Leia asks Ackbar how Peramis could believe that any of them enjoy war after everything the New Republic has been through. She’s not used to being feared for no reason. Ackbar suggests she take out her frustration at home by throwing something. He plans to vent similarly.
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  • A couple of notes here. One, Leia is repeatedly referred to as Princess, not Chief of State. She is referred to once as Madame President.
  • Two: Leia is referred to specifically as Darth Vader’s daughter. There have been spotty details since ROTJ as to how much the galaxy knows about Luke and Leia. Imperials, such as Thrawn and Hethrir knew that they were the children of Vader, but we really didn’t get the impression that it was widely known. In Tatooine Ghost, several people seemed aware of the situation and just overlooked it. At some point that we’ve never been given details on, the revelation that Luke and Leia were the twin children of Anakin Skywalker and that Skywalker was Darth Vader was made. This chapter, at least, makes it seem that it’s no big secret now.

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Yeah, the "big revelation" to the galaxy was, surprisingly, never narrated. I think it would make for an interesting story. Can you see the story hitting the Holonet and the controversy it causes? Skywalker and/or Organa tributes being defaced everywhere, etc.?

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Hmm. I'd be willing to check it out if there's any possibility it could somehow fit into the old canon. I recently incorporated Tarkin.

 

[Edit] Never mind. Looked it up on Wookieepedia and it's too tied in with things and situation unique to The Force Awakens. Do not want.

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I will get to Bloodline. I've just been busy. :)

 

chapter 2:
On Yavin IV, Luke meets with Streen on the top of the Temple Atun and explains that he has to leave the Academy. His work here is finished and he has other work that cannot be done here. He is leaving Streen in charge.
On Coruscant, Han Solo has become a stay-at-home Dad. He and Leia had determined, after routing them from nannies to bodyguards to hiding places and still having their children kidnapped, that they would raise the kids themselves. He’d tried to resign his commission, but Ackbar pointed out that he would lose his security clearances and the ability to counsel Leia on sensitive matters, so he arranged for Han to be put on detached duty as special liason to the Chief of State. A fancy term for not having any responsibilities.
But Han finds that being a parent is much more difficult when your children are Force-sensitive. After getting past the normal childhood protests about how Winter or Chewie or C-3PO does things, he learns that Anakin can throw Force-assisted tantrums, he and Jacen have their mother’s stubbornness and the twins work together to get into mischief. He’s also worried that Jacen wants to use the Force for everything and is getting rather pudgy because of it, yet can’t seem to levitate anything. He spends a lot of time alone, ignoring his siblings but doesn’t substitute any other friends.
When Leia comes home, they discuss their days. Han complains that Jacen doesn’t want to do anything physical because he can just use the Force like Uncle Luke. He wants Luke to remind him about the importance of physical exercise. Leia asks if he’s heard from Luke.
She explains that Luke hasn’t been heard from in months. She talked to Tionne today who told her that Luke has disappeared after turning the Academy over to Streen. He’s done that before but Tionne thinks this time is for good.
She wonders if she should ask Ackbar to quietly put out feelers for Luke’s E-Wing. Han reminds her that nothing like that will stay secret and people will start panicking very quickly if it becomes known that Luke Skywalker is missing. He thinks she needs to trust Luke to take care of himself.
In the meantime, the twins got into a fight after lunch because Jaina was tired of being ignored by Jacen.
Elsewhere on Coruscant, Luke lands his E-Wing and tells the astromech R7-T1 to wait. He has moved stones to their former spots in Darth Vader’s ruined fortress which Rebel forces destroyed shortly after reclaiming Coruscant. Luke decides he will redeem this place, reminding himself that surrender is more powerful than will.
Leia awakens later that night to tell Han that Luke is on the planet. She felt him gazing down on her and then pulled a curtain around himself. Han points out that he obviously wants his privacy, so let him have it. Luke will tell them what’s wrong when he’s ready.
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  • Luke flying an E-Wing and not an X-Wing and with another astromech besides R2 is strange.
  • The chapter mentions Han remembering his childhood as fully of play where he was physically active. Wasn’t the bulk of Han’s childhood begging and stealing for Shryke?
  • So how many times has Han resigned or tried to resign now? As I understand it, he’s still a General right now though.
  • Why would Luke leave Streen in charge instead of an experienced Jedi like Kam Solusar? No offense, but every book since the JA trilogy has described Streen in words, such as “confused” or “addled”. These are not descriptions of someone I would want in charge of a school.
  • Why would Jacen have trouble levitating? We’ve not read anything about him in the past books that would indicate that it’s a problem for him.
  • Darth Vader’s fortress on Coruscant was mentioned before and I have to still wonder what he used it for. It makes sense that it would be destroyed; less sense that Luke would want to go there and live.
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chapter 3:
Leia and Ackbar watch the Duskhan delegation land. She explains to him that she has the First Administrator there to meet Nil Spaar. She has had to stop meeting these delegations herself because there are multiple ones per week and it takes a great deal of time.
As it is, Spaar has asked for a delay of ten days before the negotiations begin so he can tour Coruscant. She turns the subject to the Fifth Fleet. Ackbar thinks it might be wise to send it someplace where they have been asked by local authorities for assistance on matters even Peramis can’t object to. In fact, there’s a system that has been battling pirate activity lately that will be perfect.
They make arrangements for the First Fleets and Second Fleets to change places so that the latter can get some easier duty for a time. Then she asks if he thinks there’s still some enemy out there.
Ackbar reminds her that Admiral Daala is still out there with the resources of the Core Worlds at her disposal. She will only grow stronger every day.
Leia is called away to the Senate and plans to pick this conversation up with Ackbar later.
She heads down the corridor with her two security guards who stop her momentarily when they detect an energy shield go active at the end of the hall. They move toward it to find a holosign reminding everyone that it’s been 882 days without a shot fired and that peace is no accident. Tolik Yar steps out and asks how she likes it. She isn’t sure the Chairman will approve, but he tells her that Behn-kihl-nahm helped install it.
The Senate issue has been resolved without her help and he apologizes for interrupting her day.
In the meantime, the Millennium Falcon has been completely rebuilt with a better hyperdrive motivator and other enhancements to make it move better and more efficiently. Han doesn’t like it. He prefers the noises because he needs to know how bad they are hit if they get in a scrape.
They join up with Leia and the children. Chewie wants to go to Kashyyyk for his son’s, Lumpawaroo, coming of age ceremony. Leia persuades Han to let him take the Falcon to do it despite Han not wanting anyone else flying it.
She reminds him that he was willing to let Lando fly it in battle, lose it to Lando in a card game and has even kept Chewie from his homeworld for years. He can at least let his friend do this. They both know how guilty he feels over the children’s kidnapping.
Han tells her they know it wasn’t his fault and Chewie can go to Kashyyyk anytime he wants to. It’s his life debt that keeps him sticking around.
Admiral Drayson, chief of the Alpha Blue Intelligence Agency, arrives in his office to find Lando Calrissian sitting in his chair. They trade barbs about how much of Duchess Mistal’s reward he’s blown through before Lando asks for something interesting to do.
Drayson shows him a holo of the Teljkon vagabond which is a ghost ship like the Another Chance. But this one is real. Five years ago, the New Republic ship Boldheart encountered it and it jumped to hyperspace before they could reach it. That was the second sighting. The Hrasskis were the first and encountered a distorted signal from it before it jumped to hyperspace. There’s been more sightings since then but the most recent as it in Gmar Askilon. They’re trailing it now and keeping a distance. He wants to put Lando on Col. Pakkpekatt’s ship so he can put his smuggler thinking to use.
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  • So did Yar call Leia to the Senate under pretense just to show her the sign?
  • We met Admiral Drayson in The Last Command where he wasn’t particularly useful.
  • And did Alpha Blue replace New Republic Intelligence? If so, did Drayson replace Airen Cracken?
  • Ackbar mentions Admiral Daala out there as a potential threat in the Core. Really? The last time we saw Daala, she was in the arms of her old love and bound and determined to have nothing to do with the Imperial remnants. Has something changed in the last four years?
  • The Another Chance has been brought up before. While both Lando and Drayson dismiss it as a legend, we learned in The Krytos Trap that it had indeed not only been real but was found and turned over to the Rebel Alliance. I’m surprised neither of them seems aware of this.
  • We’ve been told in The Courtship of Princess Leia that it takes two people to work the hyperdrive on the Falcon. So who’s going with Chewie? Or is he flying sublight the whole way?

