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chapter 1:
The Chimaera waits by the gas world of Pesitiin. Captain Ardiff tells him the ship is at full readiness after the pirate attack that was supposed to make them think General Bel Iblis of the New Republic was rejecting Pellaeon’s offer of peace negotiations.
Ardriff doesn’t like the communications blackout. Neither does Pellaeon, but tapping into a relay station or the HoloNet will let everyone know they’re here. The captain wonders if pirates might have staged the whole thing. They could have intercepted Colonel Vermel and found out the Chimaera was here.
Pellaeon decides to give Bel Iblis another two weeks. The message had to have reached him.
Major Tierce brings Moff Disra to the unimportant planet of Kroctar. There are no Imperials down there, it’s deep in New Republic territory and Flim may not be able to pull off his Grand Admiral Thrawn charade.
And if this doesn’t work, Dira is going to end this uncomfortable parternship he has with the two of them.
The Lord Superior of the planet greets Thrawn enthusiastically, something he didn’t do the last time. He explains that the fear of Imperial rule and the promise of freedoms swayed them then, but his people have seen the crumbling of the New Republic. There is no order, no direction. Thrawn reminds him that this is what the Emperor had formed the New Order to combat.
The alien reminds him that Imperial rule regularly involves the subjugation of non-humans. Thrawn explains that it characterized Palpatine’s rule, but the Empire has moved beyond that. There are still some who hold that bias, but the 15 alien species which now live under the Empire cherish the protection and stability they have.
Thrawn gives him a personal guarantee that they will be defended if attacks. The Lord Superior asks for readmission to the Empire. Thrawn invites him aboard to discuss the matter with Moff Disra.
Disra chastises Tierce for not warning him. Tierce was fairly certain this would happen, but it wasn’t a guarantee. However, it will continue to happen as twenty other worlds are calling for Thrawn. Disra dismisses them as planets with dangerous neighbors which want protection. Tierce doesn’t care why they are rejoining, he just wants the New Republic to be rattled by the news.
Disra still thinks Corusant will take action, but Tierce points out that their own charter allows member worlds to withdraw. Disra gets a transmission and takes it in a private conference room. He is incensed to find Captain Zothip of the Cavrilhu Pirates on the line.
Zolthip is hopping mad at the loss of his battlecruiser. Disra reminds him that his orders were not to engage the Chimaera, just to make Pellaeon think it was Bel Iblis. Zothip should take this as a lesson for what happens when he pushes an Imperial too hard.
Tierce thinks that Disra shouldn’t try too hard to make an enemy of the Cavrilhu because of what they know about him. Disra dismisses it because only Zothip really knows anything. He’s making a big deal over one battleship. Tierce mentions how people do strange things out of pride.
Disra counters they do it out of arrogance, too. The idea of causing conflict within the New Republic partly involves the uncertainty as to whether or not Thrawn is really alive. Now that the whole planet below will see him, no one will think the Diamala are lying.
Tierce says only the Lord Superior’s delegation will see him. Disra wants to know what more Tierce is planning and pulls a small blaster on him. He doesn’t get very far. Tierce disarms him easily and tells him that stormtroopers would have come as soon as the shot was heard.
But Disra doesn’t think gaining a couple of minor systems is worth scaring the New Republic into action. Tierce asks if Disra has ever heard of the Hand of Thrawn.
He’d gone to Yaga Minor, as they’d discussed, to alter the copy of the Caamas Document to match the one in Bastion’s files. But, he did spend some time looking into the Emperor’s secret files. There is no reference to the Hand of Thrawn there. But he knows it exists because he heard Thrawn mention it once aboard the Chimaera as if it were the key to the Empire’s total victory.
Disra asks if this could be a superweapon, but they both agree Thrawn never bothered with them. Tierce does bring up the names Parck and Niriz. Parck ws the officer who found Thrawn on a deserted planet in the Unknown Regions and brought him back to the Empire. Niriz captained the Admonitor which Thrawn took back into the Unknown Regions years later. Neither returned to duty with the Empire even after Thrawn’s return.
They could have been killed, but they also could be in hiding, guarding this Hand. It may or may not be a superweapon, but Tierce has a couple of ideas. The Hand could be a person, the way Mara Jade was the Emperor’s Hand. Or it could be a master plan for victory left behind by Thrawn.
Either way, there’s someone out there with something they want. That’s why Tierce is parading Thrawn around.
Captain Nalgol of the Tyrannic receives a report back from a probe. The warship count around Bothawui is 56. They are to wait until the ships have battered themselves and the planet, then come out of hiding and finish them off.
An Imperial strike team will be on the planet soon and will be sending them periodic transmissions. In the meantime, he and his Intelligence Chief do not know Thrawn’s specific plan, but they want to be ready when it’s launched.
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  • Really? Member worlds can withdraw? So what was the problem with allowing the Corellian system to withdraw in the Corellian Trilogy? I know that there was some underhanded manipulation going on there, but Leia and the other officials all agreed that losing Corellia would cause the New Republic to crumble.
  • So, what we’ve been able to determine is this. Thrawn was encountered by Kinman Doriana in Outbound Flight who was working for Darth Sidious. He introduced the two of them. After Outbound Flight, Thrawn was exiled to a deserted world in the Unknown Regions where he was found by this Parck person who recognized his tactical genius and brought him back to the Empire. Thrawn tried his hand at Court maneuvering, failed and was sent back to the Unknown Regions with the Admonitor until after the war was over and he returned to take control. Does that sound about right?

 

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chapter 2:


Luke comes out of his hibernation trance at Nirauan. They are in Mara Jade’s Jade Fire which is piloted by her droid. Luke brings the ship out of hyperspace and has R2 prep the X-Wing.


Through the Force, he calls for Mara. He can’t sense her, but they are far out and she could be asleep. He tries not to think of the vision he had of her floating lifelessly in a pool of water.


They are approaching the planet when the sensors pick up the two unknown spacecraft. They do look like modified TIEs but that doesn’t mean they are allied with the Empire.


He hears a voice speaking a strange language. R2 confirms it’s the same message sent above the Errant Venture.


A voice in Basic orders him to follow them precisely to the planet. Luke does so, recognizing some of the topography from Mara’s journey, but the ships move behind him and fire on him. He refuses to fire back until he knows who they are and what they want.


He lands the X-Wing and covers it with a camo net, then pulls out supplies and climbs out of the ravine with R2. He encounters a small birdlike creature which asks who he is. Luke says he’s a Jedi and is looking for a friend. An elder bird refuses to let the child speak to him.


The bird is Hunter of Winds. He will not say whether or not a newcomer has arrived here recently even though Luke prevails upon him to consider whether or not he’s ever had a friend in danger. The problems of the New Republic are not his concern.


Luke moves on to find that the X-Wing is gone. This doesn’t seem like the disaster it should be. He assures R2 they will be fine. Then he sees the young bird. The child is called Child of Winds. His clan, the Qom Qae, doesn’t know anything about a newcomer, but the Qom Jha do. They have her. Child of Winds knows what it’s like to have a friend in danger.

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chapter 3:
General Bel Iblis and Wedge are in the communications blister aboard the Peregine at Ackbar’s request. The admiral explains that the New Republic senate and the high council will not allow a force to go to Bothawui. It would be construed as an endorsement of the Bothan side of the Caamas issue.
Bel Iblis thinks it would be better to risk that rather than have one of the 68 warships out there now blink and an all-out war erupt. Ackbar is continuing to work on having a mediator sent there, but Bel Iblis will not be the one.
The best way to end this problem is to get an intact copy of the Caamas Document. He wants Bel Iblis to conduct an information raid on the Imperial archives at Yaga Minor. This will be difficult but the New Republic doesn’t have enough forces to keep the peace if war breaks out over this issue.
This plan has been in the works since the day after the riot on Bothawui. They are making moves so that any Imperial spies will think that the New Republic military is headed to Kothlis so they will be ready to defend Bothawui if necessary.
Wedge is concerned that fighting will break out at Bothawui soon. Bel Iblis shares that concern and wants Rogue Squadron to stay behind. The squadron is technically attached to Bel Iblis personally, but not necessarily to this task force. He feels that this Vengeance group or whatever is behind the riots popping up all over the galaxy will try to take down the Bothans’ shields the way Caamas’s were brought down all those years ago.
He’d like Wedge to make sure that doesn’t happen. It seems Vengeance is reliant on trickery so an all-out assault is unlikely. But a couple of X-Wing pilots ought to be able to handle it. He suggests Commander Horn because of his relationship to Booster Terrik and may be able to access certain contacts.
After the task force leaves, Corran and Wedge are on their own. Corran is worried that Bel Iblis picked him because of his Jedi talents, something that he’s tried to keep secret. Wedge assures him it was more related to his connection to Booster’s network.
Corran doesn’t think he will be much help as Booster is still upset about how Rogue Squadron implicated one of his freighters in illegally smuggling at Sif’kric. The Sif’kries have banned that particular ship from future participation in pommwomm shipments.
Wedge asks if that means they’re not going to get any help down there. Corran has a strange feeling that they will.
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  • So Rogue Squadron has been attached to Bel Iblis. When did this happen?

