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chapter 26:


Leia calls an Inner Council meeting on short notice and holds it in the Ambassadorial Dining Room. Wedge escorts her there and she stumbles, dizzy, before seeing a Death’s Head face before her.


She tells Wedge to evacuate the building. She had the same vision before the Senate bombing. Then Leia realizes that no one could know they were meeting here and now. The warning has to be something different.


She decides to continue with the meeting, but is tired of her home being threatened. If the X-Wings are sabotaged, what else is? Wedge tells her they will learn that when they find out who’s behind it. She already knows.


Wedge privately believes that the Empire isn’t this obvious.


When she presents the findings to the Inner Council, however, Senator Meido accuses her of planting the detonators to exonerate her husband from suspicion in the Senate bombing. Wedge and Leia’s other supporters take exception to this.


Meido points out that Leia is trusted as much as Senator Palpatine was when he overthrew the Old Republic. Who better to betray it?


Even Borsk Fey’lya notes that Meido is being too zealous here. He suspects the senator is eager to prove his mettle in the Senate, but cautions him that, even though he and Leia have had their differences in the past, Fey’lya himself has never thought her treasonous.


Meido points out that there is a no-confidence movement in the Senate based on the results of the preliminary reports. Leia counters that the report was discussed only in the last Inner Council meeting. She demands to know how the full Senate knows about it and how Meido knows about a no-confidence movement when even show doesn’t know about it.


R’yet Coome quietly tells her that he, Meido and Senator Wwebyls are new to the Inner Council and don’t know all the rules yet. Leia accepted that excuse last time but will not accept it now. It’s their responsibility to know what the rules are. In fact, she believes they do know them and are trying to skirt them, just as they are blatantly ignoring the possibility that evidence they are holding against Han could have been planted.


Fey’lya interjects and tells them that arguing will not solve this problem. They have to deal with the sabotage, the bombing, the no-confidence vote and the indiscretions of the new Council members. Starting there, he moves that any more leaks from this body will result in the new members being expelled. That motion passes easily.


Meido believes that Leia is too committed to blaming them for everything that goes wrong just because they used to live under the Empire. He doesn’t think she has any intention of letting go of her hostility toward them. He reminds her of the Imperial soldiers who died on Endor or the minor functionaries on the Death Star. Many deaths at the hands of the Rebels were of those just doing their jobs.


C-Gosf argues that those whose jobs are to run a machine of death deserve that they get. Fey’lya protests that the same argument could be made for the pilots of the X-Wings.


Leia tells them to have the no-confidence vote. She stands by her record and warns Meido that he may get personal power but he will damage the New Republic. He tells her he only wishes to help it.


That night, C-3PO will not follow R2 to the Senate Hall any further and threatens to notify Leia. R2 insists that he’s going inside. In the gloom, the droid finds a detonator in a pile of the rubble of the same type found in the X-Wing. It has an Imperial signature.


C-3PO begins helping him look for the device that the detonator would have worked with to cause the explosion.

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chapter 27:


Luke soars through the air, his arms around his head, and braces himself for a hard fall. He lands and breaks his left ankle to snap and rolls until he slams against a building. X-Wing parts drop around him.


His left leg has been weak since his experience on the Eye of Palpatine. Right now, the ankle is broken and he needs something to treat his burns. But his eyes confirm what his scanners told him in space. Pydyr is empty.


He enters an empty house and uses the household computer to find a medical kit. He is unable to answer its queries about where its owners have gone. He gets the sense he’s being watched, but no one shows themself when challenged.


After dropping Seluss off at an infirmary, Han makes sure that the Falcon hasn’t been tampered with. Chewie calls him and they go down the ramp to see Ana and the others pulling parts from a ship. In the old days, stripping a ship didn’t happen unless the owner had betrayed someone or was dead.


What worries Chewie is that the ship in question is Lady Luck.

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chapter 28:
Kueller misses Femon but he doesn’t regret killing her. He is standing where she died with his guards. They will protect him because he frightens them as he doesn’t frighten Luke Skywalker.
Right now, though, Skywalker is injured on Pydyr. He punches a button and orders a communication line opened to Leia Organa Solo and have her hold for information about her brother.
Kueller hadn’t expected Skywalker to land on Pydyr or even the explosion, but he’s glad to know the detonator works. He tried to block the Force repercussions as best he can just so that the President will know that something is wrong, but not specifically what. Luke Skywalker himself wouldn’t have fallen for it, but Leia has neglected her training enough that Kueller can use to his advantage.
After that, he will kill the injured man…unless he’s weak enough that Kueller could possibly convince him to use the Dark Side to heal himself.
Leia, Wedge, Ackbar and other officials work to track down the remaining X-Wings. Though lower-ranking officers could do this, these are the ones Leia trusts. Besides, it distracts her from the no-confidence vote which is scheduled for the next day.
She plans a speech right before the vote takes place. She remembers no-confidence votes in her days in the Old Republic. She should make the remaining members feel good about her.
But the busy work isn’t helping. The vision of the skeletal face keeps surfacing and she feels fear. Winter has assured her from Anoth that the children are fine. She is sure that she would know if something happened to Han.
A young officer reports that there is a message for her and asks if she wants to take it privately. She has no secrets from the people in this room and approves a relay here. She is stunned to see the skull-like face of her visions.
The face introduces itself as Kueller and shows her footage of an injured Luke. Kueller explains he did nothing to Luke as the X-Wing decided to destroy itself. What happens to Luke now depends on Leia. She must disband her government and turn power over to him.
She points out that she will not trade millions of lives for one, no matter who it is. Kueller believes that her government is ineffective and that he can govern better. If she refuses, he will kill Luke and her entire family. If it comes to it, he will kill her subjects. He assures her that there are always people to kill and worlds to rule.
To prove this, he speaks in another language and Leia feels the deaths of a million beings. She knows this man is Force-sensitive and he is using the Dark Side. Kueller gives her three days to decide.
Leia fumes that a million lives were vanquished as a demonstration to her. Kueller is no better than Tarkin. She will not let him win.
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  • Leia remembers no-confidence votes in the Old Republic? No, she doesn’t! The Old Republic was gone at her birth. She served in the Imperial Senate under the Empire. And even if we want to argue that the Senate was a holdover from the Old Republic – a remnant, to use Tarkin’s words, if you will – does anyone really believe that a vote of no-confidence was held in it during Palpatine’s rule?

