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"Diversity Alliance": Book 8 in the Young Jedi Knights series

Jedi Cool

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chapter 1:

Most of the Thul family had been off-world when Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star. Over the last two decades, they have cobbled together a trading fleet under the company Bornaryn Trading.

Right now, it’s not going anywhere. Aryn Dro Thul waits on the Tradewyn, the flagship of the fleet, with her brother-in-law Tyko. He confirms there’s no word from her husband. He wishes Bornan would contact them instead of letting them fret through this latest scam.

Aryn isn’t convinced it is a scam. She thinks he’s been kidnapped. Tyko reminds her that, at least, his theory allows for Bornan still being alive. He thinks his brother found something valuable and wants to keep it for himself.

However, he supports his sister-in-law which is why he came from the droid manufacturing facilities on Mechis III to be here.

When she is told the fleet needs to move soon to protect it, she wonders if Raynar is safe on Yavin IV. Tyko is sure Luke Skywalker can protect him. Aryn decides no one can do that better than she so they will send for Raynar to join the fleet.

Jacen Solo is wandering the jungle when he comes across Raynar Thul meditating. The other boy explains he thought he could reach out and find his father.

They return together to the Great Temple where Luke Skywalker explains that Raynar’s mother wants him personally to escort Raynar back to the Bornaryn Trading fleet. Though Jacen offers to take him in the Rock Dragon, Raynar’s mother was insistent that Luke be the one to take him. They will use the heavily-armored Shadow Chaser.

Raynar doesn’t know how he can study as a Jedi or even help his father if he’s isolated with his family’s fleet. Jacen, Jaina and their friends offer to accompany him and help with the search.

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chapter 2:

Twi’leks are the only beings to ever make a permanent home on Ryloth where half of the world burns with sunlight and the other shivers with nighttime cold. The Tw’leks had burrowed into the mountain ranges and developed a male-dominated society that endured for thousands of years until Nolaa Tarkona used bloodshed to enforce changes.

She formed the Diversity Alliance to ally the downtrodden aliens of the galaxy who have suffered under human domination for too long.

Though her primary weapon is the spoken word, she is able to engage in physical combat. Her Adjustant Advisor, Hovrak, brings her news of more worlds. The United Council of Bith Musicians vows to play songs promoting the Diversity Alliance on their tours. Additionally, a sub-hive of Bartokk assassins has sworn allegiance to them.

While Tarkona understands that music can inspire, she is happier to hear that the assassins are on her side. She’s received word that Boba Fett has arrived and waits for him.

Twi’lek women have been enslaved for generations. She knows all too well the price of this subjection as her half-sister had met a terrible fate. Now, she is changing all of that.

Fett tells her that he ran into the children of Han Solo who didn’t have any information on Bornan Thul. It’s a minor setback.

She knows more about this failure than he’s telling. Her sources tell her that the Solo twins and their friends foiled Fett, causing him to flee. She reminds him that she had limited her offer to only a few bounty hunters. Now, she’s opening it up to all of them.

She wants the bounty next time, not words.

She also asks a question. She has heard how Princess Leia Organa passed herself off as the bounty hunter Boushh to get into Jabba’s palace and no one knew it was her until she was caught. Tarkona asks if Fett is in disguise all of the time because he is actually a female. Fett tells her he removes his helmet for no one.

She wonders if he’s an alien, one of the downtrodden of the galaxy. He reiterates that he removes his helmet for no one. She lets him leave.
  • Well, that questioning of Fett was rather pointless, wasn’t it? " Are you a female? Are you an alien? Okay, fine, go."
  • Although, given the bad showing Fett displayed in the last book, I suppose there could be an imposter under that helmet.
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chapter 3:

Jacen is flying with Raynar and Master Skywalker on the Shadow Chaser while Tenel Ka and the others are taking the Rock Dragon. Tenel Ka is surprised at the high-level of security the Thuls are using. Such practices are common in the Hapan Royal Family. Elsewhere, not so much.

Before leaving, Jacen tells her a buzz, buzz joke. When she’s asks who’s there, he says it’s Dismay. Dismay not seem funny to her, but he’s hoping she’ll at least smile. Tenel Ka had agreed she wouldn’t be required to laugh.

Luke suggests Jacen and Raynar go through some relaxation exercises on the way. Raynar isn’t sure he can and asks Jacen how he would feel if someone in his family was missing and might be dead. Jacen reminds him such incidents are not rare with his family.

When the Shadow Chaser comes out of hyperspace at the coordinates provided by the Thul family, there is nothing there.