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chapter 4:
The Wild Karrde heads through an asteroid field, reminding C-3PO of a previous unpleasant incident. Shada feels sorry for the droid, handed over to Karrde without notice or questions. It echoes her life with the Mistyrl.
She wonders if Karoly is right and the Eleven will come after her. With the New Republic in turmoil, they may have more important things on their mind.
They are contacted by Erwithat Spaceport in a language C-3PO is forced to translate for them. They negotiate an outrageous landing fee. They are going to meet a Corellian crime lord named Crev Bombaasa who runs most of the illegal operations here.
On the way, Karrde mentions she still hasn’t told him why she left Mazzic’s service. She mentions he hasn’t told her the story behind Jorj Car’das. He quiets her as the name isn’t one to be tossed around casually.
It takes some time to battle Bombaasa’s security before their leader lets Karrde and Shada inside.
The crime lord is impressed by Shada and offers her a job in case she’s not tied to Karrde. Karrde explains they would like passage through his territory unencumbered by piracy or hijacking. He reminds Bombaasa how Lando and Mara saved him from an assassination attempt six years ago.
Bombaasa agrees to provide them with ID overlays indicating they are under his protection. His people won’t bother then, but he warns about a new pirate gang that seems well-armed.
Karrde assures him they should be able to handle any problems there.
On the way, Shada asks why he told Bombaasa who he was. Karrde explains he expects word to get back to Jorj Car’das. He knows visiting the man is dangerous, but he thinks that, at least, Car’das may prepare for their arrival sufficiently enough that he will take the time to listen to Karrde before shooting him.
Shada asks what he did to Car’das. Karrde explains that he stole something that Car’das valued more than anything else, even more than his own life.
He asks why she left Mazzic. She admits she’s become a target herself. A bodyguard that’s a target is not much help to her employer.
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  • Of course, Karrde also told who he was because he wanted to call in the favor!

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chapter 5:


Leia and Han are enduring the 15th day of the Kanchen Sector Conference. Leia reminds Han that they have only one more day until they can head to Pakrik Minor and enjoy the peace.


Carib Devist is told by his brother, Sabmin, that Leia Organa Solo is on Pakrik Major right now. He’s confirmed with Bastion that an attack on her is planned. He doesn’t know if the order came from Thrawn’s personal authorization but he thinks it has to have. Their sleeper cell is the back up. Some tag team from Bastion is probably going to be the primary. It’s set for tomorrow when the Solos are scheduled to come here to Minor.


Pellaeon is called from an AT-AT simulation exercise to hear from Lt. Mavron who confirms that he got endpoints for the transmissions sent during the pirate raid that hit them six days ago.


One of them is Bastion. Then it got relayed several more times and ended up in the Kroctar system. Captain Ardiff wonders what someone would be doing that deep in New Republic territory.


Mavron has already looked into that. He says that, a few hours after that transmission, Kroctar negotiated a treaty between themselves and the Empire mediated by Grand Admiral Thrawn.


Pellaeon is adamant that he watched Thrawn die. Ardiff adds that this is obviously some kind of trick. Pellaeon worries if it’s not. Thrawn could have pulled off a victory five years ago, maybe. But not now. All his presence will accomplish is to cause the New Republic to panic.


Ardiff knows this is a concern but he also knows that’s not what’s really bothering the Admiral. Pellaeon admits he doesn’t know what he was to Thrawn, but he does know that the Grand Admiral had chosen the Chimaera. If he’s returned, then it means he’s chosen someone else. There must be a reason. Ardiff points out that being Supreme Commander means that Pellaeon’s competence is not the issue. Pellaeon suggests that his idea of a peace treaty may indicate a lack of vision to Thrawn. After all, he came up with the idea, pushed it on the Moffs. Moff Disra, in fact, strongly opposed it. And Moff Disra is on Bastion. He wonders if that’s a coincidence.


Ardiff isn’t sure it means anything. Thrawn wouldn’t need to organize a pirate attack on the Chimaera when he could just show up and tell Pellaeon directly. Pellaeon considers this may be where he’s supposed to be. For now, they’ll stay here and give Bel Iblis another chance. After that, regardless of whether or not he shows up, they will head to Bastion and demand an answer from Disra.


In the meantime, Navett and his team get through Bothan customs and prepare for the next step in Thrawn’s plan.

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chapter 6:


After 15 days in the cave, Mara wakes up and finds that her rescuer is not who she thought it would be. She hears her name through the Force and recognizes Luke.


She tells him the creatures allow her to move around, but they have her weapons and don’t let her move too far in any direction. Luke explains that the Qom Jha think they are protecting her. They’ve told him that the Threateners from the High Tower are humans who are allied with the Empire.


Luke can communicate through the Force with them, but Mara has more difficulty. He says they are waiting for a local leader called a Bargainer to arrive. They aren’t very happy with Luke because he used a Qom Qae as a guide and brought him here, too. He points out Child of Winds who is the offspring of the Qom Qae Bargainer. Luke cannot verify they are friends, though, as they took off with his X-Wing and Child of Winds can’t or won’t tell him where it is.


He did spot her starfighter on the way in and it looks undamaged. She asks him when backup is coming. Luke admits that he told Karrde not to send anyone else. He didn’t think it was a good idea to send a battle force in here when they didn’t know what they were facing, especially since they didn’t know if Mara was a prisoner.


The Bargainer arrives and demands to know why Luke brought Mara here. Eater of Fire Creepers explains that a message was sent regarding this, but Luke denies receiving such a message. The Bargainer asks Child of Winds why the Qom Qae Bargainer didn’t do as he promised.


Luke insists they leave the child alone. Fearing they will hurt Child of Winds, he ignites his lightsaber. The Qom Jae explains that they have heard from the Imperials about Mara Jade who once worked for the Empire. Admittedly, their language is hard to understand.


Luke asks Child of Winds if his nest received messages to send to Luke. The child admits they did but Hunter of Winds thought it would be too dangerous. They argue about who is more at risk from the Imperials before Luke ends the debate. He says that whatever has happened has happened and assigning blame doesn’t change it.


Mara decides that they will only help if the Qom Jha and Qom Qae can prove their trustworthiness. She wants guides to take them to the High Tower. They argue that this is dangerous, but Mara thinks they want Luke and her to do something dangerous, too.


She tells Luke that these creatures want to be bargained with, otherwise they wouldn’t call their head a Bargainer. Giving them what they want without negotiating will make them suspicious. Luke sees what she means when Child of Winds says he cannot go back to his nest because he disobeyed orders. He would prefer to come with Luke and Mara because he might understand the dangers of the High Tower enough to communicate with his clan and persuade them to help.


They agree to take Child of Winds on the condition that he obeys them. The Qom Jae offer three of their nest, Keeper of Promises, Splitter of Stones and Builder with Vines, to accompany them.


Mara tells Luke she can go on herself with the avians. She’s sure he has other things to do. He abruptly tells her he needs to be here. She makes a note to ask him later about it. Anything that requires his attention is important.

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chapter 7:


The Noghri are unhappy to have to wait at the spaceport, but Han insists he and Leia be left alone. She is unhappy that he’s used a fake ID.


There are a lot of things Han is unhappy about, especially C-3PO being sent off with Karrde and that Shada woman whom he still has not been able to confirm worked with Mazzic.


Leia watches the planet as they approach, trying to get a sense of peace. Suddenly, they are attacked. Han mans the guns while Leia flies, but they are hit several times. The escape pods are not operational. The ship’s drives and repulsorlifts are damaged. She gets excited when she spots another ship coming in, but it doesn’t last They are TIE Interceptors.

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chapter 8:
The TIEs latch onto the Falcon with mag cables and tow the ship down to Pakrik Minor. They are greeted by Carib and Sabmin Devist who have people looking over the ship and note a cut on Leia.
They know who the Solos are and talk shop with Han about ships. They also welcome both of them to this Imperial sleeper cell. They are brothers, but Leia senses something else. They are clones. The two explain that it’s a hidden fact here on Pakrik Minor as most people don’t feel comfortable around clones.
Leia tries to point out its been a long time since the Clone Wars, but they correctly point out that she feels uncomfortable around them and they have no friends here that know them well enough to look past this abnormality.
Leia asks if they are working for Thrawn now. Carib explains that their orders came with Thrawn’s name on them, but a name can be put on any order. Leia suddenly recognizes their faces. They are clones of Baron Soontir Fel, the ace TIE pilot who’d married Wedge Antilles’s sister and had briefly flown with Rogue Squadron. He’d been snatched away, the New Republic presuming he’d been tried and executed by the Empire.
Carib explains that they have none of Fel’s personal history flash-imprinted on them. There had likely been some conditioning that eliminated any sympathies Fel had for the Rebellion.
Which is not to say that Carib and Sabmin have any sympathies in that direction either. But they do want to be left alone. They don’t wish to fight for Thrawn or the Empire. Baron Fel was loyal to the Empire because of the stability and order it provided the galaxy. But he loved the soil more. So do they. They have families here and don’t want to fight anymore.
Han thinks that’s all well and good. He doesn’t want to fight either. However, the New Republic will not have peace until they can resolve this Caamas situation. In order to do that, they need an intact copy of the Caamas Document which should list the names of those responsible.
There should be a copy on Bastion but they don’t know where that is. The clones don’t know either and have never been directly in contact with anyone there. There is a place at the edge of Imperial space where an emergency message can be sent, but that’s only to be used for vital information that cannot be sent through proper channels. Han thinks they can come up with something.
The Noghri shuttle lands and the two guards make sure Leia and Han are alright.
A message is received for Leia from General Bel Iblis who has received some vital information and wants to speak with her personally. He will be at Pakrik Minor in three days.
Han tells her she can wait for him to arrive. He and Carib are going out to find that relay to Bastion. They need to get this information before the New Republic tears itself apart. There’s no guarantee Talon Karrde will find a copy of the Document.
He’ll take Lando and a couple of others. It’ll take time to arrange. The Falcon is being repaired and Carib needs to say good-bye to his wife and children.
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  • The clones in the Thrawn Trilogy were never described as being clones of Fel. There may have been clones made of many different men, though, not just him.
  • Han says something along the lines of how Leia was the President. It’s said as if it was past tense. So, is Leia no longer the President/Chief of State? Does that explain why she keeps being called Councilor and why Gavrisom is still in charge?