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chapter 29:


After he eats, Luke decides to look for a bacta tank to health himself. Somehow, he will have to find a ship to Almania. Suddenly, he feels Leia calling him before she is cut off. He reaches out through the Force, sensing his niece and nephew, his students, but not Leia or anyone close to her.


Then he is blasted with the pain and terror of voices in his mind. He is chilled. Then he remembers Anakin sending warmth into the ice-cold of death and does the same. He knows more life has ended. Still not able to reach Leia, he knows that the presence he’s seeking is on Almania.


Leia doesn’t know who Kueller is. She sends messages to Han who doesn’t respond and her children who do. They had felt the blast, too.


Ackbar believes they should check their records for people whose faces look like the mask Kueller was wearing or, at least, those known to use them as masks. Leia also wants to find the source of the transmission and who it was that he killed.


Ackbar suggests that he may not have killed anyone, but used the Force to give her the same sensation she should have if it were real. She agrees that it’s possible, but someone would have to powerful in the Force to do that.


There are no reports of exploded planets. Leia wants to find any planets that have dropped out of contact or have had unusual activity in the area. Ackbar, Wedge and the young officer report that there have been collisions in the landing area around Auyemesh with no response from traffic control or the planet itself. It’s near the Almanian system.


Remembering that Lando mentioned Almania, Leia pursues that lead. The name Kueller doesn’t come up, but the Wedge finds that the computer has identified the style of the buildings in the footage of Luke as being from Pydyr which is also in the Almanian system. When Ackbar confirms the transmission itself also came from Almania, they know they’re on the right track. But Leia does not know Kueller. It’s possible he knows her which is why he’s wearing the mask.


There is a historical reference for a man with that name but it is hundreds of years old. He was an Almanian army general who overtook his world and the entire sector, establishing a reign that made him beloved and remembered for his compassion. While consolidating power, however, he was known to be ruthless.


It appears that their nemesis is inspired by history. He intends to be ruthless in his conquest but believes he will be a kind ruler. That rarely happens. There’s no evidence whoever Kueller is being linked to the Empire, but stormtroopers have been reported in that section of the galaxy.


Ackbar receives another report that ships landing on Auyemesh have found bodies everywhere. All communication cut out after that. It’s as if only a death report was allowed to leave the planet. Leia knows this isn’t a hoax. She asks Ackbar to see if Mon Mothma will meet her.

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chapter 30:


The droids are discovered by a Kloperian guard who tells them they need to get out of here. The building will collapse soon, but no one will listen to him. He’s warned the investigators to avoid the Hall itself. He expects to find more bodies in here someday after the roof caves in on them.


They’re moving so slowly, they haven’t even gotten to the hallway yet. He tells them to move along. There’s a curfew and he knows R2 is scavenging parts. Assuming they work for smugglers, he lets them off with a warning.


C-3PO is stunned to find that R2 has retrieved four more detonators. They agree to report to Leia at once.


Lando has no way to tell time so he’s not sure how long he’s been treading water. He can only judge by how often Nandreeson eats. He floats but is too afraid that he’ll fall asleep to do it much. He’s hungry, but at least the water is not poisoned and he can drink it.


On his back, he watches the watumba bats on the ceiling and wonders why there aren’t so many gnats. He’s sure there’s some connection between them and Nandreeson’s Glottalphib species. But he can’t remember.


He’s exhausted and knows he won’t last long if he cannot sleep. He’ll have to find a way out soon.

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chapter 31:


In her chamber, Leia paces, hoping for a response from Han. Mon Mothma arrives.


Leia explains that the academy told her Luke was on Telti before he checked in with them, planning to land on Almania. No one has heard from him since. Kueller might be bluffing, but there’s no way to verify that Luke is being threatened.


But Leia is. He threatened her family before he even thought of the New Republic as a whole. This is personal and she believes Kueller was once a Jedi. The way he contacts her through the Force is how Luke trains his students and, somehow, he’s managed to cut off communication between her and Luke.


No one named Kueller trained at the academy, but many students have left. One of them could have changed his name. She and Luke are the most visible of the new Jedi. Kueller may think that, if he destroys them, he will be the strongest.