They are contacted by a shuttle manned by Dro Prack who claims to be Raynar’s second cousin. She is going to take them to the rendezvous point. Raynar can’t be sure this isn’t a trap. He doesn’t know his whole family, so asks her to name one of the family’s treasures that happened to escape the destruction of Alderaan. She correctly identifies a fountain that was off-world being repaired.

Once they slave the ships to the shuttle, they make three jumps through hyperspace until they reach the fleet. This is the only home Raynar has known.

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chapter 4:

While Bornaryn Trading’s headquarters is on Coruscant, the Tradewyn and the fleet is always on the move. It is also where the family lives. Raynar nearly comes to tears smelling the freshly purified air of the ship and hearing the docking doors open. Luke notes that coming home always feels good.

Aryn Thul and Tyko are there to meet him. Aryn displays a rare physical affection by embracing Raynar; while Uncle Tyko embarrasses him by bragging to Master Skywalker about his droid factory and intimating that Raynar is a better Jedi than the others.

They are all invited to stay, but Luke mentions he needs to return to the school. Raynar’s classmates will stay for five days and then return to the academy in the Rock Dragon.

After the Tradewyn jumps to hyperspace, they are all invited to an Alderaanian Ceremony of Waters.

Jacen knows this must have some meaning, but it’s a fairly boring ceremony and he finds his mind wondering, as he often does during important diplomatic functions he’s attended with his parents.

Tenel Ka helps him avoid looking rude, when she recognizes the guests’ need to participate in the ritual. Jacen is heartened to see Raynar look happy. It reminds his mother of her happy life on Alderaan.

They are interrupted by the arrival of a security guard who reports that a transmission was sent from inside Tradewyn. Tyko orders an immediate jump to hyperspace. Someone on board is a traitor.
  • Tyko’s Mechis III operation appeared in “Therefore, I Am: The Tale of IG-88”. The place was also mentioned in Darksaber.
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chapter 5:

On the bridge of the Tradewyn, Raynar tells his friends that they can control the weapons and all other systems from here. They can also release weapons to individual gunners. Jaina admires the quality and indicates her interest in trying them out as her father allows her to do with the Falcon.

Aryn mentions how she remembers Han Solo briefly while he was traveling under an assumed name on Alderaan many years ago and he nearly stole her away from Bornan.

As they approach their hyperspace exit, Tyko orders a crewer to begin plotting their next jump and irritates the man – Kusk – by not addressing him by name even though they’ve been introduced many times. Tyko corrects himself and orders Kusk to begin plotting quickly or he’ll be put into an escape pod and shot toward the nearest inhabited planet. Obviously Tyko has a bit of a temper.

However, they emerge from hyperspace to find that none of the fleet made the jump with them. They are alone and facing an unknown ship with weapons powering up.

A bounty hunter using the ship High Roller demands that either Aryn or Raynar be turned over to him. Tyko refuses and orders Kusk to take Aryn and Raynar down to the security shelter.

Jacen watches his friend go, but feels a strange prickling on the back of his neck. He can tell that Tenel Ka can feel it, too. When Jaina is about to volunteer herself and him to stay and work the guns, he shakes his head. She offers Lowie instead and Tyko lets them both stay. Jacen and Tenel Ka decide to follow Raynar and his mother, just to be safe.

They follow Raynar’s presence, not to the center of the ship, but to the docking bay. The Tradewyn rocks when the High Roller starts firing on it.

They find Raynar and his mother near the Rock Dragon, a blaster held on them by Kusk who’s speaking into a comlink and having trouble controlling the blaster because it appears Raynar is using the Force to try to pull it from his hand.

Jacen and Tenel Ka rush forward, wishing they had their lightsabers with them as they’d been removed for the peaceful Ceremony of Waters. When the ship is hit again by blasterfire, Jacen uses the Force to shove Kusk, Tenel Ka lifts him off the floor and Raynar finally gets a hold on the blaster.

Aryn calls for security, Kusk starts to run for the Rock Dragon and Tenel Ka points out her ship will lock up, fly to Hapes and dock at the high security hangar if he doesn’t put in the proper authorization code.

Security arrives as Kusk drops his staticky comlink. They inform the others that the High Roller has been destroyed. Kusk drops to his knees and laments his brother.

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chapter 6:

Zekk arrives at Borgo Prime to look into Bornan Thul’s location. The denizens there don’t take him seriously, but a flash of his eyes usually stills any laughing. He could use the Force, but he is afraid to do so now, lest he slip into the Dark Side.