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chapter 9:


Lando reminds Han he has a business to run. Han reminds him that Karrde does, too, but that isn’t stopping him from trying. He also wants to bring along Lobot and the Verpine he’s been working with, Moegid.


Karoly stops listening into Calrissian’s business and gets angry at Talon Karde for being predictable and at Shada for putting herself in this position. Now, Karoly has to kill a friend.


She’d tracked her all the way to the Solo’s mountain retreat only to watch her leave with Karrde. But hearing Solo’s conversation with Calrissian is enough to know that Calrissian will be meeting up with Karrde eventually. And Shada will be there.


Disra contacts Flim and Tierce to complain, once again, that negotiating a bunch of treaties with formerly Republic-allied worlds is not going to help them. Flim assures him that the New Republic cannot act on these treaties when the Empire has been invited to the worlds in question.


An emergency battle alert sounds. Captain Dorja reports that eight Corvettes have jumped into the system. Flim orders half a squadron out - a standard Thrawn technique to figure out who the attackers are – but really doesn’t have the genius to make that determination.


Disra tells him they are Diamalan. The Diamala bought some Marauder Corvettes a few months ago to use in transport escort. Clearly, the Diamalan senator wasn’t convinced that Flim was really Thrawn so he’s set up a test. Flim and Tierce look up a battle plan that Thrawn used against the Diamala years ago and has Captain Dorja perform it again. The Diamala take off, their test of Thrawn completed.


All it took was the Relentless moving in a position that Thrawn had used against them years ago. They hadn’t even had to fire a shot.


Disra is still convinced that this will only confirm his belief that the New Republic will panic and come after the Empire with all guns blazing. But it might have brought them closer to the Hand of Thrawn anyway.


Flim demands to know the Hand of Thrawn is as he has clearly not been given all he should know. Tierce explains it to him and the shouting that erupts afterwards muffles the sound of the ship going to hyperspace.

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chapter 10:
The Qom Jha and Child of Winds lead Luke, Mara and R2 higher and higher. When Luke calls a halt, Mara is glad because, unlike him, she is stiff. He mentions he thinks there’s a deadline here. She tells him he always has one of those. He should try to take some time off and let someone else do the work.
He has to stop and tell Child of Winds that a Jedi cannot do everything. Sometimes, he shouldn’t do anything. Mara is annoyed still that she cannot understand these creatures despite having heard Palpatine’s voice in her mind all over the galaxy.
Luke thinks it has something to do with her not being a Jedi. He asks why she never came back. She says she had better things to do and he points out here flying all over the place with Lando.
Mara thinks he’s jealous, but Luke tells her he was more disappointed. Mara was disappointed, too. After everything they’d been through together on Myrkr and Wayland, she thought she deserved some special attention, but when she finally showed up on Yavin, he welcomed her and then ignored her to spend time with Kyp Durron or one of his other students.
Luke knows this is true. He thought that Mara hadn’t needed the same amount of instruction that the younger and less experienced students did. She points out how well that worked out in the case of Kyp.
Luke reminds her that Exar Kun was responsible for some of that and she reminds him back that it was his idea to set up the academy on Yavin IV in the first place and then kept it there.
Her point is that he’s not infallible and that’s enough reason to not try to do everything himself. He agrees which is why he’s been letting her do things herself, even when he could have helped her. However, she does let him give her some techniques on mastering her lightsaber control.
She’s a quick study. However, she gets testy when she finds out that Luke brought Jade’s Fire into the system. She doesn’t want the paint to be scratched even a bit. She also asks if he brought the beckon call.
He did, in fact, and is suddenly reminded of the beckon call he’d found on Dagobah all those years ago that had precipitated a visit to Nkllon to visit Lando whom R2 had remembered having had a similar beckon one time.
He doesn’t know why that memory comes to him now. Mara thinks they can use the broadcast setting in the High Tower.
He tells her about his encounter with the two ships that tried to shoot him down. They started off with the same message she’d picked up earlier with Thrawn’s name in it before switching to Basic. She mentions that’s part of the problem. The other is the datacard Leia found labeled the “Hand of Thrawn”. Neither knows what that means, but it cannot be good.
Dismissing a superweapon or an agent like Mara used to be, Luke wonders if it could be a student groomed to take over. It’s been a long time since Thrawn died. The student may have needed more training or was just waiting for the right time to make his move.
They prepare to move onward when Luke gets a sense of danger. Something the Qom Jha are not telling them. He decides to throw a rock into the cavern which is filled with a white moss-like substance on the walls. A tongue or tentacle of some kind pops out and pulls back in. Luke cannot sense any sentient creature in there.
Mara goes down for a closer look and it brings more of the creature out. The Qom Jha had never gotten a look at one before. They weren’t in this cavern until about 30 years ago. Someone in the Tower might have moved the creatures in here to discourage visitors.
The creatures generally eat migrating insects. They will have to make their way slowly through the chamber. Unfortunately, it’s feeding time and Luke isn’t comfortable with this. He tells Leia the insects remind him of the drochs.
They stop for the night about two hours later. Luke seems reluctant to admit that, but knows they need to sleep. Mara secretly wonders what he’s trying to avoid. When will he crack his shell? She has things to say to him that he won’t like, but he will have to ask before she does.
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  • The drochs were in the book Planet of Twilight.
  • The beckon call incident occurred in Heir to the Empire.
  • Mara briefly studied at Luke’s academy in Dark Apprentice and I, Jedi/i] which ran concurrently.

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chapter 11:


Wedge and Corran don’t think much of the conspicuous Bothan shield generators they’ve been asked to guard. It’s a big white dome in a public area right in the middle of the capital city.


A group of Bothans push their way through, a couple of them apologizing profusely before taking off and pushing past an old woman on the way. It isn’t until they are way off that Corran senses something wrong. He and Wedge find their pockets have been picked. Their money and IDs were in their wallets.


They know Bel Iblis will be furious at them and don’t really want to face them. The Bothan government could help them, but will probably be angry that they were sent here in the first place. The old woman approaches them and invites them for a drink. They have other priorities, but she assures them they’ll like what she’s selling.


She’d picked the wallets back.


She’s an associate of Talon Karrde and introduces herself as Moranda Savich. Over drinks, she explains that Karrde figured that, with all the firepower in orbit, someone might mess with the shields. She was sent to watch over them. She’d found a way in and started looking around to see if anyone else had gotten the same idea. That’s when she’d noticed them.


She hadn’t arranged the pickpocketing but happened to be here when it happened. They both realize they might have been recognized by others.


She suggests they find out if anyone suspicious has arrived since the station in orbit was destroyed last week. That’s what caused this military buildup anyway. The problem is that Customs has that information locked up. Moranda doesn’t consider that a problem.


Navett’s team is posing as exotic animal suppliers and has finally gotten clearance to pick up their stock. He is told that the Bothans hired to pick the wallets did so but showed up without them. Someone probably saw them and lifted the goods from them.


He refuses to believe this is just another pickpocket. Someone new is on the game board now. Navett doesn’t think whoever it is can be on to them yet. They’ll take action only if it seems this team is getting too much attention.

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chapter 12:
Leia watches the ship land. A tall figure appears and introduces himself as Elegos A’kla of the Caamasi Remnant. He invites her aboard his ship where she finds Ghent, the former employee of Talon Karrde’s who now works for the New Republic. Ghent says he needs to speak with her right away. General Bel Iblis is missing and, since she’s the President, he thought he’d approach her instead.
Leia reminds him that Gavrisom is in charge while Leia is on a leave of absence. Ghent looks lost and Leia remembers how attached he is to his computers. He is likely out of his element here. Elegos suggests Leia still might be able to help.
Ghent explains he was the one who sent the message that Bel Iblis was coming. He couldn’t get ahold of the general is and so sent the message when he heard Leia was here.
Elegos was waiting for her in her office when Ghent arrived and offered him transport here after the young man broke into Gavrisom’s files to find out where she was. He explains that he has deciphered a message that was intended for Bel Iblis. The general had brought it back from the Morishim system after a Corellian Corvette had tried to send it before being captured by a Star Destroyer.
Leia looks over the message and understands the urgency. The unscrambled transmission identifies the sender as Colonel Vermel who has been sent by Admiral Pellaeon to contact General Bel Iblis regarding a negotiation of a peace treaty. He does not expect to survive this attack and asks that the New Republic meet the admiral on Pesitiin in one month if they are amenable.
Leia knows this is what she has fought for since her youth, but doesn’t know if it’s a trap or just a delay of some kind. Besides, according to Lando, Grand Admiral Thrawn is back. That means that Pellaeon doesn’t have the authority to offer a peace treaty.
The Noghri do not believe this is a genuine offer, especially if Thrawn is still alive. Elegos asks to see the message. He looks it over and admits it could be a trap, but they shouldn’t take the chance. The admiral could be sincere and they must explore that.
If he is, it’s obvious that opponents to this offer have already gathered to work against him. They cannot contact Bel Iblis. Someone will have to meet with the admiral. He offers to do so himself if Leia can arrange for Ghent to be returned to Coruscant.
Leia tells him that she will go to Pesitiin in his place. She is the only one here with the authority to negotiate on behalf of the New Republic. They don’t have time to bring anyone else in. Pellaeon is probably been waiting for a long time.
Elegos agrees to go with her if Ghent can find other transportation. In the end, the young man offers to go with her, too.
Five minutes later, they head to the Falcon.
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  • So it turns out that Leia really is on a leave of absence from her Presidential duties. This means she really is still Chief of State. So we’re back to my original concerns about why she is still on an official leave of absence in the middle of a huge crisis despite the fact that she’s hardly done any type of vacationing since the whole thing erupted.
  • Elegos A’kla first appeared in I, Jedi as an assistant to Corran Horn.
  • Ghent appeared in Heir to the Empire as a very young slicer working for Talon Karrde.