On the other hand, he might think Leia is a despot and is threatening her family to get her to yield. Whatever his motivation, she needs to step down as Chief of State. Resigning will stop the no-confidence vote and will throw off Kueller’s plans. She wants Mon Mothma to take her place. No one will fight that. They’ve just had emergency elections and don’t need another one.


Leia will made a recorded speech turning the government over to Mon Mothma who will step in until a new election is held. Leia herself will be going after her brother.


Han borrows Ana Blue’s ship to get to Skip 6. Chewie, Zeen, Kid and Wynni join Ana with the group, as well. Ana hates leaving Lando to his fate, Han had to badger the other two at blasterpoint and Wynni is still pining for Chewie.


They remind Han that there’s no guarantee Lando is still alive, but Han thinks Nandreeson will be too angry to give him a quick death.


They take Blue’s ship down and slide through tunnels into disgusting water. After swimming through it, they emerge in a cavern where Nandreeson and his cohorts are watching Lando struggle in the water.


Lando doesn’t think this is an impressive rescue and Han doesn’t think this is an impressive way to execute someone. Besides, he has a team to help them. That’s when Zeen, Kid and Wynni hold their weapons on him.

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chapter 32:
Pydyr healing sticks were famous before bacta became popular and some think it works better. While he works on his injured body, he senses the strong presence he’d felt on Telti. He knows this is a former student, but he cannot remember who it could be. Though he tells himself he remembers all his students, the truth is he remembers only the ones who completed their training. The ones who leave become faint memories and, as Leia has warned, will become a statistic.
But whoever hired Brakiss is powerful enough to make the other student fear him and Luke doesn’t know of any student like that. He just follows the stench of the Dark Side until he encounters a man wearing a Handanyn death mask which molds to the skin.
He recognizes the voice as belonging to Dolph. Luke expresses his sympathy over the deaths of his family. Dolph tells him that Luke doesn’t know what it’s like to find the bodies of the people who raised him burned and broken. In fact, Luke does know but he knows only how he reacted, not how Dolph did.
Dolph vowed vengeance on the Je’har for their slaughter and had it without the help of Luke or the New Republic which treated the terrorists as a legitimate government and opened trade with them.
Luke asks what the difference is between the Je’har and him. To Luke, murder is murder. He doesn’t want to speak to Kueller, but to Dolph, the talented boy with a future. Dolph became Kueller to survive, but he doesn’t need him anymore. He can come back to Yavin IV and heal the wounds.
Dolph doubts even Luke can bring back the dead. He can make sure that no one like the Je’har appear again with the help of governments like the one Luke’s sister runs. She didn’t have anything to do with his family’s murder but she was one of the few who could’ve stopped it.
He wants Luke to join him so they can rid the galaxy of this kind of evil. Luke agrees to join if Dolph will reject the Dark Side. Dolph tells him that the Dark Side doesn’t exist. Luke is following a set of rules set by a weak old man who wanted to limit Luke’s potential. The Force can give Luke everything he wants.
Luke believes it already has. Dolph points out that Luke is unmarried with no real home and no real challenges. Luke thinks anyone’s life can be made to sound bad. He enjoys his life and won’t change it, especially Dolph’s way.
Dolph pulls his lightsaber and battles Luke. He cannot kill him, though, because he needs Luke to lure Leia here. Stormtroopers are summoned who knock Luke out with a prick to his neck.
Leia outfits Alderaan and assumes the identity of Lelila whom she had become years ago to rescue her children. She sends for R2 and also arranges for the Kloperian mechanics to be relieved of duty until their innocence in the ship tampering can be proven. The droid doesn’t respond.
There’s a knock on her hatch and she opens it to find Wedge there. He tells her Mon Mothma sent him here to accompany her. In fact, she is also sending a fleet. That really can’t be done without full approval of the Senate, but there are ways around that and Mon Mothma can be devious when she wants to be.
By the time the news gets out, the fleet will be long gone before the Imperial-based senators can object. If they get rid of Kueller quickly, Leia will get the credit and the no-confidence vote will be moot. She can return in triumph. Otherwise, she will denounce both Leia and Wedge as rogues and failures. Their reputations won’t matter at that point anyway.
The X-Wings are largely unusable, but they have Headhunters and other starfighters. Leia knows Mon Mothma never sat idle when action would do. She will stay with her ship while Wedge reminds Kueller who took down the Empire.
Wedge asks if she thinks he’s weak. Leia answers she thinks he’s one of the worst threats they’ve ever faced.
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  • So the New Republic opened trade with the Je’har? When? Did they continue that trade after the slaughter of the Je’har’s political opponents? It seems to me that the New Republic had more dealings with Almania that we’ve been told.
  • Luke considers that Dolph has become powerful in the Force so quickly because of the Dark Side. No offense, but being able to kill a million people with no physical weapon is not just powerful, it’s crazy, punchy, Emperor-powerful. Could Palpatine or Vader even do that after decades of immersion in the Dark Side? If so, why did they need Death Stars or Sun Crushers?
  • And Dolph seems to be promoting that morally-relative view of the Force that Palpatine himself considered in Cloak of Deception. No light or dark, just the Force.
  • Leia posed as Lelila in The Crystal Star.