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chapter 4:
Han gets a message from Luke asking to come see him alone. He can tell Leia if he wishes, but nothing else. When Han gets to the empty fortress, Luke explains that there isn’t anything wrong. He asked Han to come because Leia wants something from him. Han doesn’t. He needs to explain what he’s doing so Han can explain it to her.
He explains how Obi-Wan had been a hermit for more than ten years on Tatooine while Yoda had been one on Dagobah for more than a hundred. He never asked them why and it’s too late now. He’d thought they were hiding from the Empire but now questions why they would have to do so in a desert or a jungle. They were masters who could hide themselves in the Force and they could do it just as easily on Coruscant as anywhere else.
Luke thinks they needed the isolation so that people wouldn’t rally around them and have expectations of them. He points out to Han that Jedi are constantly in demand to solve problems. They can either surrender their lives to those demands or surrender their egos and withdraw from those who want them to fix everything.
The line between Palpatine and Yoda is that Palpatine wanted to control while Yoda had given up the desire to control. Han admits he’d wondered why Obi-Wan and Yoda hadn’t teamed up to overthrow the Emperor.
Luke excitedly agrees. They’d moved beyond the need to change things. Luke hadn’t which is why it had to be him.
Han thinks that Jedi Knights who don’t fight are pretty much useless. Luke doesn’t think Jedi could rule the galaxy just because they can. He doesn’t know if he’s the type of person who can reform the galaxy now. He needs time to find out. For that reason, Han needs to make Leia understand that he cannot help her. She needs to find the strength in herself and not depend on him to fix everything for her.
In the meantime, Lando lands on Yavin IV and lies to C-3PO that Luke has assigned them to Fleet Command and that Fleet Command has assigned the two droids to him. He makes up another set of lies to tell Streen.
Then he recruits Lobot on Cloud City.
Then the Lady Luck joins the Teljkon Task Force, headed by the Glorious. On board, he butts heads with Colonel Pakkpekatt before they agree to work together.
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  • Luke’s count is off. Obi-Wan had been on Tatooine for about 18-20 years, depending on how old you think Luke and Leia were in ANH. Current Lucasfilm chronology has them at 18 during that time and most of the subsequent books use that to determine current ages. But it was certainly more than ten years. I suppose Luke couldn’t have known that, but it is definitely true that Yoda was not a hermit on Dagobah for over a hundred. Where he got that idea is a mystery.
  • Also, while I would agree with Luke that neither Yoda nor Obi-Wan needed people rallying around them, pushing them to fight the Emperor for them, I think he’s way off in that neither of them were inclined to fight. We learned that both of them considered themselves failures and were waiting for the twins to grow up to add a new perspective and a new way of thinking to the mix. At least, that’s all I can think of in terms of their strategy. But Obi-Wan stayed on Tatooine to watch over Luke. That was his reason for choosing the place. Yoda choosing Dabobah is another mystery but I really don’t think it was because he just no longer felt like taking action.