In a tavern, he meets a bartender called Droq’l who points out that every bounty hunter is looking for Thul. However, he might have another job for Zekk. A being called Fonterrat had arranged a buyer for Droq’l’s shipment of ronik shells, but skipped out on him. He’ll pay Zekk if he can find Fonterrat and the shipment.

The last destination was Gammalin from which he never returned. As an added bonus, Fonterrat was supposed to meet with Bornan Thul on his way there, so Zekk might try to backtrack his route.

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chapter 7:

Jaina and Lowie had helped take down the High Roller. Security reports to Tyko what occurred in the hangar bay and Jaina hopes Zekk doesn’t make such foolish moves while learning to be a bounty hunter.

Tyko determines that all members of the Thul family are potential targets, probably to be used to lure Bornan out of hiding. Em Teedee analyses the ship’s computer and determines that Kusk sent the rest of the fleet false jump coordinates. He is calculating a route back to them now and, under Tyko’s orders, programs an algorithm to randomize future jumps so their coordinates cannot be transmitted ahead of time.

At dinner, Raynar asks his mother for the details of his father’s disappearance. She tells him that she has few as her husband felt she would be safer not kowing about the the negotiations he was conducting. He hoped to have everything settled by the time of the trade conference.

Since he never arrived there, Raynar asks if she knows where he went before then or where he was last seen. She did find out that he was meeting with someone on a planet called Kuar. Raynar thinks they should pick up the trail there.

Both his mother and uncle think it’s too dangerous for any of them to go there. They would be playing right into the hands of any bounty hunter who thinks to lie in wait for them there.

Tenel Ka points out that no one will expect she and the other Jedi students to go there. Tyko thinks it’s a good idea, especially as he must get back to his droid factory. They can report to him anything they find since the fleet will be in hiding.

They agree to leave as soon as they are finished eating.

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chapter 8:

After saying good-bye to Raynar and his mother, the four friends leave on the Rock Dragon.

Jacen struggles to find something to do, hoping Tenel Ka will not think of him as another useless male like the ones on Hapes and Dathomir. He decides to enlist Em Teedee to help him compile a list of everything they know about Bornan Thul’s disappearance.

They know he was involved in trade negotiations that were top secret but that involved the Diversity Alliance. The head of that organization, Nolaa Tarkona, was supposed to meet with him and ended up putting the bounty on him. This means that she doesn’t know where he is either. He never showed up at the trade conference on Shumavar and his last known destination was the planet Kuar.

It would appear that many bounty hunters think Thul is alive, but in hiding, hence the attempts to kidnap his wife and son.

They will have to look for something important that might have happened on the route from Kuar and Shumavar. Accessing news report, Em Teedee finds a double solar eclipse occurred in the Debray System. He also finds an election on Kath II in which no human was elected to office despite one-third of the population being human. The Diversity Alliance campaigned heavily there.

Additionally, all contact was lost with the all-human colony on Gammalin.

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chapter 9:

Zekk arrives at Gammalin but no one responds to his hails. There is only one city there, but he can find no lights when passing over it. He wonders if there has been a power outage or if it’s common to shut down the lights at night to cut costs.

After landing, he finds no movement at all. Several city blocks look like they’ve been gutted by fire. Then he starts finding bodies. Realizing he could be in a contaminated area, he gets into an environment suit and walks around.

He realizes he won’t find Fonterrat here, at least not alive. Zekk walks down a street and sees a ship waiting through a gap in the buildings. It’s Slave IV. He whirls around just as a blaster bolt hit the ground at his feet. He runs forward and spots Boba Fett stepping out of a doorway. He points his weapon at Zekk who raises his hands in surrender.

Fett thought no one was left alive on this world. Now he has a captive.

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chapter 10:

At Kuar, they find there is very little data about the cities or the inhabitants. The readings pick up several non-human life-forms. There are old structures that are covered with wildlife, but no people. They worry that a virus might have wiped them out, but it appears the world was just abandoned centuries ago.

If that’s the case, they have no idea what they’re looking for. There might be a beacon or a landmark somewhere that could be used as an obvious meeting place.

They land on a large mesa that looks perfect for a meeting place. While searching the area, Jacen spots a colorful item nearby. They find it’s a sash similar to one worn by Raynar’s mother. It’s inscribed with a warning that humans are in danger if he’s caught and is signed by Bornan Thul.
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chapter 11:

Jacen thinks they should explore the ruins some more to see what clues they may find. Along the way, they are attacked by a combat arachnid, a rare creature that Jacen never thought he’d see.