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chapter 33:


Han jumps under the water and Chewie grabs Wynni’s bowcaster. He knocks out Zeen and punches Kid, while Chewie takes care of Wynni. Nandreeson dives into the water after Lando shoots at the bats which attack the Glottalphibs.


Han kicks Nandreeson which causes him to choke on an energy quarrel emanating from his mouth and sinks. Ana asks how they’re going to get back to her ship. Han thinks it’s funny she’s still pretending to be on their side. She points out she had to find out who would win the fight first.


Lando leads them to the ship he was brought in on. Sure enough, the ships are abandoned because of the bats. Fortunately, the code is Kill Calrissian, so they are able to get onto the ship without a problem.


C-3PO and R2 return to find that Leia has left, has resigned her position and given orders to shut down the apartment until a family member returns. The computer kicks them out then.


They go to Mon Mothma’s office and wait for an audience. The receptionist droid will not admit them because they are droids themselves, so R2 takes off down the pilot’s turbolift which leads directly to the shipyards.


C-3PO finds him in front of a stock light freighter planning to steal it. He tries to communicate with his friend that no one will believe them. C-3PO urges him to be more patient. Cole Fardreamer appears and chides R2 for using one of Luke’s codes to get him down here.


C-3PO translates that R2 wants to know who the freighter belongs to. They think they know who bombed the Senate Hall and have to get to the origin of the detonators or there will be another explosion.


Cole tells them the ship was impounded and he’s been fixing it up. He doesn’t know if he can help them but he’s willing to try.

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chapter 34:


Wedge and Mon Mothma had put six military personnel on the ship with Leia, probably to make sure she wouldn’t do anything crazy. They have thirty ships with them and Ackbar is staying behind to cover their tracks.


Along the way, Leia thinks about the type of weapon Kueller is using. The planets remain, but the people die. It’s not a weapon like the Death Star. What the fleet can do at Almania is dubious as they can’t destroy the whole planet.


She plans to send Wedge back when they get there and go find Kueller herself. She still doesn’t know if he’s after her family or the New Republic. She wishes, yet again, that she’d listened to Luke and completed her Jedi training.


There are so many confusing things about Almania. It supported the Rebellion but never sent anyone to fight with it. She thinks the Je’har probably just wanted to protect their government rather than having any anti-Imperial idealism.


She’d also learned that a distress signal had been sent to the New Republic years ago that didn’t get a response. Maybe that’s Kueller’s motivation.


There are so many things to worry about. R2 had never shown up and neither hadPO. No one’s heard from Han. She hasn’t been able to reach Lando and she’s still cut off from Luke. She does, however, seem to be connected with him another way. Her left leg gave out on her once, though there’s nothing wrong with it. She also got the sense of needles poking into her. She knows Luke is alive and injured.


Luke wakes up on his stomach with an aching back. His mind goes back in the past and remembers his ship exploding. Someone tampered with it, possibly on Telti. If it had exploded after landing, Brakiss could have killed both Luke and Dolph.


He’s not bound but his lightsaber is gone. Clearly, Dolph doesn’t think Luke will be able to escape, but thinks he could use his lightsaber on something. He moves along the rooms and smells animals. He considers getting past the guards and stealing a ship.


First, he wants to find the source of the power behind Dolph. It has to be somewhere nearby. He follows a sniffing sound to a large white creature in a doorway. The creature sniffs the air, smelling Luke. It moves over, sniffing, drooling. Luke does nothing, allowing drool to fall over him, doing nothing to frighten or antagonize the creature. Until he makes eye contact. The creature grabs him in its small mouth and bites.

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  • In an earlier chapter, Luke considers that a signal had come from the Almanians during the Yevethan crisis and the New Republic was too busy to respond. That was about a year ago. Yet, we’ve been told that it’s been years since Dolph and Brakiss have seen Luke and Leia’s musings here indicate that the signal came years ago. When did the Almanians ask for help? If it was indeed during the Yevethan crisis, it hasn’t been years!

  • Source? Isn’t the Force Dolph’s power source? Isn’t it the Dark Side? Or does Luke think that Dolph is just too powerful for it to just be his Force ability and something or someone is propping him up?

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chapter 35:


Kueller watches Luke disappear into the Thernbee’s mouth. He wants a guard on Luke at all times. He is aware that the Thernbee toys with his victims for a long time before killing him. He needs Luke alive until his sister arrives.


Cole needs authorization to tak the ship and leave Coruscant. He decides to contact General Antilles who is not receiving messages at this time. He tries sending messages to Leia Organa Solo and Mon Mothma, but gets nowhere. Something serious is happening.


He asks C-3PO if he knows Leia’s codes. They can use them to get off planet. The droid is persuaded, reluctantly, to provide them in order to prevent another bombing.