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chapter 5:
After a restless night caused by Anakin sleeping between her and Han, Leia goes for her first meeting with Nil Spaar only to be hit by multiple people asking questions. She asks Ackbar to get her to her office where she asks for a few minutes to rest herself. There’ve been too many delays already and Nil Spaar expects to meet with the Chief of State privately. They cannot make changes now.
Her meeting with Nil Spaar is full of pleasantries. He wishes an alliance with the New Republic, but not membership in it. She is concerned that he expects protection from the Republic without any of the responsibilities of membership. He assures her that they do not need the Republic’s protection as they’ve got too many bad memories of what Imperial protection provided their people.
They discuss the issue for some time before breaking for lunch.
She is quickly debriefed by Behn-kihl-nahm, Drayson, Ackbar, the First Administrator and several others. They each have their own concerns. Most importantly, if the Yevetha are not interested in membership or trade, why are they here? Leia believes the New Republic is getting strong enough to concern them and they want to make sure there are arrangements in place to make sure they are left alone.
She is cautioned about making deals with the Yevetha, especially ones that might give them membership without the obligations that other member worlds have. The appearance of favoritism could cause many member worlds to resign.
Drayson offers to fit her with surveillance equipment, but she would rather not approach these talks in that manner.
Spaar returns to his ship where he changes and showers. He is advised by Vor Duull, protector of information science, that the Chief of State was no match for him. The New Republic seems weak and eager to please.
Spaar sends a message to N’zoth that all is going well with the vermin.
In the meantime, Drayson had already had technical assets in the room with Leia and Nil Spaar, not wanting Leia to regret not having them there in the first place. He goes over the meeting recordings.
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  • This chapter says Rieekan is Director of Intelligence. So did he replace Cracken? Wasn’t he recently Minister of State?

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chapter 6:
Luke’s seclusion is complete as the days go on. He stops marking the passage of time until a visitor arrives. She is Akanah, a Fallanassi and an adept of the White Current. She knows who he is and that he’s the son of Anakin. She has come because his mother was one of them.
He tells her that Leia told him their mother was dead. Akanah points out that Obi-Wan said the same thing about his father. And, after all, Luke has no grave to point to. Akanah was separated from her people 19 years ago when the Empire attacked where they were living. She began looking for them once the Emperor died, but the Fallanassi are good at hiding. She thinks his mother may be among them.
She would have used many names, but she’s known among them as Nashira. She wants Luke to come with him. Akanah has learned about him from the stories she’s heard. Luke is here, at Vader’s old fortress, because he knows that the galaxy cannot forgive Vader for his crimes even if Luke has. She thinks Luke fears having a family of his own because his father’s legacy may carry on to another generation.
What he doesn’t know is that his father may have been strong in the Force, but his mother gave him the gift of the light. She offers to let him probe her but warns him that the Force is not the same with her. It’s not the Force with a different name. They embrace the All.
Luke wants to go see Leia. He’s probed her mind for memories of their mother before but Akanah may have given him enough to get more.
He boards his unfamiliar E-Wing and heads out. Leia tells Han that Luke is coming and she’s sure that he’s going to help her with the children. He’d mentioned family matters. Han isn’t sure that means helping with the kids. It could have something to do with their father.
Leia points out that Luke has no issues with their father. Han reminds her that it may not be that easy, especially with many in the galaxy who don’t understand the concept of forgiving Darth Vader. She counters that she’s the one who gets accused, threatened and shouted at, not Luke. It has to be something else. She goes to get the notes she’s made on the kids.
She greets Luke warmly but is confused when he says he didn’t bring a bag. He tells her he’s not here to help with the children. He’s meditated on this for a while and knows it’s the right decision. Anything he can do now will just make things harder on her and them. He’s here because he’s found some information about their mother and wants to probe her mind.
She refuses and storms off.
Luke follows with Han shortly behind. Luke thinks their mother might be alive. She might have left Alderaan to hide elsewhere. He just wants to be sure. Leia insists that both of their parents are dead and that Luke is obsessed with the past. They’ve had the droids check the Obra-skai library for months, sat in Jedi meditation circles calling out for anyone who might have known her and done everything else they could think of to find her. They know nothing more than they did before.
She knows their mother is dead because she would have shown up by now to meet them. Luke points out she could still be in her 50s and still could show up. Leia argues that it’s been 12 years since the defeat of the Empire. If she were going to appear, she would have done so by now. To prove it, she explains that there are regular appearances at the palace by women who claim to be their mother, some far too young, some not even human, but just possessed of the romantic idea that they married Darth Vader and gave birth to heroes.
He has to accept that they will not have a neat and tidy family tree with wonderful stories to tell about grandparents. Their family begins with this group of people. She wants her children to have normal lives full of love where no one dies too young or carries burdens of shame. She will not allow him to bring the past into this house again. He can go where he wants to go with whomever he wishes but she will not help.
Luke leaves with Akanah to go to Lucazec, the last home of the Fallanassi.
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  • Leia says there have been women showing up ever since the war ended when she began running the New Republic on Coruscant. So, we know that Coruscant didn’t fall to the New Republic until about 3 years after ROTJ. Technically, the war hasn’t ended yet, but we’ll overlook that. Yet Leia also says it’s been 12 years which his also true since it’s been 12 years since ROTJ. So, at some point after ROTJ but probably by the time they took Coruscant, the news about Luke and Leia was out. I say this because it appears they spent a lot of time contacting dead people about their mother when they probably could have just asked around some of the Rebel leadership. We know that both Mon Mothma and General Dodonna were actively involved in the Republic during the Clone Wars. Both of them had to have heard of Anakin Skywalker and may have even met him. Mon Mothma absolutely knew Padme. Anakin was attached professionally to Padme on more than one occasion and, as we learned in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, there were apparently rumors about them all over the HoloNet. I’d had fun with that back then because I wanted to know what kind of rumors there were and why the Jedi didn’t crack down on Anakin more at that point. My point is that, I would have thought that, once they even confided in the New Republic leadership (which they almost certainly did long before it became public), Mon Mothma would have popped in and said, “Hey, you know, I think I knew your Mom!” Are there no members of the Naberrie family still alive who might think that Anakin Skywalker’s children might have been birthed by Padme? It shouldn’t be that hard to find out who she was.
  • And, though we didn’t know it at the time this book was published because the EU authors avoided identifying their mother, this Nashira is obviously not Padme.
  • As for wonderful stories about grandparents, doesn’t Leia still have Shmi’s journal with wonderful stories about her life with Cliegg and Owen and good memories of Anakin? Yes, yes, I know this book was written before Tatooine Ghost!