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chapter 13:


A battle alert on the Wild Karrde’s battle bridge brings Shada to Karrde. He explains that they are coming out of hyperspace in the Episol system where the rogue pirate gang has been operating.


They are, indeed, attacked and Shada takes an injury, but the ship fights off the pirates. The local authorities want to speak with Karrde about the incident. Karrde takes her and C-3PO down to meet with General Jutka.


They are greeted by an odd man named Entoo Needan E-elz who just tells them to call him Entoo Nee. He admits he’s often mistaken for a droid, but doesn’t understand why. He takes them to Jutka who has misunderstood the situation. He thinks they are troublemakers who are fighting for Bombaasa against his rival Rei’kas a Rodian slaver.


They assure him they are not and are planning to leave the area after their errand. Jutka warns them that Rei’kas won’t be happy they tangled with his ships and got away. He’ll be gunning for them until they do leave.


After the general leaves, Entoo Nee reveals that he has been talking with C-3PO who has confirmed they are looking for Jorj Car’das on Exocron. Shada sends the droid to make sure no one is speaking Rodian in the bar. Entoo Nee confirms that Car’das is on Exocron but the world isn’t easy to find.


He offers to take Karrde there, but only Karrde. His ship only holds two. Shada doesn’t want to risk Karrde in the hands of this stranger. C-3PO returns to confirm three humans at the bar are speaking Rodian. Shada decides it’s time to leave, but the three get up and pull their blasters.

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chapter 14:
Entoo Nee takes off, telling Karrde to let him know if he changes his mind. The thugs know that they are dealing with Talon Karrde.
Which doesn’t help them when H’sishi shows up. Shada uses the distraction to help get things under control. They pay the bartender for the mess and move out into the street.
Shada is upset when she sees that Karrde had had his people all over the place in disguise. Karrde tries to explain that it isn’t for lack of trust in her abilities, but she storms off to the ship.
He knocks on her cabin door and tells her he’d like to finish up the story of Jorj Car’das. 60 years, the Clone Wars increased the need for smuggling. A large number of smuggling organizations were thrown together. Many of the Hutt gangs operated then.
Car’das happened to end up with a better organization under him. After about 15 years, he was caught up in the idle of a battle between Dark Jedi from Bpfashh and someone else in the area. According to Car’das, one of the Dark Jedi stole his ship and forced a take-off.
The Mistryl had been on the defensive side of that conflict and the stories she’d heard were not for the faint of heart. It was a miracle Car’das survived that hijacking. The rest of his crew did not. He reappeared two months later and took back control of his organization. But he was different.
He’d never had a large organization, but it was one of the best. He decided to make it the biggest. He became ruthless in taking over smaller groups. He might have ultimately ended up rivalry Jabba the Hutt. Everyone tried to stop him, but somehow he’d gotten the ability to figure out his opponents’s plans before they could move against him.
Along with that came a severe personality change that caused him to rage over small things or brood endlessly. He seemed to age rapidly. Then, one day, he left and never contacted anyone in his organization again. This was about 20 years ago. No one knew what to do with his business. It was decided to divide it up into chunks. But Karrde realized a power struggle would result over who got what. Since he didn’t know that Car’das wouldn’t come back, he just took it over.
That’s what’s been bothering him. He foiled plots to drive him out, but the leaders of those plots had all claimed that Car’das had been supporting them. He’d thought they were just trying to scare him, but he can’t be sure they weren’t telling the truth.
Ten years ago, Calrissian showed him a beckon call that Luke Skywalker had found on Dagobah. He recognized it as belonging to Car’das’s personal ship. After things calmed down, he sent Mara Jade to hunt him down and Calrissian offered to accompany her. They started at Dagobah and left from there, digging up hints, talking to people, checking spaceport records.
It took a long time because some crisis was always erupting on Coruscant. They finally arrived at the Kathol sector and Exocron where the trail ended. They never saw Car’das himself.
At that point, Karrde wasn’t sure he should face his old employer. He kept making excuses about going. Rei’kas might be working for him. If so, it means Car’das is working on the violent edge of illegal activities. It could also mean that Car’das is after him personally.
Shada doesn’t think so. He could be trying to take over this area. Karrde thinks he would have done that by now, if that had been his goal. Shada thinks the same is true of taking out Karrde. He knows it doesn’t make sense, but he knows the man is the type not to forgive a grudge.
He brought Shada with him because she’s not connected to his organization. She realizes this means he expects Car’das to kill him. He hopes it doesn’t come to that, but, if it does, he might be able to convince him to let Shada take a copy of the Caamas Document back to the New Republic.
That’s the whole story, except that Car’das had a huge data library that vanished along with him. This is why he might have a copy of the Document. For now, she needs to treat her injuries in a bacta tank.
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  • I suppose that dealing with Dark Jedi would cause Car’das’s personality change, but Karrde seems to indicate he was a harsh and unforgiving man before the incident. This really isn’t the Car’das we knew in Outbound Flight or the friend of Thrawn in Choices of One. And, in fact, Choices of One clearly had Car’das telling Thrawn that he was leaving Karrde in charge of his smuggling operation.
  • Also, Karrde’s timeline for the Clone Wars is, as we know, off by about 20 years. He says it was 60 years ago. The Clone Wars ended about 38 years ago which is how old Luke and Leia are. We know that Jorj Car’das was set up with a sweet deal funneling information to government right after Outbound Flight which was 9 years before ROTS. This was 47 years ago which is still not right.