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chapter 36:
Han is stung by the betrayals of people he’d known for years. Though Lando is safe for now, Han knows that Zeen and Kid had told Nandreeson he was here. Lando reminds him he couldn’t have done anything. They were never his friends.
They’d always tried to make him into one of them, but it never really worked because Han had a layer of ethics in him that they couldn’t penetrate. It made them mad.
Lando came here to warn Han that someone is gunning for him. There’s evidence linking him to the Senate bombing and the former Imperials want him investigated. The former Rebels, even Kid and Zeen, could attest that Han would never do such a thing. But Imperial politics is done differently and it’s not out of the ordinary for political assassinations to occur.
He tells Han about Jarril and the message he found. Han thinks Jarril was killed on Coruscant and someone else sent the message after stealing Spicy Lady. The sale of Imperial equipment is tied in here. Han’s never heard of Almania either which gets them both thinking that, when someone tries to keep something hidden, it’s probably really important that they reveal it.
Luke slips between the teeth and pulls his legs in as the creature bites down. He grabs onto the soft palate and is spit out quickly. Luke puts his hand out and covers the nose. It sniffs him, licks him and then bats him against the wall. He pulls a splinter out of his arm and jams it into the paw of the creature.
There’s no place to hide in this room or in the next. He’s headed in the direction it came from but knows there’s a risk there are more out there. He’ll have to convince it he’s not food.
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  • I’m not convinced someone was trying to hide Almania from the galaxy. Just because Han, Leia, Luke and Lando didn’t recognize it doesn’t mean anything. Information is available about the place and there’s no indication an attempt has been made to hide it.

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chapter 37:


Kueller allows three Star Destroyers to be sent to intercept the New Republic fleet. Then he orders his plans executed.


Lando is furious when he finds the Lady Luck stripped. The Falcon is fine, though. They repair the Luck’s engine systems as best they can. Han wants to leave within a day. Ana Blue offered to help, but her being the most loyal of his old friends doesn’t make him feel better.


And they’d all been friends, even if Lando doesn’t see it that way. Times change. People change. The longing for the good old days in Han’s mind is just a romantic version of the past.


He gets a tingle up his neck and he knows the closest thing to describe it is similar to what Luke, Leia and his children experience on occasion. He knows something is about to happen.


Then a bunch of booms emanate through Skip 1. He covers his head but the ship stays still. Outside, though, he finds devastation. The landing bay is in ruins. The ceiling is fine which means whatever happened, happened inside.


He grabs a breath mask and goes looking for Lando and Chewbacca who were looking for the stuff scavenged from Lady Luck. He helps a few people before moving on to find his friends. However, he has to stop more and more as he just can’t allow injured people to be left unhelped, hoping someone is doing the same for Lando and Chewie.


Ana is helping put out fires and some of the smuggler ships start spraying extinguishers. He calls for medical droids and is told the droids are what caused this. They exploded.


This place looks like the interior of the Senate Hall, one that was also filled with droids of many kinds. And there would be no evidence of bombs because they would have been destroyed along with everything else.


Lando and Chewie appear and make the same observation. Han doesn’t understand why someone would target the Run. Lando said they didn’t. Most of the droids here are stolen. This means the target was intended to be someplace else.


Han decides to turn the Lady Luck into a medical facility. They have to ferry the most seriously wounded out of here. He’ll get help for them somehow.


He finds Ana Blue sitting down, crying. He walks over to her and sees she’s holding a body. It’s Davis. She tells Han it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Han was supposed to trust Davis and be taken out of here.


She had loved Davis. Things like this shouldn’t happen to people. She had hoped Han would trust Davis but had forgotten Han liked to do things his own way. They would follow a trail that would lead them to Almania – the source of the equipment trade.

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chapter 38:


At first, Kueller thinks the fleet is just being propelled by momentum, then he realizes that nothing has happened. He asks his assistant, Yanne, if he gave the order. Through the Force, Kueller feels death, but not on the scale he’d expected. The droids he’d designed for the Coruscant fleet are somewhere else.


He orders their fleet to attack. The New Republic will think they are fighting the Empire, the enemy that never dies, which is a psychological advantage to him. Then he orders Yanne to find out where the droids were when they exploded.


Leia senses the longer, yet not as strong, death knolls somewhere. But Kueller’s Death Mask is nowhere in sight. However, she does feel Luke. He is alive, but injured.


On the Alderaan, she receives a message in binary, telling her that new-model droids are dangerous. To be safe, all droids should be shut down.


There is no signature. She calls for one of the military officers and tells him to take this message with the others to the fleet. She will leave Wedge to handle the droids while she proceeds to Almania alone.

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chapter 39:


Through the Force, Luke senses the deaths, too. He sends more warmth into the Force to heal it, but it takes strength from him.


The creature is sniffing nearby, probably aware that Luke is suffering. His ankle is numb, he doesn’t have water and his burns sap his strength. It comes in, whimpering and holding out the paw with the splinter in it. Luke tries to raise it, but the creature bats him against a wall and opens his mouth.


Cole and the droids land on the moon Telti which had been a droid factory. It had joined the Empire late after being threatened with destruction and petitioned for New Republic membership right after the Truce at Bakura.


He watches R2 send messages to Leia Organa Solo using Luke Skywalker’s codes and then to other people. Though they are cautioned that the droids must stay behind, R2 takes off when the hatch opens.


Cole sends C-3PO after him, hoping he can be distracting enough. He is approached by Brakiss who assumes Cole is a customer. Cole explains about the detonators inserted into the droids that came from Telti.


Brakiss questions him about who sent him and whether he’s just here to blackmail him. Cole insists he’s not. Brakiss confronts him about arriving in a ship not registered to him with two droids that he recognizes as belonging to Luke Skywalker and his sister. He believes that Skywalker is sending him a message.

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chapter 40:


R2 encounters C-9PO, Brakiss’s protocol droid, on the walkway. It is not anymore successful at getting the astromech to listen than C-3PO is. R2 enters the droid factory.