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chapter 7:


Lando is bored just following the vagabond, especially since they can’t make much headway on the signal recordings due to their limited HoloNet access. Pakkpekatt comes to check on their progress and gushes about the style of the vagabond.


The Steadfast is a fleet hauler put into service patrolling battle sites to keep looters from making off with dangerous military equipment. It gets word that an Imperial Star Destroyer, Gnisnal, has been identified in the wreckage they are patrolling now.


They send droids aboard to scan for booby-traps and other live weapons. They find power still on in one section of the ship which contains an intact Imperial memory core. After analysis, the data is tagged with one important bit being sent to Ayddar Nylykerka in Asset Tracking.


He is a one-man department in Threat Assessment with no information about the Steadfast or anything else related to the debris-field search. What he does know is that this memory core contains a ten-year old order of battle list of the type that only a high ranking commander or Imperial military aide would have.


That’s suspicious enough for him to spend several nights working and proving that it’s a fraud. When he cannot, he takes the data to Admiral Ackbar.


Ackbar goes to meet Drayson at the Fleet Command gym where he can speak off the record. He tells Drayson that the data brought to him shows a huge number of vessels assigned to the Empire’s Black Sword Command which are missing. 44 of them, to be exact, and three of them are Super Star Destroyers.


There could be a reason they’ve not been spotted, of course. They could have been renamed or used in other engagements. Most of them were in yards being completed but they have no idea where the yards are. The Imperials were good about destroying what they couldn’t take with them, but Ackbar is concerned because the patrol area of the Black Sword is near where several unsurveyed areas lie, including the Koornacht Cluster. There could have been shipyards there without the Alliance knowing it. If that’s the case, it sheds some suspicion on Nil Spaar’s visit.


The negotiations have been going on for weeks with no real progress. He wonders if Spaar is wasting their time as he might be allied with the Core. Drayson has no real information to that effect and cannot make accusations without evidence. If it were up to him, he’d look for this Black Fleet at once. Ackbar gives him the data on the names of the ships and suggests he speak with Princess Leia.

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chapter 8:
Leia is not easily persuaded to search for these ships. She’s certain that the New Republic has more ships to defend itself than both sides of the war at the height of the Rebellion. Abaht and Ackbar try to explain to her that these missing ships should be thought of as a secret weapon and she should know more than anyone how a secret weapon can disrupt even the most sound defenses.
They want to search the star systems near the Koornacht Cluster for the shipyards they know must be there. She reminds them that Nil Spaar will not allow the Cluster itself to be searched. Its sovereignty is very important to Spaar and she cannot break his trust by allowing them to search it. Abaht thinks declaring a safe space to hide the ships defeats the purpose of searching for them in the first place.
She points out that the Koornacht Cluster hated the Empire and kicked them out as soon as they could. She assures them there are no secret weapons there. They press her to at least ask Spaar for permission to search the Cluster.
She will allow them to take the Fifth Fleet out to search but they will not go near the Cluster. Ackbar will obey her orders but explains he cannot approve of them. He thinks she is putting an important matter beneath a lesser one.
Leia wakes Han up to tell him that she’s realized that all she’s getting from Nil Spaar are conversations. They aren’t negotiating anything because he doesn’t want anything but isolationism for N’zoth. She thinks this could be an important alliance and doesn’t want to give up on it.
He reminds her that some people just want to be left alone. She points out how friendly Spaar is and reasonable. She thinks he’s trying to get her to push harder for an alliance. Han thinks she’s just trying to win her argument with Luke by convincing a whole system of hermits to come out into the open.
Leia has nightmares of Alderaan which remind her of what Tarkin told her about his choice of planet being determined by her. Han tells her that he said that to manipulate her and he hates that it’s still working. She thinks it means more than that. Darth Vader divided the galaxy so much that she just has to do what she can to heal it.
Before the next recess, Leia asks Nil Spaar if there were any shipyards built by the Empire in the Cluster. He admits there were, using Yevethan hands to do the labor. The Empire took all materials and destroyed what they couldn’t when they left. Over 6000 Yevetha were killed at that time.
She explains there are some missing Imperial capital ships that her advisors are growing concerned about. She would like to know if he might look over a list of those ships to see if his sources have any information about them. He accepts the list, noting that security is a matter both of them agree upon.
Drayson meets with Ackbar and tells him Leia gave Spaar the list. Neither of them believes this is a good idea as it essentially gives the Yevethan permission to search their pockets before they are searched by others. It’s pointless. Drayson thinks that Leia trusts Spaar too much but they may still glean information from these conversations. The list is lengthy enough that they should be able to break the Yevethan encryption key if he sends a message out.
Spaar heads aboard his ship and tells his lieutenant that they know.
He returns to Leia with the list, most of which were marked as having been destroyed at the yards left behind with the smaller number leaving. She is relieved and thanks him for his efforts. She offers some information in return should he request it, but he refuses. He also tells her that his superiors insist on giving her the names of the 6405 Yevetha who died at the yards to remind her not to value machinery over life.
Drayson goes to Ackbar and tells him that Spaar told Leia exactly what she wanted to hear. But he never sent the message and there was no reply. It’s possible he already had the information at hand. He advises Ackbar to tell A’baht to be careful. Things could get bad before the Fleet leaves in 40 hours.
Leia explains that the concern has been addressed and the Fifth Fleet can go back to its original mission. Ackbar and A’baht prevail upon her to reconsider. Her meetings with Nil Spaar are private, closed to her staff. She may trust him but they do not know the man at all to get any impression of him. They believe that Spaar is playing on that trust.
She insists he wants the same things she does. A’baht suggests that he may be leading her to believe that because it’s what she wants to hear. Even if his unverified information is true, the handful of missing Star Destroyers is still a concern. They remind her that one of the abiding principles of the New Republic is the idea of free navigation of open space and hyperspace. The Alliance has always left individual star systems alone if they wished, but not an entire region of space. The Duskhan League controls only a tenth of the Koornacht Cluster. They cannot prevent the Republic from exploring the area.
They insist on confirming that what Spaar has told them is true. If the orders for the Fifth Fleet do not stand, Ackbar will resign.
Leia backs down and allows them to remain.
She returns home in the afternoon and asks Han to accompany the task force. She doesn’t know what A’baht is going to do once they’re out there and she needs someone she can trust. Winter is coming back to watch the children while he’s gone.
Han tells her that it’s not what they agreed upon and that A’baht will hate having someone looking over his shoulders. But he agrees to go.
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  • Leia’s not particularly bright in this book, is she? I thought she had the Force. I thought she had experience as a diplomat. I thought she was good at diplomacy because she had the Force even when she wasn’t really using it consciously. She complains about having too little time but all she’s done for two months is sit and chat amiably with this guy.