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chapter 15:
The four-day trip is at an end. Mara hasn’t wanted to kill any of the Qom Jha too many times, R2 hasn’t caused too many problems and Skywalker had been surprising pleasant company.
There is an archway creating a bottleneck in the cavern passageway. He points out a small open area near a crumbled-looking section of wall below the ceiling. He uses his lightsaber to try to cut away a portion of it, but the lightsaber fizzles out.
He realizes there must be cortosis ore in the rock. Mara doesn’t know anything about it. He says he and Corran ran into Force-users who used body armor made of the fibers. He only knows that its properties cause lightsabers to shut down.
Mara gets it. She also understands the slab of rock Palpatine had between the double walls of his private residence and other offices. Besides lightsabers, though, the ore is basically useless. A good blaster should make short work of it.
She pulls out a grenade, but Keeper of Promises thinks it’s a bad idea. They’re not far from the Tower and the sound might be heard. Trying to cut with lightsabers will take a long time if they keep shorting out.
He thinks they should try it for a couple of hours to get an idea as to how long it might take.
He sends Splitter of Stones down to get the extra scouts Eater of Fire Creepers promised to send into the Tower with them. Keeper of Promises goes with him.
An hour later, they’ve completed the outline for their opening when R2 squeals. A rustling noise sounds. Builder With Vines announces that fire creepers are coming. They are small, dangerous creatures which can kill anything they find and destroy all things in their path.
Mara suggests he uses whatever clever tricks he has when they swarm shows up on the floor and begins crawling up the walls.
He has R2 close down his openings and they use their lightsabers to cut footrests on the archway. Holding their arms out to each other, they grab each others’ hands and form a living archway amid the rock one.
They are hoping the insects don’t notice them. Builder With Vines helps by eating some of them. It has to be dangerous, but Mara guesses he’s showing off for the kid.
Luke warns Child of Winds to stay where he is and not try what the older avian is doing. He needn’t worry. Ultimately, Builder With Vines is overwhelmed by the numbers. Unable to do anything for him, Luke tenses his hands. Mara reminds him to go easy on her fingers.
He tells her he should have been able to stop him. She isn’t sure how unless he thought he could pin Builder to the ceiling. There’s the question of whether or not he had a right to do that anyway.
Builder With Vines knew what he was doing and knew the consequences. If Luke wants to feel bad about mistakes, he can start with the ones that are his fault.
When he asks for examples, she’s happy to supply them. She points out his failure to move the Jedi Academy off Yavin IV the first time he realized there was a Dark Side power there, for failing to reign in Kyp Durron when he started going off the deep end, for not protecting Leia’s children from being kidnapped though they’d been targets in the past and for just up and declaring himself a Jedi Master less than ten years after beginning his Jedi training.
He knows she’s right. She knows that being a Jedi has been a lot less clear-cut than he thought. He doesn’t know what to do or how to behave, much less how to handle this tremendous power that could just as easily push him the wrong way.
She also knows that things have been clearer the last couple of months. He’s not feeling so hesitant anymore. Luke admits that she’s right about that, too. He asks if she know what’s going on here.
She thinks she does and that most everybody else does, too, from Leia on down to his students. It started with that incident with the being claiming to be Palpatine reborn. She’s not convinced it was really him, but, whether it was or it wasn’t, it was really stupid of Luke to think that he should try to stop him by pretending to join him and learn the power of the Dark Side.
Whether Luke intended to join or not doesn’t make a difference. It’s tainted everything he’s done since. He wasn’t thinking because he was too busy reacting and trying to save everything and everyone.
He’s drowned out the small voices that tried to guide him by making noise of his own. Luke tells her how the Diamala had told Han that Jedi who use the Force as much as he does always end up slipping to the Dark Side.
Mara thinks they could be right. After all, not every Dark Jedi is the result of poor training. Some Jedi just slip into it on their own. The fact that he started teaching under a Dark Side influence probably explains why his first batch of students didn’t turn out so great.
That’s another reason why she didn’t stay. He wasn’t interested in listening to anyone who tried to warn him. She figured she might as well not be buried in the rubble when it all collapsed around him. Besides, Corran had a level head so she assumed he would be able to help Luke. She didn’t know he’d leave shortly thereafter.
Luke wonders why her life hasn’t been dominated by the Dark Side since she was the Emperor’s Hand. Mara doesn’t know that it hasn’t. After all, she was guided by darkness from the time she was removed from her home until she was able to shake off his last mental command.
But she never got the idea that Palpatine wanted her to turn to the Dark Side the way he and Vader tried to turn Luke. It doesn’t make a lot of sense but, she doesn’t think she used the power of the Dark Side even though she was doing the Emperor’s work.
When it’s clear she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, Luke teaches her control techniques for human arm muscles.
The migration of fire creepers takes another hour, leaving R2 and anything else metal, as well as the remains of Builder With Vines. Child of Winds is too afraid to come out. They take out their lightsabers and start to cut again.
Mara had dreaded that conversation ever since he arrived, but he took the news better than she’d thought, considering how he wasn’t happy hearing it. She will have to wait and see what he does with it now.
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  • On a basic level, I know how cortosis works. A lightsaber touches it and the lightsaber shuts down. That’s why some wear cortosis armor. If that’s the case, why can the lightsabers cut this stone at all? Shouldn’t they shut down the intstant the blade touches the rock with no affect? Or is it because the ore is inside the rock and they can cut the rock to a certain degree but have to keep reigniting their sabers?
  • Of course, we know that Luke’s initial class of students and his problems with them occurred during Dark Apprentice and ran concurrently with I, Jedi when Corran Horn was there under a pseudonym. Both Mara and Corran tried to warn him about Kyp’s increasingly developing powers and ego, but he was intent on being patient with him. Of course, Luke calling himself a Jedi Master when there was so much he didn’t know was somewhat presumptious, too.
  • The Emperor reborn incident was in Dark Empire. Interesting that Mara doesn’t want to believe it was really a clone of Palpatine.
  • And, to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about Mara’s theory that she was never a Dark Side acolyte. She wasn’t an Inquisitor and there’s really no question they were using the Dark Side of the Force. But an Imperial agent working directly for Palpatine was certainly close to a type of Inquisitor. We discussed in Allegiance and Choices of One where she really didn’t seem to be a Sith student, even an enforcer like Maul who identified himself as a Sith. She was definitely able to use the Force, wield a lightsaber and do a lot of things that, for some reason, we’ve been led to believe she doesn’t do very well now. But her belief in the goodness and rightness of the Empire, her defense of those accused unjustly and her suggestions to Palpatine don’t speak of a person whose identity is steeped in the Dark Side.
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chapter 16:


The Lady Luck is prepped for takeoff. Lando is still not liking going off on this mission based on the word of a clone of Baron Fel. Just because Leia says he’s sincere doesn’t mean he’s competent enough to pull this scheme off. In his mind, clones are the subhumans Palpatine always accused aliens of being.


He asks about the real Fel. Han mentions he was a farm boy who was given an appointment to the academy as a bribe for not testifying against someone important on his homeworld. He and Fel trained together at Carida but they didn’t know each other well. But he was known as an honorable person.


Lando doesn’t understand why anyone would clone a pilot who’d turned on the Empire. Han admits that they wondered the same thing, but Carib doesn’t have answers. Assuming they didn’t keep parts of Fel in storage in order to clone him the way C’baoth cloned Luke from the hand the Emperor kept as a trophy, they’d had to have kept him a live for several years before Thrawn found the cloning facility. No one else knew they were there.


No record of Fel have been found at any Imperial prisons or penal colonies liberated by the New Republic. Further, Fel’s wife disappeared shortly after he was recaptured by the Empire. It was assumed she was arrested. Lando is pretty sure that Isard would not have gotten Fel’s cooperation without brainwashing him and that’s not someone you want to make clones from.


Lobot and Moegid are in the back. He didn’t tell them where they were going. Han returns to watching for Carib’s freighter to return.


The agent rants at Carib for contacting them this way when they all know that everything should come through proper channels. He explains that an attack on Leia Organa Solo on Pakrik Minor five days ago failed because of interference by an unknown ship. He hands the datacard Han had put together on the trip over here from records they already had.


Carib doesn’t know where those came from and he doesn’t care. He just wants to go home and keep farming with his family. The agent takes the information but there’s no guarantee some Imperial analyst on Bastion won’t see through it. And Thrawn might spot the scam, too. There will be trouble if Solo is still in Imperial space if that happens. Carib wants more than anything to get back home quickly.


He calls in to Han and tells him what vector the droid probe with the datacard was sent off to. He can’t guarantee it’s going to Bastion, but the bureaucrat should have sent it there if he wants a promotion.


Lando isn’t sure he trusts this information, but it does confirm to Han what Carib and his brother mean about prejudice against clones. They set course to follow the droid probe.


President Gavrisom struggles to control an argument between Senator Dx’ono and Senator Miatamia. Dx’ono insists they won’t accept anything other than complete justice for the Caamasi. This means no justice delayed. Miatamia believes that they have more important priorities right now. Dx’ono still believes that the Diamala have made up this whole Thrawn rumor to distract them.


Behind a false wall in a small room, Booster Terrik thinks they’re both idiots. His daughter, Mirax, reminds him that they are both sincere in their beliefs. She is worried about rumors that a hundred systems are petitioning to rejoin the Empire. Her father says it’s only twenty. They both know any systems added to the Empire’s territory does not bode well.


Bel Iblis enters and explains that he wanted them to see how serious this situation is. They have to defuse this soon and the best way to do that is to get a copy of the Caamas Document. So Gavrisom has authorized an information raid at Yaga Minor. For this, Bel Iblis wants to borrow the Errant Venture.


The New Republic has Star Destroyers but they are well-known and cannot be disguised easily. Plus, if they are removed from their assigned systems, it will be noticed. He reminds Booster that the Diamala are siding with the Mon Cals on this issue and the Mon Cals are not smuggler friendly. If a war breaks out, they will crack down on anyone who might profit from a war, even if only to keep the other side from benefiting from it. A smuggler with a Star Destroyer would be very high on their hit list.


Booster points out that his ship is hardly up to specs and any decent scanner would be able to tell that. He would need to get system upgrades to fool people. Bel Iblis was warned ahead of time by Cracken that Booster might try this.


Booster’s glad he’s remembered but he will not help without the upgrades which he insists stay on the ship afterward. He needs something to defend himself with if war does break out.


Bel Iblis agrees but insists on a skeleton crew to help fly the ship and pose as an Imperial crew. Mirax has to come along because they cannot risk word of this getting out. They’ll make sure she and Valin are left at the rendezvous point where they are meeting the prep crew.

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  • Lando’s opinion would not charm people like Kal Skirata. Subhuman indeed!

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chapter 17:
The last of the chunks falls away from the opening. The Qom Jha hunters have arrived with Splitter Of Stones and Keeper Of Promises. Luke and Mara decide to head through now before the avians give up.
Luke drops through the opening. Mara follows and mentions that there’s a fortress on Hijarna Karrde sometimes uses as a meeting place. This doesn’t look like that one.
The avians warn the two off of one specific direction where others have gone and not returned. They direct another way to the entrance of a hidden passage. It leads to the High Tower .
Neither Luke nor Mara was told about this and they wonder if it was an oversight or a trick. Splitter of Stones says they’ve traveled through the hidden passage before. It provides places to spy on the Threateners.
But none of them has actually been in the Tower. Child of Winds knows of some Qom Qae who have been. They entered from above but have always been driven out quickly before seeing much.
Mara cuts a hole in the wall and they enter a narrow passageway. Inside they find a flight of steps that will take them up. She thinks that reminds her of Hijarna building material. She could fire on it, but the noise would probably travel.
Luke carries R2 while Mara and Child of Winds follow. They pass by some cylinders that R2 identifies as power lines sending energy to the High Tower. There are three active ones, but the others are operational.
They soon detect alien presences. They must be getting closer to the inhabited parts. Luke thinks they are the same species as the pilots who tried to shoot him down. Mara thinks she’s felt this kind of sense before. Luke asks if it’s the same species as Thrawn.
She thinks it is.
Luke asks where the places to see and hear are. Tired of having to rely on Luke to translate, she takes his hand and can hear Splitter of Stones communicating with him through the Force.
They soon reach the observation point. They find an exit with a locking wheel on their side. A wide corridor appears before them. They find a spiral slideway moving and decide to go up.
Mara senses danger and they both drop. An unseen gunman fires on them. She fires back and catches a blue-skinned face with red eyes. A bolt hits her right shoulder. Luke uses the Force to ease the pain. They take the slideway down to find the door still open with R2 and Child of Winds waiting for them.
They seal the door and Luke uses his jacket as a pillow for her. He then uses the Force to put her into a Jedi healing trance.
Child of Winds worries that she will die. Luke assures him that she will be fine and that what happens wasn’t his fault. It’s possible the Threateners realized they were here and put together an ambush.
He decides to have Splitter of Stones send two hunters to watch above. Child of Winds says only one will be sent, but he will join that hunter. It’s the least he can do for Jedi Skywalker and his beloved companion.
Luke thinks about that for awhile, then stops. He likes Mara and admires her skills, but he doesn’t love her. Every time he’s taken the risk of caring for someone like that, something terrible had happened. Gaeriel Captison died. Callista lost her Jedi powers and left him.
But Mara could be right and the Dark Side was just tainting his life. He wonders if things are different now. But the idea of loving someone now, especially Mara, is not acceptable. Because he cannot forget the image he had of her with her eyes closed, her arms limp and looking dead.
This may her destiny, to die with him unable to do anything to prevent it. But he will try to prevent it while keeping away from the dark shadows that have surrounded him. He kisses her and then gets to work using the Force to heal her.
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  • Gaeriel Captison died in Showdown at Centerpoint.