Leia circles Almania and gets another sense of Luke before landing in the docking bay which is perfect for her ship. Something is wrong about this planet. There are ships going after her fleet but nothing has approached her.


Even the bay is deserted and that is surprising.


It might indicate that Kueller has few resources and that could affect the way Wedge runs the battle. Following the sense of Luke, she takes her lightsaber and begins to walk out of the bay.


Something is watching her. She knows she’s alone in here, but can’t shake the feeling. She will have to find Luke before Kueller kills him.

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chapter 41:


Wedge stands on the bridge of the Yavin and receives a report that a fleet of ships has left Almania. His second-in-command thinks they should reactivate the droids, but Wedge would prefer to trust Leia’s judgment. Still, he tells her she could find a way to duplicate the droids’ services without reactivating them.


He hadn’t expected Kueller to use Star Destroyers, but some kind of cobbled-together fleet. He wonders how they were gotten so quickly. Wedge orders contact with General Ceousa to find out if he’s seeing the same thing. If Kueller has sabotaged droids, he may have done the same to their scanners.


Kueller had prepared his troops, but hadn’t expected to use them. For some reason, the droids had exploded in the wrong place. Brakiss will pay for this later.


For now, Kueller will destroy the fleet, then concentrate on Leia Organa Solo who is nearby. Once she and Skywalker are dead, the galaxy will be his.

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chapter 42:


Han wants to leave the Run right now, to check and see if Coruscant, his wife and children are alright. But he can’t leave these people like this. He runs into Lando who is helping bring severely wounded onto the Lady Luck.


Lando tells him to go do what he must if those droids were bound for Coruscant.


The creature licks Luke again. The smell is horrible, but the touch itself is soothing the burning pain in his back.


He gets in an image in his mind of the pint-sized Luke battling the Thernbee. He realizes the creature is telepathic. It misses the light and the ample vegetation it eats normally. But it’s been trapped in this darkness with little food. It’s tried to reach the grate to let itself out.


Luke sends images of him helping others and the Thernbee allows him on its uninjured paw and raises him to the grate. Guards arrive. One of them tells him the release lever is on the left and he would create chaos if he released the Thernbee.


Luke asks if they’ve ever met a Jedi Master before. When they don’t answer, he leaps to the lever, uses the Force to pull their blasters to him and the grate opens. The guards run in fear. Luke tells the Thernbee that the rest of his mission might not be so easy.

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chapter 43:
Wedge watches his fighters be slaughtered by TIEs. They are deployed in an ancient formation he hasn’t seen since the Death Star. He doesn’t understand why the hunt for Imperial equipment no matter how poor it is. He remembers Kueller’s simple elegant weapon.
Then he determines that this is all the man has and he’s using it as a distraction while he deploys his big weapon. Wedge orders the full fleet to attack as he doesn’t think Kueller has the resources to fight them all at once.
C-3PO is stopped by a gladiator droid which explains that he and his fellows have been reprogrammed as guards. They are to stop unauthorized droids from entering here. C-3PO bluffs that he is returning as a pilgrimage to his place of origin which protocol droids must do every hundred years.
Unfortunately, he is told that this factory didn’t start making protocol droids until after the fall of the Empire, so it hasn’t been a hundred years. They are going to wipe his memory which C-3PO doesn’t think will be good at all.
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  • During the chapter, C-3PO tells the droids about how wonderful it is never to have had a memory wipe. Of course, we know that he has had at least one, but he doesn’t remember it!

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chapter 44:


Leia moves into a tunnel and the feeling of being watched subsides. She finds a place of disrepair. What she had been seeing before was how the place used to look. Someone has been sending pictures to her mind. Kueller’s mask doesn’t appear before her so it’s not him. Perhaps, Luke was helping her.


The tunnel is the right direction but she doesn’t know why the images have disappeared. She can sense Luke and follows until she gets hit with powerful joyful imagery of sunlight, leaves, water and sky. Something else is sending her the images. Luke is there, though.


She opens a door and sees a giant white face peering at her. Luke tells her that it’s a friend of his. She sees he’s severely injured. Luke verifies that his X-Wing exploded and she explains about the detonators. He says Kueller wants to defeat them both so that he will be the strongest in the Force. He wishes she hadn’t come here.


He sends the Thernbee off to go home and tells Leia they have to get to Alderaan. There is a ladder they will have to reach. Luke uses the Force to jump onto it as they hear voices coming. Leia has never been good at this, but Luke urges her. She jumps and misses the ladder, falling several rungs before she grabs one.


Stormtroopers are down below, but Luke doesn’t think Kueller built this place, so the troopers may not know where they are headed. Leia is bothered by how simple this is. She and Luke are together right now. If Kueller wants them together so he can kill them, where is he?


She pulls Luke out of a trapdoor that leads onto the street, wondering if Kueller’s weapon is something that cannot be seen.


R2 finds the command center, sees holos all around him, including Brakiss, one of Luke’s former students, speaking with Cole Fardreamer. He rolls into a closet where the floor drops down and lands him in a room filled with old astromech droids. It extends for kilometers. C-3PO had always warned him there was a junk pile for unwanted droids and it appears that R2 is stuck in it.