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chapter 9:


For 22 days, they sit and watch the vagabond. It’s out here in deep interstellar space, sending no signals or doing anything. There are lots of suggestions about what it could be but Lando thinks the simplest answer is that there’s no one on board. This is a treasure ship.


Lobot points out there are thousands of cultures who entomb wealth with the dead. Such places tend to be booby-trapped to discourage theft though. Lando agrees that they’ll find out once the perimeter is breached.


The next day, interdiction pickets are arranged and the Glorious moves toward the ship. There is a musical signal coming over and the ship tries to jump but the field holds. It moves only three kilometers. Pakkpekatt orders a meeting to go over the new information.


Lobot, R2 and C-3PO confirm the signal was the same as the one encountered by the Hrasskis butPO cannot decode the language. Knowing that Col. Pakkpekatt is going to send landing parties over, Lando tells them to keep working on it.


The Colonel’s communication people believe that the signal is just an automated collision warning. Lando isn’t so sure and is angry when Pakkpekatt plans for boarding the next day. He is certain they will run into more trouble over there and is livid when only one of his team will be allowed in the boarding party.


He apprises the others of the situation. Lobot believes the signal is actually a recognition code. It’s giving each ship a greeting and, if it doesn’t respond in time, it leaves, assuming a threat. They just have to figure out what it’s saying.


They go over several theories about password storage until they guess that the password could be a genetic code, then narrow down the species with code matching the number of digits in the signal and then narrow it down further to the Qella, an extinct species.


R2 and C-3PO can reproduce the code, but Lando tells them that Pakkpekatt is only going to allow one person aboard the landing party. He has an idea to get around that, though.


The next day, a couple of hours before the landing party is scheduled to depart, Lady Luck departs the ship with all four team members. The Glorious tries to get a tractor beam lock on them, but the droids’ pitched code works and they are brought to the Qella ship.

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chapter 10:
Ackbar brings A’baht to his home, introduces him to Admiral Drayson, whom he explains runs Alpha Blue, an intelligence service which extends outside of Fleet Intelligence’s normal reach, recognizing the ambiguities of war, and recommends that he listen to Drayson carefully.
Since they will be discussing things that Ackbar should not hear, he excuses himself.
Drayson explains that he has little information to give A’baht because he has been given so little. He’s not used to that and he doesn’t like it. The Yevetha stay on their ship…he has no idea how many are on it or what they do. They’ve had access to the New Republic information sources since their arrival. They are not fools so they must be studying everything they find.
On the other hand, Nil Spaar comes out every other day to speak only with the Chief of State. He gets all the information while they get nothing. He doesn’t trust the viceroy. He’s a player at best; a liar and a dangerous man at worst. He doesn’t know if A’baht will find the Black Fleet out there and it’s likely that A’baht will be the one telling him if it’s out there.
He knows some information about the Koornacht Cluster since the last general survey. There are Kubaz out there and some things left by the Empire. There’s a droid factory that harvests crops and will load a ship with food if one lands there. The Yevetha execute any trespassers, though.
They were put to work by the Empire right around the time they achieved significant space-traveling abilities and they learned a great deal more about shipbuilding than they would otherwise have. Drayson thinks that they learned enough to build their own shipyards, even their own ships.
He wants to give A’baht a code that will allow any message from him to go straight to Drayson, bypassing the Fleet. Drayon’s responses can come the same way. A’baht is not comfortable with this; it borders on treason. Drayson asks if the General trusts Leia’s judgment when it comes to Spaar and the Yevetha.
A’baht’s silence is the only answer he needs.
Drayson assures him that this is not about censoring information but about making sure the general has the information he needs to make informed decisions. He also urges him to contact his old friend, Kiles L’toth, the associate director of the Astrographic Survey Insitute. He is far from the Senate, the Palace and has a whole fleet of astrographic and survey vessels.
A’baht is sure he doesn’t like Drayson now. But the Admiral points out that he doesn’t have to.
A’bath contacts his friend who is glad to repay a debt by sending several ships on an updated survey of the Cluster. The general cannot make this an official request and cannot go himself, but does tell his friend that, if there’s something big out there, it could be the most important survey they’ve ever done.
Tuketu and Skids are late getting to the ship due to overstaying their liberty.
General Solo arrives aboard the Glorious, has his geared carried, finds his quarters and has them tell him when A’baht comes on board. The general is told on arrival that Han Solo is here and there are rumors he’s taking over the mission.
A’baht goes to Solo who confirms that neither one of them wants him to be here but that he’s not taking over the mission. A’baht determines that the Chief of State doesn’t trust him. Solo explains that she fears he will do something foolish. So long as he plans not to, Han could care less. A’baht appeals to Solo’s position as a patriot and a rebel to listen to some information from a soldier’s point of view. He invites the general to dine with him so they can discuss it. Besides, he wants his crew to see how relaxed he is around Solo which should dispel the rumors faster than making an announcement would.
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  • The chapter says Han arrives on the Glorious. Isn’t that Pakkpekatt’s ship waaay out in deep interstellar space? Isn’t A’baht’s ship the Intrepid?

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chapter 11:


Pakkpekatt contacts Lady Luck and accuses Calrissian of having inside information. Lando denies it. He explains he had a few hunches which the Colonel would not entertain. The only way to find out is to test those hunches which Lando is not willing to risk boarding parties over. He recommends caution as the vagabond may not accept the same signal twice.