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chapter 18:


Wedge finds Moranda and Corran sipping drinks in a tapcafe and tells them the Bothans won’t let him look at the incoming ship records without about 15 forms of authorization.


Moranda decides they’ll have to do this another way. Someone is after the shield generator, but won’t try a frontal assault unless they’ve brought some serious firepower with them. They’ll have to be sneaky.


The three discuss various ways a team might pull it off. They focus on the power conduits which must have a primary outside source. The New Republic’s military files didn’t have much on them. They’ll have to get a set of schematics on the building.


But that’s second. First is pulling outgoing transmissions. There are so many that Vengeance probably doesn’t worry about it being sifted through. If she can cut out transmissions from major corporations and any long messages, that would narrow the volume down. And, even if they cannot decrypt the message, they can at least find out where it’s headed.


Captain Nalgol on the Tyrannic receives an Intelligence report that it will be ten days. Nalgol is unhappy because the last report from the team said it would be six days.


He’s also tired of sitting here in Bothawui space behind a cloaking shield. But he’s more worried about Bastion’s master plan being delayed, especially since the now-112 warships in orbit of Bothawui are not going to wait another ten days before the firing starts.


His Intelligence Chief assures him that New Republic Diplomatic Corps will keep things calm for now.


In their Exotic Pet storefront, Navett confirms that the messages were sent. The Fleet isn’t going to like it, but they don’t either. The Bothans decided to keep their techs behind the shield for six days instead. So they have to delay delivery of the mawkrens with the time bombs.


However, at the communications station, the team member Klif spotted the two New Republic reps and an old woman who seemed to know her way around. She’s probably the one who skifted their wallets back.


They were pulling a list of all outgoing transmissions for the past five days. They obviously know someone’s here and that it’s about the shield generator. He thinks they should kill them all tonight.


Navett thinks they just suspect something’s up. Their best plan is to lay low and not be drawn out.


Klif did follow them back to the spaceport and got their ship’s name and registration code. Navett sends him to the Bureau of Ships and Service to find out more.


On her ship, Moranda finds that three short, encrypted messages, one this morning, have been sent out the last five days. The last one was about ten minutes before they got there.


They were sent toward the Eislomi sector where there is nothing. Wedge suggests that the culprits have set up shop somewhere. They are probably operating a business. They decide to check out any recently set up businesses near the shield generator.

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chapter 19:
Pellaeon listens to Ardiff arguing with another officer about the rumors of Thrawn’s return. The captain is convinced that this is a trick of some kind. Pellaeon isn’t sure what’s going on, but they’re tired of waiting. He’s been here at Pesitiin for two weeks. Clearly, Bel Iblis isn’t coming.
It’s time to go home and find out what Moff Disra is up to. He plans to give the order to depart after they finish their meal. Major Tschel contacts the admiral. A ship has just entered the system. It’s a YT-1300 Light Freighter. Leia Organa Solo is asking to come aboard and meet with him.
As the tractor beam pulls the Falcon in, Elegos A’kla reminds Leia they are committed now. Leia knows there’s a risk, but not all of them are bad.
She heads down the ramp where she is greeted by Admiral Pellaeon whom she remembers being pointed out by her father when she was ten at a Grand Alderaanian Gathering.
She introduces Elegos and one of her Noghri bodyguards. Pellaeon recognizes that their three worlds have the most reason to hate the Empire. Elegos assures him that the three worlds were destroyed by Palpatine who is now dead. There is no point in continuing to fuel hatred.
Pellaeon turns to Ghent who is only able to identify himself as the slicer who deciphered Vermel’s message. Leia explains that Colonel Vermel was only able to approach Morishim before he was intercepted by a Star Destroyer which pulled his ship into its hangar.
Her bodyguards will not allow her to meet with him on the Chimaera’s conference room, but she does invite him to come aboard her ship. She is almost embarrassed to have them all sit around the Falcon’s game table.
Pellaeon explains that the Empire has effectively lost the war. While the average Imperial citizen has recognized this for some time, the leadership doesn’t really feel that way. Nevertheless, the Moffs have authorized him to begin peace negotiations.
Leia, stunned that this moment has finally come, is helped by Elegos who asks what needs to be negotiated if the Empire has really lost. What does the New Republic gain?
Pellaeon explains that the recent turmoil in the New Republic is growing worse. Some of his colleagues believe that they should do nothing and allow the government to crumble. Leia doesn’t think he’d be here if he really felt that way. The admiral agrees, but he also suggests that he isn’t convinced those who are most obsessed about the Empire will forget about the remnant in the midst of this crisis. He also thinks that he has the means to prevent the conflict from happening in the first place.
He wants current Imperial borders confirmed and accepted by Coruscant with free travel and trade between worlds sans harassment, skirmishes or propaganda campaigns. The Empire no longer enslaves sentient beings. While there are some who would deny they are considered equals, he will allow for any Imperial world to join the New Republic should they wish to do so. However, he would also want systems within New Republic borders to be allowed to choose to rejoin the Empire if they wish.
In return, the New Republic can also expect no attacks by Imperial forces or hired mercenaries. If they run across one of Palpatine’s superweapons, they would work together to disarm it.
Leia asks about Thrawn. Pellaeon admits he doesn’t know. He’s been here for two weeks under a communiations blackout. He only recently found out himself that Thrawn was reported alive. He has every reason to believe the man is dead as he was standing right next to him when he appeared to die. But he was an alien whose psysiology Pellaeon knows nothing about.
Leia tells him that Lando Calrissian and the Diamalan Senator saw him aboard the Relentless. Pellaeon recognizes it as being Dorja’s ship and Dorja knew Thrawn. He can’t imagine the man being mistaken or risking his ship for no reason.
Leia suggests that, if Thrawn is back, these talks may be pointless. Pellaeon doesn’t think so. Thrawn could relieve him of command, but he’s received no such order. The military is subordinate to the Moffs who’ve authorized this meeing. Until he hears otherwise, he has the authority to conduct the negotiations.
Leia gains a new appreciation for Pellaeon. The man didn’t rush back when he heard about Thrawn, but stayed here under a communications blackout to make sure he still had the authority to begin peace negotiations when Bel Iblis arrived. Even if Thrawn is back, what’s started here may not be stopped very easily. She understands that this man truly wants peace.
She tells him that Thrawn told Lando and the Senator that he wanted to help them resolve the Bothan crisis by speaking with the clan leaders to determine who was responsible for the sabotage. The Senate refused to allow him that kind of access. The clan leaders claim they don’t know anyway. Under the circumstances, she thinks they would certainly give up the names if they had them.
She wants to know Pellaeon’s offer to help them. He explains that he believes the whole matter can be settled by getting a complete copy of the Caamas Document which he believes exists in the Imperial archives. They are in Secret Files, however, and decrypted heavily. Pellaeon cannot access them, but they could send an expert slicer to Yaga Minor where a friend of his runs the archives.
She had thought such documentation would be on Bastion. Pellaeon tells her Bastion is too dangerous. Moff Disra is headquartered there. Not only is he an opponent of the peace process, but he’s also using illegal funds to run a private war with hired mercenaries.
It wouldn’t take long for Disra to find out a New Republic slicer is picking through Imperial records. Such a representative would not live long.
Leia isn’t sure she can make arrangements to send anyone to Yaga Minor until there’s more of an agreement. Pellaeon warns her they may not have time. It will take time with even an expert slicer and the situation in the New Republic is growing dire. They have reason to believe that an agent of Disra has broken into the files once. He may have been looking for the Caamas Document. If he gets in again and erases it, they may never know the truth.
Ghent breaks down and offers to go. On the way here, Elegos had told him about what had happened to his homeworld. Ghent had hated the Bothans for that, but Elegos had explained how wrong it is to hate because it hurts the person who hates more than it does anyone else. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and no one should have to pay for someone else’s crimes.
He’s a good slicer and, if he doesn’t help, he’s just as guilty as everyone else. Elegos asks if Leia can sense through the Force is this is the right move. She cannot get past her senses for fear of Han’s safety, now that she realizes how dangerous his trip to Bastion is.
Elegos offers that no one’s safety is ever guaranteed, even by a Jedi. Ghent believes this is the right thing for him to do. Pellaeon offers to get him in an Imperial officer’s uniform and have his most trusted pilot fly him to Yaga Minor. Pellaeon himself will go to Bastion to confront Moff Disra.
Lt. Mavron leaves with Ghent. Pellaeon confesses to Ardiff that Councilor Organa Solo isn’t going to commit to this on just his word. But she is willing to talk about almost everything. There was something she wasn’t telling him.
Ardiff notes that her political influence on Coruscant tends to rise and fall on a regular basis. Pellaeon hopes that isn’t the problem because they need her in a favorable position to make this work. The last thing they need is for Coruscant to reject this proposal just because she’s in favor of it.
On the Falcon, Leia asks Elegos if he thinks the admiral really meant it. Elegos believes Pellaeon is sincere. He thinks Leia knows that, too, but doesn’t know if she can trust that sincerity.
Leia wishes she knew. She doesn’t sense Pellaeon being duplicitous but Thrawn was like that. He could maneuver people into doing what he wanted them to do even they knew what he wanted them to do.
Elegos asks if that’s why she didn’t mention Captain Solo’s mission to Bastion. She’s dropped hints and he’s picked up a few things from the Noghri. She admits that there is some Imperial involvement in these riots. They’ve found evidence that the one on Bothawui utlilzed a rare Imperial sniper rifle.
They have no real proof though which is why she didn’t mention it to Pellaeon. She mentions again how hard it is to anticipate what Thrawn is up to.
Elegos tells her she cannot allow that to paralyze her. If she constantly worries about Thrawn’s unknown plans, she will do nothing and that’s just as bad. She has to decide who she trusts.
Leia cannot trust Pellaeon yet. If he’s being manipulated by Thrawn, Han could be in danger. Elegos pointed out that she allowed him to take Ghent into a similar danger. She argues that Ghent volunteered to go and he can’t provide them with any information anyway.
Elegos chastises her about how knowledgable Ghent is about New Republic encrypt and decryption techniques. He’s not saying her decisions are wrong, but he wants her to recognize that she’s using her power and authority to protect her husband more than a young man she barely knows.
The Noghri claims that she has the right to protect her family. Elegos agrees and that he’s not here to pass judgment. She needs to accept that she made the choice she made. She has to trust her decisions, right or wrong. To acknowledge that she made the right choice or admit she was wrong and move on. Only then will she have the peace to carry her through the days.
She tells him he should have been a Jedi. Elegos admits there is a legend that the Jedi came to Caamas at the dawn of their age to learn how to use their power morally.
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  • Okay, so we have Han, Lando and friends headed to Bastion to get the Caamas Document, Karrde headed to Jorj Car’das for a copy of it, Ghent being sent to Yaga Minor for it which just so happens to be where Bel Iblis is commissioning the Errant Venture to go do the same thing. Can’t someone just pick up a comlink and say, “Hey, I’ve already got this part covered!”?
  • Interesting moment when Leia, Elegos and the Noghri appear, having been randomly thrown together on this trip, and Pellaeon instantly interprets their joint appearance to be a reminder of how the Empire destroyed Alderaan, Caamas and Honoghr. You’d think she’d have thought of appearances before she landed. But, then again, the last time I had much respect for Leia’s diplomatic skills, she was using them on Guri in Shadows of the Empire.