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chapter 45:


Han nervously flies the Falcon which is full of injured passengers. He can’t make any odd movements for fear of injuring them more. They are packed all over the place and, still, there didn’t seem to be a dent made in the number of wounded in the Run.


He has to find a planet that will take them so he can find out where Leia is. The planet Wrea agrees to accept the wounded and Han sits down to view his messages. The first is from Anoth. Anakin whispers into the console in a darkened room that he cannot feel his mother or Uncle Luke. Winter has told them they will hear if there’s a problem, but he keeps having dreams of a dead man and he thinks things will get worse.


He decides to contact Leia first so he can reassure his son, but Mon Mothma answers his hails. She explains that Leia resigned her position because she felt that Kueller is Force-sensitive and has a grudge against her family. Leia has taken Wedge and a fleet to Almania to rescue Luke who may be Kueller’s prisoner.


The Imperials in the Senate want Han tried for treason because of the evidence linking him to the Senate bombing. Besides a garbage workers strike over payments, business is as usual on Coruscant.


They also received a strange message from Luke telling them to shut down all of the new droids which has caused a number of complaints. Han tells her to keep them shut down. He has reason to believe that exploding droids caused the damage to the Senate Hall. Something just like it happened in Smuggler’s Run with droids stolen from Coruscant.


Then he contacts Anoth and gets Winter. She tells him she’s already told Anakin he’s never to make an unauthorized communication from Anoth again. However, the children are upset because their mother and Uncle Luke have also been out of contact.


He asks to speak with Anakin. He tells his son that Leia is on a trip and will be home soon. Anakin knows she’s gone after the dead man who comes to him in his dreams and says he will get them all. Han tells him he is safe on Anoth but Anakin remembers that he was attacked here before.


When Winter gets back on the line, he tells her to make sure all droids are shut down. She tells them that Luke has instructed them to do so already.


Anakin pops back in and says that the dead man keeps telling him he’ll kill their mother. Han tells him that he’s being lied to. It’s true that their mother was injured by this bad person but they are going to stop him.


Han is angry that Kueller is now attacking his children. This man is obviously strong in the Force like Vader. Han had never been able to do anything to Vader. The Force is like magic to people like Han who can never hope to do what Luke, Leia and the children can do. But magic can be used against the owner.


He asks Chewie to contact Mara Jade.


R2 notes the damage to many of the droids in this room. He’s tried to speak with some of them but gets no response until an R5 moans. Then the room is filled with droid chatter. R2 beeps and asks questions. The droids begin getting up, brushing themselves off and removing detonators from each other.


They clear a path for him and a few R2 units of the same model, make and year as he is join him. They begin rocking and beeping as more detonators are removed. Then the Guard Droids appear and the others fall back, leaving R2 to face the threat alone.

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  • Why are there detonators in these old-style droids? Weren’t they inserted into new-model droids? Or were they just tested on these old ones?

  • Han is surprised that Anakin would remember an attack on Anoth when he was an infant. Anakin would have been about 1 ½ when that happened, so he was hardly an infant, but he was very young. I, too, have a hard time with Anakin remembering this attack but I suppose it’s possible.

  • Obviously, all the droid warning messages were sent by R2 under Luke’s codes. He sent them to Leia, Coruscant and Anoth.

  • And the “dead man” Anakin sees is most certainly Kueller with his Death’s Head mask.

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chapter 46:


The Falcon comes out of hyperspace nearly on top of Wild Karrde. After arguing with Karrde over coordinates, he has to agree with the man that the battle doesn’t look good based on long-range sensors.


He does grouse that Karrde could work for free once in awhile. Karrde tells him he does so on occasion but that Mara is outside with the ysalamiri now. She’s coming with them because she apparently has some interest in what is happening to Skywalker. He’s not sure that she knows Kueller so much as that she’s having visions and trying to hide them from Karrde.


Mara Jade boards and orders Han to keep the ysalamiri away from her. He’s never liked her much. Her attitude is too abrasive and he’s never forgotten that she used to serve the Emperor. Luke’s worldview may allow for gray areas, but his doesn’t.


He has Chewie take the cage to the back. She looks pale and tells him she has seen Luke on a sandstone street burning alive. The people that have died in the last few weeks are being used to build up Kueller’s strength. He’s absorbing the Dark Side in a way that Palpatine never did.


Han dismisses that Kueller could be that dangerous without them knowing it. Mara points out that he was one of Luke’s students, so Luke should have known. She thinks Kueller isn’t with his fleet, but may be on the ground.


Mara also isn’t sure that the ysalmiri will help, reminding Han that Jedi training requires a lot of physical stamina, too. Han knows this, but he also knows how shocking it is for a Jedi to lose the extra senses the Force gives him. Luke and Mara are perfect examples of how someone used to the power reacts when they suddenly don’t have it. Kueller, being obsessed with power, will certainly be distracted when it leaves him.


Kueller muses how the New Republic has forgotten that he knows the schematics of their ships and how to defeat them. He receives a report that the Millennium Falcon and Wild Karrde are at the edge of this space. He sends one of his destroyers to wipe them out.


Yanne has tracked the stolen droids to Smuggler’s Run. But the regular ones hadn’t blown up. Someone might have discovered the detonators and deactivated them. He’s sure a betrayal by Brakiss would be sensed. Someone on Coruscant might have realized it.