He suggests Pakkpekatt get the recorders ready. The Colonel claims to be doing so, but he’s actually arranging for one of the interdiction pickets to pull the Luck out of the way.


But the D-89 ferret that he moves into position tries to signal the vagabond back the same way and gets fried by the other ship. Lando chastises Pakkpekatt for not listening. It’s obvious the greeting sent to the D-89 was not the same one sent to the Lady Luck. The colonel thinks Lando is in cahoots with whoever is aboard the vagabond.


Lando insists that they gave the proper code so that vagabond thinks they’re friendlies. It doesn’t help them now because it asked the D-89 a different genetic code sequence and now wants Lando’s people to answer the same code. They don’t know what that should be.


There’s not much to help them either. The survey that was to explore Qella was never completed because of the outbreak of the Clone Wars. Lando suggests Pakkpekatt get a ship out to the planet to find whatever answers there may be had there.


The colonel confirms as they approach the vagabond that a ship has been dispatched to the Qella system. He suggests they get a tracker on it as soon as they can. Lights begin moving on the ship and C-3PO suggests they are being told to backtrack, perhaps because it thinks they missed the original message.


Moving the ship back, they find they are being invited aboard. The droids will be fine, but Lando will need something to breathe more easily. Lando and R2 get inside and a visual is pumped through to the other ships.


He confers with Lobot and Bijo Hammax, the would-be head of the landing party, about the interior. He thinks this is a dead ship. Lobot warns him not to look for obvious paths out. They could be booby-trapped. He will have to search for what would be evident to a Qella not a human. Lobot and C-3PO will be over shortly.


There are mottled patches on the wall that may mean something. They note how some species use images to convey perceptions. Since R2 is the only one who can see the whole chamber, Lobot is sending him examples of neurocognitive models in the hopes he can determine how to proceed.


Lobot searches through archives of sentient species, hoping to find one related to the Qella. He finds the Khotta and forwards copies of their mind-prints to R2.


R2 displays pictures and Lando finds what he thinks is the switch. It will not work for droids or for gloved hands, but Lando removes his and pulls it open. When that happens, the ship detaches the tunnel connecting Lady Luck with it and begins moving. They are sucked toward the opening which shuts as quickly as it’s left open.


Pakkpekatt demands to know what happened. The Luck is left behind, one of the interdiction pickets is on fire and the vagabond has jumped toward the Core. They will try to follow but who knows where in the Core the ship actually ended up.

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chapter 12:


The trip to Lucazec is long. Akanah explains that the Empire coveted their power and came to them. They were a secret society but one of their own felt that the Fallanassi could be the water that quenched the fire, so to speak, so revealed their existence to them. Her name is no longer spoken.


General Tagge was sent to negotiate with Wialu and offer the Empire’s hand of protection. If they proved themselves loyal, they could escape the fate of the Jedi. Her mother, Isela, told her about the offer and what it would mean for them to refuse. But, they did refuse.


Tagge created suspicion against them by their neighbors until they were viewed with hatred. Several of them were sent away by their parents to Carratos, Paig or Teyr until Lucazec was peaceful again. That never happened. She could never find the others on Paig and Teyr. She thinks they were retrieved while she was left behind when the Fallanassi abandoned Lucazec.


Luke suggests she may be the only one the Empire didn’t find. Akanah says she’d rather be the only one left behind than the only one alive.


They land the ship, which Luke has named Mud Sloth because he feels ships should have names, on Lucazec where he uses the Force to get past some of the more intrusive questions of the local bureacrats. Then he and Anakah take a cart out to find the ruins of her village.


The road there is covered now. The well is blocked in. The houses are abandoned with melted hinges and doorways even for those with no locks. They know no one was killed here. The people escaped before that happened, but it doesn’t feel like the Empire’s work. Luke reminds her that her neighbors were lied to. She points out that it doesn’t dim the emotion.


She directs him to where the woman she believes was his mother lived. He starts to head there when he hears her scream and sees two men standing over her. He deflects bolts with his lighsaber and kills one before disarming the other. The survivor is Commander Paffen and he uses his comlink to communicate that Skywalker is here. The man said he waited so long but only thought the witch would be here. He was told the poison was painless. It appears it wasn’t and he dies.


Akanah chastises Luke for attacking the men. They hadn’t hurt her. Luke points out that they were Imperial agents. They need to get off this planet because he doesn’t want to lead the Imperials to wherever the Fallanassi went. They certainly are no longer here.


She wants to show him something first in her mother’s room. Challenging him to look behind the substance of the walls, he sees a message revealed in symbols. Akanah can read it, but he cannot and his ability to see it disappears as soon as she breaks contact through the Current to him. But she can teach him to see the symbols without assistance.


She knows where to go. Luke believes that the Imperials were here because they knew something had been left behind in the house. Since the message has been retrieved, it should be erased so that there is no further need for Imperial traps here.


When she emerges from the house, she assures him it’s gone, but thinks he should bring down the house anyway. She also wants him to visit his mother’s home. Any Imperials left are either very close or very far away. Either way, he can take a few minutes that he may not get later to do this.


He doesn’t know how long he spent in the house, but he felt closer to his mother than he’d ever had. As they head for the airfield, the evening coming, Luke wonders how the agents knew they were coming.


In the village, as shadows grow long, the bodies vanish as if they’d never been there at all.

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chapter 13:


An astrographic probe called Astrolabe is on a routine trip when the ship shakes violently and the air disappears in a flash, killing the crew.


The ship was destroyed by Vol Noorr who sends a transmission back to the Aramadia.


Leia frets over why Nil Spaar has cancelled their meetings over the last three days. General Rieekan is able to verify that Spaar left the ship for a little over two hours during that time. Ackbar doesn’t care about the time span as much as he does over who Spaar met with at the diplomatic hostel he visited.