He would rather they not kill it, but Jaina tells him he’s not taking this one as a pet. Their lightsabers cut off limbs, but the creature has too many of them. It grabs Tenel Ka and Jacen tries to fight back when he spots a hairy figure approach. A Wookiee fires a blaster rifle which blinds the creature temporarily.

The Wookiee urges them to move quickly as Lowie expresses his disbelief. Em Teedee explains that this newcomer is Raabakyysh, Lowie’s friend who was presumed dead in the forests of Kashyyyk.

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chapter 12:

Nolaa Tarkona listens has Hovrak tells her about the Abyssin who are great fighters. He thinks they can be recruited for the Diversity Alliance, as well as the reptilian Cha’a. Some of them have become Jedi, but most are unhappy with human domination.

When it is time for lunch, Nolaa walks past the holding cells where she finds a new prisoner. Hovrak explains it’s a cheater from Concord Dawn where cheating is punishable by death. He agreed to take the prisoner because the magistrate is a Devaronian sympathetic to them.

He enters the cell, kills the pleading human and devours him for lunch.

Nolaa takes her lunch privately, wishing she could be eating with Oola. Her half-sister had been enslaved and sold by the despicable Bib Fortuna to Jabba the Hutt who had killed Oola in one of his mercurial moods by feeding her to a rancor.

When Havrok returns, he brings her up to date on several more species that would like to recruit.

chapter 13:

Raaba takes the group ahead, but they are forced to fight off more arachnids while trying to escape by climbing chains up to her ship.

They finally reach the top and cut down the links that lead to the rooftop so the arachnids cannot follow them up.

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chapter 14:

Raaba’s ship, the Rising Star, takes them to the Rock Dragon where Jaina suggests Lowie and Raaba do a circuit of the crater rim to make sure there’s nothing they missed. She knows that they would like time alone together.

Along the way, Lowie asks what happened to her. Raaba explains she was attacked by a katarn shortly after leaving the village. She was injured severely and knew she couldn’t proceed with her Rite of Passage, but couldn’t go back and face humiliation.

She decided to let her family think she was dead so she would be free to pursue her other dreams. She left her blood pack behind as evidence of her death and climbed up into the trees. At night, she stowed away on a freighter.

She was discovered and her wounds were treated. She explained her story and the crew took pity on her, taking her to someone who could help her. She was invited to join the Diversity Alliance.

It is run by a true visionary named Nolaa Tarkona who asked for nothing in return after treating Raaba and giving her pilot training. Now Raaba has a place to live and a job flying for the Diversity Alliance and spreading the news about it.

She learns daily about the atrocities human inflict on alien species. The nonhuman races need to band together to put a stop to them. Lowie points out that they have encountered many downtrodden races persecuted under the Empire. He and his friends have seen the value in banding together to fight a common enemy.

But some of his friends are humans and Raaba tells him that they cannot always be trusted. She is sorry for the pain she has caused him, but she cannot return home until she can return triumphant.

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chapter 15:

On Chroma Zed, Nolaa Tarkona meets with the Chroman people which had been enslaved by the Empire.

She gives a rousing speech about how the non-human peoples of the galaxy have suffered at the hands of humans. The humans must experience the full extent of their pain and learn to share it. They will then understand what they have done.

By banding together, the people of Chroma Zed need never fear enslavement. The Chromans cheer her.

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chapter 16:

Fett recognized the Lightning Rod when it flew over. He knows Zekk was the one who fired on him in Alderaan’s graveyard.

Zekk explains he was only defending his friends. Fett acknowledges that it was done with honor then. Zekk goes on to say he wasn’t trying to steal Fett’s bounty. He came here looking for Fonterrat who was supposed to have come here.

Since they are not looking for the same person, Fett will do him no harm and will not interfere in his hunt. He suggests, though, that they search the town together. His sensors indicate a fast-moving plague came through here, but it is gone.

In the traffic control tower, they look through records to see if they can determine how the colony’s last days were spent. Zekk finds a record of Fonterrant’s arrival. The last entry was made the next day. A controller reports that the plague was probably brought in by the alien trader who doesn’t seem to be affected by it. Unfortunately, Fonterrat doesn’t have any information on it. They imprisoned him to give them time to investigate it, but there may not be anyone left to even feed him.

Zekk decides to go find the brig and see if Fonterrat is alive.