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chapter 20:



Disguised in the robes of the M’challa Order of the Empire, Han, Lando and Lobot begin day three of searching the Imperial archives on Bastion. Karoly, in her hiding place among the smuggling compartments on the Lady Luck, is tired of this wild goose chase. She hasn’t even seen Shada here.


She confirms that the Verpine is in the aft control room and sneaks off to watch the other three push buttons in the library for endless hours before breaking for a meal.


Meanwhile, Disra receives a report of three new systems joining the Empire. Flim is sulking over the alien ship report. Tierce believes that they’ve finally drawn out the Hand of Thrawn. Flim thinks they’re drawing out another Death Star. He doesn’t know what they expect him to do if the Hand or whatever it is insists on talking to Thrawn.


An Intelligence operative sends over everything they have on the ship but advises Disra that the sightings were not by Imperial TIE fighters at all. The sensor data had to come from either an A or X-Wing and the second from a larger ship, not necessarily a New Republic one. Disra realizes that they’ve been lied to and knows they’ve been betrayed by the clone who reported the incident in the first place.


He’s never trusted clones, despite their benefit to the Empire during the Thrawn campaigns. Flim thinks they should be asking why they were sent a fake record in the first place. What did Devist have to gain? In backtracking the transmission, they find it was sent directly here by the agent in charge.


Disra realizes they wanted Bastion’s location. Tierce thinks there’s an opportunity here. He orders all spies on Bastion to be surveilled. He thinks that a rebel spy team being confronted by Grand Admiral Thrawn would be the perfect cap to his performance.


Flim thinks it will be the perfect way to get him dead. Tierce tells them both to be calm and it will be over soon. Then Disra gets a report from spaceport control that Admiral Pellaeon’s shuttle has just landed.


At an open-air tapcafe, Lando and Han cannot help but notice that the Imperial citizens seem much more cheerful than they should be. This can only be the result of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return.


However, they are surprised to see a landspeeder head passed them with Captain Zothip, head of the Cavrilhu Pirates, riding in it. They realize this is the Empire-pirate link they’ve been hunting.


Karoly recognizes Zothip, too, and since this is more interesting than anything Solo and Calrissian are doing, she follows the landspeeder.


The Imperials spot some unusual activity and begin a face match that identifies all suspects as Imperial citizens. They keep searching to see if they can find the rebels while Disra heads to his meeting with Pellaeon.


Back at the archives, Lobot’s fingers stop and Lando says something has interrupted his contact with Moegid on board the Lady Luck. Lobot begins speaking in a voice similar to Moegid who warns them that security frequencies are very active.


Han and Lando decide to help Lobot up and leave quickly. Han is certain the Imperials have found out that the sensor data of the ship wasn’t taken at Pakrik Minor. They are probably searching for any ship that landed here after the droid probe arrived. Moegid was going to try to alter the spaceport’s record of their arrival date, but they don’t know if he’s gotten to do it yet.


Karoly follows Zothip and his bodyguards into a tunnel where they note an apartment that seems to be decked out with a Star Destroyer captain’s chair. They don’t know who would want such a thing but they’re going to be very quiet about this action.

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chapter 21:


Five blocks out, they notice that a security landspeeder has slown down. It’s not the first one that seems interested in Lando, Han and Lobot, but this one is turning around. Han sends Lando and Lobot into a building advertising a sabacc tournament to cause a commotion with a slugthrower.


Sure enough, young security people love commotions so Han gets the drop on them, after changing out of his scholar robes and they take the back door out.


Disra appears apologetic as he looks over the information on the datapad Pellaeon and Commander Dreyf have handed him. He denies being involved in any of these and suggests this is part of a smear campaign against him.


He is mercifully interrupted by Major Tierce who pretends he didn’t know the Moff was meeting with the admiral and appears with a message revealing that the New Republic spies have been identified as Han Solo, Lando Calrissian and an unknown man with cyborg implants. They have temporary eluded capture.


Pellaeon, seeing Disra’s discomfort at this private message, offers to allow him to look into it personally. Knowing that Pellaeon wants a chance to interrogate Tierce privately, Disra agrees to go check into the matter himself. In the situation room, he blasts Flim for this.


Flim explains, doubtless having been coached by Tierce, that Solo and Calrissian are experienced fighters, the security men were not. They are likely headed to their ship but they will find another way off the planet if they see a ring of troopers surrounding it.


He suggests they determine what the men are doing on Bastion in the first place. One of the troopers reveals that surveillance has shown them at the Imperial Library for the past three days. Both Disra and Flim realize that they are after the Caamas Document.


Flim has done some research and knows neither man has much slicing experience. He thinks that the cyborg is Lobot, the former administrator of Cloud City, who doesn’t have that experience either. He knows of an old slicing trick involving Verpines back in the day. He orders a wide-spectrum biocomm frequencies scan for Verpines. The being is probably working through Lobot’s implants to slice. They may be able to send a coded message designed to smoke the ship out assuming Lobot’s link is still open.


Disra heads back to his office to get Tierce.


Karoly has to hide when the pirates come back, complaining that having company isn’t a good excuse for putting them off. One of the pirates, Control, explains that they cannot be seen by the wrong people. Zothip reminds him that canceling this arrangement and getting rid of Disra is the whole point of this exercise.


Entering Disra’s quarters, he decides to call Disra’s office and have him tell his guests to wait.


Tierce denies having been on Yaga Minor ever, much less six weeks ago. Pellaeon knows he’s lying but cannot prove it. He may have to rely on Ghent to find evidence that Tierce was the one who sliced into the computer system.


Disra returns and excuses the major. He no sooner gets sat down and begins denying these accusations when he gets another comm. signal. He insists he’s busy, but then his eyes widen and his face goes white. Pellaeon and Dreyf cannot help but notice. Disra excuses himself again and quickly runs out.


Pellaeon and Dreyf discuss that there’s something important going on here. For the time being, though, they’ve been left alone in Disra’s office. The admiral gives his Intelligence chief leave to search the desk.


Tierce is looking into the rebel activity when Disra races up and announces that Zothip is here and in his quarters. There’s no reason why he should be here. Further, Disra’s quarters connect directly to his office where Admiral Pellaeon is. Tierce can’t leave the search for Solo and Calrissian and he’s not happy to find that Pellaeon was left alone in Disra’s office. However, he’ll be fine for now


Tierce suggests they use Grand Admiral Thrawn to scare Zothip. Flim doesn’t think this is a good idea as Zothip may not care about profit as much as revenge right now. Tierce agrees to accompany him while they leave the bridge in control of the search for Verpine bioscans.