Additionally, the Aramadia has received visitors during that time: Senators Peramis, Hodidiji and Marook. Leia is forced to acknowledge that Spaar can invite whomever he wishes aboard his ship. Riekaan isn’t sure why she bothered to worry about the missed meetings then.


He explains to her that, instead of meeting with her, Spaar has visited delegates in secret at the diplomatic hostel and some of the most combative members of the Senate in public. Clearly, something has changed in the last three days. Her meetings with him are likely over.


She doesn’t understand what could have happened. Suddenly, a rumble catches their attention. The Aramadia lifts off from the spaceport, causing damage to nearby ships, having not requested a clearance window. Both Riekaan and Ackbar attempt to convince Leia that the whys are not important now. They need to prevent whatever it is he plans to do. He is inside the planetary shield. That ship can do considerable damage. In their opinion, he’s made his intentions obvious by this action.


Leia allows them to organize defenses, but orders that no one fires unless the Yevetha do. This must be a misunderstanding.


But, two hours late, Aramadia is sitting within the planet’s shields, doing nothing. Leia grows frustrated, wondering what Spaar wants besides driving her crazy. Ackbar points out that may be exactly what he wants.


Behn-kihl-nahm cannot place the reason for the unusually high number of senators in the chambers today. The session starts with Senator Hodidiji yielding his place to Senator Peramis who immediately begins a speech about the Yevethan incident.


Behn-kihl-nahm quickly signals an aide to get the princess in here as soon as possible. Over the protests of those who believe Peramis is trying to score political points against Leia, the Chairman allows for the odd request to allow Nil Spaar to speak to them over a diplomatic channel.


In her office, Leia turns on her monitor, refusing to run down the Senate chambers just to get into an argument with Peramis. First Administrator Engh and Ackbar are furious that Peramis would imply wrongdoing on the part of the president’s office when he never bothered to call to find out what little they know. Further, the diplomatic channel will go out through the entire New Republic. Leia will not allow that to be inhibited either. The newsfeeds likely have it anyway.


In the meantime, Nil Spaar finds it contemptible that a leader would be pushed into letting an outsider speak to them, in an atmosphere of insults. The way these vermin deal with the issue is weak. Even more offensive is the traitor Peramis whose people will likely kill slowly when they learn what he’s done.


Drayson watches, trying to glean any type of information from Spaar’s speech. Spaar regrets the casualties on the ground, but refuses to accept responsibility. He claims to have tried for three days to get clearance to leave, but received only silence from the port authorities and the president’s office. He claims that three senators will attest to this, as well.


He also claims that a New Republic spy ship destroyed itself after being discovered in Yevethan territory. It’s an indicator that Leia Organa Solo was not acting in good faith. He claims he feared his ship would not be allowed to leave. As evidence, he presents the wreckage of the spy ship, complete with New Republic crest.


Drayson recognizes the type of ship immediately and verifies with Kiles L’toth that it’s the remains of Astrolabe, a survey ship that’s four hours overdue. He warns L’toth to make sure he has answers ready.


Spaar offers to return the bodies of the crew, but he wants to be allowed to leave. He doesn’t trust this government which gives lip service to freedom.


Leia doesn’t understand how he could have misunderstood so badly. She orders the shield opened, the New Republic ship waiting for the Aramadia to break off and to have someone look into getting those bodies back.


Drayson watches Senators Peramis and Hodidiji withdraw their worlds from the New Republic, followed by three other small worlds. He has to admire Spaar’s well-played hand. Nevertheless, Drayson wonders what Spaar is getting in return for weakening Leia in the eyes of her constituents.


He attempts to call Etahn A’baht.


Leia asks Ackbar to find out as much about the New Republic ship as possible, then says she’s going home to think about resigning.


It takes a long time for A’baht and Han to reach Leia. A’baht explains that he is responsible for the astrographic survey which he launched knowing that it was in violation of her orders. Leia seems more tired than angry as she relieves A’baht and puts Han in charge. She wants them to come home now.


Han asks A’baht why he did what he did. The General explains that Princess Leia made a political decision with military resources, leaving him in a difficult position to do his job. He cannot protect his ship or the New Republic by having his hands tied, so he went around the military and requested an astrographic survey.


Han suspects that the ship must’ve found what A’baht feared it would and was destroyed. He asks about the number of reconnaissance droids and spy ships aboard, then wants to know how to call the tactical staff. Han Solo doesn’t care to leave his back exposed when he knows someone is gunning for him.

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chapter 14:


The Yevetha – a young species in a young star system with little life – had developed an aversion to the strangeness of other species. They’d also learned the harshness of life while occupied by the Empire.


They had learned to adapt their technology to Imperial designs. They’d learn to establish colonies on other worlds, some encouraged by the Empire; some planted by it.


Nil Spaar tells his people that they will stand above all after this day. The attacks are ordered to commence.


Yevethan ships attack alien settlements on world after world. Polneye is the largest and the only one to fight back. It had been an Imperial supply depot that the military abandoned when it left the Koornacht Cluster. The civilian population had built cities on the material left behind by the Imperial fleet. It now boasts a population of 300, 000.


Plat Mallar is one of several pilots who makes it to a TIE Interceptor and into space. He’s the only one to get a hit against Yevetha. The remainder are destroyed. He flies near the ionization field the Empire set up for Polneye’s protection, fearing he will be killed, fearing that he will be the only one left and feeling guilty for both.


He takes recordings of the damage as well as the remains of one of the cities before retreating back to the stars.


Nil Spaar relaxes after a long day of sterilizing the Cluster for the Yevetha.


On Coruscant, Leia greets Han at the spaceport. He assures her everything will be fine.


Plat Mallar travels for 23 hours without seeing a sign of life. The interceptor was not designed for this type of travel and he will be without oxygen soon. He records a message for whoever finds him, describing his world, his family and his life, as well as what has happened to Polneye. He asks for justice. Not long after falling into unconsciousness, his ship is encountered by one of the Fifth Fleet’s prowlers.

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chapter 15:


Ackbar arrives unannounced at the president’s residence, uses his key code to get in and hopes he doesn’t interrupt anything awkward.