They find him dead of starvation and dehydration, clutching a message cube. Fett grabs it and points out that his quarry is dead. They will both view the message.

Fonterrat offers his regrets for bringing the plague here. He didn’t know his ship had been contaminated by Nolaa Tarkona. He had given two samples of the plague to her and she’d planted one in the chest that held his payment. She had to know he would infect the first human colony he reached. The authorities here destroyed his cargo and burned out the inside of his ship as a precaution, but it was too late.

Bornan Thul had been their middleman. Fonterrat gave him the navicomputer when Thul gave him the payment. He also told Thul what he’d given here. Now Thul’s disappeared and Tarkona is outraged.

Zekk wants to use the message cube as proof he found his bounty. Fett allows him to take it, but cautions him not to cross him in the future.

After confirming Fonterrat’s ship is gutted, Zekk returns to the Lightning Rod.

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chapter 17:

Jacen awakens to find that Lowie and Raaba still haven’t returned. Lowbacca appears a short time later; Raaba having slept aboard her own ship. Em Teedee explains that Raaba seems to have some unusual idea about humans and wouldn’t enter the Rock Dragon.

Jacen wants to meet her, so Lowie introduces them formally. He asks how she found them on Kuar. Raaba explains she was sent by Nolaa Tarkona to find a trader named Fonterrat who never returned with a shipment of ronik shells he was supposed to procure for her. His last-confirmed sighting was here.

Jacen realizes that Bornan Thul must have come here to meet Fonterrat. He doesn’t know what Thul would want with ronik shells, especially since he was going to meet with Tarkona, too. He thinks they should try to find the shipment.

Tenel Ka reports there’s a ship coming in. This is unusual for an abandoned world like Kuar. After all, only Tyko Thul should know they are here.

Sure enough, it’s Tyko who climbs out of his ship and tells them he’s brought food. Although he has business on Mechis III, he realized how important his brother really is. There’s obviously something serious going on and he thinks he might be able to coax him out.

Jaina admits they’ve largely found what they are going to find here. Raaba has also come here to do a search and she may have more to do. Tyko is welcome to stay for that.

After eating, they all split up to search the crater and the rim one last time. Though Tyko frequently checks the time, he stays busy. They show him the sash with the message on it and how they believe Bornan was meeting with a trader named Fonterrat.

Tyko is convinced Bornan was involved in some shady scheme. After all, he was dealing with that rabble-rouser Nolaa Tarkona. Raaba takes exception to his characterization of her hero. She argues with Lowie for a moment and then flies off in her ship.

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chapter 18:

That night, Tyko retires to his ship while the others wait around a campfire. Jacen and Jaina watch shooting stars come down until they realize these are actually ships landing.

The ships fire upon Tyko’s vessel and the Rock Dragon. When they land, automated assassin droids come out. Tyko suggests they hide in nearby tunnels to foil the droids’ heat-seeking sensors.

They are surprised to see one of the droids is the notorious bounty hunter, IG-88, who had disappeared around the time of the Emperor’s death.
  • IG-88’s consciousness was downloaded into the computer of the second Death Star and was destroyed when the main reactor was hit. His body has obviously been retained.

chapter 19:

Running through the dark tunnels, Jaina ignites her lightsaber, explaining that the droids can already see in the dark. They do themselves no favors by remaining blind.

The droids begin shooting, but are interrupted by the arrival of more combat arachnids. The creatures help with the droids somewhat, but it still requires the young Jedi to fight both opponents on top of protecting Tyko Thul.

IG-88 claims Tyko is his bounty and now his prisoner. He warns the others not to follow. He will not harm Tyko unless they force him to.

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chapter 20:

The next morning, they work on the Rock Dragon, salvaging parts from Tyko’s ship. Lowie skims the skies, hoping that Raaba might return. But she had been too angry at Thul’s opinion of Nolaa Tarkona.

Lowie had urged her to find out what kind of meeting Tarkona was going to have with Bornan Thul. Raaba refused to spy on her employer. Lowie is certain she would have nothing to do with kidnapping Tyko. No one knew he was coming here anyway and she would not have had time to arrange the band of droids. He sweeps these thoughts aside, hoping she will get over her anger.

They leave Kuar for Yavin IV. Tyko Thul was their only contact with the Bornaryn fleet. They assume Raynar will get in touch with them somehow, but hate to tell him that they’ve lost his uncle now.

They may be able to arrange for Zekk to follow up on the leads they’ve found. In the meantime, they should all contact their families when they get back, having learned the importance of loved ones.

end of book 8

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