That doesn’t save the other governments. Brakiss has been outfitting new droids for two years with detonators. For now, though, Kueller will deal with Skywalker and his sister.

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chapter 47:
Brakiss and his security droids march Cole into the factory. Cole remembers his mother calling him impulsive and that wanting to be a hero would get him killed some day.
The droids are nowhere in sight. Somehow he’d had faith that R2 would be able to work things out. Cole realizes now that Brakiss knows about the detonators already and was the one who put them in the droids in the first place. The man has the same type of presence as Leia Organa Solo so it must come from the Force.
He is led into a droid torture chamber run by the droid, EV9D2 who explains that her prototype, EV9D9, was purchased by a Tatooine crime lord for her ruthlessness. She wants Cole to know this because she’s twice as bad as 9D9, so he may wish to confess his secrets now.
He reiterates that he only came here to warn the facility about the detonators. He denies seeing signs requiring droids to stay aboard ship. Brakiss doesn’t believe him. When Cole briefly gets away, he uses the Force to jolt him with lightning.
He is dragged back to 9D9 who gives him one more chance to confess. Cole is so stunned by the lightning, he can’t even talk.
On Almania, Leia hears the self-destruct tone of her ship which she had rigged before leaving it in case of tampering. Since it’s the only way off the planet, she runs to check it. There’s nothing wrong. Someone must have touched it and run away when the alarm went off.
She shuts it off and calls for Luke, but he doesn’t answer. Then a lightsaber ignites. Since Luke doesn’t have his, she knows it must be Kueller.
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  • EV9D9 worked for Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.
  • Did Luke lose his lightsaber when the ship exploded?

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chapter 48:

 

Han cannot locate the Alderaan among the fleet. Mara cant sense her because the ysalamiri are still too near. The Wild Karrde has not jumped yet, despite Karrdes assertions that he is not getting involved in the battle.

 

He has Chewie scan the surface, then goes for the Falcons guns when a TIE fighter zooms close. One of the cannons is destroyed, then the missle tube. They are caught in the tractor beam of a Star Destroyer which is then destroyed by Wild Karrde. Talon Karrde tells Han hell cover the Falcon while he lands on Almania. Mara will try to find Leia through the Force, if she can.

 

C-3PO tells the head security droid he is in trouble. Indeed, hundreds of astromechs roll past, pushing the other security droids against the wall.

 

They try to fire their laser cannons, but produce a huge amount of smoke for just astromechs, even the ones they hit. Something must be burning.

 

R2 pulls C-3PO into the corridor where the protocol droid realizes that the astromechs are just emitting foggy chemical instead of smoke. He lectures R2 about leaving Cole in danger before following all the astromechs.

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chapter 49:
Luke backs away from Kueller’s lightsaber. He gets a vision of a doorway at the opening of the main tower. Kueller slashes at him. Luke uses the Force to pull Leia’s lightsaber to him.
Kueller doesn’t think Luke is powerful enough to defeat him now. Despite the fact that the droids have been shut down, he points out that the New Republic could not have informed all the developed worlds about them. He can give an order that will destroy enough lives to give him the strength he needs.
Luke realizes this is his fault. He should not have taught his students the details of the quick and easy path to the Dark Side. He’d meant it as a warning, but Dolph used it to become the hateful Kueller.
Leia pulls a blaster, but Kueller uses the Force to heat the weapon up. Luke takes the opportunity to slash his side. Leia throws the blaster away and rolls off. He realizes he’s making Kueller stronger by his anger and fear and self-loathing at what he’s responsible for creating.
He knows that this is his battle with the rogue student, just as Ben Kenobi had dealt with Vader. Luke knows what to do now.
Wedge is frustrated at how this battle is going. These aren’t the same Imperials he’s been fighting. They don’t seem to care about life. He notices a droid nearby and tells his second-in-command that he wanted all the droids disabled.
Droids would follow a set battle plan and Wedge realizes this is his problem. He orders his ship to fire on the both the Wild Karrde and the other Republic ships. Karrde and General Ceousa take considerable exception to this.
TIE fighters stop firing on the ships in response, but Wedge is more worried about the two Star Destroyers that are left. When Wild Karrde and Calamari break off, it leaves the Destroyers to Wedge.
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  • At one point, Wedge is told that the rules allow for forcing him to step down if he’s proven unfit, but that an order someone doesn’t like doesn’t prove he’s unfit. Perhaps not, but ordering a crew to fire on one’s allies might.

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chapter 50:


After landing on Almania, Han leaves the ship with a blaster in one hand and an ysalamiri in another. He’s irritated that Mara has led him to a deserted place. There is a doorway in the main tower in which something white and ghostly moves. On top of everything, it appears that he’s been led someplace haunted.


Then he realizes it’s not a ghost. Someone yells and he recognizes Leia. A huge furry creature appears and knocks Chewie down, then swallows the ysalamari and their cage.


Han pulls his blaster to shoot. Chewie howls for him not to, but Han ignores him. The thing leaps for him and knocks him down. Han tells it that he has to go to his wife and that the thing just ate his plan.


It just stands there while Han and Chewie race off.


Leia screams Luke’s name. He had looked like a man possessed until he stopped and smiled in a way that reminds her of Obi-Wan Kenobi the day he sacrificed himself.

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