Fortunately, Han had stopped sleeping with a blaster ever since the time he and Jaina startled each other. Leia hopes Ackbar isn’t here to try to talk her out of resigning. Ackbar is insistent that they both come with him.


He takes them to a medical chamber where a pilot named Plat Mallar is in a bacta tank. He was trying to fly interstellar in an Interceptor. He was either suicidal or making a self-sacrificing attempt to get a message out of the Koornacht Cluster.


Upon reviewing the recordings, Leia wonders if Ackbar is trying to embarrass her. She can’t think of anything that would convince her to resign more than this. Han is a little behind on events. Leia does recognize one of the ships as the Imperial Valorous which had been on Nylykerka’s list. Its presence in the recording makes her the biggest fool in the New Republic.


Han thinks it shouldn’t matter whose fault is what at this point. Leia isn’t sure what people think she can do. She hopes Mallar survives, but is going home. Han wonders what happened to her while he was gone. Ackbar offers to give him some of the story; the rest will have to come from her.


When Leia gets home, she finds someone waiting outside. He is Jobath, a Fila from Galatos in the Koornacht Cluster. His people intercepted a message that warned of a vicious attack on Polneye that wiped out the world. They believe that the attackers may fall on Galantos next. When he finds out that Leia has the pilot, Plat Mallar, he offers him citizenship on his world. But he’s here to petition for membership in the New Republic and to ask for her help protecting them. They have virtually no ships. Leia only wants to sleep and isn’t sure she’ll be president when she wakes up. She tells him to go to the diplomatic hostel and wait for a message from her.


Ackbar watches the news grids gossip over the certainty that Princess Leia will be resigning and that the military will be helping choose her successor. What he knows must happen is that Plat Mallar’s story be told to everyone. If he could just convince Leia that Nil Spaar was never her friend.


More worlds are petitioning for membership and Behn-kihl-nahm is growing frustrated. He can’t reach Leia who is shutting herself out at the worst possible time. He doesn’t know if he can make a decision. He contacts Admiral Drayson to ask his opinion. Drayson tells him to just keep talking as if everything is under control and, if someone wants to complain in the Senate chambers, let them.


Behn-kihl-nahm thinks that might be the worst thing he could do.


Drayson goes to see Ackbar to find out if there’s anyway to get in to see Leia. Ackbar doubts it. Many people want to see her right now and she’s not accepting anyone. According to Drayson, they’ve run out of time. Ackbar suggests that the admiral might try General Solo. He’s accessible and he’s also taken more cautious approaches to the Yevetha. She may or may not listen to him either, though.


Ackbar wonders what has happened to Leia. He asks Drayson if Spaar could have done something to her in that room. Drayson has to disappoint him. Nothing at all happened in the room.


Leia isn’t happy to see that Admiral Drayson has managed to get past security. He tells her Han let him in. He has a datacard that he thinks she should see. It shouldn’t take five minutes and it will help her with the decision she has.


Drayson shows her evidence that the Yevetha are doing in the Koornacht Cluster’s other worlds what they did to Polneye. She demands to know how he got the recording that shows colonization of destroyed worlds. He doesn’t think she needs to know that to understand the implications of the evidence. She asks who he actually is. Drayson explains he was mandated by Mon Mothma to handle situations that would normally be difficult. He tells Leia where information about his department can be found in the files. Like them all, he answers to his conscience and sense of duty.


Han thinks it takes the Yevetha a lot of nerve to move into the homes of the people they wiped out. Leia understands more about them now than she did before. So much of what Nil Spaar had been telling her makes sense. He said they wanted to be left alone, that they didn’t need protection, that it was odd to see so many other species.


He was telling her what they were from the very beginning. She just didn’t realize it. Just looking at the map appears like Spaar is cutting a moat between the Cluster and the New Republic. She has to protect the remainder of the worlds on their side of that moat. That means sending the Fifth Fleet out there again. Han admits that he put them on standby just in case.


He’s not happy, however, when she wants him to command it. He thinks she should put A’baht in charge. Disobeying her orders didn’t mean he was being disloyal to her. He needed to protect the people under him. Besides, Han himself disobeyed orders. The prowler that found Mallar was a Fifth Fleet launch authorized by him. Leia takes all of this insubordination personally. Han tells her he just had a gut feeling.


A’baht isn’t disloyal. He will take command back if she offers it. The people under him won’t think any less of her than they already do. She is not flawless; only weak people refuse to admit they can make a mistake. She knows that she can’t resign and leave this mess to someone else. She just wishes she understands why she didn’t pick up Spaar’s deception. Han reminds her that she doesn’t rely on the Force all that much; she doesn’t really seem to want to. Besides, she tries to believe the best about people. Not everyone operates the same way.


Leia goes to see General A’baht, telling him that she rejects his offer to resign. She wants to put him in command of the Intrepid, apologizes and admits that the circumstances that put in the position of disobeying her orders were due to her mistakes, not his.


Belezaboth Ourn, counsel of the Paqwepori, reports to Nil Spaar that Princess Leia went to see Etain A’baht personally. The Fifth Fleet left shortly afterwards. He does also ask Spaar about the thrustship he was promised in exchange for the damage that was done to his own at the port. Spaar assures him he will not be disappointed.


Leia is working with Ackbar, Drayson, Behn-kihl-nahm and Han on an announcement regarding the Yevethan massacre when they are interrupted by a signal on a priority channel hacked into by Nil Spaar’s agents. He claims credit for a defensive attack on three worlds that he claims were plotting against the Yevethan and backed by the New Republic government. He urges the people of the Republic to reconsider their president, Leia Organa Solo, the daughter of Darth Vader, who hopes to usher in a new Empire to replace the old.


If they do not renounce her, they will have to prepare for war.

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End of Book 1



This was a hard book to read. Leia clearly wanted to believe that Nil Spaar and his people wanted the same things she did. Watching her waste time on a pointless diplomatic scheme was just as frustrating as knowing that she was having the wool pulled over her eyes.


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