Lobot stumbles and tells his friends that the Imperials are doing a bioscan for Verpines. Lando drags them into an astromech shop and asks the salesman to allow him to test how each astromech holds comm. frequencies.


They lead the salesdroid to believe that another customer is with them and is staying behind while they test the range of the frequencies. The transmissions should blanket any more searches.

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chapter 22:


Karoly is surprised to overhear the Cavrilhu Pirates are working with the Empire. But Zothip’s message to Disra didn’t sound like a typical Imperial hireling exchange. And his threats indicate that the Imperial Command may not be aware of this arrangement.


He had threatened to reveal their partnership on the planetary broadcast frequency so Disra will be here. Nevertheless, his guide mentions he might want to put a backup somewhere close.


Karoly doesn’t think it’s right for even an Imperial Moff to be ambushed like this. This is exactly the kind of thing that Shada had tried to warn her about. She removes her knives and dispatches the two pirates hiding as backup.


Disra and another man come in. Zothip recognizes Major Tierce as the one who pulled all the clones off his ships. He demands compensation for the loss of his ship and crewers at the hands of Pellaeon. Tierce speculates that Zothip is trying to end the agreement. He offers proof that the Empire is on the rise again and the Zothip will profit from it. Grand Admiral Thrawn enters the room.


In Disra’s office, Dreyf finds a hidden drawer with eight datacards, some official; some not. Pellaeon wants copies of all of them. Dreyf thinks he’s got an easier way. He knows the encrypt Lord Graemon was using to communicate with Disra on Bastion. Sure enough, Disra used the same one here. All of the evidence is on one of the datacards.


Pellaeon has him check by date for Colonel Vermel and find an imprisonment order. Then he decides to take all the datacards with them. The lock on the drawer has been forced so Disra will know someone’s been in there anyway the next time he opens it.


They’re leaving now. The Chimaera will depart immediately as soon as their shuttle boards. He needs to make sure Vermel is free before Disra decides he’s a liability.


That could be tricky because he’s likely to notice the missing cards before they can arrive at Vermel’s location. Fortunately, Pellaeon’s got a few tricks up his sleeve himself.


Zothip is stunned to see Thrawn alive. He’d heard the news but hadn’t believed it. Thrawn assures him that the Empire will rise again and that they do not need allies, but aren’t averse to having them. Zothip stands to profit handsomely from an association with him.


Disra watches Control slowly move away from Zothip. Tierce sees it, too, and adjusts his position.


A transmission comes from the bridge reporting the spies have eluded them again by using astromech droids to blanket the biocomm search. All of the transmissions have been shut off now, but the spies are nowhere to be found.


Having other things to be concerned with now, Disra tells Zothip he can quit if he wants to. Zothip won’t leave without his compensation and whistles for his backup. Tierce, having moved to a distance that puts the pirates on Zothip’s sides within arm’s reach, moves quickly. He kills the one to the right and kills the other with a knife that is joined by one thrown by a woman nearby. Tierce kicks Zothip and knocks him over, the woman’s other knife already in his back.


She tells Zothip that this is for Lorardian. Tierce is wary, but Thrawn thanks her and identifies her as a Mistryl shadow guard. He expresses his condolences for Lorardian. She admits she didn’t think anyone knew or cared about that.


Only Control is left and she wants to know what to do with him. The pirate congratulates them on their strategy. He had watched Zothip bluster for years while he himself held the organization together. He was tired of being second and decided to arrange this little meeting in the hopes of becoming first.


He only asks that he be allowed to leave alive. Zothip was right in that the Cavrilhu pirates are taking too much of the risk here. He would like to pull them out of this arrangement even if it means sacrificing whatever glory and profits they would have received.


Thrawn agrees, but warns him not to appear in Imperial space again. On the other hand, he is interested in acquiring Karoly’s skills and offers to speak with her about such an arrangement.


Disra has to get back to Pellaeon, but is told the admiral has already left. He enters his office, wondering why they would just take off like that, when he realizes what it could be. He opens the secret drawer to his desk to find the datacards gone.

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chapter 23:


Disra calls for Tierce, finds out Pellaeon left five or six minutes ago, and hopes the admiral cannot decrypt the cards. Everything is on them. Capital Security forces are dispersed all over the place searching for Lando Calrissian and Han Solo.


Then he remembers Colonel Vermel. Tierce appears with news that the rebel ship is in Docking Bay 155. Disra tells him Pellaeon has the datacards with all the information about Vengeance, the Cavrilhu Pirates and the financial chicanery he’s been involved with.


Further, he just tried to get ahold of Rimcee Station where Vermel is being held. Pellaeon has ordered all transmissions to the system blocked off. They have to get there and remove Vermel before Pellaeon gets there. Tierce tells him their first priority is to find Solo and Calrissian and confront them with Thrawn.


It doesn’t matter what Pellaeon has found. Grand Admiral Thrawn can take command and reveal that everything they’ve done has been under his authority.


He suggest that Disra talk to the Mistryl, find out what she wants and what it will take to bring her people in as allies. Thrawn is talking to her now. He wants Disra to take over so they can get to the spaceport.


Both Han and Lando know they’ve gotten to the spaceport too easily and the fact that there seem to be no guards there is even more suspicious. Lobot’s programming has been through a loop the past hour and he is still dazed. He won’t be much help in a fight.


But a fight is not the intent here. A holo of Grand Admiral Thrawn appears and explains that he just wants to have a few words with them. Lando knows he was allowed to leave the Star Destroyer, but he doesn’t think they will be permitted to leave Bastion, knowing its location. Thrawn says they’ve moved the capital before and can do it again.


The real Thrawn comes around a stack of crates. Stormtroopers appear above them with sniper rifles aimed down. The Grand Admiral explains how he determined that they were working with a Verpine, then checked the spaceport records to find any ships that arrived 8, 12 or 17 days before the droid probe did. The Verpine would have altered the spaceport records with one of those dates because the specific numbers are deeply ingrained in Verpine subconsciousnesses.


He hands them a datacard that he claims holds an intact copy of the Caamas Document. It took less time than he thought to retrieve it. Han doesn’t believe that Thrawn wants to help them, especially after the Nightstinger sniper rifle evidence they found on Bothawui links the Empire to the riot there.


Thrawn explains that the Empire’s last five rifles of that type were stolen six months ago by members of Borsk Fey’lya’s private army. Han doesn’t believe that either until he considers that Fey’lya knew he and Leia were coming here to check out the true nature of Bothan finances.


Thrawn refuses to put effort into convincing them. He leaves the three alone to board the Lady Luck.


Disra hopes they bought it and Tierce assures him that Flim did a great job, especially when Solo brought up the Combined Clans Building riot on Bothawui. Flim admits he made up a story to counter it, something Disra insists Thrawn never did.


Tierce thinks that Flim bought them time. It’s seven days before their scheduled civil war will begin. No one will care then about where sniper rifles came from.


In the meantime, Disra has gotten from the Mistryl that they don’t work for Imperials, but she agreed to contact one of their leaders to speak with them. He knows they want something.


Flim suggests it’s revenge. There’s a story that their world was destroyed in a war many decades ago. He doesn’t know by whom by the Mistryl hire themselves out in an effort to make money to support the survivors. No one even knows the name of the world, but she did mention Lorardian earlier. That might be the name of the system.


He points out that Flim seemed to know earlier when he spoke with the woman. Flim admits it was a con, something Disra doesn’t like, but Flim doesn’t care because, so far as he’s concerned, everything Disra is doing right now consists of cons.


He also points out that they will still need him even after they have a military advantage. He may not be of use as Thrawn anymore, but he knows the fringe worlds as they do not. He doesn’t want them to forget that when this Hand of Thrawn shows up. Tierce reassures him they will protect him, but Flim isn’t convinced.


On the way, Han apologizes to Lando for not believing him. He knows that they are going to have to watch themselves now. Anything they see, hear or think they ought to do can’t be trusted.


Lando isn’t sure that’s true. Even with Thrawn, the Empire is still very small. He could just be hoping to confuse or frighten them. Han is going to read the datacard and see if it reveals the names of the Bothan traitors. They have to contact Leia and tell her they have it and then they are going to have Moegrid check it out for any surprises hidden in it.

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chapter 24:


Five stops later, the Wild Karrde finds Exocron whichPO believes looks like a pleasant world. They are contacted by the local space control and given clearance to land.


Entoo Nee surprises them at the foot of the landing ramp at Rintatta City. He asks if only Karrde, Shada andPO are coming. Karrde would secretly love to bring his entire organization, plus a New Republic task force and a bunch of Noghri, but he knows he doesn’t have that option.


They are taken to an unimpressive building built into a mountain where Entoo Nee explains that he and Karrde must go in first. There’s a brief argument between Karrde and Shada over her letting him go in alone until Entoo Nee elaborates that she may certainly follow them in but they must go in first.


They enter a bedroom to find an old man, delirious with age and sickness, who does not remember Karrde’s name, much less recognize him. He is lost in the past and often regresses into Old Tarmidian, his home language. Entoo Nee explains that he does not know what the man did with his library as it was long gone before he even came here as Car’das’s caretaker.


Karrde contacts his ship and is told that there is a bunch of activity at the spaceport. Every ship is getting ready for combat. Entoo Nee explains that Rei’Kas and his pirates probably followed them here.


They have time to leave as Rei’Kas won’t be here for another eight hours. Karrde decides they are going to stay and help fight.

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